MSI Radeon HD 6870 Video Card Review
By Gabriel Torres on November 8, 2010


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

AMD has released their new Radeon HD 6800 family, so far comprised of the Radeon HD 6850 and Radeon HD 6870 models. Let’s review the standard Radeon HD 6870 from MSI (R6870-2PM2D1GD5), which follows the AMD reference design.

The name given by AMD to this new GPU family is misleading. Since 6800 is a number higher than 5800, users may think that the two members of this new family are faster than their counterparts from the Radeon HD 5800 family, namely the Radeon HD 5850 and HD 5870, which is not the case. As you can see in the table below, while members of the 6800 family run at a higher clock rate, they have a lower number of internal processors (shaders). This makes members of the 6800 family to be actually slower – but more affordable – than members of the 5800 family.

To compete with the new 6800 family, NVIDIA has reduced the price of their GPUs. After this price reduction, the new Radeon HD 6870 competes directly with the GeForce GTX 465 and indirectly with the GeForce GTX 460 with 1 GB, and, strangely enough, is in the same price range of the Radeon HD 5850. The Radeon HD 5870 is between USD 70 and USD 100 more expensive than the Radeon HD 6870.

Video Card

Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock (Real)

Memory Clock (Effective)

Memory Interface

Memory Transfer Rate

Memory

Shaders

Price

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

675 MHz

1,350 MHz

900 MHz

3,600 MHz

192-bit

86.4 GB/s

768 GB GDDR5

336

USD 170 – 185

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

675 MHz

1,350 MHz

900 MHz

3,600 MHz

256-bit

115.2 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

336

USD 220 – 230

GeForce GTX 465

607 MHz

1,215 MHz

801.5 MHz

3,206 MHz

256-bit

102.6 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

352

USD 220 – 240

Radeon HD 5850

725 MHz

725 MHz

1 GHz

4 GHz

256-bit

128 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

1,440

USD 250 – 260

Radeon HD 5870

850 MHz

850 MHz

1.2 GHz

4.8 GHz

256-bit

153.6 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

1,600

USD 330 – 340

Radeon 6850

775 MHz

775 MHz

1 GHz

4 GHz

256-bit

128 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

960

USD 180 – 190

Radeon 6870

900 MHz

900 MHz

1.05 GHz

4.2 GHz

256-bit

134.4 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

1,120

USD 240 - 260

Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review. All graphics chip listed above are DirectX 11 parts.

You can compare the specs of these video cards with other video cards by taking a look at our AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table and NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table tutorials. 

Now let’s take a complete look at this model from MSI.

The MSI Radeon HD 6870

As mentioned, the MSI Radeon HD 6870 follows AMD’s reference design.

MSI Radeon HD 6870
click to enlarge
Figure 1: MSI Radeon HD 6870

MSI Radeon HD 6870
click to enlarge
Figure 2: MSI Radeon HD 6870

This video card has two DVI-D, one HDMI, and two Mini DisplayPort outputs, for a total of five video connectors (only four of them can be used at the same time, though).

MSI Radeon HD 6870
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Video connectors

The MSI Radeon HD 6870 (Contíd)

In Figure 4, you can see the video card with its cooler removed. Note how it requires two six-pin auxiliary power connectors. In Figures 5 you can see the cooler by itself. It has a copper base, three copper heatpipes, and a heatsink with aluminum fins.

MSI Radeon HD 6870
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Video card with the cooler removed

MSI Radeon HD 6870
click to enlarge
Figure 5: The GPU cooler

The reviewed card uses eight 1 Gbit GDDR5 chips, making its 1 GB video memory (1 Gbit x 8 = 1 GB). Each chip is connected to the GPU using a 32-bit data lane, making the video card’s 256-bit memory interface (32 bits x 8 = 256).

The chips used are H5GQ1H24AFR-T2C parts from Hynix, which support up to 1.25 GHz (4.5 GHz QDR) and since on this video card memory is accessed at 1.05 GHz (4.2 GHz QDR), there is a small margin for you to increase the memory clock rate while keeping the chips inside the maximum they support. Of course you can always try to overclock the memory chips above their specs.

MSI Radeon HD 6870
click to enlarge
Figure 6: Memory chips

This video card doesn’t come with any accessory or games.

Before seeing the performance results, let’s recap the main features of this video card.

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the MSI Radeon HD 6870 video card include:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin. Thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

3DMark Vantage Professional

3DMark Vantage measures Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) performance and supports PhysX, a programming interface developed by Ageia (now part of NVIDIA) to transfer physics calculations from the system CPU to the video card GPU in order to increase performance. Mechanical physics is the basis for calculations about the interaction of objects. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? Note that since we are considering only the GPU score provided by this program, physics calculations are not taken into account.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. First we used the “Performance” profile, and then we used the “Extreme” profile (basically enabling anti-aliasing at 4x, anisotropic filtering at 16x, and putting all detail settings at their maximum or “extreme” values). The results being compared are the “GPU Scores” achieved by each video card.

