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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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  • mm2587 - Monday, November 08, 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"
    Reply
  • keitaro - Monday, November 08, 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? Reply
  • whatthehey - Tuesday, November 09, 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 site:www.anandtech.com {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.
    Reply
  • Galid - Tuesday, November 09, 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
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

    HULK SMASH!! LOUD NOISES!! FANBOY RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!! ;)

    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.
    Reply
  • 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. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, November 08, 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. Reply
  • mac2j - Monday, November 08, 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
    Reply
  • Targon - Monday, November 08, 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. Reply
  • mac2j - Monday, November 08, 2010 - link

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

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