MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5

When the 6970 first came out I was a bit reluctant on going out and purchasing this video card. Mainly because I did not think there would be much of a difference between the 5870 and the 6970. So before I went out and purchased this video card I read all the reviews, seen the comparisons between the 5870 and the 6970. But, the one area I could not find any information was how the 6970 performed while being spanned in Eyefinity. As a multi-monitor gamer I was more interested in how the 6970 performed while spanning the games, then the performance of this video card on a single monitor.

For a while now I have been running not just one 6970, but two of them in crossfire. One of these 6970 video cards I am using is none other then an MSI 6970. This review is all about this video card and how it stacks up to the 5870 video card, not just on a single monitor, but while being spanned across a multi-monitor configuration Eyefinity. We at the DGC are going to go from a mere 1920 x 1080 = 2.07 Million Pixels then increasing that to a staggering 5760 x 1080= 6.2 Million Pixels and see how a single 6970 video card can handle this resolution.

Overview

Since I do not have the packing and the contents that came in the packaging anymore, I will be just jumping directly into the overview of the video card. What comes with the MSI 6970 video card, is a driver disk, a manual, a molex to PCI-E 6 pin power adapter, a Mini DP to DP adapter (which will be needed for Eyefinity with 3 or more monitors), Crossfire interconnect bridge, and finally a PCI-E 6 pin to a PCI-E 8 pin power adapter.

Starting off the MSI 6970 video card, we can tell that MSI opted to use the reference designed heatsink. On the very top of the cooler MSI uses their famous Afterburner logo.

Turning our attention over to the rear IO ports of the 6970 video card. Nothing different from what you have seen on other manufacturers video cards, MSI pretty much kept to the reference design. Starting from our left moving right, we have 2 mini DP (Display Port) out puts, 1 HDMI output, and a double stacked DVI outputs. The 6970 series video cards only support up to 4 monitors. For 1 – 2 monitors you can use any one of the available outputs in any configuration you want (providing you have the proper adapters). For you to use 3-4 monitors, you will need either to have a monitor that is DP capable, or use an Active to DVI adapter per extra monitor after 2. So if you running 3 monitors, you need 1 Active to DVI adapter, or a DP capable monitor. If you want to run 4 monitors you will need either 2 Active DP to DVI adapters, or 2 monitors that are DP capable. If your monitors are DP capable you will not need the adapter.

Looking at the side that faces the motherboard.

Not much different from the other referenced designed video cards. The only way we can tell this video card is different from the other video cards is that this video card carries the MSI logo on the squirrel cage fan.

Turning our attention over to the power inputs for the 6970 video card. You will need the use of a 6 pin PCI-E power and a 8 pin PCI-E power to properly power this video card. Can you run with just 2 6 pin PCI-E power inputs? Yes, that is what the included 6 pin PCI-E to 8 pin PCI-E power adapter is for. Do I recommend that you run with 2 6 pin PCI-E power? No.

Located right next to the Crossfire interconnects is an exhaust port from the fan. being tha the rear of the card has been slightly restricted MSI/AMD puts an extra ventilation holes here to give the fan more breathing room.

And now the backside of the video card. I really do not care for the cover plate. It has a tendency of trapping heat between the plate and the PCB of the video card; therefore, causing the card to have a slightly elevated operating temperature.

Now it is time for us to turn our attention to the naked MSI 6970 video card.As we can see this video card follows the reference design laid out by AMD.

MSI uses Hynix GDDR5 memory. Looking up the numbers printed on the memory ICs, we can see that the H5GQ2H24MFR-R0C memory ICs are rated at 6000 MHz, but are currently running at 5500 MHz.That is quite a bit of headroom for overclocking.

Looking at the front Digital VRMs that power the 6970 video card.

There is one more Digital VRM located near the Crossfire interconnects. Right directly behind the interconnects is a little switch, this switch is for us to flip between BIOS 1, or BIOS 2 on the video card. If for any reason during a failed flashing attempt to update the BIOS of the 6970 video card happens, we can easily flip this switch from the forward position (which it is in now) to the rearward position allowing us to get our computers back up and running. We can only flash the primary BIOS on the video card.

Oops, silly camera trying to focus on the lens and not on the GPU core……

A lot better,the GPU core is set in a 45° position, and it is fairly large.

There are no extra memory ICs located on the backside of the 6970 video card, so MSI could have left off the rear cover.

Since we looked oer the video card, it is time we look at the cooler of the video card.

The base of the GPU cooler, where the GPU core touches the cooler, we can see the base could have used a bit more polishing to it. We can barely make up a ghostly image of the screwdriver. I should mention that the GPU base utilizes a Vapor Chamber (Basically a extremely large flattened heat pipe), this part of the cooler is not completely made of solid copper.

I have seen this type of snaps used on coolers with Nvidia. This allows us to remove the top cover of the cooler with out us having to remove the entire cooler to clean it up. This cover is not exactly easy to remove, so be very careful when trying to push in these clips when removing the top cover of the cooler.

