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New products may occasionally turn out to be no better than older ones as is the case with the VLIW4 and VLIW5 graphics architectures developed by AMD. The Radeon HD 6870 graphics card with its outdated architecture is actually quite competitive to the new Radeon HD 6950 if clocked at a GPU frequency of about 1 GHz. We can only imagine what a VLIW5 graphics core with more subunits and with third-generation tessellators would be capable of but the fact is that AMD’s top-end solutions are now represented by the Cayman architecture with VLIW4 design. At the current moment, we’ve got the following situation in the performance-mainstream sector:

Again, it is yet too early to dismiss the Radeon HD 6870 which has the lowest price among the three graphics cards indicated above. As we found out in our tests of an ASUS HD 6870 DirectCU, this card can challenge a GeForce GTX 560 Ti if overclocked. Of course, the ASUS version is special and cannot be found for the recommended $219; and if priced at about $300, it can't compete with the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, yet ASUS is not the only brand on the market. There are a lot of Barts-based products available at far more affordable prices. The question is how well do they overclock?

Graphics card manufacturers make the choice even harder by offering a lot of various Radeon HD 6870 versions that often have nothing in common except for the AMD Barts processor itself. Some companies focus on overclocking capabilities and unique exterior design while others emphasize the simplicity and low price of their products. Rich accessories or a quiet cooler can also be important marketing factors.

So today we’ve got two Radeon HD 6870 cards from PowerColor and MSI. They are called HD6870 PCS+ and R6870 Hawk, respectively.

We want to pit them against each other to see if their exclusive technologies can help them at overclocking and if they can beat the ASUS HD 6870 DirectCU we tested earlier. Perhaps one of them will turn out to be the best option as a graphics card to buy and overclock. Let's take a look at them first.

 
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