AMD 6800 Series Review

ccokeman RHKCommander959 - 2010-10-16 19:42:46 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: October 21, 2010
Price: HD 6870 $239 HD 6850 $179

Introduction:

It's always interesting reading forums around the net leading up to a new product launch. Interesting in the fact that what you see is, in many ways, a little bit of truth tossed into the mill with a ton of speculation. What you get out the back end is a lot of strong opinions and conjecture from people who think they know what's coming out or what it will be in reality. What we saw with this launch was a lot of truth mixed in with some smoke and mirrors to throw you off just a bit. What many have already known and expected was the launch of AMD's first GPUs from their Northern Island family. What really was not known was where on the performance ladder this product would fall. Now we know since AMD (yes AMD since ATI has effectively been finally swallowed up completely) has finally let the cat out of the bag. The Barts GPUs are ready to take on the mid-range price and performance contenders. With the naming structure, the logical thing would be for this lineup to replace the current HD 5870 and HD 5850 but that's not the case this time around. The Cayman GPUs that are upcoming will take on that responsibility. Let's see what a few of these cards can do while the arguments rage in forums around the world.

Today I have the opportunity to look at offerings from Sapphire, XFX and PowerColor. There will be a total of three HD 6870 cards based on the reference design and a single HD 6850 that breaks away from the reference mold and offers up better cooling, lower noise and enhanced display options. Let's see what they can offer us in terms of performance, cooling and most importantly, how well they overclock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closer Look:

Of the four cards in the 6800 series we are looking at today, the first one we are examining will come from Sapphire. Sapphire is AMD's largest board partner and carries that brand recognition. The packaging for the Sapphire card is traditional Sapphire with a new representation of 'Ruby' on the front panel. All across the front of the packaging you have the list of new technologies that include support for Stereoscopic 3D, Eyefinity, DirectX 11 support, HDMI 1.4a support and Display Port 1.2 support. A mention of the TRIXX overclocking utility is made as well so it seems Sapphire has a replacement for the Redline utility. Nowhere on the front or rear panels do you see the ATI moniker as ATI is no longer a viable entity. The rear panel expands on the feature set with mentions including Digital power management, Eyefinity Multi display technology, AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing technology and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the package you get a box that contains the HD 6870 and the accessory bundle. Pop the lid and you get a glimpse of the HD 6870 in a cardboard tray. Lift this up and there is the box that contains the accessory bundle for this card.

 

 

The accessory bundle for this card is pretty much standard fare and what has come to be the expectated when you purchase a Sapphire branded video card. The bundle includes the driver disk, an invitation to join the Sapphire Select club, a quick Install guide, 4 pin Molex to 6 pin PCIe power adapters, a Crossfire Bridge connection, DVI to VGA adapter, Display Port to DVI adapter and an HDMI cable to connect to your high definition panel.

 

Now that we have looked at how the card arrived, it's time to see what's under the hood. The Sapphire HD 6870 is based on the Barts core GPU from AMD. This GPU is the latest release and the first in the 6000 series. This card is based on the reference design and measures roughly 10.5 inches in length making it an easy fit in most chassis. The front of the card mirrors the box packaging with the latest iteration of Ruby on the front. The rear of the card is pretty spartan without any memory modules or a back cover that was used on the HD 5870. The reference heat sink shroud is an improvement over the last design but still uses a blower style fan.

 

 

 

The connectivity options are much improved over the HD 5XXX series with the inclusion of two Display Port 1.2 ports that can support multiple monitors at different resolutions and refresh rates, a single HDMI 1.4a port and two DVI ports one of which is Dual link while the other is Single link. This opens up a whole new realm of connection possibilities. The back of the card traditionally has intake venting of some kind but this card (based on the reference design) does not. At least we can hopefully look forward to Sapphire bringing out their non-reference Toxic series.

 

 

The Sapphire HD 6870 does support Crossfire but only in a two card configuration based on the single bridge connection. Power requirements are two 6 pin PCIe power sources in addition to the power supplied through the PCIe slot. Load power for this card comes in at 181 watts when in use and a paltry 19watts is used when in an idle state. Both of these are improvements over last year's Cypress core products.

