Sapphire HD 6850 Toxic Review

ccokeman - 2009-04-24 14:51:12 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: November 15, 2010
Price: $219

Introduction:

Just a few short weeks ago, the HD 68XX series video cards from AMD and its partners came rolling out of the warehouses to consumers and hit a new price/performance point that seemed to fit the holes in the market strategy of AMD. While the reference cards delivered great performance for their price point you had to wonder what was coming up next with the factory overclocked models. I have already looked at a few and they all have improved clock speeds and better cooling that translates into better performance for the gamer in you! We did not get a look at Sapphire's reference model but the wait for its Toxic Edition is finally over. The Toxic Edition HD 6850 is a card that differs from the reference card in may ways. You get a custom PCB with a four phase digital power circuit, improved cooling solution and higher clock speeds. The reference design cards come with clock speeds of 775MHz on the 40nm 1.7 billion transistor core and 1050MHz on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The Toxic Edition has that covered and more with a 45MHz jump on the core and 50MHz bump on the memory to 1100MHz, giving the gamer in you more performance for your dollar. Add to that the availability of Sapphire's TRIXX overclocking utility and you have a combination that has some serious overclocking potential. Let's see if the Toxic HD 6850 lives up to the Sapphire Toxic Edition series performance legend.

Closer Look:

The outer packaging that I received is different than the retail box so I will show the rendering of the Toxic packaging. The front cover has a shadowy figure on the front holding a crystal ball. The technologies this card employs are listed underneath the image and include DirectX 11, HDMI 1.4a, Crossfire Technology, Display Port 1.2 and AMD Eyefinity technology. The rear of the packaging from Sapphire normally expands on the information on the front so that should be what you see when you receive your card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the outer sleeve, which is great for distinguishing itself on store shelves, you have the inner packaging that consists of a cardboard box that is made with recycled materials. Inside this box you have the HD 6850 Toxic edition card in an anti static bubble wrap bag in a formed cardboard housing. Under this is a separate box for the substantial bundle of accessories.

 

 

Sapphire has included a pretty large accessory bundle with this card. That is really the norm from Sapphire though, so no surprises there. What you get is the documentation that consists of the driver disc, a manual and registration card for Sapphire's Select club that does not cost anything to join. The hardware part of the bundle includes the Crossfire Interconnect Cable, a DVI to VGA Adaptor, two six pin to four pin power cables, a Mini DP to DP Adapter and an HDMI 1.4a 1.8 meter cable so you can use this card as part of your home theater or media center PC.

 

 

Now let's take a look at the card and find out what makes it a Toxic Edition card.

Closer Look:

The Toxic Edition cards from Sapphire always deliver on the promise of performance and more importantly, offer up some distinct cooling and overclocking additions that separate it from the rest of the crowd. This card measures 9.5 inches in length so fitting this card into a smaller chassis should present no problems. This card is designed to be used in a PCI-E 2.1 x16 slot, but is of course backwards compatible. From the front view, the card features the unique Toxic Edition artwork on the shroud. This card uses a blower reference style fan in lieu of a more elaborate design, which is a surprise for this series. The back of the PCB is covered with surface mount components and the bracket to hold the cooling solution against the core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connectivity on the Toxic HD 6850 mirrors the reference version with the use of two DVI ports (one of which is Dual Link capable) an HDMI port that supports HDMI 1.4a and a pair of Display Port 1.2 ports that will allow support of up to four monitors or daisy chaining even more once the drivers are out. The exhaust for the card exits the card through the I/O panel instead of being blown back into the chassis. The back end of the card contains just the power connector for the fan.

 

 

On the top of the Toxic Edition 6850 you have a couple of items of note. The first is the Crossfire bridge connection that lets you hook up one other card in a two card Crossfire setup. Why only a two card setup? Much like the other cards in the 6800 lineup, this series is for the mid-range and not the enthusiast, so only a two card configuration is supported. The power connections for this card are a step away from the reference design with the inclusion of a second 6-pin power supply port to provide the card with up to 225 watts. A 400 watt or greater power supply is recommended.

 

 

To get at the cooler, memory and core you have to take the shroud off and remove the cooler from the card.This is done by releasing a few tabs around the perimeter of the card and lifting the shroud away. Underneath is a full cover aluminum block that handles moving the heat from the components on the PCB, including the MOSFETs and memory. Over the power circuit there is a finned section of this block that uses the airflow from the fan to provide additional cooling to the board components. The heat sink for the core is a three heat pipe based solution that uses a copper base and heat pipes that run into the fin array.

