From a variety perspective, the Radeon HD 6800 series is certainly the most interesting Radeon *800 series launches in recent history. AMD typically launches with (and only with) reference cards, and then in time partner-customized cards show up as AMD approves the designs and partners have the time to do the engineering legwork to make custom cards. In the case of the 5800 series this was a particularly long period of time, as TSMC’s production shortage meant that AMD was intentionally shipping out reference cards as fast as humanly possible; and as a result we didn’t see our first custom 5800 series card until 6 months later in February of 2010. It was a much more controlled launch than normal for AMD.

The 6800 series on the other hand turns that on its head, giving us a much more liberal launch when it comes to card designs. While the 6870 series launched and is still all-reference, the 6850 is the opposite, having launched with a number of custom designs. In fact you won’t find a reference 6850 in North America unless you’re a hardware reviewer. With an all-custom launch the door is opened to a wide variety of cards with a wide variety of performance characteristics, so we have wasted no time in collecting a few cards to see what they’re capable of – after all we’ve seen what the non-existent reference card can do, but how about the cards you can actually buy? And how about overclocking, do the latest 6850 cards continue the tradition of the *850 being strong overclockers? Today we’re going to answer all of that and more.

  AMD Radeon HD 6850 XFX Radeon HD 6850 MSI R6850 OC Asus EAH6850
Stream Processors 960 960 960 960
Texture Units 48 48 48 48
ROPs 32 32 32 32
Core Clock 775MHz 775MHz 820MHz 790MHz
Memory Clock 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5 1.1GHz (4.4GHz effective) GDDR5 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
FP64 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Transistor Count 1.7B 1.7B 1.7B 1.7B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Price Point $179 ~$189 ~$199 ~$185

The first wave of 6850 cards launching were stock-clocked cards. Our intention had been to grab all stock-clocked cards, but manufacturers have been racing to get factory overclocked cards out the door, and we ended up with 2 overclocked cards after all: the Asus with a token 15MHz core overclock, and the MSI with a more serious 45MHz core and 120MHz(480MHz effective) memory overclock. Expect to see many more overclocked cards soon, as manufacturers are eager to get their more profitable overclocked cards out, typically rolling them out along with additional levels of customization such as custom PCBs.

As we’ll see in our performance results, it’s interesting to note that while no two cards are alike in terms of temperature and acoustics, the resulting overclocks were all highly similar. At stock voltage all of our cards could hit at least 850MHz core, and with 6870 voltages (1.172v), all of them hit 940MHz. At even higher voltages such as 1.22v we’re able to push a couple of these cards up to 960MHz core, but it looks like 940-950MHz is the sweet-spot for the 6850 based on the results we’re seeing today. Meanwhile the memory hits a solid wall at 1150MHz (4.6GHz effective); none of our cards would do 1200Mhz (4.8GHz effective) which makes sense given that AMD purposely used a slower memory controller as a tradeoff for a smaller die.

It’s also interesting to note that while the load voltage on our reference 6850 was 1.094v, all of our cards here today (even the non-overclocked XFX) feature a higher voltage of 1.148v. At this point we’re still trying to get to the bottom of this, as AMD hasn’t been able to get back to us with a reason for why we’re seeing this discrepancy. The load voltage is a significant factor for the amount of power drawn (and heat generated) by cards, which means none of our partner 6850s have been able to match the reference 6850 in this aspect. We’re trying to make sure that 1.094v is indeed the 6850’s stock load voltage, or if we need to revise our previous results.

In any case, today we’ll be looking at 3 partner cards alongside our reference 6850: the XFX Radeon HD 6850 (HD-685X-ZNFC), the Asus EAH6850, and the MSI R6850 OC. This represents a diverse group of cards, ranging from short & stubby cards to longer cards with custom PCBs, and everything in between.