MSI Radeon HD 6870

3DMark Vantage - Performance

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

15099

19%

Radeon HD 6870

12668

 

Radeon HD 5850

11833

-7%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

11467

-9%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

10042

-21%

Radeon HD 6850

9979

-21%

GeForce GTX 465

9451

-25%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

3DMark Vantage - Performance

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

12134

20%

Radeon HD 6870

10087

 

Radeon HD 5850

9485

-6%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

8979

-11%

Radeon HD 6850

7959

-21%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

7755

-23%

GeForce GTX 465

7372

-27%

 

MSI Radeon HD 6870

3DMark Vantage - Performance

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

7079

20%

Radeon HD 6870

5877

 

Radeon HD 5850

5594

-5%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

5092

-13%

Radeon HD 6850

4709

-20%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

4333

-26%

GeForce GTX 465

4191

-29%

MSI Radeon HD 6870 

3DMark Vantage - Extreme

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

11524

23%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

9514

2%

Radeon HD 6870

9352

 

Radeon HD 5850

9025

-3%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

8307

-11%

GeForce GTX 465

7792

-17%

Radeon HD 6850

7208

-23%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

3DMark Vantage - Extreme

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

9290

23%

Radeon HD 6870

7526

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

7473

-1%

Radeon HD 5850

7192

-4%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

6482

-14%

GeForce GTX 465

6110

-19%

Radeon HD 6850

5800

-23%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

3DMark Vantage - Extreme

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

5519

25%

Radeon HD 6870

4407

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

4312

-2%

Radeon HD 5850

4298

-2%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

3517

-20%

GeForce GTX 465

3515

-20%

Radeon HD 6850

3470

-21%

Call of Duty 4

Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, exactly what will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.

To get accurate results we had to disable the 80 FPS limit in the game. To do this, input the command, “/seta com_maxfps 1000” (minus the quotes) into the console (` key). It can be set to any number greater than 200.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was set to the maximum values in the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the internal game benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo here for downloading if you want to run your own benchmarks. We ran the demo five times, and the results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each video card.

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Call of Duty 4 - Maximum

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

155.8

14%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

138.4

2%

Radeon HD 6870

136.1

 

Radeon HD 5850

132.1

-3%

Radeon HD 6850

125.9

-7%

GeForce GTX 465

125.6

-8%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

112.6

-17%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Call of Duty 4 - Maximum

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

136.2

15%

Radeon HD 6870

118.4

 

Radeon HD 5850

114.5

-3%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

110.6

-7%

Radeon HD 6850

108.3

-9%

GeForce GTX 465

104.4

-12%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

95.3

-20%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Call of Duty 4 - Maximum

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

94.2

17%

Radeon HD 6870

80.8

 

Radeon HD 5850

78.1

-3%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

74.6

-8%

Radeon HD 6850

72.4

-10%

GeForce GTX 465

70.2

-13%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

62.8

-22%

Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead is a DirectX 10 game based on the same engine as the original Crysis, but optimized (it runs under DirectX 9.0c when installed on Windows XP).

We used the HardwareOC Crysis Warhead Benchmark Tool to collect the data for this test. We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, all at medium image quality (16x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering) and using the Airfield demo. The results below are the number of frames per second achieved by each video card.

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Crysis Warhead - Medium

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

35

9%

Radeon HD 6870

32

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

31

-3%

GeForce GTX 465

30

-6%

Radeon HD 5850

30

-6%

Radeon HD 6850

28

-13%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

27

-16%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Crysis Warhead - Medium

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

31

15%

Radeon HD 6870

27

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

26

-4%

Radeon HD 5850

26

-4%

GeForce GTX 465

25

-7%

Radeon HD 6850

24

-11%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

22

-19%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Crysis Warhead - Medium

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

21

11%

Radeon HD 6870

19

 

Radeon HD 5850

17

-11%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

16

-16%

Radeon HD 6850

16

-16%

GeForce GTX 465

15

-21%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

13

-32%

Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 is based on an entirely new game engine called Dunia, which is DirectX 10 when played under Windows Vista with a DirectX 10 compatible video card.

We used the benchmarking utility that comes with this game, setting image quality to High (x8 anti-aliasing) and running the “Ranch Long” demo three times. The results below are expressed in frames per second and are an arithmetic average of the three results collected.

