ASUS 6950 and 6970 DirectCU II
Welcome to Cayman
When the 6800 Barts cards were released, we noted some differences from the 5800 series graphics cards. Gone is the ATI moniker, replaced by AMD branding, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise since ATI was purchased by the chip giant several years ago. The other difference was the naming conventions for the new 6000 series cards. The 6800 cards became the new "lower end" of the premium gaming cards rather than the flagship ones.
As you can see, the Barts cards are at the bottom of the performance rung, followed by the 6950 and 6970 Cayman cards, with the 6990 Antilles residing at the top. Today we’re looking at the Cayman variety, with the Radeon 6950 and 6970 on the bench, and specifically the ASUS DirectCU II versions.
One notable feature now provided with this new generation of cards is 3D Stereoscopic support. Nvidia has already offered 3D technology and now AMD is following suit. AMD has partnered with 3D middleware vendors such as Dynamic Digital Depth and iZ3D to offer stereoscopic 3D gaming experiences with these 6000 series cards. AMD’s solution differs from Nvidia in that the former uses 3rd party software, whereas the latter provides driver-level implementation. The main similarities, however, are that glasses and a 120Hz display is required for the technologies, but there are very few 3D-capable PC monitors currently on the market.
Certainly the appeal and immersivity of 3D gaming is tantalizing, but at this point the technology and hardware required is fairly cost prohibitive for the most part, not to mention the phenomenal graphics horsepower required to maintain reasonable framerates in modern games. That being said, the differences and successes of 3D technology are beyond the scope of this particular review, and 3D gaming is still experiencing teething problems, but it will be interesting to keep a close eye on developments as they move forward.
The last new feature incorporated by the 6000 series cards relates to bitstreaming audio. Until now, a Home Theater HD card sound card was needed to process these lossless audio formats. Typically this card required a cable routing the video signal from the graphics adapter to the sound card. The sound card then combined the digital audio sound track with the video signal and sent the matched up signals to the monitor via an HDMI cable. With a 6000 Series video card, all you need to do is install the card into your motherboard and connect it to your receiver with the HDMI cable, thus eliminating the need for a separate sound card and making for a more economical setup.
Let’s next take a quick look at AMD Eyefinity technology.