Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 2GB Dual Fan Review
The HD 7970 may be the graphics card everyone is talking about but it only just became available in somewhat limited quantities and pricing is far beyond the reach of most consumers. But while the Southern Islands-based cards will take over AMD’s flagship range, lower end cards still provide great performance at a fraction of the cost. The HD 6970 is a prime example of this since it is based off of a mature architecture, can achieve playable in nearly every game and retails for less than $360 in most cases.
In order to add some interest to the HD 6970 market, Sapphire recently introduced their new Dual Fan version which is supposed to replace the reference SKU in their lineup. This card doesn’t retail for a penny over $350 but incorporates one of the best heatsink we’ve seen (wait ‘till you see the numbers this thing posts), an expanded VRM section and dual BIOSes. Unfortunately, clock speeds remain at stock speeds but with those kinds of capabilities, overclocking is certainly an option.
In terms of looks, Sapphire’s Dual Fan card is a far cry away from a reference HD 6970 2GB but it retains the usual 10.5” length. Nonetheless, there are plenty of additional features installed on this card that make it one heck of a good value for potential buyers.
The heatsink on this card is impressive to say the least with a pair of 90mm fans and a quartet of large copper heatpipes, it seems to have enough thermal mass to cool just about anything. What Sapphire hasn’t included is their typical Vapor-X technology which is meant for higher end SKUs due to the technology’s high implementation cost. For those of you wondering, the entire fan shroud is made of plastic but it is more than rigid enough to withstand a good amount of abuse.
Even though Sapphire is letting this card go for about as much as a reference design product, they have upgraded the power phases with slightly higher end components. The VRMs also get their own heatsink in order to effectively cool them off when clock speeds are pushed.
As with all HD 6970s, there is also a small switch on the PCB located right next to the Crossfire connectors. This allows overclockers to upload an additional BIOS and in Sapphire’s case they have included a profile that ups this card’s voltages for increased overclocking headroom, lets the fans run at a higher speed and tells AMD's PowerTune to raise its limit by about 50%. The standard setting for this switch allows default values to be loaded.
The Dual Fan’s backplate may look odd at first glance due to the cut outs for additional airflow but all of the standard connectors are present and accounted for. There’s a pair of mini DisplayPorts, two DVIs and a single HDMI 1.4 output, granting Eyefinity support straight out of the box.
How We Tested
Now that we’re done with the quick overview of the Sapphire HD 6970 Dual Fan, it’s time to discuss this review. Since this card runs at stock speeds, we won’t be testing in the usual way. Rather, our highest attained 24/7 overclock frequencies (using the included custom BIOS profile) were used and we should also note that Sapphire’s custom BIOS increases core voltage to 1.215V. The final clock speeds were 1097MHz on the core and 6188MHZ for the GDDR5 modules, by far the best clock speeds we’ve attained with a HD 6970.
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