XFX Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Review
By Gabriel Torres on November 8, 2010


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

AMD has released their new Radeon HD 6800 family, so far comprised of the Radeon HD 6850 and Radeon HD 6870 models. Let’s review the standard Radeon HD 6850 from XFX (HD-685X-ZNFC), which follows the AMD reference design.

The name given by AMD to this new GPU family is misleading. Since 6800 is a number higher than 5800, users may think that the two members of this new family are faster than their counterparts from the Radeon HD 5800 family, namely the Radeon HD 5850 and HD 5870, which is not the case. As you can see in the table below, while members of the 6800 family run at a higher clock rate, they have a lower number of internal processors (shaders). This makes members of the 6800 family to be actually slower – but more affordable – than members of the 5800 family.

To compete with the new 6800 family, NVIDIA has reduced the price of their GPUs. After this price reduction, the new Radeon HD 6850 competes directly with the GeForce GTX 460 with 768 MB. The Radeon HD 5850 is between USD 60 and USD 80 more expensive than the Radeon HD 6850.

Video Card

Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock (Real)

Memory Clock (Effective)

Memory Interface

Memory Transfer Rate

Memory

Shaders

Price

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

675 MHz

1,350 MHz

900 MHz

3,600 MHz

192-bit

86.4 GB/s

768 GB GDDR5

336

USD 170 – 185

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

675 MHz

1,350 MHz

900 MHz

3,600 MHz

256-bit

115.2 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

336

USD 220 – 230

GeForce GTX 465

607 MHz

1,215 MHz

801.5 MHz

3,206 MHz

256-bit

102.6 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

352

USD 220 – 240

Radeon HD 5850

725 MHz

725 MHz

1 GHz

4 GHz

256-bit

128 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

1,440

USD 250 – 260

Radeon HD 5870

850 MHz

850 MHz

1.2 GHz

4.8 GHz

256-bit

153.6 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

1,600

USD 330 – 340

Radeon 6850

775 MHz

775 MHz

1 GHz

4 GHz

256-bit

128 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

960

USD 180 – 190

Radeon 6870

900 MHz

900 MHz

1.05 GHz

4.2 GHz

256-bit

134.4 GB/s

1 GB GDDR5

1,120

USD 240 - 260

Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review. All graphics chip listed above are DirectX 11 parts.

XFX also has a factory-overclocked version of this video card, called “Black Edition.” In this card the graphics processor runs at 820 MHz and memory runs at 4.4 GHz.

You can compare the specs of these video cards with other video cards by taking a look at our AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table and NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table tutorials.

Now let’s take a complete look at this model from XFX.

The XFX Radeon HD 6850

As mentioned, the XFX Radeon HD 6850 follows AMD’s reference design.

XFX Radeon HD 5850
click to enlarge
Figure 1: XFX Radeon HD 6850

XFX Radeon HD 5850
click to enlarge
Figure 2: XFX Radeon HD 6850

This video card has two DVI-D, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort outputs, for a total of four video connectors.

XFX Radeon HD 5850
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Video connectors

The XFX Radeon HD 6850 (Contíd)

In Figure 4, you can see the video card with its cooler removed. Note how it requires only one six-pin auxiliary power connector. In Figures 5 and 6, you can see the cooler by itself. The heatsink is rounded, with a 730 mm fan in the middle and a copper base using vapor chamber technology, a technology similar to the one used by heatpipes.

XFX Radeon HD 5850
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Figure 4: Video card with the cooler removed

XFX Radeon HD 5850
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Figure 5: The GPU cooler

XFX Radeon HD 5850
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Figure 6: The GPU cooler

The reviewed card uses eight 1 Gbit GDDR5 chips, making its 1 GB video memory (1 Gbit x 8 = 1 GB). Each chip is connected to the GPU using a 32-bit data lane, making the video card’s 256-bit memory interface (32 bits x 8 = 256).

The chips used are H5GQ1H24AFR-T2C parts from Hynix, which support up to 1.25 GHz (4.5 GHz QDR) and since on this video card memory is accessed at 1 GHz (4 GHz QDR), there is a good 25% margin for you to increase the memory clock rate while keeping the chips inside the maximum they support. Of course you can always try to overclock the memory chips above their specs.