Pretty simple design on the top cooler.

And here is the actual fin array of the cooler. I wished that AMD/MSI would have used all copper fins to help keep this beast cool during our use.

The fin array is evenly spread’ across the entire base of the cooler.

A quick look at the squirrel cage fan used on the MSI 6970 video card.

This is a better look at the BIOS switch that is being used on the MSI 6970 video card. It comes shipped with this switch in the 1 position, this is the position it has to be in if you need to update the BIOS of the video card.

What the single MSI 6970 video card looks like all strapped in, rip, rearing, and ready to go.

Testing Methodology

Test Bed

CPU Core i7 970
Motherboard Asus Rampage II Extreme
Case Case, what case?
Memory Crucial Ballistx
Video Card Sapphire 5870, MSI 6970
Hard Drives 1 Patriot Torqx 128 Gig SSD, 4 x Seagate Momentus 320 HDD in RAID 0, 1 Western Digital 1 TB HDD
CDROM Drive Lite-On Blu-ray
Power Supply Power Cooling 950 Watt
CPU Speeds Used 4.2GHz
Operating System Used Microsoft Windows 7
Video Card Cooler
Zalman cooled 5870, Stock cooling MSI 6970, MSI 6970 Koolance 697 Water Cooling
CPU Cooler
Heatkiller

For testing purposes only, I ran each Benchmark/Game 3 times to ensure that my results will be consistent with one another, also to ensure any erroneous runs were kept at a minimal. I will be using a CPU core speed of 4.2GHz on my Core i7 970 CPU. You will not see any major differences from a Core i5 750/Core i7 2600K as all these CPU’s pretty much perform almost identical to one another at or above the 3.6GHz range. For more information about how much our CPU’s influence our games please visit this post HERE. I will not be using resolutions below the 1920 x 1080 range, as this is a direct comparison of two High End video cards against one another, if these video cards have playable frame rates at 1920×1080 resolution rest assured will be playable at a lower resolution. I will be using only the in-games AA/AF (Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic-Filtering) as some games do not always support driver level AA/AF settings (Forced AA/AF through the video cards control panel). I will be doing a direct comparison between the Sapphire 5870/MSI 6970 video cards while being spanned with AMD’s Eyefinity, no AA/AF will be applied (5760×1080 combined resolution). The Benchmarks/Games I used and their respected settings will be listed Below.

For more information about how Eyefinity tweaks our games ratios and how it visually changes our perspective please visit this post HERE (Ratio tweaking), and this post HERE (Practicality of Eyefinity)

  • 3DMark 11: Performance Setting Used
  • 3Dmark Vantage: Performance Setting Used
  • Unigine Heaven 2.5: Default settings, 1920 x 1080 No AA/AF, 1920 x 1080 x4AA x16AF, 5760 x 1080 No AA/AF
  • Dirt 2:  Maximum Visual Detail, 1920 x 1080 No AA/AF, 1920 x 1080 x4AA, 5760 x 1080 No AA/AF
  • Fable 3: Maximum Visual Detail, Running around in Bower Stone, 1920 x 1080 No AA/AF, 5760 x 1080 No AA/AF
  • Lost Planet 2: Maximum Visual Detail, 1920 x 1080 No AA/AF, 1920 x 1080 x4AA, 5760 x 1080 No AA/AF
  • Aliens vs. Predator: Default Settings, 1920 x 1080 No AA, 5760 x 1080 No AA
  • Stalker Call of Pripyat: 1920 x 1080 No AA/AF, 1920 x 1080 x4AA, 5760 x 1080 No AA/AF, Screen Shots of this benchmark

Results

Starting off with 3DMark11 we can see that the MSI 6970 video card is vastly superior to the last generation 5870 video card.

Even in 3DMark Vantage the 6970 still shows that it seriously more powerful then the 5870 video card.

Unigine Heaven is a benchmark that can and will bring our video cards to their knees. But no matter the resolution I used the 6970 still outperformed the older 5870 video card.

Dirt 2 gives us a bit different story. The only time I can truly tell the performance difference between the 5870 and the 6970 video cards was when I ran the 1920 x 1080 resolution with no AA.

Fable III is the next installment of the renowned Fable series of games. Unlike the Dirt 2 performance numbers, Fable III perfers to have the 6970 at its disposal. During the extended resolution of 5760 x 1080 the 5870 struggles to give us playable frame rates.

Lost Planet 2 shows us that it perfers the use of the mighty 6970 video card over the usage of the 5870.

Alien vs Predator again reconfirms that the 6970 still gives us better overall performance then the 5870 video card.

Stalker Call of Pripyat

Sapphire 5870 MSI 6970
1920 x 1080 No AA
1920 x 1080 x4 AA
5760 x 1080 No AA  

Looking at these numbers, the 6970 gives out a whooping to the 5870 video card in all tested resolutions.

