It's taken AMD a long time to refresh the top end of its graphics hardware, but today's culmination to that wait has to be described as somewhat bittersweet. Sweet, because we're finally getting a successor to the venerable HD 5870, one that offers improved power management and tessellation performance at a lower $369 price point, but also bitter because in terms of sheer firepower, the Radeon series doesn't seem to have made quite the leap many of us had hoped for. The new top of AMD's single-GPU pile, the HD 6970, offers 1,536 stream processors, an 880MHz core clock speed, and 2GB of GDDR5 RAM running at 5.5GHz for a total of 176GBps of memory bandwidth. Its partner in crime, the HD 6950, is expected to list at $299, for which saving you'll have to sacrifice some clock speed (down to 800MHz) and processing units (1,408 in total). There's a neat little addition to both new boards: a Dual-BIOS switch that will act like Google's hardware jailbreak toggle on the Cr-48, allowing tweakers to unlock the extra (unprotected by warranty!) performance headroom in their cards.

Early reviews all seem to agree that both the Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 have struck a very fine price-to-performance ratio. The 6970 manages to spar with the much pricier GTX 580, but given that it's priced similarly to NVIDIA's GTX 570, it scores plaudits for being a more than viable alternative. The HD 6950 is seen as the real value item here, however, particularly since it occupies a relatively unique spot in the price range, and most reviewers tipped it as their new bang-for-the-buck leader.

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AMD Launches Its Most Advanced Enthusiast GPU Ever, AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 Series Graphics

- Enhanced second-generation architecture supporting DirectX® 11, new image quality features, AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology and up to 2GB of graphics memory for high-resolution gaming -

SUNNYVALE, Calif. - Dec. 15, 2010 - AMD (NYSE: AMD) today introduced AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics, its most advanced enthusiast GPU representing the intelligent choice for enthusiast gamers. The AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series of graphics cards provides gamers with an enhanced second-generation, Microsoft DirectX® 11-capable architecture for breakthrough performance, advanced image quality features for the best looking games, and innovative AMD PowerTune power management technology that dynamically adjusts power draw on the fly. With flexible and cost-effective AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology and AMD HD3D technology for 3D entertainment, the new AMD Radeon™ HD 6970 and AMD Radeon™ HD 6950 graphics cards offer The Ultimate Visual Experience™. Graphics cards in the AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series are available immediately from retailers worldwide, with select models starting at $299 US SEP.

"AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics feature AMD's second-generation, DirectX® 11-capable architecture, new image quality improvements and up to 2GB of graphics frame buffer, making it a great choice for gamers and enthusiasts," said Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager, GPU Division, AMD. "Delivering DirectX® 11 performance with intelligent tessellation, image quality improvements with new anti-aliasing modes and AMD PowerTune technology, we believe AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics cards will make excellent gifts this holiday season."

Efficient Architecture for Leading DirectX® 11 Performance
· Improved architecture for greater performance: With AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics, AMD has further enhanced its GPU design efficiency, realizing a 10 percent improvement in performance/mm2.[1] AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics provide an extremely smooth and efficient computing experience, enabling gamers to realize unparalleled image quality.

· New AMD PowerTune technology: Designed with intelligent power tuning features, including the introduction of enhanced power containment, the AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series automatically adjusts GPU power draw by dynamically controlling clock speeds, allowing gamers advanced performance inside of the power envelope they specify.[2]

· The time to upgrade is now: Gamers looking to move to a DirectX® 11-capable GPU will find there has never been a better time to upgrade, with the AMD Radeon™ HD 6970 offering up to 2.5 times the gaming performance of 2008's similarly priced high-end graphics solution.[3]

· Intelligent tessellation: The AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series of graphics cards features dual 8th generation tessellation units, delivering up to 2.9x tessellation performance compared to ATI Radeon™ HD 5870 graphics.[4]

· Increased memory for higher image quality: With 2GB of video memory serving as the new standard for graphics card frame buffers, gamers can enjoy superior quality graphics without needing to increase the memory footprint, even at extreme resolutions.

The Ultimate Visual Experience™: As AMD's most advanced DirectX® 11-capable GPU, AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics offer a single high-performance solution for a realistic visual experience. DirectX®11 has quickly become the new standard for PC games and the majority of game developers chose to develop their DirectX® 11 games on AMD Radeon™ graphics cards. In addition to DirectX® 11 games, the AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series also enables an exceptional game play experience in DirectX® 9, DirectX® 10, DirectX® 10.1 and OpenGL titles in single card or multi-card AMD CrossFireX™ configurations.[5]

An Advanced Gaming Experience with AMD Eyefinity Technology and Advanced Display Options
· Improved image quality: Enhanced anti-aliasing features enable dramatically improved image quality and enhanced visual quality features for intensely realistic looking games. New features include Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing (EQAA), which uses a new sampling technique to help improve visual quality, Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MLAA), compatible with any DirectX® 9, DirectX® 10, or DirectX® 11 application, and improved anisotropic filtering.

Simple, flexible, affordable multi-display computing with AMD Eyefinity technology: Providing an expanded and more immersive field of view, AMD Eyefinity technology continues to be the most affordable multi-display solution available, offering incredible choice in display compatibility and configurations.[6] More than 60 game titles have been AMD Eyefinity-validated or are AMD Eyefinity-ready titles, and hundreds more are AMD Eyefinity-compatible.
Continued industry leadership in multi-display computing: The AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series of graphics cards offer support for both DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4a, offering enthusiasts incredible multi-monitor configuration options, flexibility in display selection, and new DisplayPort audio features.
3D entertainment choices with AMD HD3D technology: AMD continues to deliver a broad and affordable selection of 3D solutions with AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics cards, featuring AMD HD3D technology, backed by our open 3D initiative for stereo 3D gaming and movies.[7]

Accelerate Your Life with AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing
AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) technology lets you do more, faster: Enthusiasts will enjoy improved performance and new features in top media, entertainment and productivity applications with AMD APP technology.[8]
Enhanced video quality features: AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics cards feature Unified Video Decoder 3 (UVD3), a dedicated video playback accelerator that helps users get the most out of HD video, online video and Blu-ray™ 3D, while enjoying a range of video quality improvements such as advanced post-processing and scaling, dynamic contrast enhancement, color correction and more.
Extensive support of industry standards: AMD Radeon™ HD 6900 series graphics cards fully support DirectCompute and OpenCL™, ensuring broad application support today and tomorrow.

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AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 launch assault on enthusiast gaming market