XFX Radeon HD 5850
click to enlarge
Figure 7: Memory chips

This video card doesn’t come with any accessory or games.

Before seeing the performance results, let’s recap the main features of this video card.

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the XFX Radeon HD 6850 video card include:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin. Thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

3DMark Vantage Professional

3DMark Vantage measures Shader 4.0 (i.e., DirectX 10) performance and supports PhysX, a programming interface developed by Ageia (now part of NVIDIA) to transfer physics calculations from the system CPU to the video card GPU in order to increase performance. Mechanical physics is the basis for calculations about the interaction of objects. For example, if you shoot, what exactly will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? Note that since we are considering only the GPU score provided by this program, physics calculations are not taken into account.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600. First we used the “Performance” profile, and then we used the “Extreme” profile (basically enabling anti-aliasing at 4x, anisotropic filtering at 16x, and putting all detail settings at their maximum or “extreme” values). The results being compared are the “GPU Scores” achieved by each video card.

XFX Radeon 6850

3DMark Vantage - Performance

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

15099

51.3%

Radeon HD 6870

12668

26.9%

Radeon HD 5850

11833

18.6%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

11467

14.9%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

10042

0.6%

Radeon HD 6850

9979

 

GeForce GTX 465

9451

-5.3%

XFX Radeon 6850

3DMark Vantage - Performance

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

12134

52.5%

Radeon HD 6870

10087

26.7%

Radeon HD 5850

9485

19.2%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

8979

12.8%

Radeon HD 6850

7959

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

7755

-2.6%

GeForce GTX 465

7372

-7.4%

XFX Radeon 6850

3DMark Vantage - Performance

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

7079

50.3%

Radeon HD 6870

5877

24.8%

Radeon HD 5850

5594

18.8%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

5092

8.1%

Radeon HD 6850

4709

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

4333

-8.0%

GeForce GTX 465

4191

-11.0%

XFX Radeon 6850

3DMark Vantage - Extreme

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

11524

59.9%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

9514

32.0%

Radeon HD 6870

9352

29.7%

Radeon HD 5850

9025

25.2%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

8307

15.2%

GeForce GTX 465

7792

8.1%

Radeon HD 6850

7208

 

XFX Radeon 6850

3DMark Vantage - Extreme

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

9290

60.2%

Radeon HD 6870

7526

29.8%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

7473

28.8%

Radeon HD 5850

7192

24.0%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

6482

11.8%

GeForce GTX 465

6110

5.3%

Radeon HD 6850

5800

 

XFX Radeon 6850

3DMark Vantage - Extreme

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

5519

59.0%

Radeon HD 6870

4407

27.0%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

4312

24.3%

Radeon HD 5850

4298

23.9%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

3517

1.4%

GeForce GTX 465

3515

1.3%

Radeon HD 6850

3470

 

Call of Duty 4

Call of Duty 4 is a DirectX 9 game implementing high-dynamic range (HDR) and its own physics engine, which is used to calculate how objects interact. For example, if you shoot, exactly what will happen to the object when the bullet hits it? Will it break? Will it move? Will the bullet bounce back? It gives a more realistic experience to the user.

To get accurate results we had to disable the 80 FPS limit in the game. To do this, input the command, “/seta com_maxfps 1000” (minus the quotes) into the console (` key). It can be set to any number greater than 200.

We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, maxing out all image quality controls (i.e., everything was set to the maximum values in the Graphics and Texture menus). We used the internal game benchmarking feature, running a demo provided by NVIDIA called “wetwork.” We are putting this demo here for downloading if you want to run your own benchmarks. We ran the demo five times, and the results below are the average number of frames per second (FPS) achieved by each video card.

