Radeon HD 6670 / 6570 / 6450
AMD has completed its "Northern Island" GPU lineup with the Turks and Caicos architectures and these are now available in the shape of an entry level series of cards. These are the Radeon HD 6670 and 6570 (Turks) and the Radeon HD 6450 (Caicos). Today we are taking a close look at this trio which between them cater to a number of different market sements.
Here are the specifications of the new cards and the Redwood based ones they replace:
The 6-series cards are designed to provide a much needed performance boost by implementing the "Northern Islands" architecture improvements on the same 40nm process. GDDR5 is now standard across the range providing significant improvements to performance. Curiously, even though all 3 cards are capable of supporting up to 4 monitors, only the 6670 keeps 1GB RAM and the other two are limited to 512MB. We've seen the 6670 running Dirt 2 using 3 1080p monitors and it is quite capable in this eyefinity setup but the reality is that the 6570 (and particularly the 6450) is aimed at single monitor users and thus they can suffice with 512MB of memory.
On paper the 6670 gets a modest clock boost and a 20% increase in stream processors. For the other two, switching to DDR5 memory should make a more significant increase in performance. The 5450 gets more than double the memory clock speed as well but is restricted by its 64-bit controller (we will see what effect this has later on).
The Turks and Caicos architectures are as follows (click for a large image):
Compared to Redwood, Turks (on the left) has 6 SIMDs instead of 5 giving a total of 480 stream processors and 24 texture units. There are still 8 ROPs and a 128-bit memory bus. Caicos (on the right) has only 4 ROPs and 8TUs with 160SPs servicing a 64-bit memory bus. Being aimed at the HTPC market and users looking for DX11 at the lowest price possible, the spec is highly cut down but still manages to double the SPs of the 5450. We suspect this was a reaction to the surprisingly good integrated graphics of Intel's Sandy Bridge range.
This is how different types of CODEC are handled with the greatest degree of hardware assistance going to the more complex ones. Even HD Mpeg-2 can be handled by a simple CPU but 3D Blu-Ray can certainly do with this type of offloading. This is one of the key features of all 3 cards reviewed today - even the entry level Radeon HD 6450 can handle 3D Blu Ray playback with ease.
The PCB real estate is quite similar between the cards and no special shroud is needed at this level.
From left to right we have the 6670, 6570 and 6450. All the cards have a single slot backplate but the cooler in the 6670 is thick enough to need the next slot free. As the earlier spec stated, no external power connectors are needed due to the sub 70W power requirements. We expect some manufacturers to have passively cooled versions of all three of these cards aimed at HTPC users and those who like peace and quiet.
The back of each card is very similar and given the limited PCB width we can expect low profile versions to appear to cater for the plethora of media centre and HTPC cases available today.
The end views show the the identical layout of the back plate connectors (6670, 6570 and 6450 from top to bottom) and the extra haight of the heatsink on the 6670. 4-panel support is provided by a (comparatively) expenisve hub and in practice this means a maximum of 3 monitors.
The side view shows how sparsely populated the PCBs are as well as the large heatisnk of the 6670.
We have two main test systems at present and recently upgraded our Intel one to an i7-2600K we received from Intel for the Sandy Bridge launch in January. The AMD system has the most powerful processor currently available in the AMD range. All cards are tested at their default speeds. Maximum settings are used in all of the benchmarks to show performance at the highest quality. Consequently, frame rates can be improved by toning down some of the quality options until a balance is achieved.
The GPU-Z results confirm the specifications from the table above. We used the sensors in GPU-Z to determine GPU maximum temperatures and electrical power meters to determine system load.
Firstly we will start with DX10 testing (the range of DX11 games is still limited at present although we benchmark two of them in the next section.
3DMark Vantage is a full DirectX 10 compliant synthetic benchmark. It tests out all of the DirectX 10 abilities of each card to give the user an idea of where they rank with their graphic card in a collective pool of many users all over the internet.
Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 is a synthetic benchmarking tool designed to provide an accurate and consistent simulation of the latest DX 11 games. 3DMark 11 tests the video card’s performance capabilities using a native DirectX 11 engine which uses tessellation, compute-shaders and multi-threading. 3DMark 11 also tests the system’s physics capabilities using the Bullet Open-source physics engine, testing for rigid-body calculations via CPU, as well as simulating soft-body physics using DirectCompute.
