Inexorable progress paves the way forward, leaving old technical solutions on the sidelines. In the graphics technology industry, this progress has been especially assertive and unceremonious. Powerful video cards, which only a few years ago played the muscles of cutting-edge architectural innovations, are quickly turning into feeble old men. Although in the future, everything is not so sad, and some top solutions of the old generations can still adequately cope with modern games. In this article, we decided to turn to the flagships that appeared at the end of 2010. In the era of DirectX 11, the GeForce GTX 580 and Radeon HD 6970 became the leaders of the second generation of adapters for the new API.

GeForce GTX 580 и Radeon HD 6970

The lifespan of DirectX 11 proved to be long. Therefore, graphics accelerators released back in 2010 can still run many modern games, although no one expects high results from them. It is interesting to assess how far progress has gone. And will the video cards that became the pinnacle of technological progress in 2010 be able to compare with the cheap models of recent years? We will try to answer this question by comparing the elderly flagships with current budget models.

The full list of participants is as follows:

  • GeForce GTX 1050;
  • GeForce GTX 950;
  • GeForce GTX 760;
  • GeForce GTX 580;
  • Radeon R9 270X;
  • Radeon R9 270;
  • Radeon RX 460;
  • Radeon HD 6970.

This will be a small retrospective where solutions based on different architectures are tested together. This will be clearly shown in the comparison of GeForce models, where four representatives of different generations are assembled. In the AMD camp, there is less variety, but there are popular solutions from the previous series and the current budget novelty in the face of the Radeon RX 460.

Characteristics of the tested video cards

All technical characteristics of the participants are listed below. The table shows official data on GeForce Boost frequencies, the graphs show the full frequency range, including short-term peak values.

Video adapter GeForce GTX 1050 GeForce GTX 950 GeForce GTX 760 GeForce GTX 580 Radeon R9 270X Radeon R9 270 Radeon RX 460 Radeon HD 6970
Core GP107 GM206 GK104 GF110 Curacao Curacao Polaris 11 Cayman
Architecture Pascal Maxwell Kepler Fermi GCN 1.0 GCN 1.0 GCN 1.3 VLIW4
Number of transistors, million pieces 3300 2940 3500 3000 2800 2800 3000 2640
Process technology, nm 14 28 28 40 28 28 14 40
Core area, sq. mm 132 228 294 520 212 212 123 389
Number of stream processors 640 768 1152 512 1280 1280 896 1536
Number of texture blocks 40 48 96 64 80 80 56 96
Number of render units 32 32 32 48 32 32 16 32
Core frequency, MHz 1354–1455 1024–1188 980–1033 772/1544 1050 925 1090–1200 880
Memory bus, bit 128 128 256 384 256 256 128 256
Memory frequency, MHz 7012 6610 6008 4010 5600 5600 7000 5500
Memory size, MB 2048 2048 2048 1536 2048 2048 4096 2048
Supported version of DirectX 12 12 12 11 12 12 12 11.1
Interface PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 2.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 2.1
Power, W 75 90 170 244 180 150 75 190–250

A description of the competitors can be found in our large test of the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and GeForce GTX 1050. Let’s briefly recall the characteristics of the GeForce GTX 580 and Radeon HD 6970.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580

This flagship has become the pinnacle of the development of the Fermi architecture. Once this generation was discovered by the GeForce GTX 480 graphics accelerator, which offered not only record performance, but also extremely high heat dissipation, which caused many jokes. The GeForce GTX 580 is an improved version of the GeForce GTX 480 based on the GF110 processor. Technological refinement of the chip made it possible to reduce power consumption and heat within a single 40-nm process technology, thanks to which all GPU computing units are active in the GeForce GTX 580, and operating frequencies are increased. The video card has 512 stream processors that operate at double the frequency of other blocks, 64 TMUs and 48 ROPs. Main core frequency 772 MHz (shader units 1544 MHz). The 1536 MB GDDR5 memory runs on a 384-bit bus with an effective frequency of 4 GHz.

The standard version of the GeForce GTX 580 is equipped with a «turbine» cooler, which is not much different in design from the newer NVIDIA solutions. You can read more about the reference version and features of the video card in our separate review.

GeForce GTX 580 и Radeon HD 6970

As for this test, we got a non-reference video card MSI N580GTX Lightning.

GeForce GTX 580 и Radeon HD 6970

This model is equipped with a powerful cooler and is based on an improved printed circuit board. For testing, the operating frequencies were adjusted to the standard level of 772/1544/4010 MHz, which is shown below in the screenshot of monitoring parameters in MSI Afterburner.

GeForce GTX 580 и Radeon HD 6970

It is worth noting that the reference card at the same frequencies is hotter and noisier. MSI Lightning gives you more overclocking options, but we limited ourselves to frequencies close to the level of standard graphics cards in this series. For overclocking tests, the core of the GeForce GTX 580 was accelerated to 900/1800 MHz, the memory to 4554 MHz. Core voltage increased from 1.0V to 1.038V.

AMD Radeon HD 6970

The video card is based on the Cayman XT core of the VLIW4 architecture. For AMD, this is also the second generation of accelerators for DirectX 11. The pioneers in the face of the Radeon HD 5870/5850 have gained great popularity due to their moderate price and excellent combination of features. The Radeon HD 6970 is an evolution of the Radeon HD 5870 within the same 40nm process technology. Redesigned architecture, increased frequencies. The Cayman processor operates 1536 stream processors with 96 texture units and 32 ROPs. For the core, the operating frequency is set at 880 MHz, the 2 GB GDDR5 memory operates on a 256-bit bus with a frequency of 5500 MHz. For more information about the Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950, see the related article.

This generation is notable for the fact that the younger Radeon HD 6950 card in the reference version was often flashed into the Radeon HD 6970. AMD sometimes pleases users with pleasant surprises, and this was such a case. Both models did not differ structurally, the Radeon HD 6950 only has some computing units blocked and operating frequencies are lowered. Changing the BIOS firmware allowed users to get a top AMD card from a cheaper product. It is this unlocked version that will replace the full-fledged Radeon HD 6970 video card.

GeForce GTX 580 и Radeon HD 6970

The photo shows the reference video card Radeon HD 6950, which differs from the Radeon HD 6970 only in the inscription on the case. A special BIOS and overclocking up to 880/5500 MHz make it a complete analog of the flagship of its generation.

GeForce GTX 580 и Radeon HD 6970

In addition to performance at standard frequencies, we are also interested in performance in overclocking. The unlocked version runs worse, somehow managed to pass the tests at 915/5760 MHz. The increase in frequencies is modest, about 4%. To get the average result of the Radeon HD 6970 in overclocking, you need to throw in about the same amount.

We also note that for the Radeon HD 6970 the latest current version of the Crimson Edition video driver is 16.2.