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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  • tech6 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Please don't feed the troll.
  • haplo602 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    on the test setup page:

    Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 6870
    AMD Radeon HD 6850
    AMD Radeon HD 5870
    AMD Radeon HD 5850
    AMD Radeon HD 5770
    AMD Radeon HD 4870
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>> NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
    NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216
    XFX Radeon HD 6850
    MSI R6850 OC
    Asus EAH6850

    However the card is nowhere in the graphs. Yet 5770 is there .... I was actualy interested in that comparison. thanks for the good work.
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I actually don't have the GTS 450 on the new test suite. We'll be updating Bench this next week, at which point it'll show up.
  • Marburg U - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link
  • DoktorSleepless - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I would actually love to see the GTX 460 FTW in these charts because 850 mhz is a typical OC you can get from any regular GTX 460. The 460 and the 6850 are direct competitors so having both their overclock results side by side would be nice.
  • kmmatney - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I have a HD4890, which is a power hog, yet I can run it at near silence, fully overclocked, with an Accelero S1 Rev 2 and a whisper fan. Too bad they don't offer a card with this sort of cooler pre-installed - then it would be possible to overclock these cards and still keep a quiet system. I wonder if this cooler will fit on these new cards? The cooler worked great onteh HD4890, but I did have to buy an extra heatsink for the VRMs (and had to hacksaw that to make it fit).
  • Pantsu - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Can't the XFX cooler be adjusted with a tool like Afterburner? I mean that would solve the noise issue afaik. But if it's stuck that way there's no reason to buy it.
  • casteve - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    +1. Why not use Afterburner to remove some of the variables and see how the tested coolers stack up db vs temp?
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

  • El_Capitan - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Newegg's Lowest prices (11/8/2010):
    HD 5870 1GB.................$299.99 (plus $2.99 shipping)
    GTX 470 1.28GB............$249.99 (free shipping)
    HD 6870 1GB.................$239.99 (plus $7.56 shipping)
    HD 5850 1GB.................$239.99 (free shipping)
    GTX 460 1GB..................$189.99 (plus $3.99 shipping)
    HD 6850 1GB.................$179.99 (plus $7.56 shipping)
    GTX 460 768MB.............$159.99 (free shipping)
    GTS 450 1GB .................$109.99 (free shipping)

    Just comparing the above, there's really two competitive ranges:

    The $239.99 to $249.99 price range which includes the GTX 470 1.28GB, the HD 6870 1GB, and the HD 5850 1GB.

    The $179.99 - $189.99 price range which includes the GTX 460 1GB, and the HD 6850 1GB.

    How, if we're going by OVERCLOCKED comparisons for a SINGLE card, especially at the highest two resolutions (1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600):
    1. The GTX 470 1.28GB overclocked definitely edges out both the overclocked HD 6870 1GB and HD 5850 in performance, while the HD 6870 1GB would be my pick over the HD 5850 1GB, both being the same price.

    2. The GTX 460 1GB and the HD 6850 1GB are both great cards. However, seeing the Max Overclock for the HD 6850 with a Max Overclocked Voltage at 1.22v being 960MHz, and a Max Overclock witnessed for the GTX 460 1GB with a Max Overclocked Voltage at 1.087v being 1015MHz (most are in the 880MHz - 950MHz range), the GTX 460 1GB has a greater potential of overclocking ability than the HD 6850. Given that a GTX 460 1GB overclocked slightly betters that of a GTX 470 1.28GB at stock, the winner is obviously the GTX 460 1GB.

    Please include the GTX 460 1GB overclocks when comparing overclocks with the HD 6850. Most of us are mature and smart enough to make our own decisions based upon test results, rather than guesswork. Those that are biased one way or another are going to believe what they want no matter what. All that we really losing out on, is our confidence that the site that's doing the review is behaving the same way. If we don't see it here, we're just going to go see it somewhere else.

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