ASUS EAH6870 Video Card Review

ASUS is out of the gate with its first AMD Radeon HD 6870 based video card, the EAH6870/2DI2S/1GD5. It features a modest overclock with no price premium, but can it compete with the newly inexpensive GeForce GTX 470? We'll find out with the help of five of today's newest and hottest games.

Introduction

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. is one of the largest and most successful computer hardware manufacturers in the world. A Taiwan-based company, they manufacture a wide variety of computer hardware, including motherboards, video cards, optical drives, notebooks, networking equipment, barebones desktop, and server systems, among many others. In 2008, they sold over 24 million motherboards, grossed 8.1 billion U.S., and won 3,056 awards from various enthusiasts and IT related outlets.

Today we are going to be taking a look at ASUS’ first product based on the AMD Radeon HD 6870: the EAH6870/2DI2S/1GD5, hereafter referred to as the ASUS EAH6870. There will in fact be more products offered from ASUS in this line, with some exciting highly overclocked models down the road that we will evaluate.

Article Image


AMD Radeon HD 6870

Launched on the 21st of October 2010, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 GPU is targeted at the ~$250 USD video card market segment. It marked a nomenclature deviation for AMD, as the Radeon HD 5800, 4800, and 3800 series of video cards were all targeted toward the high end, >$400 market. When the HD 6870 and HD 6850 launched it was announced that they would target the $180 to $250 market, while a later product, the HD 6900 series, would be a high end item.

The Radeon HD 6800 series represents an evolution of AMD’s GPU architecture, rather than just a simple die shrink. The die is smaller, as is the transistor count, but AMD was able to accomplish more with less hardware, thanks to improvements in the ASIC’s micro-architecture. Both in terms of die size and transistors, it is smaller than the Radeon HD 5850, yet it performs better thanks to these improvements and optimizations.

The Radeon HD 6870 is built on a 40nm process and features 1.7 billion transistors. The GPU packs 1120 Stream Processors, 32 ROPs, and 56 Texture Units. It comes with 1GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1050MHz, or 4.2GHz DDR. The board is rated for 151 Watts at load and 19 Watts at idle. It sports two DVI-I connectors, two Mini-DisplayPort connectors, and one HDMI connector. It requires the use of two 6-pin auxiliary power supply connectors.


ASUS EAH6870

The ASUS EAH6870 is based on AMD’s reference design for the Radeon HD 6870. It carries with it an MSRP of $239 USD. It is basically a reference specification video card, except for the clock rate on the GPU, which has been increased by 15MHz to 915MHz for the EAH6870. It has 1GB of GDDR5 memory, and the clock speed follows AMD’s reference specification of 1050MHz (or 4.2GHz DDR). It features the same red and black cooling device on every other reference card, but Asus has affixed a handsome decorative aluminum plate on the face of the plastic cooling shroud. It is currently the only Radeon HD 6870 in ASUS AMD video card product lineup, but more are coming.

The important fact to keep in mind is that while the core GPU frequency has not been increased to make any meaningful difference, the MSRP stays the same, and this video card does support over-volting with SmartDoctor for overclocking.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The front of the outer box is an average size for this level of video card and features fantasy hero artwork. It also displays most of the information required for customers to make an off-the-shelf purchasing decision. Whatever information may be missing from the front of the box is displayed on the back in several languages in a large orange info box and three marketing blocks.

The first inner box is a matte black design with a gold "ASUS * Rock solid * Heart Touching" logo pressed into it. The smaller inner boxes continue the same theme and contain the bundled accessories, CD-ROM discs, and documentation. The video card itself is located underneath the larger flat packed box on the left.

Article Image Article Image

The ASUS EAH6870’s soft bundle includes a manual CD-ROM, a Driver CD-ROM which also includes ASUS’ GamerOSD and SmartDoctor software, and an installation guide/user’s manual. The accessory bundle is remarkably sparse, including only a single dual-Molex to single 6-pin auxiliary power supply adaptor and a CrossFireX bridge.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The video card itself is shrouded in black and red, with a decorative aluminum plate affixed to the plastic cooler shroud. The aluminum is painted a satin black color with metallic red strips. A similar round aluminum medallion covers the EAH6870’s blower fan hub. There is a textured metal ASUS logo affixed to the bottom left corner of the video card’s face. It is a strikingly simple and effective design, and upon taking it out of the box, it gives the impression of quality. Aside from the aluminum accent pieces, the cooler is of the standard AMD reference design.

Article Image Article Image Article Image

The ASUS EAH6870 requires two 6-pin auxiliary power supply connectors, the receptacles for which are found on the back of the top edge of the video card. There is a single CrossFireX bridge connector on the opposite end of the top edge. For output connectors, the ASUS EAH6870 features two dual-link DVI-I connectors, an HDMI connector, and two mini-DisplayPort connectors.

Article Image Article Image Article Image

The backside of the video card features exposed components, which is something of a departure when compared to other recent video card designs. The protective back plate featured on more expensive earlier generation video cards is missing.


The Competition

Just before the AMD Radeon HD 6870 launched, NVIDIA slashed the price of some of its video cards, including. The GeForce GTX 470 saw its price cut down to the $250 range, which places it in direct competition with the Radeon HD 6870. For this review, we are comparing the ASUS EAH6870 with a GeForce GTX 470 and a reference design AMD Radeon HD 6870. For those looking for comparisons to GTX 470, this is your evaluation.