 

 

The reference heat sink is held in place with more than a few screws. The assembly is a 3 piece design that uses plastic for the shroud and fan, an aluminum chassis that serves as the heat sink for the mosfets and board components and a copper and aluminum heat sink that bolts to the PCB and is the main heat sink for the Barts GPU core. This heat sink uses 3 heat pipes that go from the copper base into the aluminum fin array.

 

 

The heart of the HD 6870 is the GPU core built on a 40nm process at TSMC. This improved architecture is more power efficient due to the use of fewer transistors 1.7 vs 2.15 billion. This card delivers 2.0 Tflops of Compute performance which is a significant drop from the 58XX series but then again this card is not the replacement for the 5870 but an architectural improvement to drive efficiency upwards. SO what you get are 1120 stream processors at 900Mhz,32ROPs, 56 texture units and 1 GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1050Mhz (4200Mhz effective). The GDDR5 memory runs through a 256 bit bus to deliver 134.4GB/s worth of memory bandwidth. THe memory used on this card is made by Hynix and is rated for operation at 1250Mhz so there should be some headroom left for the overclocker or enthusiast.

 

 

That's one down and a few more to go. Let's see what the next cards have to offer.

Closer Look:

In addition to the offering from Sapphire we have two cards to look at from XFX. The HD 6870 and their non-reference version of the HD 6850 of which they have two different designs, One that is heat pipe equipped and one that is Vapor Chamber equipped. The one we will be looking at today is the heat pipe equipped card. The packaging of the XFX HD 68XX cards are almost identical with the main difference being the name listed on the front. This graphic is mirrored through to the graphics card inside. The design is very minimalist with little information on the front of each box. Highlights include the mention of XFX 5 star support that should be helpful if the unthinkable happens. The rear panel contains the list of the HD 6800 series feature set that includes DX 11 support, Eyefinity technology, Display Port 1.2, HDMI 1.4a, Crossfire Support, Enhanced UVD 3 decoder and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The box internals are incredibly similar so I am only going to show one package. The internal packaging is black with the XFX logo with the Play Hard slogan underneath and the XFX web link to the right. Flipping open the lid you get a tray that houses the extent of the accessory bundle. Underneath the tray is where you will find the video card which packaged securely in a cardboard cocoon. You will notice that the HD 6850 takes up significantly less room in the box than the HD 6870.

 

 

 

The accessory bundle is actually kind of slim with an install guide, AMD GPU guide, driver disk, an ad for XFX's own brand of PSU, a crossfire bridge connection and a door tag that lets people know you are getting your Frag on!

 

The HD 6870 from XFX mirrors the reference design in form and function. This card is built on the Bart's family of GPU processors from AMD. The HD 6870 comes in at 10.5 inches in length and is meant to be used in a PCIe 2.1, 16x slot on your motherboard. The graphic has carried over from the packaging and offers some eye appeal. A quick look at the specs of the 6870 shows the card to have 1120 Stream processors, 56 texture units, 32 ROPs and 1GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 256bit bus. The smaller of the pair (but no less capable) is the custom HD 6850. It is slightly shorter than the reference card but comes packed with enhancements such as a dual heat pipe cooling solution, Solid capacitors, DR Mosfets, Programmable PWM IC for stable voltage and built-in thermal protection and a two ounce copper layer in the PCB. All of these enhancements should help to increase stability and extend the life of the card.

 

 

 

Both of these cards from XFX use a custom cut backplate that features the XFX logo cut into the exhaust port for increased cooling airflow. The connectivity options differ slightly between the two cards. The HD 6870 uses two Mini Display port 1.2 ports, a single HDMI 1.4a port, and two DVI ports, one of which is single link. However, if you need two dual link ports you can always pick up a Display Port to DVI adaptor for those situations. The HD 6850 From XFX has gone astray from the reference version for connectivity with a single full size Display Port 1.2 port a single HDMI 1.4a port and a pair of DVI ports. The back end of the 6870 is sealed shut so all of the airflow must come through the front of the card. A good thing in this case since the power circuits are moved forward on this card. The rear of the HD 6850 is ventilated much better with holes in the shroud for air intake or exhaust for the heat pipe based cooling solution. Power is supplied to the HD 6850 on the end of the PCB via a single 6 pin PCIe power connection while the reference based HD 6870 has two 6 pin PCIe connections on the spine of the PCB. Power consumption is rated at 151 watts on the 6870 and 127 watts on the 6850 with both cards dropping down below 20 watts at idle at 19 watts.