Overclocking

There are factors that govern me on overclocking my video cards. On of these governed rules is, and the most important rule, is I will not allow the temperature of the video card over the 70/75° C mark. This is when I had the fan ramped up on the stock air cooler on the MSI 6970 video card to 48%, before I hit my temperature limitation I was able to get my GPU/Memory frequencies up from a 880/1375 to a 907/1385 before I started to see artifacts.

Since I have a water block for the MSI 6970 video card, I wanted to show you what will happen once you bring up the clock speeds up even farther. I was going to stick with MSI After Burner but for some odd reason I was having issues on trying to get that overclocking utility past the 950/1450 mark, (Yes I even tried editing the config file of MSI after Burner by changing a 0 to a 1 and state I am fully aware that I…….. (Whatever BS)). So I used Sapphire’s Trixx, so much easier to use, and the only issue I had was that I could not add voltage to the GPU. If it ain’t one thing it is another. This is the maximum frequencies I was able to hit before my computer would become unresponsive. Now you will not be able to hit these frequencies once you pair two 6970s in crossfire, you will have a maximum limitation of only 950/1450MHz, because of AMD’s Power Play feature they have implemented on the 6970 video cards. If you try and attempt of going above this limited frequency of 950/1450 will result in a system crash or reboot. I have tried several different ways on trying to bypass AMD’s Power Play with no success, the only way to overclock these video cards past the 950/1450 frequency limits is by modifying the BIOS’ of both video cards with higher frequencies.

While using a 907/1385 overclock on the MSI 6970 did give us a nice little performance boost, but it is no where near the performance boost I got once I brought up the frequencies of the video card up to 1000/1500 MHz. Keep in mind the 1000/1500 MHz frequencies used was while the MSI video card was being water cooled. I do not recommend you try to go for these frequencies unless you are using an Aftermarket Cooler. DO NOT Attempt to overclock the MSI 6970 video card this high while using the stock air cooler. I or the DGC do not take any responsibility for your actions in regards to overclocking.

Temperatures

As we can see that while I used the fan at a Auto the MSI 6970 video card quickly broke my temperature limit of 70/75°C. By setting the fan speed up to a 48% (I felt this was a good spot to be at that gave me a balance between noise and cooling). The MSI 6970 video card quickly cooled down to a more manageable temperature allowing me to overclock the video card to a 907/1385 MHz. These are the results of me using the Stock air cooler that MSI has in play for the 6907 video card, not to be confused with the water cooled 6970, if you want to know those temperatures please visit this post HERE.

Ending Thoughts

All in all the MSI 6970 video card performed well, and as expected. Granted I did not get staggering performance increases between the 6970 vs the 5870 video card during the default clock states, but once I start to bring up the clock frequencies on the 6970 it will surpass the 5870 in every area. Now the question remains, is it worth while to upgrade from a 5870 to a 6970? That depends on you. For my applications I felt it was justified for me to upgrade from a 5870 to a 6970, because I was going to move from a single card to a Crossfire configuration. If you are happily cruising along with your 5870 with your games, then you may not want to go out and purchase the 6970. Again, this decision is totally up to you. Time for me to close things up and hand out a rating. For more information on how we at the DGC rate our items please feel free to visit this post HERE.

The cost of this video card goes for on or around the 340USd mark makes this a perfect upgrade if you are running with a video card that struggles through your games, also this video card would make a perfect candidate to add to your 6970/6990 for some serious Crossfire action.

I give the MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5 video card a:

8 out of Ten and the:

Silver Dragon Award

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4 responses to “MSI R6970-2PM2D2GD5

  1. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!

  2. I have 2 of these cards R6970 Lightning I chose these over the noise from a single fan 6990 mine unlike yours have 2 fans a piece, which was another reason for me choosing them, before changing I had a single 5770 card.
    The difference has been huge for me without overclocking even when like you I just ran 1 R6970 my Clan play about 8 different games I live in Australia but play mostly in USA servers with high ping 300 to 267 !
    Improvements have seen me go from consistent negative ratios to consistent positive plus kill ratios, have these cards made me feel good OMG YES!
    Worth every bit of what they cost me to kick the butts that used to own me lol I recommend I recommend I recommend!
    I looked at heaps of other video card set ups before choosing these I wanted 4GB of video to fix my gaming issues IT DID!
    All the best Allan Pleming AAA+KILLYA

  3. I don’t know if you’ll read this but I really enjoyed this review, one of the only ones for this cards I can find. I can’t seem to open it up (I want to change the cooler), is there a certain trick to it? I can unclip all except the back of the card, where the display ports are. If I could get any help, I would appreciate it immensely. Thank you.

    • you wan to put on another cooler? you will have to undue all of the screws on the back side of the cooler, and remove it that way. the clips on the side is so you can clean the cooler if and when it is needed.

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