XFX HD 6850 Black Edition Reviewccokeman - November 11, 2010
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The XFX HD 6850 Black edition is a card that features a custom PCB and higher end components than what the reference design uses. It features solid capacitors, DR.MOSFETs, covered Ferrite chokes, digital PWM circuitry and a 2oz copper layer PCB so that you can be assured of a card that has components that operate at cooler temperatures and operate more efficiently than traditional components. This should help increase the lifespan of the card even in its factory-overclocked state. Black Edition card are factory-overclocked cards from XFX that come with a lifetime warranty in case the unthinkable happens. The front of the card mirrors the pre-production packaging and looks like the standard HD 6850, but that will change for the retail version. The card is meant to be used in a 16x PCIe 2.1 slot, but is backwards compatible for earlier motherboards. The rear of the card is typical of cards with 1GB of on board memory, with only the bracket securing the heat sink and surface mount components taking up residence. The top of the shroud is full of ventilation holes that allow the heat sink to breathe.
Connectivity options for this card include two DVI ports, one of which is a single link design, while the other is s Dual Link capable port, a single Mini HDMI port that supports HDMI 1.4a, and a single full size Display Port 1.2 port in lieu of the two mini DP ports used on the reference versions of the HD 6850. This still allows you to run an Eyefinity setup using the correct adapters. The backplate has the XFX logo instead of the normal slots seen for ventilation. This looks like there is more surface area available for the air to flow through, helping cooling. The back end of the card is full of ventilation holes again for allowing this card to breathe and discharge the thermal energy expended by the GPU core into the Vapor Chamber based cooling solution. Also on the back end of the card is the 6-pin PCIe power connection. The 6800 series are not the top of the line enthusiast cards but mid range and as such they only support a two-card configuration as evidenced by the single Crossfire bridge connection.
The cooling solution used on the XFX HD 6850 Black Edition card is different from the heatpipe based solution used on the stock (Well not so stock) XFX HD 6850 in that it uses a Vapor Chamber based cooling solution. Sapphire has been using this solution on their cards for sometime and now AMD started using it on the HD 5970. The solution used by XFX fits under the shroud over the front of the card and from the outside it would be difficult to tell the heat pipe and Vapor Chamber equipped cards apart. That's the reason for the shroud needing to come off - so we can take a look at its implementation. The cooling solution is circular in design with a center mounted 80mm fan that pushed close to 52CFM at full speed with a noise penalty of 50dB max. The copper Vapor chamber is 50 x 63 x 3.5mm in size with a total of 40 grams of copper used in its construction. The MOSFETs for the power circuit of the card are covered with an aluminum heat sink that uses the airflow from the heat sink to keep this part of the circuit cool. In front of the aluminum heat sink you see the fully covered ferrite chokes and solid capacitors that help this card run cooler and more efficiently.
The Black Edition HD 6850 is built using a 40nm build process. The HD 6850 uses a total of 960 Accelerated Parallel Processors, has 48 texture units, has 32 ROP units and features 1GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 256-bit bus. Base clock speeds for the HD 6850 are 775Mhz on the core and 1000Mhz on the memory, but the Black edition sees a steep 75Mhz bump in the core speed to 850Mhz and a bump to 1100MHz on the memory. The Memory ICs used on the Black Edition card are the same Hynix H5G01H24AFR-T2C modules used on the last couple HD 6800 series cards that I have looked at and are rated for operation at 1250Mhz.
Let's see how well this Black Edition fares when put against the competition and see where it falls on the performance ladder.