 

 

 

Both cards only support a total of two cards in Crossfire, Something normally seen on AMD's mid-ranged product lineup. This should mean that further up the stack with Cayman we should see CrossfireX again.

 

 

The cooling solutions used on these cards vary significantly as one is based on the reference design and one is an in-house build. The reference cooling solution on the HD 6870 is a three piece design that has a plastic shroud, an aluminum base for cooling the motherboard components such as the memory and power control circuitry and a heat pipe equipped cooler for the GPU. The air blows through the shroud and through the heatsinks to exhaust the thermal load outside the chassis. The aluminum base has a set of fins on it in the airstream to help cool the mainboard components more effectively. The solution used on the XFX HD 6850 is a dual heatpipe design that has an 80mm sleeve bearing fan that pushes around 52 CFM worth of airflow through the shroud. The dual heat pipes attach to the copper and aluminum base and form a circle around the fan to most effectively use the airflow to keep the mosfet cooler from running too warm. The fan on the reference cooler leaves a lot to be desired. How so? While it does allow the 6870 to operate relatively cool, it does so with a tremendous noise penalty. More so than the cards of the past - this is a screamer. Not just loud, but "nails on a chalkboard" loud when run to 100% of its speed potential. On the other hand, the fan on the HD 6850 was audible but was nowhere near what the reference design had to offer.

 

 

 

Of course what good is a shot of the heat sinks if you don't know how they are mounted? Each card is shown with the heat sink removed as a frame of reference. You can see how the PCBs are much different but both share the power circuitry towards the front of the card. Here you can see the solid caps and covered chokes.

 

 

Last but not least, we can look at this pair of Bart's GPU cores. Both are built using a 40nm process and differ in the amount of Stream processors (1120 vs. 960), the amount of texture units (56 vs. 48), each has 32 ROP units and 1GB of GDDR5 memory on board. Clock speeds for the HD 6870 come in at 900MHz on the core and 1050MHz on the 1GB of memory. The HD 6850 is clocked at 775MHz on the core and 1000MHz on the memory. Hynix memory is used on both cards and carries part number H5G01H24AFR-T2C stamped on the IC's. They are rated for 1250MHz operation.

 

 

One more card to look at from Power Color and then we can get onto the testing.

Closer Look:

The last card of the pack is from PowerColor and is another HD 6870. The box art looks like Knight Blazer from an old game series called Wild ARMS 2. The armored warrior has a set of long mechanical/armored looking wings that reach across other sides of the box. 'Tis fitting to have a red knight on an AMD graphics card. The front lists the video outputs (1x dual link DVI, 1x single link DVI, HDMI, and 2 mini DisplayPorts), the 1GB GDDR5 memory and that the card is capable of AMD Eyefinity. Flipping over the back side shows the basic specifications and features of the card and several translations for those who don't speak English. Some of the features are: 40nm fabrication technology used on the core; 256-bit memory interface with 1GB of GDDR5; AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing Technology; CrossFire support; Eyefinity multi-display technology; Microsoft DirectX 11 capability and HDMI 1.4 with 7.1 surround sound capabilities to name a few. The bottom has a chart that ranks the card on gaming, office and media proficiencies with the 6870 getting five stars across the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The side of the box reads Radeon HD 6870 bold and clear. The box art wing stretches across here to the back of the box. At the bottom half of the side are the power and system requirements for properly installing the graphics card into a system. An open PCI Express x16 slot is required on the motherboard and a 500 Watt or greater power supply with two 75W 6-pin connectors are the bare necessities. The other side is similar although it has less pertinent information except for two bar-code labels.