 

 

 

The heat sink is smaller than I would have imagined for this card, but despite its diminutive size, it does keep the core temperatures in check when using the voltage tweaking tool in Sapphire's TRIXX utility. The base is copper with three copper heat pipes carrying the thermal load from the base to the fin array to be carried by the airflow out the back of the card and out of the chassis.

 

 

Once you are down to the PCB level, the major components left to discuss include the Barts core and GDDR5 memory. The Barts core on the Toxic HD 6850 is built using a 40nm build process and houses 1.7 billion transistors. Inside you have 960 streaming (APP) processors, 48 texture units, 32 ROP units and a single tessellation unit. For memory, you get 1GB of Hynix GDDR5 memory running through a 256-bit memory interface. Clock speeds on this card get a boost on both the memory and core to the tune of 820MHz on the core and 1100MHz (4400MHz effective) for an out-of-the-box performance increase.

 

 

All initial impressions lead to the Sapphire Toxic Edition HD 6850 being a performer.

Specifications:

SKU
11180-03
ASIC
Radeon HD 6850
Bus Interface
PCI-E x16 (PCI-E 2.1)
Memory
1024MB / 256-bit GDDR5
Clock Speed
820MHz Eclk / Effective 4400 MHz Mclk
Cooling System
Dual Slot Fan Cooler, Blower Design
Bracket
Full Height
Display Support
DL-DVI-I
SL-DVI-D
Mini Display Port x 2
HDMI
VGA (Via included adaptor)
HDCP
Yes
Crossfire Support
Native Hardware Crossfire
External Power
PCIe Graphic External 2 x 6 pin
Accessories
Crossfire Interconnect Cable x 1
DVI to VGA Adaptor x 1
6 PIN to 4 PIN Power Cable x 2
Mini DP to DP Adapter x 1
HDMI 1.4a 1.8 meter cable x 1
Software
Driver CD
SAPPHIRE TriXX OC Utility*

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of Sapphire Technology @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=1&leg=&psn=000101&gid=3&sgid=1037

Testing:

Testing of the HD 6850 Toxic Overclocked Edition video card from Sapphire will consist of running it and comparison 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 it falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea of 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 10.10 Catalyst drivers for AMD and the 260.89 Forceware drivers from NVIDIA for all cards save the GTX 580. Tests will be conducted at both stock and overclocked settings to gauge performance when an increase in clock speed is applied. There is a change in how our graphs are now setup with the card being tested highlighted in RED for AMD Radeon products and GREEN for NVIDIA based video cards. As our tests are very comprehensive, we hope this makes it a little bit easier to pick them out of the crowd. The cards are placed in order from highest to lowest performing.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

When I pulled the Sapphire Toxic Edition HD 6850 out of the packaging and saw the dual six pin PCIe power connectors I was looking for big numbers when it came to the overclocking portion of the testing. I was not disappointed with the results I was able to pull out of this card using Sapphire's own overclocking utility called TRIXX. This utility is not as expansive as Rivatuner or Afterburner but it gets the job done. By ramping up the clock speeds starting from the baseline of 820/1100Mhz, I was able to push the core up over 1GHz to 1010MHz. The same limit I have reached on a couple of other cards. While I can run a bit higher for single benchmark runs of 3Dmark Vantage, this is not a realistic representation of what it can do full time on most games. This limit is a game stable limit that runs through the entire test suite from top to bottom, not just a one time run through a single benchmark.

This increase on the core represents a 190Mhz or just over 23% increase for the core. The 1GB of GDDR5 memory is overclocked by 100MHz right from the manufacturer for increased performance but there was still some headroom left. The final memory clocks came in at 1206Mhz or 106Mhz, just under 10% over what Sapphire has programmed the Toxic Edition to run at. When you look at the headroom that Sapphire leaves for the enthusiast, I found this card to be the highest clocking HD 6850 I have tested so far. Not by much but the clocks are there.

 

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 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 2.1
  7. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  8. Resident Evil 5
  9. 3DMark 06 Professional
  10. 3DMark Vantage
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

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

 

In Far Cry 2 the HD 6850 Toxic easily delivers the performance of the HD 5850 (and then some) across all eight tests.

