Skip to main content

AMD Radeon HD 6870 review

AMD needs something special - can it manage it?

AMD Radeon HD 6870
AMD's Northern Islands cards have landed

AMD radeon hd 6870

To some extent it feels that AMD has been a victim of its own success.

A case in point is the 5850, a graphics card that has managed to keep it's pricing above the £200 barrier despite increasing competition from Nvidia, and specifically the GTX 460.

The 6870 looks set to continue the errors made by its forefather, and is simply priced too high against a constantly changing environment.

Indeed after Nvidia's price-slashing exercise yesterday, the new stock-clocked 6870 is more expensive than pre-overclocked cards, such as the EVGA GTX 460 FTW edition that we've used for comparison.

Adding to the complications for the 6870's launch is the fact that 'Cayman' is just around the corner.

Boasting a complete reshuffling of its core, this should lead to graphics cards that really do change the landscape, making the 6870 a stop-gap at best, and an unnecessary diversion at worst.

It's not that the AMD Radeon HD 6870 is actually a bad card, more that the pricing is simply wrong given the performance it offers.

One way of looking at AMD's new GPUs is to see how expensive those high-frame rates are, essentially dividing the cost of the card by the frame rates you actually get.

This levels the playing field somewhat – as a card that offers twice the performance, but costs twice as much rolls in at the same price/fps.

Somewhat surprisingly, it's the 5850 that trips up being the worst offender here – effectively costing you £5.06 for each frame per second on average across our tests at 1,920 x 1,080.

The new cards, the Radeon 6870 and 6850 meanwhile roll in at £4.35 and £3.86 respectively, which looks pricey compared to the GTX 460's £3.36 per fps.

AMD needed to do something special to unseat the impressive power and value offered by the GTX 460. Importantly it hasn't managed it.

Better performance or a lower price would have helped things here, but as it stands, this is hopefully no indication of what is set to come.

We liked:

The higher frequency core produces decent results compared to the outgoing 5850. Eyefinity continues to be a tempting option for those with the screen space to use.

We disliked:

Pricing is completely off the mark.

Nvidia's board partners shouldn't be able to sell a factory-overclocked cards based on the GTX 460 for less than AMD produces stock clocked versions of the 6870. The Barts core isn't different enough to warrant the high outlay.