AMD Launches 6900 Series Graphics Cards

Chipmaker AMD on Wednesday launched its high-end Radeon HD 6950 and 6970 graphics cards.

The Radeon 6970 runs at a core clock speed of 880MHz, and includes 24 SIMD stream processors, 96 texture units, and 256 bit wide memory running at 5.5 Gbps. The Radeon 6950 runs at a core clock speed of 800 MHz, and includes 22 SIMD stream processors, 88 texture units, and 256 bit wide memory running at 5.0 Gbps. Both cards include 32 ROPs, 128 Z-Stencil and a 2GB DDR5 frame buffer. The DirectX 11-supported GPUs include AMD Eyefinity technology, which allows gamers to use up to six displays with just one card.

The Radeon 6000 series is based on AMD's VLIW4 core architecture. AMD says it designed the Radeon 6000 series with several goals in mind including efficient architecture, geometric improvements to performance, features that improve image quality, and power efficiency and management.

"The 6900 series is the ideal enthusiast card," said David Bauman, Product Manager for the HD 6900 Series, in a press briefing. "Pretty much across the board the 6900 is running two times the tessellation performance of the 5870," Bauman said.

Sponsored post

Although the Radeon 6000 series will replace the Radeon 5870, the lower-numbered ATI Radeon 5970 remains the fastest graphics card on the market. It also retains the "ATI" brand name adding to the confusion surrounding AMD's branding of the Radeon line.

According to AMD, the Radeon 5970 scores X14240in 3DMark Vantage v.101, the highest single graphics card score achieved to date, while the 6970 competes with Nvidia's high-end GeForce GTX 580 that launched last month.

Both Radeon 6900 series GPUs include dual graphics engines, upgraded render back-ends, and an asynchronous dispatch allowing multiple autonomous compute kernels to operate simultaneously.

The 6900 series includes a few image quality features: Enhanced Quailty Anti-Aliasing (EQAA) , Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MAA), and Texture Filtering. Bauman said EQAA doubles the number of coverage samples for the particular mode and that the drop-off in performance from enabling EQAA is very low relative to the improvement in image quality. MAA is a post-process filtering technique that offers full-scene anti-aliasing similar to edge-detect CFAA, but applies to all edges and surfaces rather than just polygon edges.

As for power management, AMD is offering a game power draw technology called AMD PowerTune that tunes each gaming product variant, which Bauman said improves performance for applications that affect end users.

NEXT: AMD Catalyst Software

"PowerTune brings the GPU to a TDP or power level that we are aiming for," Bauman said. "It uses an algorithmic approach that can calculate a power drill for it no matter the applications in use, and it alters the clock speed of the GPU on the fly if need be." Bauman said PowerTune will affect performance by up to 6 FPS, which he says is a playable frame rate, while reducing power consumption.

AMD is also offering CrossFireX Scaling with its new Radeon GPUs, a multi-GPU gaming platform that supports up to four GPUs simultaneously. "We're getting great Crossfire scaling with 2 GB rates, which translates to high image quality and performance," said Bauman.

With the arrival of the new graphics cards, AMD is also updating its Catalyst software. AMD Catalyst consists of a unified graphics display driver, Open CL driver, and the new AMD Catalyst Control Center. The software is updated monthly and is supported on desktops, notebooks and chipsets running Windows 7 and Linux operating systems.

The new Catalyst Control Center includes two different views, for "mainstream" and "advanced" users, and updates features based on available AMD hardware, said Andrew Dodd, Software Product Manager at AMD.

Dodd said AMD's Catalyst Application Profiles (CAP), which AMD releases each week, give users access to the latest technology without having to wait for a driver update, downloadable from AMD's online gaming site. "The Catalyst Application Profiles allow users to maximize their multi-GPU performance or enable Anti-Aliasing in new titles," Dodd said.

AMD says third-party Perseus Labs conducted Catalyst software stability tests on both AMD and Nvidia's GPU hardware and found that AMD's hardware passed 100 percent of the time, never experiencing a system crash or failure, even under extreme conditions.

AMD is also offering DivX Plus Codec Pack acceleration for the Cayman GPUs. DivX acceleration lowers the workload of the CPU, reduces noise on entertainment-oriented PCs, and plays back DivX content on systems running entry-level CPUs, according to AMD.