 

 

The top and bottom of the box are identical and both cleanly list the brand and card type. The box is held shut with flaps that are reinforced with tape. Once open, a cardboard box slides out holding the graphics card and accessories in trays. The card is protected by a taped antistatic bag that helps to keep it safe from static electricity, dust and dirt. Underneath the tray is the driver disk and manual, a flap nearby holds onto the accessories. One of each is included: DVI to VGA adapter; Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter and lastly a CrossFireX cable.

 

 

 

The cooling system is the standard reference design from AMD with a large sticker placed over the cover for artistic effect. The picture has the same warrior from the box art and the PowerColor brand with the card type along the bottom. The sticker conforms well to the beveled air inlet for the impeller, no wrinkles or bubbles to be seen anywhere. Rotating over to the back we find the distinctive back plate that has been used for several generations now. Several Phillips-head screws line the back. These mounting holes are useful for aftermarket cooling solutions as well. Only one CrossFire slot is on the 6800-cards so these are mid-range products and only two can be used together. The back side is void of the large electronics which are installed on the inside of the card.

 

 

The sides of the card are reminiscent of the red and black cooling designs used on the 5000-series cards. An exhaust grill sits near the CrossFire slot and pours heat back into the chassis but some is still vented outside. This was due to the video outputs taking up too much space to adequately ventilate through the expansion slots, requiring the secondary grill near the CrossFire slot. The power connectors are located at the end of the card in a similar fashion to the 5870s. The other side is rather empty save for a small sticker with a part number on it and a view of some capacitors.

 

 

The 6870 has five outputs available. Two DVIs, one dual link for high resolution and one single link, one HDMI port and two Mini DisplayPorts provide plenty of connectivity opportunities to end users. These are also useful for the Eyefinity multiple-monitor displays where users can have a desktop span multiple monitors. The exhaust grill is only half length and a single slot in width so air restriction would be a problem without auxiliary exhaust vents that were added perpendicular to these, right above the CrossFire slot. The trade off is more connectivity for a higher chassis operating temperature. The back of the card has four red lines sitting in some grooves with not much else going on however.

 

 

Two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors are required to power the 6870s although their power consumption is almost low enough to not need the second connector at all. These are located on the side opposite of the PCI Express slot, at the impeller end. A single CrossFire slot is installed on the 6800 cards as these are mid-range products. That slot is in its normal position.

 

 

Since the PowerColor 6870 is identical to the other two 6870s, there isn't much point in tearing it apart too. So, time to take a look at the new technologies behind these cards!

Closer Look:

With the beginning of a new product generation comes new technologies that the generation supports. Many of the new features are based on older technologies supported from the prior generations with a fresh take aimed at improving the end user experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyefinity Demo:

 

With the new 6000-series graphics cards, each can support up to six monitors for an Eyefinity setup. Gamers are no longer stuck with using only a single monitor for game play as the games can now be spanned across multiple monitors and can also make use of the new 3D technologies explained further towards the bottom. Multiple displays can be powered by a single connector with Eyefinity and the ultra-high bandwidth DisplayPort 1.2 Multi-Stream output capabilities with high quality audio also being transmissible. Below is a demonstration of a triple-monitor Eyefinity setup with several different game examples to view either a classic single monitor setup or the new Eyefinity triple-monitor experience.

 

 

Morphological Anti-Aliasing:

Morphological anti-aliasing is a post-process filter that is accelerated with DirectCompute 11 and is able to filter the entire scene. MLAA is faster than super-sampling with similar performance to the older CFAA while being applicable to all edges of the scene. MLAA is compatible with applications using Microsoft DirectX versions 9, 10 and 11. Anisotropic Filtering has also been updated with a new algorithm for smoother transitions between filter levels and to address visible discontinuities in textures. MLAA processing takes highly contrasting edges and blends them for a more seamless render.

