Meet The XFX Radeon HD 6850

Kicking of our look at 6850s is XFX’s Radeon HD 6850 (HD-685X-ZNFC), a card we’ve had since the 6850 launch two weeks ago and provided to us by XFX to allow us to test 6850 CrossFire performance.

In terms of design the XFX 6850 only bears little resemblance to the reference 6850. The PCB runs half an inch shorter than the reference 6850, measuring 8.5”, while among other differences the XFX 6850 has a second unused set of pads for a second 6pin PCIe power socket. Unfortunately the PCIe power socket is still rear facing, meaning while the card is shorter than the reference 6850, you need to factor in space needed for a PCIe power cable. Meanwhile in terms of build quality the card is fairly normal for a mainstream video card; along with the usual solid capacitors, XFX is also using solid state ferrite core chokes here.

Attached to the top of the card is a completely custom cooler. As is common with cards in this price range and performance level, XFX has ditched the 5850/6850 blower for a more open design that features a center-mounted fan that blows air out the front and the rear of the card. These open designs are both cooler and quieter as air doesn’t need to be forced through several inches of heatsink & shrouding, at a cost of relying more on a case’s cooling abilities. XFX is using a partially shrouded design in order to keep hot air from blowing out of the bottom of the card & towards the motherboard, along with providing some structural stability to the card.

Interestingly, XFX is using a vapor chamber cooler here, which is uncommon for cards at this price range. As you may recall, vapor chambers are effectively flattened heatpipes that sit between a GPU and heatsink, and offer better cooling than a simple solid-metal heatsink base. We’ve never been able to get a solid idea on pricing, but it’s our belief that vapor chamber coolers end up costing more to build than similar heatpipe coolers, which makes the inclusion of a vapor chamber on a sub-$200 card an unusual choice. In any case, the vapor chamber is then attached to a fairly typical circular aluminum heatsink, with fins running up to the top of the card and the fan embedded in the middle. As we’ll see in our test results, the cooling design on the XFX 6850 keeps the card exceptionally cool, but XFX has turned  the card for cooling performance at the cost of noise.

Cross-Sectional Diagram Of XFX's Cooler

For the port configuration, XFX has deviated from AMD’s new Eyefinity port configuration in place of the older 5800-series port configuration. This means along with the two DVI ports and the HDMI port there’s only one full-size DisplayPort, versus the  two mini-DP ports that AMD has been pushing for these cards. This is a DP 1.2 port, so the XFX 6850 can still drive up to 3 monitors from it, but the card will be unable to drive 6 monitors (instead being limited to 5) as it lacks the necessary outputs.

As far as packed-in items are concerned, as the 6850 is a mainstream card you won’t find any significant included with the card. XFX includes the usual collection of a quick start guide, warranty guide, and driver CD along with a XFX-banded doorknob hanger. However you won’t find any dongles, cables, or power adapters here – in fact XFX doesn’t even officially support using a 2x Molex to 6pin PCIe power adapter.

Finally, XFX is providing their standard double lifetime warranty for the card; 2 years if unregistered with the double lifetime warranty taking effect if the card is registered. Not surprisingly this along with XFX’s design choices have pushed the price of the card up a bit, with the XFX 6850 available for around $190, $10 over the AMD baseline MSRP.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Overclocking Roundup: Asus, XFX, & MSI Meet The Asus EAH6850
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  • mm2587 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    You guys honestly didn't include the 460 ftw in the charts after the whole mess with the launch article, or at least mention it in passing in your conclusion? Sure I can go back and compare the results with the past articles but that not the point. Here's your chance to compare overclocked cards to overclocked cards and you don't even mention it.

    This article really must be a joke after all it ends with an overclocked "kicking" a reference 460 to the "curb"
  • keitaro - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    If it's not mentioned, then it is not mentioned. You said it yourself that you can just grab the numbers from the launch article. So why complain about it? If you believe that this is an omission or something missed, why can't you just point it out instead of making a fuss about it?
  • whatthehey - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - link

    (I'm posting here because otherwise you get lost in the fanboy "debate" below.... My response isn't really to either of the above two readers.)

    You know, I didn't get into the initial 6850 + 460 FTW brouhaha because I figured any sensible being wouldn't have a problem with it. I also didn't bother wading through any of the comments on the "what do you want" follow up. I thought the amount of noise a select few made was stupid then, and it's even dumber now!

