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Sapphire HD 6970 Dual Fan Edition review

We're big fans of GPUs with big fans

For

  • Performance
  • Overclocking capability
  • Dual BIOS

Against

  • Too late in the GPU cycle

There are no new GPUs on the immediate horizon, but can Sapphire's Radeon HD 6970 Dual Fan edition make up for that? If you're into some freakish overclocking numbers then maybe it can.

The Cayman XT-based HD 6970 is the company's fastest single-GPU based card out of the box. But what if you want it to go even faster, how do you go about it?

Well, in the case of AMD's biggest board partner, Sapphire, you replace the PCB with your own design, build in improved power components, throw the reference cooler in the bin and replace it with a custom dual-fan design.

Then finally you tweak the twangers off the standard HD 6970's dual BIOS to offer a choice between normal and super-duper, voltage-crazy overclocking. The OC options allow access to higher voltages for the core, faster memory speeds and faster fan speeds.

The resulting HD 6970 Dual Fan Edition offers the choice between using the standard clock speeds (880MHz core, 1,375MHz) or, by flicking a switch, and using Sapphire's own TriXX overclocking utility, which is a good deal faster.

Keep pushing

What's important about this Sapphire HD 6970 is just how much farther can we push the card now that Sapphire has been delving around in it's design.

Out of the box, a standard HD 6970 has clock speeds of 880MHz for the core, while the memory trots along at 1,375MHz (5.5GHz effective), it's fairly speedy and will cope with any modern game with aplomb.

In standard mode with the card's reference voltage of 1.75v we got the Sapphire HD 6970 to run stably at an overclock of 965MHz on the core with the memory running at 1,497MHz (5.9GHz effective), which is pretty impressive.

Although in this mode the TriXX utility only allows a voltage of up to 1.2v. Thankfully through Sapphire's wizardry and the OC switch, we were able to test at 1.2 volts and above.

The secondary BIOS is all about the power tweaking. When the BIOS switch is in the normal mode, the PowerTune technology of the Catalyst Control Centre offers plus or minus 20 per cent. Switching over to the overclocking BIOS, this is boosted up to plus or minus 50 per cent to allow as much power to the card as possible. So needless to say we had to do just that to see what the card was capable of reaching.

The benefit of the additional power is that the clocks are not being throttled back by PowerTune. We managed to get all the benchmark games we used to run stably at 1,032MHz for the core (150MHz overclock) and 1,525MHz on the memory (150MHz for the memory). We managed 1,120MHz for the core and 1,528MHz for the memory, while still being able to boot stably into Windows. It wouldn't run the benchmarks stably but it did give an idea of the cards capabilities.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

DirectX 10 1080p gaming performance

Just Cause 2: Frames per second: Higher is better

Standard clock (880Mhz core): 53
Overclocked: (965Mhz core): 55
OC + 50% Power (1,032Mhz core): 61

DirectX 11 1080p gaming performance

DiRT3: Frames per second: Higher is better

Standard clock (880Mhz core): 66
Overclocked: (965Mhz core): 72
OC + 50% Power (1,032Mhz core): 79

DirectX 11 1080p gaming performance

AvP: Frames per second: Higher is better

Standard clock (880Mhz core): 49
Overclocked: (965Mhz core): 52
OC + 50% Power (1,032Mhz core): 60

DirectX 11 1080p gaming performance

Shogun2: Frames per second: Higher is better

Standard clock (880Mhz core): 51
Overclocked: (965Mhz core): 54
OC + 50% Power (1,032Mhz core): 59

So AMD's Cayman XT GPU is capable of impressive overclocking shenanigans then, but the credit must also go to Sapphire's heatsink and dual cooler design. It's amazingly quiet at normal speeds, only becoming noticeable as things get a bit hectic with some serious overclocking.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeGraphic Card
Chipset ManufacturerAMD
Chipset ModelHD 6970
HDMIYes
Chipset LineRadeon
Chipset SeriesHD 6000
DisplayPortYes
Maximum Resolution2560 x 1600
Brand NameSapphire
Standard Memory2 GB
Host InterfacePCI Express 2.1 x16
Bus Width256 bit
Multi-GPU TechnologyCrossFireX
Analog SignalYes
Digital SignalYes
Dual Link DVI SupportedYes
DVIYes
Number of DisplayPort Outputs2
Number of DVI Outputs2
Number of HDMI Outputs1
Height123 mm
Cooler TypeFan Cooler
Memory TechnologyGDDR5 SDRAM
Form FactorPlug-in Card
Length249 mm
ManufacturerSapphire, Inc
Memory Speed5500 MHz
Product NameRadeon HD 6970 Graphic Card
Manufacturer Part Number11187-03-40G
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sapphiretech.com/en/
Marketing Information

The new SAPPHIRE HD 6970 has the same internal architecture as the standard model, with 1536 stream processors and 96 texture processing units, and clock speeds are 880MHz for the core and 1375Mhz (5.5Gb/sec effective) for the 2GB of GDDR5 memory. This new design has two 90mm fans with thin impellers that can move the same amount of air at 10% lower rotation speeds than conventional fans, keeping noise low, and their special dust repelling bearings contribute to high reliability.
With the Dual BIOs set to the standard position, the Dual fans keep this model quiet and up to 25% cooler than the standard model even under load conditions. With the BIOS switched to the performance setting, the core voltage of the GPU is raised to 1.2V, the fan speed is set to a high performance profile and the powertune adjustment for overclocking is raised to 50% allowing the user to maximise performance of the card by increasing clock speeds either with AMD Overdrive or with SAPPHIRE TriXX up to a ceiling of 1500MHz core, 2000MHz memory.

Package Contents
  • Radeon HD 6970 Graphic Card
  • CrossFire Bridge Interconnect Cable
  • 8-pin to 4-pin Power Cable
  • DVI to VGA Adapter
  • Mini-DP to DP Cable
  • 6-pin to 4-pin Power Cable
  • CD
Limited Warranty2 Year
Thickness48 mm
API SupportedDirectX 11.0, DirectCompute, OpenGL 4.1, OpenCL