MSI Radeon HD 6870

FarCry 2 - Maximum

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

109.8

8%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

104.9

4%

Radeon HD 6870

101.2

 

Radeon HD 5850

94.0

-7%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

93.9

-7%

GeForce GTX 465

90.4

-11%

Radeon HD 6850

88.6

-12%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

FarCry 2 - Maximum

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

98.4

10%

Radeon HD 6870

89.4

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

88.9

-1%

Radeon HD 5850

83.3

-7%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

78.5

-12%

Radeon HD 6850

78.1

-13%

GeForce GTX 465

75.5

-16%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

FarCry 2 - Maximum

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

70.2

13%

Radeon HD 6870

62.1

 

Radeon HD 5850

58.7

-5%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

57.8

-7%

Radeon HD 6850

54.0

-13%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

50.1

-19%

GeForce GTX 465

49.0

-21%

Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator is a DirectX 11 game that makes full use of tessellation and advanced shadow rendering. We used the Aliens vs. Predator Benchmark Tool developed by Rebellion. This program reads its configuration from a text file (our configuration files can be found here). We ran this program at 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600 resolutions, with low texture settings, x8 anisotropic filtering and x4 anti-aliasing.

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Aliens vs. Predator

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

52

27%

Radeon HD 5850

41.3

1%

Radeon HD 6870

41

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

37.8

-8%

GeForce GTX 465

35.5

-13%

Radeon HD 6850

34.6

-16%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

30.7

-25%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Aliens vs. Predator

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

42.5

27%

Radeon HD 5850

33.6

1%

Radeon HD 6870

33.4

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

30.2

-10%

GeForce GTX 465

28.5

-15%

Radeon HD 6850

28.2

-16%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

24.5

-27%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Aliens vs. Predator

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

26.2

28%

Radeon HD 5850

20.6

1%

Radeon HD 6870

20.4

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

18.1

-11%

GeForce GTX 465

17.5

-14%

Radeon HD 6850

17.2

-16%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

14.5

-29%

Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2 is a game that uses a lot of DirectX 11 features, like tessellation (to round out the edges of polygonal models), displacement maps (added to the tessellated mesh to add fine grain details), DirectCompute soft body simulation (to introduce more realism in the “boss” monsters), and DirectCompute wave simulation (to introduce more realism in the physics calculations in water surfaces; when you move or when gunshots and explosions hit the water, it moves accordingly). We reviewed the video cards using Lost Planet 2 internal benchmarking features, choosing the “Benchmark A” (we know that “Benchmark B” is the one recommended for reviewing video cards, however, at least with us, results were inconsistent). We set graphics at “medium,” anti-aliasing at “2x” and DX11 at “full.” The results below are the number of frames per second generated by each video card.

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Lost Planet 2

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

63.10

4%

Radeon HD 6870

60.60

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

55.30

-9%

GeForce GTX 465

54.80

-10%

Radeon HD 6850

52.90

-13%

Radeon HD 5850

50.90

-16%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

47.70

-21%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Lost Planet 2

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

55.00

9%

Radeon HD 6870

50.40

 

Radeon HD 5850

47.10

-7%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

46.30

-8%

GeForce GTX 465

42.60

-15%

Radeon HD 6850

40.20

-20%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

39.40

-22%

MSI Radeon HD 6870

Lost Planet 2

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

39.80

8%

Radeon HD 6870

36.90

 

Radeon HD 5850

31.80

-14%

Radeon HD 6850

29.60

-20%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

28.90

-22%

GeForce GTX 465

27.60

-25%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

24.80

-33%

Conclusions

The new Radeon HD 6870 is a very interesting video card. Against the GeForce GTX 465 it is a no-brainer: it was between 7% and 40% faster than its main competitor. However, as explained in the introduction, the Radeon HD 6870 has two indirect competitors, the GeForce GTX 460 with 1 GB and the Radeon HD 5850.

Against the GeForce GTX 460 with 1 GB, we saw the Radeon HD 6870 achieving the same performance level or being faster (up to 28%) in practically all games and simulations. The only game that we saw an advantage for the GTX 460 with 1 GB was on Far Cry 2 at 1680 x 1050, where it was 4% faster. At 1920 x 1200, however, both cards achieved the same performance level, and at 2560 x 1600 the Radeon HD 6870 was 7% faster.

Against the Radeon HD 5850, the new Radeon HD 6870 was faster in most games (up to 19%), with both achieving the same performance on Call of Duty 4 and Alien vs. Predator.

Since the Radeon HD 6870 is in the same price range as the Radeon HD 5850, we think the new Radeon HD 6870 is now “the” video card if you have around USD 250 to spend on a video card: in the worst case scenario you will have the same performance as a Radeon HD 5850 and, in the best case, you will improve your gaming performance by up to 19%. In other words, if you were thinking on buying a Radeon HD 5850, please switch to the new Radeon HD 6870!

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/MSI-Radeon-HD-6870-Video-Card-Review/1128


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