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Call of Duty 4 - Maximum

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

155.8

24%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

138.4

10%

Radeon HD 6870

136.1

8%

Radeon HD 5850

132.1

5%

Radeon HD 6850

125.9

 

GeForce GTX 465

125.6

0%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

112.6

-11%

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Call of Duty 4 - Maximum

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

136.2

26%

Radeon HD 6870

118.4

9%

Radeon HD 5850

114.5

6%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

110.6

2%

Radeon HD 6850

108.3

 

GeForce GTX 465

104.4

-4%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

95.3

-12%

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Call of Duty 4 - Maximum

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

94.2

30%

Radeon HD 6870

80.8

12%

Radeon HD 5850

78.1

8%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

74.6

3%

Radeon HD 6850

72.4

 

GeForce GTX 465

70.2

-3%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

62.8

-13%

Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead is a DirectX 10 game based on the same engine as the original Crysis, but optimized (it runs under DirectX 9.0c when installed on Windows XP).

We used the HardwareOC Crysis Warhead Benchmark Tool to collect the data for this test. We ran this program at three 16:10 widescreen resolutions, 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600, all at medium image quality (16x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering) and using the Airfield demo. The results below are the number of frames per second achieved by each video card.

XFX Radeon 6850

Crysis Warhead - Medium

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

35

25.0%

Radeon HD 6870

32

14.3%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

31

10.7%

GeForce GTX 465

30

7.1%

Radeon HD 5850

30

7.1%

Radeon HD 6850

28

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

27

-3.6%

XFX Radeon 6850

Crysis Warhead - Medium

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

31

29.2%

Radeon HD 6870

27

12.5%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

26

8.3%

Radeon HD 5850

26

8.3%

GeForce GTX 465

25

4.2%

Radeon HD 6850

24

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

22

-8.3%

XFX Radeon 6850

Crysis Warhead - Medium

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

21

31%

Radeon HD 6870

19

19%

Radeon HD 5850

17

6%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

16

0%

Radeon HD 6850

16

 

GeForce GTX 465

15

-6%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

13

-19%

Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2 is based on an entirely new game engine called Dunia, which is DirectX 10 when played under Windows Vista with a DirectX 10 compatible video card.

We used the benchmarking utility that comes with this game, setting image quality to High (x8 anti-aliasing) and running the “Ranch Long” demo three times. The results below are expressed in frames per second and are an arithmetic average of the three results collected.

XFX Radeon HD 6850

FarCry 2 - Maximum

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

109.8

23.9%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

104.9

18.4%

Radeon HD 6870

101.2

14.3%

Radeon HD 5850

94.0

6.1%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

93.9

6.0%

GeForce GTX 465

90.4

2.1%

Radeon HD 6850

88.6

 

XFX Radeon HD 6850

FarCry 2 - Maximum

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

98.4

26.0%

Radeon HD 6870

89.4

14.6%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

88.9

13.9%

Radeon HD 5850

83.3

6.7%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

78.5

0.5%

Radeon HD 6850

78.1

 

GeForce GTX 465

75.5

-3.3%

XFX Radeon HD 6850

FarCry 2 - Maximum

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

70.2

29.9%

Radeon HD 6870

62.1

14.9%

Radeon HD 5850

58.7

8.7%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

57.8

7.0%

Radeon HD 6850

54.0

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

50.1

-7.3%

GeForce GTX 465

49.0

-9.3%

Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator is a DirectX 11 game that makes full use of tessellation and advanced shadow rendering. We used the Aliens vs. Predator Benchmark Tool developed by Rebellion. This program reads its configuration from a text file (our configuration files can be found here). We ran this program at 1680x1050, 1920x1200, and 2560x1600 resolutions, with low texture settings, x8 anisotropic filtering and x4 anti-aliasing.