 

 

Accelerated Parallel Processing

AMD is making a shift by changing the naming scheme away from ATI to unify the company with its CPUs and GPUs. The name Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) technology will replace the ATI Stream nomenclature in an effort to convey what it means more clearly. The core has been redesigned to improve efficiency and add new features and more power. OpenCL and DirectCompute 11 are both supported and help boost performance as well in certain applications that make use of these frameworks and allows the GPU to do parallel processing and non-GPU related tasks such as Physics calculations. Tessellation performance was focused on with the new design using an updated tessellation unit that can perform up to two times the 5000-series generation performance with adaptive capabilities to balance image quality and performance. Media playback and processing were also updated with a dedicated UVD 3.0 accelerator which provides decoding for Blu-ray 3D and DivX. AMD calls the combination of APP, UVD, OpenCL, and DirectCompute 11 "AMD EyeSpeed" technology.

 

HD3D technology

The 3D arena has been further expanded upon by AMD to support 3D Blu-ray playback with Stereoscopic 3D display/glasses and 3D Stereoscopic gaming and middleware support. Their goal is to increase flexibility and choices for 3D media, games, conversion and display technologies. Now users have several options available for a riveting 3D experience in games, movies and images.

 

With some of the new technologies debriefed, here it is time to take a look at the specifications and features of the graphics cards themselves.

Specifications:

Cards
Sapphire HD 6870
XFX HD 6870
XFX HD 6850
PowerColor HD 6870
Core Clock Speed
900MHz
900MHz
775MHz
900MHz
Stream Processors
1120
1120
960
1120
ROP Units
32
32
32
32
Texture Units
56
56
48
56
Transistors
1.7 Billion
1.7 Billion
1.7 Billion
1.7 Billion
Process
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
Memory Type
GDDR5
GDDR5
GDDR5
GDDR5
Memory Size
1GB
1GB
1GB
1GB
Memory Clock
1050MHz (4.2 GHz)
1050MHz (4.2 GHz)
1050MHz (4.2 GHz)
1050MHz (4.2 GHz)
Outputs
Dual miniDP, HDMI, Dual DVI
Dual miniDP, HDMI, Dual DVI
DP, HDMI, Dual DVI
Dual miniDP, HDMI, Dual DVI
Cooling Type
Blower Fan
Blower Fan
Heat Pipe Fan
Blower Fan

 

Features:

Microsoft DirectX® 11

AMD Eyefinity Technology

AMD Advanced Parallel Processing Technology

Advanced GDDR5 Memory Technology

AMD CrossFireXTM Technology

40nm Process Technology

Microsoft Windows 7® Support

Accelerated Video Transcoding

Display Flexibility

HDMI 1.4a

AMD PowerPlayTM Technology4

Enhanced Unified Video Decoder 3 (UVD 3)

Testing:

Testing of new AMD (Formerly ATI) Radeon HD 68XX series video cards will consist of running the cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where these card's performance stands. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea on how the cards perform relative to each other. The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel. I will test the card at stock speeds, then overclocked in order to see how much additional performance is available and to determine if it can run with the current fastest single GPU cards on the market. The drivers used in this test will be the 10.9 Catalyst drivers for the old ATI lineup, the latest launch driver for the HD 68XX series and 260.89 Forceware drivers from NVIDIA for the GTX 480, 470, 465 and GTX 460 and 450. Tests will be conducted at both stock and overclocked settings to gauge performance when an increase in clock speed is applied.

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking the HD 68XX series cards from Sapphire, XFX, and PowerColor was much the same as overclocking the AMD HD 5XXX series cards. By increasing clock speeds, performance gains in benchmarks are to be expected. To reach the maximum clock speeds on each card I used MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility to get the most from each card. The configuration file was modified to to allow clock speeds above what is listed in the AMD Catalyst Control Center, just in case I needed it. On the Sapphire card, I was able to reach 974MHz on the new Barts core and 1179MHz on the GDDR5 memory. That's an increase of only 8%, or 74Mhz, on the core and 129MHz, or close to 12%, on the memory - without any added cost. The XFX version of the HD 6870 did better on the core, but was slightly worse on the memory, at 1000Mhz on the core and 1166MHZ on the memory. These increases are roughly 11% on the GPU core and 10% on the memory. The PowerColor card was also able to achieve an 11% gain on the core speed, up from 900 MHz stock up to 1000 MHz overclocked. The memory was able to be pushed all the way to 1220 MHz from 1050 MHz stock for a gain of roughly 16%, the highest memory clock of the group. Last but certainly not least, the HD 6850 from XFX really was able to maximize the GPU clock speed from its original 775MHz to 972Mhz, just shy of a 200Mhz increase on the core. The memory seemed to fall right in the narrow window all of these cards fall into. While not has high as what the HD 5XXX series were capable of, the clock speeds are impressive enough to really push the performance envelope that one step further.

