In the shadows of others.
Now obviously is the time to take the R6970 Lightning to its limits. The stock overclock of 940MHz, up from 880MHz reference speeds was good, but anything less than a 100MHz overclock wouldn’t mean much, especially on a card engineered for this very purpose.
So in trying to push the card as much as I could, I started pushing the voltage all the way to the top using the MSI Afterburner v2.2.0 beta. Now at stock, the R6970 Lightning is set to 1174mV, which I could push all the way to a maximum of 1350mV (where the slider ends) and the card still wouldn’t crash! Yes, there were a few artifacts on screen at this ridiculously high a voltage, but at least it didn’t blow up.
The highest core clock speed I achieved was 987MHz at 1274mV. Any lower than that voltage and the card would crash out. Any higher than 987Mhz, even with the voltage set to a maximum of 1350mV, and the R6970 Lightning would also crash after a while.
3DMark 11’s performance has increased significantly, while Metro 2033 saw a minor bump in overall speeds. Honestly, I was expecting a slightly higher overclock than 107MHz, but even at these speeds I’m starting to realize the full potential of the HD 6970. So I guess no matter how much MSI tries to cool the card and deliver stable power to it, the Cayman chips have their limits.
The R6970 Lightning was actually quieter than the N580GTX Lightning, especially when under full load. Temperatures were also ridiculously low, with idle temperatures at 32°C while under full load it would go up as high as 56°C, even when overclocked. On contrast the standard HD 6970 that I tested reached temperatures of 79°C while under load!
My biggest gripe with the R6970 Lightning is its ridiculously high price, which happens to be $150 more than regular HD 6970s. This bring it in line with the MSI N580GTX Lightning, or any other GTX 580 for that matter. Yes, the price hike may have been justified considering the performance of the R6970 Lightning gets up there with a GTX 580, especially once it’s overclocked. However, the N580GTX Lightning is about the same price, and outperforms the R6970 Lightning by a significant margin. As such, I don’t feel like recommending this card to anyone since MSI has a much better alternative already. That said, if your mind is set on an HD 6970, then the R6970 Lightning is as good as it gets.
[UPDATE: MSI have updated the price on the R6970 Lightning at $390, which, while still expensive nearing $400, is nonetheless cheaper than regular GTX 580s. My revised rating is now at 4-stars compared to 3 stars previously.]