As we explained in our introduction to AMD’s brand-new Radeon HD series, which you can read here, the Radeon HD 6850 is based on an entirely new GPU architecture optimized for DirectX 11 games. But don’t be confused by AMD’s branding: The Radeon HD 6850 will replace the Radeon HD 5830, not the Radeon HD 5850 and certainly not the company’s top-shelf GPU, the Radeon HD 5870.
The XFX Radeon HD 6850 reviewed here departs only slightly from AMD’s reference design: There’s a single full-size DisplayPort connector instead of the dual mini-DisplayPorts that AMD envisioned, and XFX’s custom cooler delivers better airflow. The GPU and 1GB GDDR5 frame buffer on this card are clocked at the stock rates of 775- and 1,000MHz, respectively.
Unlike AMD's reference design, XFX is providing one full-size DisplayPort 1.2 connector on their Radeon HD 6850 card instead of two mini-DisplayPorts.
The Radeon HD 6850 is manufactured using the same 40nm process as the Radeon HD 5850, but the die size is much smaller (255mm2 versus 334mm2). The new chip has 480 fewer stream processors and 24 fewer texture units, but its ROP count remains the same and its core clock speed is considerably higher (775MHz compared to 725MHz). In spite of this, the card consumes much less power at idle and under load and requires just one six-pin power connector.
In terms of performance, XFX’s stock-clocked Radeon HD 6850 held up very well against overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 cards with 768MB and 1GB frame buffers, as well as an overclocked Radeon HD 5850. That makes the power-consumption numbers all the more remarkable. Apart from the redesigned heatsink and fan, however, that leaves XFX’s excellent warranty as the only other justification for $20 premium XFX expects to fetch over AMD’s retail price guidance.
Click here to read our review of the Radeon 6870, or click here to go back to the main article.
XFX Radeon HD 6850
Good price/performance; efficient; excellent warranty.
A little noisy; one fewer display connector than reference design.
XFX Radeon HD 6850
Asus Radeon HD 5850
Asus GTX 460 768MB
Gigabyte 460 GTX 1GB
3DMark Vantage (Perf)
Unigine Heaven 2.1
Far Cry 2 (Action)
Far Cry 2 (Long)
STALKER: CoP (DX11)
Just Cause 2
Aliens vs Predator
Power (Watts, Idle)
Power (Watts, Full Throttle)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.