ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU OC Edition Reviewccokeman -
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The EAH6850 DirectCU Overclock Edition video card is another example of ASUS's commitment to the end user to put together a complete package that can satisfy the needs of the overclocker and enthusiast. ASUS Extreme Design philosophy is putting their engineering out front showing why the product they deliver is better than the competition's. Things such as improving the structural design with ASUS GPU Guard that helps prevent board flex and cracking of the PCB and traces when larger heatsinks (the one used on this card is a prime example) are used. ASUS EMI shield is another of these small unrecognized differences that reduces the amount of EMI interference in the outgoing signal for a clearer image. Then of course the cooling solution that helps keep the VRM circuits as well as the graphics core cool. All these things add up to points of difference.
When it comes to performance, the EAH6850 DirectCU showed improved frames per second performance over the reference clocked HD 6850 as it should have. It even gave the HD 5850 and GTX 465 a run for the money in many of the tests. With a name that includes Overclocked Edition you have to believe that ASUS took the time to make sure the card overclocked well. And it did. With the large DirectCU dual heat pipe based heat sink, ASUS has equipped the card with better than stock cooling to allow for some spirited overclocking. I was able to overclock the core by almost 25% and the memory 18% (on this card in particular) by using ASUS's Smart Doctor utility to reach the final clock speeds of 983/1184Mhz. The ASUS overclocking utility has monitoring functionality as well as the ability to push the voltage envelope higher than the currently available utilities. Again, a point of difference at 1.35v versus 1.30v. Overclocking the EAH6850 resulted in measurable improvements in gaming performance so even if you don't take full advantage of the card's capabilities you can still see improved performance.
The EAH6850 is equipped with a large non-reference cooler that runs quieter than the blower style reference cooler by a wide margin. At stock speeds and voltages the DirectCU cooling solution is one of the coolest in the comparison field at 63 degrees Celsius. It achieves this level of cooling with the moderately sized fin array and dual direct contact heat pipe design of the cooler. People's opinions of cool differ widely but I found as the voltages and clock speeds were ramped up the cooler was less capable, exhibiting a load temperature of 81 degrees Celsius, approaching the level of the Fermi based powerhouses. Any higher on the voltage than 1.265v and the cooling was a bit overwhelmed with temperatures shooting even faster up to 81 Celsius. In my opinion, 81 Celsius is warm but I'm sure there are graphics cards sitting in small cases with no airflow running much hotter. It's just that cooler temperatures are better for long term stability and component life. Even though the temperatures climbed a little high when overclocked, the noise from the EAH6850 is worlds better than the reference design blower style fan.
With all that being said, the EAH6850 DirectCU is a more than capable video card that fits right into the sub $200 price point (at $199 online). Although up $20 from the reference $179 price point the HD 6850 was initially offered at, the ASUS-added features of this card make it $20 well spent. Features such as improved cooling, lower noise and the ability to use all of the latest AMD specific technologies such as Eyefinity, 3D Stereoscopic gaming support, CrossfireX support, HDMI 1.4a, Display Port 1.2 and performance that rivals the performance of the HD 5850 and GTX 465 all add up to way more than $20 in value - in my opinion. The 6850 is not meant to fill the performance shoes of the HD5850 but it does a fine job of making it happen in the resolutions that this card will most often be used when displaying images on 22 to 24 inch monitors.
- Factory Overclocked
- ASUS Features
- Quiet cooling
- Eyefinity Support
- Crossfire Support
- Efficient cooling at stock and mild overclocks
- Smart Doctor Voltage Tweaking
- Cooling overwelmed at higher voltages