The testing was done with the default performance setting for all of the cards to give an idea where each one stands in the GPU line up. We used our reference Radeon HD 5850 to show what a $200 GPU can do for comparison purposes and, where possible, the performance of the Intel HD3000 Sandy Bridge graphics to show what "free" graphics that are integrated into the latest processors can achieve.
This benchmark is very punishing and none of the cards ran smoothly but all established their full DX11 credentials by completing the test successfully, unlike the Intel HD3000 which is a DX10 only GPU. Physics scores are similar for all cards because the test rig (and hence the CPU) is the same.
Setting aside the middle bars (the CPU performance is fairly level as the only variable during testing is the graphics card - except for the 4 older cards which were tested on an older system) it can be seen that the performance of the high end cards scales with their product positioning. Both Turks cards manage to beat the Radeon HD 5670 as well as both Nvidia cards and were about twice the speed of the older Radeon HD 4670.
Far Cry 2 is a sequel to the original Far Cry. The game features an open-ended experience. Players are able to ally with one or multiple factions and to progress through the game world and missions as they see fit, resulting in a nonlinear style of gameplay commonly referred to as sandbox mode that allows the story to progress at their speed and in the order they choose. Players can utilize a range of vehicles, including cars, trucks, boats and hang gliders, to travel within the 50 km2 (19.3 sq miles) gameplay area. The playing styles range from head-on assaults to stealthy infiltrations and assassinations. The game takes place in a sprawling African landscape, with terrain ranging from desert to savannah to jungle.
Far Cry 2 is still a firm favourite and was taxing on any system. Frame rates are above 30 for both Turks cards although the 6450 will need some settings lowered to achieve a similar speed.
Back in the days of CRT monitors we would advise running at a lower resolution if a card lacked power. The problem with todays flat panel displays is that they are meant to be run at a native resolution and the picture looks quite bad at any other resolution. That leaves the only variable to adjust being the detail settings (of which there are thankfully many) to a level which gives the best quality for an acceptable frame rate.
Taking off from a long line of successful first-person shooters, H.A.W.X is the first flight combat game from the Tom Clancy interactive entertainment franchise. While realistic presentation in the game's graphics, audio, and speculative fiction plotline are central to the experience, the play of the game is available at two main levels of realism. By default, a built-in "Enhanced Reality System" serves as a sort of automated co-pilot, providing damage control, targeting, missile detection, squadron management, assistance with stabilization and handling of the aircraft, and similar functions. With the touch of a button, some or all of these auto-assist systems can be disabled, giving the player much more maneuverability and providing a more demanding, simulation-style experience.
Only the 6670 can achieve playable rates at 1080 resolutions but the HD3000 is a close second.
The current darling of horror games provides lots of eye candy and furious action. Both Turks cards can manage playable rates at 1920x1080 but the 6450 can only attain about 20fps at decent resolutions.
We cannot give exact decibel levels due to lack of sufficiently sensitive equipment but can confirm that all 3 cards are fairly quiet under strain and under extreme cases (such as FurMark) can be heard clearly.
Power consumption is a big issue these days with GPUs sometimes consuming 2 or 3 times as much as a CPU. Performance returns never seem to scale anything like power increases and heavy users can find that the cost of increased electricity mounts up over time. Idle power tends to be quite low for all cards thanks to AMD's power efficiency. Power usage for the 6670 and 6570 is very similar since they both use the Turks architecture. THe 6450 is not far behind in its requirements.
Temperatures determine how long a component will last and can affect other components in a case. The 6670 gets a lower idle rating thanks to its comparatively larger heatsink and this is also reflected in maximum temperatures where the 6570 runs hottest because it uses the same cooler as the 6450 but on a more demanding architecture..
Because of the longevity of our standard tests we have introduced Alien vs Predator and Stalker: Call Of Pripyat as two new benchmarks. We wanted to add Crysis2 as well but DX11 issues with that title mean we will have to wait until a patch is released. The performance of Dragon Age 2 is flaky under DX11 and that too will have to wait for a patch.
Aliens vs Predator
As with many of the already released DirectX 11 benchmarks, the Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 benchmark leverages DirectX 11 hardware to provide an immersive game play experience through the use of DirectX 11 Tessellation and DirectX 11 Advanced Shadow features. In Aliens vs. Predator, DirectX 11 Geometry Tessellation is applied in an effective manner to enhance and more accurately depict HR Giger’s famous Alien design. Through the use of a variety of adaptive schemes, applying tessellation when and where it is necessary, the perfect blend of performance and visual fidelity is achieved with at most a 4% change in performance.