    AnandTech, you first need to wade through the users posting comments and do some research on past "input". Half of the users complaining and calling your credibility into question have no credibility to begin with! I swear there were a ton of new users that we have never heard from before. Seriously, do a Google on the most vocal user names and this site. Here are the nay-sayers posting on this article's comments; most of the others (i.e. 7Enigma in particular) are mostly interested in the bottom line rather than fanboy rage. So, here's a Google of {username}.

    AnandThenMan: almost never a nice thing to say, and definitely anti-Nvidia. Vote: AMD fanboy
    vedye: Never posted before GTX 460 and anti-Nvidia. Vote: AMD fanboy
    spigzone: Off and on poster over time, but EXTREMELY vocal on the 460 FTW issues. Definitely a squeaky wheel, but only represents ONE person.
    Ramon Zarat: Past posting history indicate strong AMD/ATI preference. Vote: AMD fanboy

    If you were to wade through the mass of posts on the two 6800 articles and eliminate flame wars, trolling, etc. you probably only get about 10% of the posts, and they're still a minority.

    I'd say the vase majority of us simply want more data. Had you overclocked a 6850 in the initial review, there would have been nothing to stand on. Maybe a simple statement of, "Time constraints (and lack of a retail card) led us to running stock settings; we'll be back next week with more data on 6850 overclocking." What's really stupid is that the conclusion wasn't even in favor of the GTX 460. All it said was, "yes, an overclocked 460 can do quite well, but it draws more power and costs more so it's not really desirable."

    This is making mountains out of mole hills and then some. Move along, nothing to see here people. AMD and NVIDIA both compete fairly well. AMD has a better midrange part right now, but NVIDIA has faster parts if you're willing to pay the price and power. Two years ago it was all NVIDIA, and back in the 9800 days it was all ATI.
  • Galid - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - link

    I still love the fanboys debating for some more performance there and a little less there. Trading blows for some more peanuts on a side and you trow in a 5-10$ difference then light they'll bring wood and burn someone on a stake.

    And when there's not enough difference to speak of then they throw in driver issues and such not so credible arguments. Or how they toasted every card they bought from the other competitor which is actually run by a subsidiary of the devil himself.

    Always making my day when I see a new article about video card I jump right to the bottom and read the comments! :D
  • GeorgeH - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link


    More seriously, an OC 460 is a little faster than a stock 6870. An OC 6850 is (very surprisingly) almost the same. At $180 for a 6850 vs $190 for a 460 1GB (current Newegg prices), the 6850 wins - although with such a tiny price and performance differential means it really boils down to color preference: do you like red or green? Competition FTW.

    "Kicking to the curb" is over the top, but if it keeps the I❤AMD crowd from throwing another tantrum I'm cool with it.
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Oh, 6850 compute performance fail. Now it matters say the amd fans - so hope they didn't do the stupid and get the 6850.
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    It was made abundantly clear to us in the comments in our follow-up piece and in emails to us that you guys disapproved of our inclusion of non-reference cards in articles. As we strive to reflect the needs and wants of you, our reader, we have taken your advice to heart. You will not be seeing the FTW or similar cards in any articles besides their associated roundups. As such articles like this will focus solely on the series being reviewed, and will not contain results from overclocked or otherwise non-reference cards that are not among the cards being reviewed.
  • mac2j - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    It was more about comparing: Reference vs Reference, OC vs OC

    Though I agree the best place for the 460 FTW is in a 6970 OC comparison article not a 6950 one.

    As for this article "MSI R6850 OC is just all-around worse" makes no sense to me - as someone who doesn't care about noise and doesn't know a single person that really does in that kind of range ... of all these cards I would buy the MSI as it has by far the best price to performance.

    I mean it's the only card that outperforms the 5850 and even, in a couple cases, the 6970 ... that's more performance for ~$50 less with similar noise... so calling it "all-around worse" is just crazy talk.... crazy talk man
  • Targon - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    You mean 6870, right? The 6950 and 6970 have yet to be reviewed, at least in public, and we don't have any release date for the new high end parts, which will finally allow the 5870 to fade away as the top single-GPU cards from AMD.
  • mac2j - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Ugh yea 68XX not 69XX ... been reading too many Cayman preview articles - sorry.

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