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Aliens vs. Predator

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

52

50.3%

Radeon HD 5850

41.3

19.4%

Radeon HD 6870

41

18.5%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

37.8

9.2%

GeForce GTX 465

35.5

2.6%

Radeon HD 6850

34.6

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

30.7

-11.3%

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Aliens vs. Predator

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

42.5

50.7%

Radeon HD 5850

33.6

19.1%

Radeon HD 6870

33.4

18.4%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

30.2

7.1%

GeForce GTX 465

28.5

1.1%

Radeon HD 6850

28.2

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

24.5

-13.1%

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Aliens vs. Predator

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

26.2

52.3%

Radeon HD 5850

20.6

19.8%

Radeon HD 6870

20.4

18.6%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

18.1

5.2%

GeForce GTX 465

17.5

1.7%

Radeon HD 6850

17.2

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

14.5

-15.7%

Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2 is a game that uses a lot of DirectX 11 features, like tessellation (to round out the edges of polygonal models), displacement maps (added to the tessellated mesh to add fine grain details), DirectCompute soft body simulation (to introduce more realism in the “boss” monsters), and DirectCompute wave simulation (to introduce more realism in the physics calculations in water surfaces; when you move or when gunshots and explosions hit the water, it moves accordingly). We reviewed the video cards using Lost Planet 2 internal benchmarking features, choosing the “Benchmark A” (we know that “Benchmark B” is the one recommended for reviewing video cards, however, at least with us, results were inconsistent). We set graphics at “medium,” anti-aliasing at “2x” and DX11 at “full.” The results below are the number of frames per second generated by each video card.

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Lost Planet 2

1680x1050

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

63.10

19.3%

Radeon HD 6870

60.60

14.6%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

55.30

4.5%

GeForce GTX 465

54.80

3.6%

Radeon HD 6850

52.90

 

Radeon HD 5850

50.90

-3.8%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

47.70

-9.8%

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Lost Planet 2

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

55.00

36.8%

Radeon HD 6870

50.40

25.4%

Radeon HD 5850

47.10

17.2%

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

46.30

15.2%

GeForce GTX 465

42.60

6.0%

Radeon HD 6850

40.20

 

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

39.40

-2.0%

XFX Radeon HD 6850

Lost Planet 2

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 5870

39.80

34.5%

Radeon HD 6870

36.90

24.7%

Radeon HD 5850

31.80

7.4%

Radeon HD 6850

29.60

 

GeForce GTX 460 (1 GB)

28.90

-2.4%

GeForce GTX 465

27.60

-6.8%

GeForce GTX 460 (768 MB)

24.80

-16.2%

Conclusions

The new Radeon HD 6850 was faster than its main competitor, the GeForce GTX 460 with 768 MB, in almost all  games and simulations we ran. Therefore, if you are looking for an economic solution to the Radeon HD 5850, the Radeon HD 6850 is a terrific option.

Here is the breakdown. In most games and simulations, the Radeon HD 6850 was up to 19% faster than the GeForce GTX 460 with 768 MB. There were only two exceptions. On 3DMark Vantage, which simulates DirectX 10 games, the Radeon 6850 was faster only when image quality settings were disabled. Maxing out image quality settings made the GeForce GTX 460 with 768 MB to be up to 15% faster. And on Far Cry 2 (a DirectX 10 game), the GeForce GTX 460 with 768 MB was 6% faster than the Radeon HD 6850 at 1680 x 1050. At 1920 x 1200, both cards achieved similar performance, but at 2560 x 1600 the Radeon HD 6850 was 8% faster.

Of course if you want more performance you may pick the Radeon HD 5850 or the GeForce GTX 460 with 1 GB (always keeping in mind that the difference between the 768 MB and the 1 GB model isn’t only the amount of video memory, but the memory interface width). In our tests the Radeon HD 5850 was up to 25% faster than the Radeon HD 6850 (between 18% and 25% faster on 3DMark vantage, between 5% and 8% faster on Call of Duty 4, between 6% and 9% on Far Cry 2, between 19% and 20% on Alien vs. Predator, between 6% and 8% on Crysis Warhead, and up to 17% fast on Lost Planet 2), while the GeForce GTX 460 with 1 GB was up to 32% faster than the Radeon HD 6850 (between 8% and 32% faster on 3DMark Vantage, up to 10% faster on Call of Duty 4, between 7% and 18% faster on Far Cry 2, between 5% and 9% faster on Alien vs. Predator, up to 11% faster on Crysis Warhead, and up to 15% faster on Lost Planet 2).

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/XFX-Radeon-HD-6850-Video-Card-Review/1127


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