Meet The XFX Radeon HD 6850
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  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    The "new policy" purportedly made from "abundantly clear emails" is a self serving policy and will leave us with less information more of the time.
    Anandtech will include only the OC model of the currently being tested card, and thus - they will get a happy pat on the head for the review article from their minders who sent them the test card(s).
    Oh look it's soooo fast...
    "why thank you"
    "your welcome"
    "see you guys at the island party where we can discuss the industry"
    "why thanksfor the tickets and invite !"
    "you're welcome keep up the good promo work!"
    "we will ! "
    "I like how you said it's your viewers desire! Man the spin is awesome !"
  • 7Enigma - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I can't say I read all 55 pages (last time I checked), but if you weeded out the fanboys on both sides you got very similar to what the OP is saying here (and I'm sure the comments to follow will reiterate):

    Comparing stock-clocked cards from a LAUNCH article of a new series to OC variants is questionable (again the key word being launch), but I believe that few of us were asking to not have any factory OC cards included (especially when this review focuses solely ON factory OC cards).

    Just keep the comparisons consistent; that's all most of us readers without an agenda are advocating.
  • mm2587 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Thank you. I admit my first post was a bit over the top but really so was the conclusion to this article.

    Here's an article about the extremes of the 6850. A perfect place to mention the extremes of its closest competitor the gtx460 (yes the ftw cost more, but lets face it most 460's are able to clock within 5% of the ftw)

    Instead we're treated with another round of OC'd cards vs. reference cards. The very issue that created the uproar previously.

    I have no agenda here. I'm pretty sure I've switched manufacturers every time I've updated my card. I just want the most bang for my buck regardless of what color the card is. Right now Anandtech's articles are not doing a good job of showing me how to get that.

    I've used and trusted this site for years. Like 7enigma, all I'm asking for is consistency, something that I always thought this site delivered.
  • khimera2000 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I have to agree i was surprised that the FTW card was not included since this was roundup of the 6850 OC cards. But i can understand there hesitation. When they caved to Nvidia they lost alot of respect from alot of there reviewers since no matter how you spin it, and no matter what there intentions everyone who looks at the sight will see it as AT selling out.

    AT now have to be even more carefull not to include anything that might be seen as biyest. and now has to do alot of work to prove that its loyalties rest with its readers and not lining there pockets (good luck)

    If it was found that the FTW card killed the OC 6850 then im pritty sure they would have another flaim fest.

    Its not a perfect approach but I see it as a step in the right direction to patching up there relation with there customer base. Id say a good approach is do a review off all the cards individualy so you can do see there marrets and flaws, then post one big comparison review of the OC 400 series vs the OC 6000 series. then note that you intend to do this comparison at the releas of every OC card.
  • MeanBruce - Wednesday, November 10, 2010 - link

    Oh my God, you might have to start thinking on your own, what a disaster. Remember who is in charge here, Anand, not you...
  • krumme - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Excellent Ryan.
    Thank you for listening.
  • flipmode - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Well, Ryan - give the people what they want, right? So you're giving in to the Radeon fanboys and opting to limit the products that you show. I don't know what to say. Sometimes you have to stand up to fanboys and stupidity, not give in. Anandtech just got an F for the day today.

    You're simply not supposed to let fanboys dictate policy for you.
  • mapesdhs - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Hey, wait a minute Ryan, *plenty* of us said we _did_ agree with including
    the FTW, that it was the right thing to do. You're seriously bowing to the moaners?
    That's effectively admitting your original rationale for including the card was
    wrong, which makes no sense to me.

    As I pointed out, people who objected are much more likely to say so than
    people who didn't mind. So once again we have to pander to the lowest
    common denominator of opinion?

    You should do a particular thing because it is the _right_ thing to do, not
    because the majority say so. An opinion without a rationale is no opinion
    at all. Your reasons for including the FTW were sound; it should have been
    included in this review precisely to offer the comparison which all those
    same moaners said was missing in the earlier article. It's whatt hey wanted

    What a sad day... another win for the those who shout loudest. :\

  • medi01 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Right thing to do was exactly NOT including cherrypickedhardtofindoverclocked card. They realize it themselves.
  • SlyNine - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Wait wait. Can we please respect the opinions of others instead of having an "my opinion is the only valid one" Now I agreed with their decision to include the FTW. But it's no big deal that they don't.

    Otho I agree, It sucks that those who whine loudest get their gears greased first. But if it's not a big deal, who gives a rats @$$.

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