Theis is quite a challenging benchmark and not easy for entry level cards without significant reduction in quality. Having said that, the HD3000 cannot even contend due to inability to run this benchmark.
Stalker: Call of Pripyat
This is a special version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat Having a PC tested with this benchmark will enable the gathering of detailed information about its performance on various graphical modes and finds out how well the system is balanced for gaming and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in particular.
This benchmark is based on one of the ingame locations – Pripyat . The testing process includes four stages, those utilizing various weather and time of the day settings (day, night, rain, bright sun). In order to test the system thoroughly the benchmark is provided with a number of presets and options including different versions of DirectX (9.0, 10.0, 11), screen resolutions, antialiasing etc.
We use the Ultra (highest details) setting and DX11 mode. The only switching we did was between 1680x1050 and 1920x1080 resolutions and to switch the DX11 Hardware Tesselation and Contact Hardening Shadows on.
We can see that the performance difference between 1680x1050 and 1920x1080 is almost negligible. This is a good thing as it demonstrates that most of the effort is going into scene complexity. Sun shafts are very hard to do and so the speed of these tests is only about half of that of the others. Both Turks cards can run Stalker:COP without problems but the entry level Radeon HD 6450 cannot keep up with the demands placed on it.
Now we have run the same test but with Hardware Tesselation and Contact Hardening Shadows enabled. Frame rates are about 20% lower but there is an obvious and marked increase in visual quality and in "realism". These DX11 enhancements make the environment much more life-like and add to the immesrive experience of this title. Both Turks cards can cope whereas the lone Caicos board just cannot keep up.
Having the latest graphics card is not just about speed but also other benefits. One of these is hardware acceleration in video playback and this is illustrated with Adobe's Flash player with support for hardware acceleration.
The difference is startling and shows how important this feature can be if widely implemented. Let's hope that people keep pestering the relevant software developers until they all have this level of support by default.
To see the benefits of DX11 that are unique to the DX11 series cards we need to dig further. It’s tricky to test to see how much of a speed difference DX11 makes as there are few reliable DX11 benchmarks but as a showcase of DX11 quality the situation is much better. We used Unigine’s Heaven Benchmark and can only convey the quality to our readers via YouTube.
The improvement in quality is apparent for all to see.
This next video shows the effects of Hardware Tessellation. The technical white paper on this feature is enough to send the most avid technophile to sleep but there's no denying the benefits of the end result.
If you have a DirectX 11 card then you can download the demo for yourself at http://unigine.com/download/
The mid-range and entry levels are very important for AMD. OEM sales and the vast mainstream market segments mean that there is a huge base to sell into. They expect anyone buying a new system to have a 67XX or above graphics card but that still leaves millions who cannot afford the latest and greatest but are still tempted by the feature set of DX11. Many of these people have older power supplies that either do not have the required PCI-E connectors for a performance graphics card or are insufficiently powerful. The thinking is that, if such people can afford a new PSU, they can afford a preformance graphics card. Those who cannot will be tempted by the Turks and Caicos range which are within the PCI-E power limit (less than 75W) so do not need external power connectors. Such consumers can simply replace an old DX9 or DX10 graphics card and run every title that a top of the range DX11 card can run (albeit not as fast).
This is an important long-term strategy for AMD. Take the example of students - bring them onboard the AMD train when they're poor and they could ba a loyal lifelong customer buying many high end GPUs in future years. Having a low end card that can cater to all media needs allows HTPC users the option of using a Radeon HD 6450 which, although we cannot recommend for gaming purposes, does an admirable job at the heart of a media centre PC.
Performance is better than Nvidia's current offerings at the same price points and the lack of DX11 and 3D capability negates the Intel HD3000 price advantage.
On the whole these cards, which represent the entry level range from AMD, are well thought out and specified and will be available with special features (such as passive cooling and/or low profile designs) from several manufacturers. Price/performance is better than that of competitors and, as with Redwood, brings DX11 to the masses but with added features such as HDMI 1.4 and 3D support thrown in.
We're sure that consumers on a budget or with specific HTPC requirements will be pleased with the availability of the Radeon HD 6670, Radeon HD 6570 and the Radeon HD 6450.
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