 

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

MSI's Kombuster utility was used to test stability and to put a constant load on the GPU, for the purposes of testing maximum power draw and temperatures. The stability test was used to find a range of settings that are stable.  The stable condition was determined through a 15 minute run at 1920 x 1200 8xAA. The reported clock speeds are those that proved stable over a 15 minute test at 1920 x 1200, 8x AA and the run through the benchmarks suite.

 

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Metro 2033
  3. Crysis Warhead
  4. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  5. Just Cause 2
  6. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0
  7. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  8. Resident Evil 5
  9. 3DMark 06 Professional
  10. 3DMark Vantage
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

 

The maximum clock speed graphs above show the overclocking potential of the all cards tested.

Testing:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation first person shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50 square kilometers of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The AMD HD 6870 cards from the three manufacturers are all reference cards and, as such, their performance characteristics will be almost mirror images when run at stock speeds. When you start ratcheting up the clock speeds, small differences in performance appear. In this game, the 6870 and 6850 both exceed the 5870 and 5850.  However, the HD 6850 is slower than the 6870 by a noticeable margin. But, to put both cards in perspective, the GTX 460 is performing with higher FPS.

Testing:

Part first person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA Physx and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied - in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses - chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The HD 68XX series from Sapphire, XFX and PowerColor show an increase in performance over the 58XX series at the higher resolutions.  The factory overclocked nature of the GTX 470 and GTX 460 maintains an advantage against the 68XX series. However, if you put them all on an even playing field and run at each card's maximum clock speed, then the 6870 and 6850 are stronger in the midrange than the GTX 460.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

So far, the HD 6870 cards are delivering surprisingly good performance when compared to their older cousins, the HD 58XX series cards.  The HD 6870's are delivering even or better results than the GTX 460 in this game.


 

Testing:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

At stock speeds the HD 6870's give the 5 Series cards a run for their money. Against the GTX 470 and GTX 460, the 6870 pulls ahead at 2560x1600, but is behind the 470 in the lower three resolutions. The 460 holds an edge in performance up until you reach 2560x1600.

Testing:

Just Cause 2 is a third-person shooter that takes place on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. In this sequel to 2006's Just Cause, you return as Agent Rico Rodriguez to overthrow an evil dictator and confront your former boss. When you don't feel like following the main story line, you're free to roam the island, pulling off crazy stunts and causing massive destruction in your wake, all beautifully rendered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0. In the end, that's what the game basically boils down to; crazy stunts and blowing things up. In fact, blowing things up and wreaking havoc is actually necessary to unlock new missions and items.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The HD 6870 still impresses and offers up great results when compared to the cards the competition.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.1 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes. Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and OpenGL. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

This test is fairly hard on each card and offers a significant workload. The HD6870 cards fall behind the the 5870 in three of the four resolutions. This differential shrinks as the resolution increases. The same can be said of the GTX 470/460 in this test, which shows the strength of the tessellation engines.


 

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein in the Joker and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to play your trade.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

The NVIDIA cards show stronger FPS performance in this game. This is also the first game that the 5870 and 5850 have really shown stronger results in more than one or two resolutions.

Testing:

Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield a survivor of the events at Raccoon City who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents, you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and a co-op gaming style.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

In this game, the 5870 is the stronger performer in the Single GPU category up to 1680x1050, for the AMD cards.   This continues to the higher resolutions, where the 5870 is still king of the AMD single GPU stack.  The NVIDIA GTX 470 and 460 show promise down low, but the 6870 is stronger at 1920 x 1200.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

When looking at the performance delivered by the 6870, we see that it falls right into the slot between the HD 5870 and HD 5850. Against the NVIDIA product lineup, the performance of the 6870 is right between the GTX 470 and GTX 460.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024 x 768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

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Higher = Better

 

In 3DMark Vantage, the Sapphire, XFX and PowerColor HD 6870 cards perform to their price point. Compared to these cards, the 5870 is faster while the HD 5850 is either slightly faster or slower depending on the resolution.

