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Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 2GB GDDR5 Dual Fan


sapphire logo Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 2GB GDDR5 Dual Fan

Introduction

So it’s time; you’ve decided to take the plunge and purchase an Eyefinity setup. You’ve seen the videos, you’ve read the testimonials, and you’re ready to strip the horse blinders off of your virtual alter ego. One major question remains though: how much of a beast are you going to need to drive this rig? Today we’ll be looking at the Radeon HD 6970 2GB GDDR5 Dual Fan from Sapphire, an unorthodox take on AMD’s most potent single-GPU video card design to date.

Features & Commentary

Feature Our Commentary
Dual-Link DVI – Equipped with the most popular Dual Link DVI (Digital Visual Interface), this card is able to display ultra high resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600 at 60Hz. Par for the course.
HDMI 1.4a – HDMI 1.4a builds on previous generations of HDMI connectivity with support for Deep Color, 7.1 High Bitrate Audio, and 3D Stereoscopic support, ensuring the highest quality Blu-ray and video experience possible from your PC. A nice extra if you’re planning on hooking this to a TV, superfluous otherwise.
Mini-DisplayPort – Enjoy the benefits of the latest generation display interface, DisplayPort. With the ultra high HD resolution of 2560 x 1600 the graphics card ensures that you are able to support the latest generation of LCD monitors. Pretty much required for three-display setups.
Single-Link DVI-D – Supports Digital monitors up to 1920×1200 resolution. I’m confused, is it single link or double link? The documentation does little to clear this up, unfortunately
DisplayPort 1.2 – Doubling the effective bandwidth of previous DisplayPort implementations, DisplayPort 1.2 now includes support for Multi-Stream, allowing you to drive up to four separate monitors from a single DisplayPort 1.2 connector (requires DP1.2 monitors or Multi-Stream compatible hub), Stereoscopic 3D monitor support and adds support for high quality, lossless, 7.1 channel audio formats. So, that’s up to four monitors from each of the two mini DP ports, and two from the DVI/HDMI cluster. For those keeping score at home, that means you can hang up to 10 independently driven monitors off of this card. That’s fantastic for any card, and more so for a consumer card that costs less than $500.
Advanced GDDR5 Memory Technology – GDDR5 memory provides twice the bandwidth per pin of GDDR3 memory, delivering more speed and higher bandwidth. Par for the course on any high-end card.
AMD Eyefinity – AMD Eyefinity technology maximises your field of view across up to three displays, fully engaging your peripheral vision. For gamers this puts you right IN the game and for other applications it helps to increase productivity by maximising your visual workspace so that you can see more windows simultaneously. AMD Eyefinity technology is also ideal for multimedia applications as it allows you to keep several ‘palettes’ or ‘panels’ open over a larger workspace whist you edit your images or videos.* For many people, this is the main reason to splurge on a high-end card like this: the ability to stretch out a game’s display across three or more monitors. Note that for this to work at all, you need to be running Windows Vista or later.
Dr.Mos – Highly integrated MOSFET components maximize power efficiency and thermal performance whilst keeping the physical footprint to a minimum. Solid-state MOSFETs cuts down on heat, electrical noise, and bulk; no downsides here.
40nm Process Technology – Cutting edge manufacturing process allows for efficient, high performance parts which use less power than their predecessors. Key words here: “use less power”. Given the Radeon 5000 series’ reputation for chewing on electrons and pumping out heat in bulk, this is a welcome advancement.
AMD CrossFireX™ Multi-GPU Technology – Triple or Quadruple gaming power with AMD CrossFireX™ Multi-GPU Technology. AMD CrossFireX technology supports up to four graphics cards to be used in a single system. …In case your life just isn’t complete without that 40-monitor video wall. Less facetiously, CrossFire is a way to “cheat”, and get the performance of a next-gen graphics card without waiting for that next gen to arrive. The latest iteration, dubbed CrossFireX, is much less picky about having matched sets of cards. This makes future upgrades a lot less tricky logistically, as you can use almost any 6000-series card.
PCI-Express 2.0 – The latest PCI-Express 2.0 specification doubles data throughput from 2.5Gbps to 5Gbps allowing you to exploit the full performance potential of your graphics card. Again, par for the course.
AMD HD3D Technology – Enjoy the most immersive experience possible with full support for High Definition Stereoscopic 3D, a technique that presents 2D images (movies, games, photos) in a format that creates the illusion of three-dimensional depth when using compatible 3D displays / glasses / software. If you’re one of the few who can use shutter-glasses-3D for an extended period without getting a headache, this card will let you make use of that.
Microsoft DirectX® 11 – Get intense gaming performance and unrivalled image quality with stunning 3D visual effects, realistic lighting and lifelike imagery with SAPPHIRE graphics cards supporting DirectX®11. New features in DirectX®11 such as Hardware Tesselation, HDR Texture Compression, Multi-threading support and DirectCompute bring lifelike gaming and an experience never possible on a PC before. Another entry in the would-only-be-notable-if-missing category.
OpenGL® 4.1 – Supports the latest OpenGL API (Application Programming Interface) to accelerate performance of applications outside of DirectX®, i.e. Adobe Autodesk 2D/3D graphic design. Support for the latest OpenGL extensions is rather less common than DX11 support, sadly, but it’s present and accounted for here.
Shader Model 5.0 – Supports the latest Shader Model 5.0 feature set including VTF (Vertex Texture Fetch) which is a key feature used extensively in many of the games that ship today. Without support for this feature the game will fall back to a lesser shader path resulting in the loss of cool, lifelike effects made possible by Shader Model 5.0 “…and that’s Just Terrible.” Joking aside, this is another tick in the Obligatory Features column.
AMD Catalyst Control Center™ – The AMD Catalyst Control Center™ software application gives you complete control over the performance and visual quality of your SAPPHIRE AMD Radeon™ based graphics card allowing for the best experience on your PC. Yep, it’s a Radeon. Moving right along…
AMD PowerPlay™ – Dynamically manage power efficiency and take control of your performance with AMD’s revolutionary AMD PowerPlay TM power management technology delivering high performance features when needed and conserving power when the demand on the graphics processor is low. This seemless technology dramatically reduces the overall power consumption allowing for break-through energy efficiency. In other words, this GPU only goes full-throttle when it’s being asked to work hard. Nice to see the Radeon team borrowing from the Athlon team’s bag of tricks here.
4th Generation TeraScale Engine – Massive arrays of on-chip compute units offer the latest in graphics functionality and performance. More shader cores than you can shake a 10ft pole at.
AMD PowerTune™ Technology – AMD PowerTune is a breakthrough technology that sets an entirely new direction for maximum performance at TDP. It allows the GPU to be designed with higher engine clock speeds which can be applied on the broad set of applications that have thermal headroom. Translation: we can run some of the shader cores faster when we’re not using all of them.
Display Flexibility – Offers an incredible choice of the latest display connectivity options natively on the board, including dual-link DVI-I, DisplayPort and HDMI along with adapters to ensure compatibility with your legacy analogue VGA monitor. Note the use of the singular “VGA monitor” there; they provide only one passive VGA dongle, and it only works on one of the DVI ports. If for some reason you’ve got two or three VGA monitors you want to hook in, you’ll need active miniDP->VGA adapters for each one beyond the first. Also note that you can’t use both DVI ports and the HDMI port all at once; the third one you plug in that way will simply refuse to function.
TriXX Utility – TriXX helps users to get the optimum performance from compatible SAPPHIRE graphics cards in any application by allowing them to monitor, tune and save different settings of key parameters for the card. If for some reason you can’t stand the Catalyst overclocking interface, this gives you an alternate route to the same settings.
Enhanced Unified Video Decoder 3 (UVD 3) – Watch the hottest Blu-ray movies or other HD content at full 1080p (and beyond !) display resolution. Enjoy a feature rich video experience with enhanced Unified Video Decoder 3 (UVD 3), offloading the bulk of the video decoding tasks from the CPU to the GPU allowing for a cooler, quieter and more balanced system. Offloading video decode tasks to the GPU means that momentary spikes in CPU usage won’t cause your video to stutter or lag.
Enhanced Internet Browser Applications – Not just for video and games, the power of your GPU can now accelerate the latest versions of some Internet browsers (IE9/Mozilla Firefox) utilising Direct 2D rendering for a faster and more responsive browsing experience including high quality image rendering and media playback. This will hopefully keep HTML5 animations and video from chewing your CPU to bits.
Windows® 7 support – WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) Certified drivers and logos are available for all SAPPHIRE HD2000, HD3000, HD4000 and HD5000 series cards ensuring compatibility and reliability with Microsoft Windows 7. Curious that they don’t mention the HD6000 series in that, which would actually be relevant. Lucky for them, AMD has already done the work to get WHQL certs for this card’s drivers too.
AMD App Acceleration – Use the power of your AMD Radeon™ GPU to speed up everyday applications like your web browser and Microsoft Office 2010 using AMD App Acceleration. Do more, and do it faster. Watch Blu-ray movies, online streaming video and other HD content using your AMD Radeon™ GPU and get smooth – high quality playback with amazing image quality. Sadly, this isn’t behavior you can enforce; either it works with your programs or it doesn’t. That said, the list of GPU-accelerated applications is growing steadily.
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