Good price/performance; efficient; excellent warranty.
A little noisy; one fewer display connector than reference design.
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.
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.