Nvidia’s new mainstream graphics card, GeForce GTX 560 Ti, has disrupted the market. Priced at $249, which is a mere $10 more than the official price of the Radeon HD 6870, it has left no chance to AMD’s Barts-based products. Moreover, it has proved to be as competitive as to challenge the Radeon HD 6950 across a number of games although the latter card comes from the $300 category.
But are things really as bad as they seem for AMD? Well, not quite. First of all, the company has responded to Nvidia’s attack by cutting prices for several Radeon HD series products. Particularly, the Radeon HD 6950 with 2 gigabytes of onboard memory now costs $289-269 instead of $299 and AMD’s partners have also begun to offer this card with 1 gigabyte of memory for $259. The Radeon HD 6870 is now priced at $219 instead of $239, too (see this news story for details). AMD suggests that the latter two products are going to be an appealing alternative to the GeForce GTX 560 Ti.
But let’s compare the specs of the above-mentioned cards:
Indeed, the Radeon HD 6950 now looks quite appealing although we should keep it in mind that VLIW4, the new architecture of its execution units, does not do well across all games. In some ways it can be viewed as a step backwards compared to the VLIW5 architecture which debuted in the Radeon HD 2900 series. A VLIW5 unit can easily carry out one complex and one simple instruction simultaneously but it takes two VLIW4 units to do the same. Besides, the reference Radeon HD 6870 ensures a much higher scene fill-rate than the Radeon HD 6950.
So what does the Radeon HD 6870 lack to compete with the GeForce GTX 560 Ti? Obviously, GPU and memory clock rates! If the GPU frequency of the Radeon HD 6870 were increased to 1 GHz and its memory frequency to that of the Radeon HD 6950, the resulting product would be able to compete with the junior Cayman as well as with the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. Being rather simple, the Barts core should be able to overclock well, especially under favorable conditions.
ASUS provided such conditions, releasing a very exciting version of the Radeon HD 6870 card called ASUS HD 6870 DirectCU (EAH6870 DC). We’ve got it for our tests, so let’s see what a well-overclocked Barts is capable of!