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using MSI Kombuster which is paired with MSI's afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using the stability test set to a resolution of 1920 x 1200 using 8xAA. I will use a 15 minute time frame to run the test ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the first test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for overclocking. The idle test will be a 20 minute cool down with the fan speeds left on automatic.

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Lower = Better

 

The cooling solution used on both types of 6800 series cards are heatpipe based cooling solutions that offer decent performance. There are some BIOS updates floating around for the HD 6850 to adjust the fan profiles on the card and lower the noise signature. The HD 6850 really was not the noise producing card even at full song. That honor goes to the HD 6870. Without specialized equipment I can only use my ears as a reference and the noise signature is worse than the HD 5870 and really any AMD reference cooler I have used. This one thing more than any other puts a crimp in the want for additional performance usually gained with a fan speed increase.

Testing:

Power Consumption of the system will be measured in both idle states and loaded states and will take into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use MSI Kombuster to load the GPU for a 15 minute test and use the peak load of the system as my result for the maximum load. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system.

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Lower = Better

 

The power consumption under load is markedly better than the HD 5870 and HD 5850. The lower power consumption and similar gaming performance shows an improvement in the power management of the architecture.

Conclusion:

One thing most people will have a hard time with is the fact that the 6870 and 6850 are not the replacements for the strong performing HD 5870 and HD 5850. These are cards that are meant to fit into a mid-range performance and price point whose introduction also ushers in support for new technologies such as Stereoscopic 3D, HDMI 1.4a and Display Port 1.2 and that offer up a host of display opportunities. You now have the ability to run Eyefinity setups without expensive adapters with a fairly inexpensive video card. The HD 68XX series are cards that target NVIDIA's GTX 460 and hit the mark on performance and price. The performance of the HD 6870 was actually better than I was expecting and shows that you can get excellent performance for a sub $250 price tag. All-in-all, the two series delivered excellent performance in the game testing by comparison to a stacked field.

After the stock testing was finished it was time to overclock each of these cards. What I found was that each one of the HD 6870 cards reached a limit at 1000Mhz or below. So really all I was able to realize was a maximum of about 100Mhz on the core and just over that on the memory on each of the HD 6870 cards. The HD 6850 on the other hand was able to give up close to 200Mhz on the core to bring the performance up a few notches. It may be that once the overclocking community gets their hands on them and tweaking utilities pick up the ability to make voltage adjustments, then we may see higher clock speeds. With the overclocking work, you have the temperatures you want to keep an eye on. On these cards the temperatures were well within limits and never really got out of hand. What did get out of hand was the fan noise of the HD 6870's blower fan. In the past I have railed on the noise these fans put out when ramped up and these cards did not in any way do anything to reduce the contempt I have for a blower fan. While yes they are effective, you really don't want the noise equivalent of a vacuum cleaner two to five feet from your head. If anything needs fixing on these cards this is the one thing. By reducing the physical size of the GPU, AMD has been able to reduce power consumption for these cards to a point that makes the use of less energy an attractive proposition. I think the Barts core must feel like the Six Million Dollar man, Better, stronger , Faster!

AMD has priced this line of video cards at an aggressive price point of $239 for the HD 6870 and $179 for the HD 6850. I think this may have struck a nerve with NVIDIA as the current price/performance stars in their DX 11 product stack, the GTX 460 and the GTX 470 both saw price drops today to the $259 and $199 price point respectively. With OC Versions (like the ones used in this review) of the GTX 460 and 470 popping up all over the place and deals to be had left and right from both camps, you will have a lot of choices to choose from. Looks like innovation and new technology is opening the doors for better consumer pricing!

Each of the cards we have looked at today offer great performance for a modest price. An upgrade from the 5800 series this card is not. But, for just about anything less, you can take a step up the ladder with these mid-range power houses!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: