AMD releases HD 6970 & HD 6950

AMD has announced the release of its HD 6900 series of graphics cards aimed at  the market for hardcore gaming.

The  top-end HD 6970 and HD 6950 cards from AMD are a pair of high-powered Cayman GPU based cards, boasting a range of features as well as impressive specifications. However, while the 6970 is in many ways the successor to AMD’s 5870 card it is notable that it doesn’t quite steal the crown from the 5000 series front runner. 

At a glance the 6970 has a 5.5 Gpbs 256-bit memory with a 2GB GDDR frame buffer, and a clock speed of 880Mhz.  Meanwhile the 6950 is slightly less powerful with a similar memory capacity though slower at 5.0 Gpbs, while the clock speed only reaches 800 Mhz. The 6970 and 6950 also have 96 and 88 texture units respectively.

The new chip features  VLIW4 core architecture, with the new processors allowing better utilisation than the previous VLIW5 with a 10 percent increase in performance per mm2.  It was noted at the AMD press briefing that a 32nm process, like the upcoming Sandy Bridge from Intel, was considered for the release of some of the features but it was decided that AMD would rather reach the market sooner with the 45nm process.

The Cayman GPU features dual graphics engines with eighth generation tessellation units that offer enhanced performance with off-chip buffer support for higher tessellation levels.  It is claimed that the new set of cards offer tessellation performance levels of three times that of the 5870. The graphics engines also feature dual rasterizers which can handled up to 32 pixels per clock speed.

The two cards also sport a number of interesting features that, again, are aimed rather squarely at the serious gamers. For example the addition of the PowerTune technology and the tweakability that it affords is undoubtedly geared towards the more hardcore user. 

The PowerTune effectively clamps the GPU TDP to a predetermined level with an integrated power control processor which is able to monitor power draw in real time, every clock cycle. PowerTune allows users to then tweak the TDP level by up to 20 percent to gain maximum performance from the card.

AMD does maintain that this is only necessary for some of the most intensive programmes that are available, as all games currently on the market run well within the default limit, so essentially this protects against future applications that are more intensive, and is a way to boost performance without over clocking.

PowerTune also allows the user to drop the maximum usage by 20 percent meaning in order to reduce power consumption, and apparently this will still run a large proportion of current games at a high frame rate.

Both of the cards also feature more display options than before apparently, with 2x mini DP, HDMI 1.4a and 2xDVI.  The cards also feature Eyefinity inputs for those who wish to attach up to a breathtaking six screens, with a number of compatible games to use with.

In addition to this the cards also feature CrossfireX that allows the combination of up to four GPUs, and Enhanced Quality Anti Aliasing.

The 6970 and 6950 are expected to sell for £279 and £225 respectively.