The long-awaited launch of AMD's new high-performance desktop graphics cards -- the Radeon HD 6970 and 6950 -- has just occurred, but they're not quite the Nvidia beaters that many had hoped for. While they are superior to their Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 predecessors, their performance according to benchmarking is mixed when it comes to the latest GeForce GTX 580 and 570 boards.
The bottom line is simple: The GTX 580 is the still the fastest single-card graphics solution out there. The Radeon HD 6970 can't compete with it, though it does match up better with the GTX 570 -- HotHardware found that it was faster than the 570 on four of the eight apps and games the site tested. (Anandtech came to a similar conclusion.) It is a little more expensive than the GTX 570 at $369, however. The 6950 beats the 5870, but is priced slightly more at $299, so AMD's previous flagship GPU may be a good bargain if you can live with 1GB of video RAM.
It's not all bad news for AMD, though, as the new cards are still more power-efficient and quieter than Nvidia's latest Fermi boards. HotHardware also saw some good scaling in CrossFire mode for the new 6900 series. Finally, there's still the Radeon HD 6990 dual-GPU solution -- a.k.a. Antilles -- that AMD will launch early next year. To date, Nvidia won't have anything to match it, so if you're looking for colossal performance from an AMD board, it might be worth the wait (and expense).