PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 Video Card Review

PowerColor's highest-end Radeon HD 6970 is on our test bench today. The PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 has a respectable out-of-the-box overclock, a custom cooler, and a free game, but does it offer value for its price premium?


PowerColor is one of AMD's best known board partners. While they primarily distribute graphics cards, they also have a small line of computer cases, power supplies, and video card accessories. PowerColor was established in 1997 by the Tul Corporation (Technology Unlimited). They have offices across the world, including Walnut California as their United States branch.

Today, we are looking at a product from PowerColor's PCS+ line of video cards: PowerColor The PCS+ Radeon HD 6970, Call of Duty Edition. It features a factory overclocked AMD Radeon HD 6970 GPU and 2GB of GDDR5.

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AMD Radeon HD 6970

AMD launched the Radeon HD 6970 on December 14, 2010, alongside the Radeon HD 6950. The Radeon HD 6900 series of GPUs sports AMD's VLIW4 architecture, which is different from the 6800 series' VLIW5 architecture. It features a greater degree of parallelism in its processing engine, owing do its dual-setup engines. VLIW4 was implemented in order to increase both efficiency and performance in its streaming processors.

The Radeon HD 6970 is comprised of 2.64 billion transistors, providing 1536 streaming processors, 96 texture units, 32 color rasterizers, and 128 Z/Stencil ROPs. It boasts an impressive 2.7 TFLOPS of computer power on the GPU, texture fill rate of 84.5 Gigatexels per second, and a pixel fill rate of 28.2 Gigatexels per second. The HD 6970 has 2048MB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1375MHz (or 5.5GHz DDR) on a 256-bit bus. Its memory bus boasts a maximum theoretical throughput of 176 Gbps.

The Radeon HD 6970 is designed with a maximum power rating of 250 Watts. It is supposed to draw an average of 190 Watts during gaming and 20 Watts when idling. It has one 8-pin power connector and one 6-pin power connector. There are five output ports, including two DVI ports, two mini-DisplayPort connectors, and one HDMI connector.

PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970

The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 features an overclocked AMD Radeon HD 6970 GPU with 2GB of GDDR5. Out of the box, the GPU comes clocked at 940MHz, which is a 60MHz increase over AMD's reference specification of 880MHz. The memory is clocked at 1425MHz (or 5.7GHz DDR), which is a 50MHz increase over AMD's reference specification. For this, the PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 will cost consumers $374.99 USD. You can read more about the 6970 PCS+ specifications here.

The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 is both clocked faster and priced higher than most of its Radeon HD 6970 based competitors. Aside from its overclocked nature, the PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 also includes an improved cooling device. It features a large aluminum heat sink with four copper heat-pipes kept cool by two 9cm cooling fans.

The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 has a two-year warranty. With the unnecessary and destructive excess of the lifetime video card warranty in its twilight, many companies are adopting 3-year warranties. PowerColor's two-year warranty my thus seem short by comparison, but we find it to be adequate. Most warranties don't transfer to second owners anyway, and many of these video cards will barely see a single owner through a year.

PowerColor's web site actually lists this video card as a discontinued model. That seems to refer only to the Call of Duty part of the equation. PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 units now shipping to retailers should include a Dirt 3 coupon instead of a Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 coupon.

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This video card's packaging is downright svelte compared to some of the video cards we have received lately. The front of the box is replete with all the necessary branding, including a badge indicating that this video card supports AMD Eyefinity configurations with up to four monitors by itself. The back of the box shows more detailed info about the video card inside, including CrossFireX support, DirectX 11 support, and HD3D stereoscopic 3D support. The side of the box lists the video card's system requirements. The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 requires at least a 550-Watt power supply for one video card, and at least a 750-Watt power supply for two-card CrossFireX operation.

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The soft bundle includes a quick installation guide, a driver CD-ROM, and a game coupon. The sample we received came with a Modern Warfare 2 coupon, but new units shipping to stores will have Dirt 3 coupons. The accessory bundle includes a DVI to VGA adaptor, a CrossFire link cable, a 6-pin to 8-pin power adaptor, and a mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort adaptor dongle.

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The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 video card itself has a familiar red PCB and is covered almost completely by a black cooling device. The cooler has two 9cm fans mounted to a black plastic shroud. The shroud wraps around a silver aluminum heat sink featuring four polished copper heat pipes. The heat pipes emerge from the base heat collector and distribute heat into the extremities of the heat-sink in order to more efficiently utilize the heat-sink's surface area.

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This video card has one 6-pin power connector and one 8-power connector. There is a PowerColor PCS series sticker on the top edge of the video card near where the heat-pipes emerge from the base. The sticker is small, but should be easily visible in systems with case windows.

The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 features five different output ports. There is one dual-link DVI-I port, one single-link DVI-I port, one HDMI port, and two mini-DisplayPort jacks. The back of this video card is left unprotected. There are many surface mounted components, a few stickers, and some spring-loaded screws to keep the cooling device attached to the video card.

The Competition

Newegg lists the PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 for $374.99 USD plus shipping. At that price, its primary competition is other AMD Radeon HD 6970 based video cards and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570. A good GeForce GTX 570 can be had for $314.99, and a good Radeon HD 6970 goes for $339.99. With those prices, the PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6970 has its work cut out for it.