Over the past few weeks we have taken a look at the cards from the NVIDIA stable – the GTX 470 and the GTX 580 which were both amazing cards in their own right and achieved high scores in our tests. But now it's time to take a look at the Red side, AMD's. They recently launched the 6800 Series of GPUs and XFX was kind enough to send us one. The AMD HD 6850 is based on the ‘Barts’ core and in comparison to previous generations offers improved tessellation, eyefinity and performance.

XFX have used a non reference design

First Impressions
The first thing that we noticed as we took the card out of the box was how small and light it was. At just 235mm in length, it should fit in almost any modern chassis. In comparison, the GTX 470 and GTX 580 look like hulking monsters. XFX have used a non-reference design and have used dual fans to help with heat management. The copper heatpipes jutting out of the side help in giving it a more rugged look, but at the same time they also make direct contact with the GPU which helps in cooling. One very cool design, although superficial, is the XFX logo carved into the I/O panel. It doesn’t serve a purpose, but it looks good.

The XFX logo adds a slice of charm to it

In terms of connectivity options, the XFX HD 6850 has two DVI-D ports along with one Displayport 1.2 and one HDMI 1.4a port. On the other end of the card; we have a single 6-pin PCIe connector that takes care of all its power needs.

Test Rig

  • Intel  i7-920
  • ASUS Rampage III Extreme
  • Corsair 6GB DDR3 – 1600 MHz
  • Cooler master Silent Pro 1000w
  • Cooler Master CM 690 Chassis
  • Dell ST2420L 1920×1080 Display

The XFX 6850 uses a 40nm process, which is the same as the 5800 series, but at a smaller die size (255mm2). The GPU is clocked at 775MHz, while the 1GB GDDR5 memory clocks in at 1000MHz.

The 6850 on GPU-Z

As you can see by the screenshot above, the HD 6850 packs in 960 Unified shaders as well as an ROP count of 32. It uses a 256-bit interface and has a bandwidth of 128GB/sec.

Now that we're done with all the spec talk, let's get to the benchmarks.

Synthetic Benchmarks
To test out the 6850, we used Unigine Heaven 2.1 and 3DMark Vantage for our Synthetic tests. For those who aren’t familiar with these tests, Ungine Heaven 2.1 is a DirectX 11 benchmark tool which makes use of Tessellation, SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion) and algorithmically correct volumetric cumulonimbus clouds. 3DMark Vantage is a DirectX 10 benchmark tool and is an overall measure of your system’s 3D gaming capabilities, based on comprehensive real-time 3D graphics and processor tests.

We ran the Unigine 2.1 benchmark tool with the following settings:
Renderer: DX11
Resolution: 1680×1050
Shaders: High
Textures: High
Filter: Trilinear
Anisotropic Filtering: 4x
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
Refraction: Enabled
Volumetric: Enabled
Tessellation: Enabled (normal)

The 6850 scored an impressive 31.4 FPS at the end of the test.  We ran the test again, but this time with Tessellation set to Extreme. Here, the FPS fell to 20. Overall though, the GPU performed quite well even when the settings were maxed out.

We also ran everyone's favourite 3DMark Vantage to see how well the 6850 stacks up. At 1680×1050, we used the performance settings and achieved a score of 13,500, which is quite close to the HD 5830.

Having racked up pretty impressive scores in the synthetic benchmarks, lets move on the Gaming Scores.

Gaming Benchmarks
The most important criteria for anyone who wants to buy a new Graphic Card is its FPS score in Games. So we tried out three benchmarks to test the 6850 – Crysis Warhead, Just Cause 2 and Dirt 2. Each game contains a variety of different effects which can push GPUs to their limits.

Crysis Warhead
Crysis Warhead is one of the most demanding games out there (probably the most demanding) and has the ability to bring any graphic card out there to its knees. We ran the test at 1920×1080 with Enthusiast settings.

Just Cause 2
For Just Cause 2, we disabled Bokeh Filter and GPU water effects as they are exclusive to NVIDIA cards thanks to CUDA processing. The settings for this game were 1920×1080, DX 11 and everything to maximum.

Dirt 2
We raced around London with a full grid of cars and used the DX 11 mode and set everything to maximum.

As you can see by the benchmarks above, the HD 6850 performs remarkably well across the board, Even with the graphical settings maxed out, it manages to provide playable FPS.

Power, Heat and Noise
The HD 6850 draws in 28W when idle and 240W when under full load, which is 20W less than the 5850. When it comes to heat, the 6850 is ice-cold under pressure – at 50% fan speed it stays at 40 degrees and goes up to 60 degrees when at its peak. Since the ambient temperature in India differs from the rest of the world, the idle temps for us will always be a bit higher and it's not a cause for worry.

The noise factor has no set standard and differs from person to person. For us, the HD 6850 was quiet even when it was running our benchmark tests, but the fan noise is very audible once the fan speed moves above 60%. In our tests, setting the fan speed at 55% helped us maintain the temperature while keeping the noise to a minimum.

The HD 6850 overall is a very impressive card, the performance figures hovers around the 5850 in some tests. However, keep in mind the 6850 was not made to replace the 5850, but rather the 5830. Also, the card does brilliantly in the facets of power consumption and heat, which was probably helped by XFX's neat design. With the price hovering at around Rs. 13,000, the XFX 6850 is a great piece of hardware and is worth a purchase if you need a new graphics card.

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