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Opened Radeon HD 6970 with Vapor Chamber Cooling (click to enlarge)

AMD's PowerTune technology (click to enlarge)

Architectural overview
Targets NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 570

AMD has launched its latest Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950 video cards with 2GB of GDDR5 using a 256-bit wide memory bus. The new cards feature new 40nm Cayman GPUs produced by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Retailers are expected to sell the Radeon HD 6970 for $369 and the Radeon HD 6950 for $299 starting today.

The Radeon 6900 series was originally designed for the 32nm node, but problems at TSMC forced the cancellation of the plans and a quick backport of the design for 40nm design rules. Cayman chips consist of 2.64 billion transistors and measure 389 mm2. Part of the reason for the larger size is the new eighth generation tesellator which will improve DirectX 11 performance.

New Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MAA) and Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing (EQAA) modes have also been added. MAA is a post-process filtering technique that is accelerated with DirectCompute. It delivers full-scene anti-aliasing and is not limited to polygon edges or alpha-tested surfaces.

The big difference in the 6900 series is that the cards can by limited by Thermal Design Power using AMD's PowerTune technology, rather than be limited by clock speed as had been done previously.  The engine and memory clocks will be dynamically adjusted to fit within the TDP limit of each card. The Radeon HD 6970 can be set to a maximum TDP of 250W while its less powerful sibling will be limited to 200W.
 
Idle power  for both is relatively low at 20W. The Radeon HD 6950 requires two 6-pin plugs, but the Radeon HD 6970 will require an 8-pin plug and a 6-pin plug. A BIOS switch has also been added to reset to the default BIOS in case of problems with tweaking.

Vapor Chamber Cooling has been relatively rare, but AMD is using it for the reference card design that most Add-In-Board partners will adopt. Vapor chamber coolers are more efficient than traditional heatpipes and easier to design as there are no routing concerns. Chief competitor NVIDIA's high-end GeForce GTX 580 also uses Vapor Chamber Cooling.

Both cards have 2 DVI slots, an HDMI 1.4a slot, and 2 mini-DisplayPorts. Four monitors can be supported natively, but up to six monitors can be supported if DisplayPort hubs are used. Support for DisplayPort 1.2 has been added, allowing for a bandwidth of 21.6 Gbps each. DisplayPort hubs are able to tap into this bandwidth using a technology called Multi Stream Transport (MST) and split it for multiple monitors.

The new cards are meant to replace the Radeon HD 5800 series, one of the company's most successful video cards in its history. It was the first to support DirectX 11, but has now been deemed to costly to produce and is being phased out. The Radeon HD 6700 series recently launched offers similar performance to the 5800 series but at a much lower price. The Radeon HD 6970 will generally provide 20% better performance than a Radeon HD 5870 for only $20 more.

The Radeon HD 6990 codenamed Antilles will launch next month. A dual GPU version of the Radeon HD 6970, it is expected to have 4GB of GDDR5 memory.

 

NVIDIA GTX 580

AMD Radeon HD 6970

NVIDIA GTX 570

AMD Radeon HD 6950

AMD Radeon HD 6870

AMD Radeon HD 5870

Stream Processors

512

1536

480

1408

1120

1600

Texture Units

64

96

60

88

56

80

ROPs

48

32

40

32

32

32

Core Clock

772MHz

880MHz

732MHz

800MHz

900MHz

850MHz

Memory Clock

1.0GHz (4.0GHz effective) GDDR5

1.375GHz (5.5GHz effective) GDDR5

950MHz (3.8GHz effective) GDDR5

1.25GHz (5.0GHz effective) GDDR5

1.05GHz (4.2GHz effective) GDDR5

1.2GHz (4.8GHz effective) GDDR5

Memory Bus Width

384-bit

256-bit

320-bit

256-bit

256-bit

256-bit

Frame Buffer

1.5GB

2GB

1.25GB

2GB

1GB

1GB

Transistor Count

3B

2.64B

3B

2.64B

1.7B

2.15B

Die Size

520mm2

389mm2

520mm2

389mm2

255mm2

334mm2

Plugs

1x 8-pin

1x 6-pin

1x 8-pin

1x 6-pin

2x 6-pin

2x 6-pin

2x 6-pin

2x 6-pin

Manufacturing Process

TSMC 40nm

TSMC 40nm

TSMC 40nm

TSMC 40nm

TSMC 40nm

TSMC 40nm

Price Point

$499

$369

$349

$299

$239

$349

 





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