We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
Graphics cards Reviews
15,670 Reviews

AMD Radeon HD 6870 review

£194.81 inc VAT

Manufacturer: AMD

Our Rating: We rate this 4.5 out of 5

The AMD Radeon HD 6870 is the larger, more capable member of AMD's new 6800 series graphics card lineup. Reasonably priced, this midrange graphics card manages to outpace its closest relative - the Radeon HD 5850 - while doing minimal damage to your bank balance.

The AMD Radeon HD 6870 is the larger, more capable member of AMD's new 6800 series graphics card lineup. Reasonably priced, this midrange graphics card manages to outpace its closest relative - the AMD Radeon HD 6850 - while doing minimal damage to your bank balance.

Models in the Radeon HD 6800 series offer a new chip architecture, code-named Barts. It's a modified version of the chip architecture (dubbed Cypress) featured in the Radeon HD 5850 and 5870 graphics cards, cutting back on Cypress's size but still delivering excellent performance. Be sure to check out Jason Cross's expansive overview of the Radeon HD 6800 GPUs and their architecture, for a deep dive into what's happening under the hood.

If you're already familiar with AMD's 5800 series of graphics cards, you'll be right at home with the 6800-series cards. In addition to sporting a similar aesthetic design to its predecessors', the Radeon HD 6870 comes equipped with AMD's Eyefinity Technology, which allows you to drive up to three displays from a single card. The card has a pair of DVI ports (one dual-link and one single-link), an HDMI port, and two mini-DisplayPort connectors. The variety is admirable, but keep in mind that you'll need a pair of mini-DisplayPort adaptors.

At long last, AMD has also implemented HD3D, the company's take on 3D - and its answer to nVidia's GeForce 3D Vision. HD3D focuses on support for the Open Stereo 3D Initiative. Instead of creating dedicated hardware, HD3D promises support for a wide variety of methods, ranging from existing active-shutter or polarized glasses, to glasses-free 3D technologies that will eventually work their way to market.

Where performance is concerned, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 made an impressive showing on synthetic benchmarks and in real-world games. Though results on synthetic benchmarks don't necessarily reflect real-world performance, they do provide a useful idea of how a particular GPU stacks up against the competition. The HD 6870 maintained a consistent lead over the older Radeon HD 5850 in all of our synthetic tests. It's a pleasure to see a card outperform another while costing less, but the results here are hardly surprising: The HD 6870 sports an improved tessellation engine and runs at a higher clock speed than the HD 5850, lending the smaller card more muscle in all the right places.

In actual game testing, the performance gap narrowed, but the AMD Radeon HD 6870 still came out ahead. All tests were performed at resolutions of 1920 by 1200 and 1680 by 1050 with maximum available settings, and with antialiasing alternately enabled and disabled. The Radeon HD 5850 earned the better score on our Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. benchmark, but barely: The average difference of 6 frames per second doesn't justify the bump in price.

Where power utilization is concerned, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 gobbles up a bit more energy when under load on our test bench - 246 watts, versus the HD 5850's 231 watts. But it's more energy-efficient when idle, consuming 103 watts at rest versus the HD 5850's 127 watts. Keep in mind that those totals take the entire system's load into account, so your own measurements will vary; our test bench sports a power-hungry Intel Core i7 980X processor and its accompanying gargantuan heatsink.

In terms of relative power efficiency, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 edged past the HD 6870 ever so slightly - but bear in mind that the 6870 keeps the idle power lower by about 30 watts.

See also:  Group test: what's the best graphics card?

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

See also: Group test: what's the best budget graphics card?

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Expert Verdict »
Output: Dual-Link DVI
HDMI 1.4a
2x Mini-DisplayPort
Single-Link DVI-D
GPU: 900MHz Core Clock 40nm Chip
1120x Stream Processors
1024MB Size
256-bit GDDR5
4200MHz Effective
  • Overall: We give this item 9 of 10 overall

Overall, this choice is a no brainer. AMD's Radeon HD 5850 had a good run, but it's outclassed by a newcomer that delivers superior performance, comparable power efficiency, and a lower price tag. A great card may be riding off into the sunset, but the AMD Radeon HD 6870 is a very worthy successor.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.
  • AMD Radeon HD 6850 review

    AMD Radeon HD 6850

    Don't be fooled by the AMD Radeon HD 6850's position on the 6800-series totem pole. It may occupy the lower end of the current pairing, but this graphics card is more than a match for the GPU it ostensibly replaces - and it gives even the beefier Radeon HD 5850 a run for its money.

  • Asus EAH 6850 DirectCU review

    Asus EAH 6850 DirectCU

    The Asus EAH6850 DirectCU is a mid-range graphics card that consumes less power and is less expensive than the Radeon HD 5850. It's got a custom cooler, too.

  • Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 review

    Sapphire Radeon HD 6870

    The Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 is a powerful graphics card with a superb sub-£200 price tag.

  • Asus ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB review

    Asus ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB

    The Asus ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB is a mid-range graphics card aimed at gamers and 3D enthusiasts. It can be viewed as a more affordable alternative to ATI’s former top dog; the ATI Radeon HD 5870.

  • Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 review

    Sapphire Radeon HD 6850

    The Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 is an outstanding graphics card for the money.


IDG UK Sites

Windows 9 release date, price, features: Windows 9 beta leaked ahead of 30 September unveiling

IDG UK Sites

Is Apple losing confidence in itself?

IDG UK Sites

The Samsung Gear VR is better than the Oculus Rift (kinda)

IDG UK Sites

How (and where) to buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus in the UK. Plus: How to buy an iPhone 6 today