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 factory overclock allows the Toxic to deliver performance similar to the HD 6870. When overclocked, the performance scales nicely delivering over 30 FPS at 1920 x 1200.

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

 

At stock speeds, the Toxic HD 6850 from Sapphire delivers performance just below that of the GTX 460 FTW with the table turning once each card reaches the maximum overclock where the Toxic is faster in all four resolutions.

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

 

The GTX 460 is markedly faster in this game than the HD 6850 Toxic. The Toxic HD 6850 is slightly faster at the maximum overclock than the HD 5850 Toxic.

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

 

At stock speeds, the GTX 460 FTW is faster at 1280 x 1024 and 1680 x 1050. At higher resolutions and when overclocked, the Toxic HD 6850 is the faster video card.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0 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

 

With the HD 6850 Toxic you get performance equal to the HD 5850 Toxic until you hit 2560 x 1600. Against the GTX 460, the Toxic falls short in this test.

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 ply your trade.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

In Batman, the performance of the factory overclocked HD 6850 Toxic gets close to the HD 6870 and is on par with (or faster than) the HD 5850. Overclocking the core up over 1Ghz pays dividends in FPS.

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

 

The Toxic HD 6850 is slower than the GTX 460 in the lower resolutions but clawed ahead once it reached 1920 x 1200 overclocked and 2560 x 1600 at stock clocks.

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

 

The results in 3DMark06 mirror those of Resident Evil 5 when it comes to how the Toxic HD 6850 and GTX 460 are scoring with the Toxic HD 6850 being stronger at the top end.

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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

   

   

Higher = Better

 

In 3DMark Vantage the Toxic HD 6860 compares more favorably with the GTX 465 than the GTX 460. Its performance is above that of the stock clocked HD 6850.

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 timeframe 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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

Lower = Better

 

The temperatures delivered by the HD 6850 Toxic Edition from Sapphire are slightly higher than the XFX HD 6850 when overclocked and 10 degrees higher when the driver controls the fan's speeds.

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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

   

Lower = Better

 

When overvolted, the Sapphire HD 6850 Toxic pulls more current than the standard XFX HD 6850.

Conclusion:

The Toxic Edition video cards from Sapphire have always had that extra something special that sets them apart from the crowd. That something is usually a deviation from the reference design, which includes PCB improvements as well as better component and cooling selections. Add to that the increased clock speeds and you have a card that provides performance above that of its AMD competitor's reference designs. That really is the goal with a factory overclocked video card anyways, now isn't it? To provide a point of difference that drives the consumer to one brand over the other is the goal. The Toxic Edition card looks good and is larger than the reference design but is still a manageable size at 9.5 inches in length. It kicks all of the hot air outside the chassis so you don't have to worry about heating up the air inside your case any higher than it already happens to be. The temperatures delivered by the Toxic HD 6850 were not as cool as I would have liked but well within the thermal boundaries at 77C under load when the driver controls the fan speed, and 66 degrees Celsius when overclocked and the core is overvolted to 1.3v. The blower fan is far from being as noisy as the reference HD 6870 but is noticeable when you ramp the speed up to 100%. There is a fine line where the benefits of the fan speed are outweighed by the noise penalty but that really all comes down to personal preference and is really subjective. So I will leave that up to the end user but at 72~73% of max RPM, noise versus cooling efficiency is a fair trade off.

When it comes down to overclocking, you have a video card in the HD 6850 Toxic Edition that already sports clock speeds above the factory set clock speeds for the Barts core and 1GB of memory at 820/1100MHz. If that's not enough, Sapphire provides its TRIXX utility to Sapphire Select Club members at no charge so you have a Sapphire specific utility to get the most out of your video card. By using this utility I was able to push the Toxic HD 6850 up over 1GHz (1010MHz) on the core and over 1200MHz (1206MHz) on the GDDR5 memory for some nice gains in performance. While I see reviews all over the Internet with higher clock speeds than what I normally get, the numbers I post are fully stable clock speeds that are able to pass through the entire gaming suite instead of just a run through one of Futuremark's fine benchmarks. In fact, I forgot and left this card in overclocked mode in the Unigine Heaven Bechmark while out shopping with the wife and returned ten hours later expecting a crash but found it happily chugging away! TRIXX are not just for kids anymore!

 

Pros:

Cons: