Final Words

Going in to our first meeting with AMD, we weren’t quite sure what to expect with the Radeon HD 6800 series. After all, how do you follow up on the blockbuster that was Cypress and the Radeon HD 5800 series?

The answer is that you don’t, at least not right away. With AMD’s choice of names in mind, Barts and the 6800 series isn’t the true successor to Cypress; but it is the next generation of Radeon for another market. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great product line though – in fact that’s far from it.

The 6800 series hits the one market segment that AMD couldn’t reach with either the 5800 series or the 5700 series: the $200 market.  As we said back in July when we crowned the GTX 460 the $200 king, the most successful chips are those chips that are designed from the get-go for the market they’re being sold in. The GTX 460 succeeded where the Cypress could not, as the penalty for using a harvested Cypress chip for that market was too severe and AMD had little else to work with.

Now 3 months later AMD has their appropriate answer to the $200 market in the form of Barts and the Radeon HD 6800 series. The Barts GPU is small enough to cheaply produce for that market, and with AMD’s rebalanced design it’s capable of trailing the 5800 series by only 7%, making Cypress-like performance available for prices lower than before. It’s the missing link that AMD has needed to be competitive with the GTX 460.

As a result, even with NVIDIA’s latest round of price drops AMD has managed to dethrone the $200 king, and in the process is reshaping the competitive market only recently established by the GTX 460. With AMD and NVIDIA’s price stratification there are very few head-to-head matchups, but there are a few different situations that bear looking at.

At the top end we have the Mexican standoff between the recently price-reduced GTX 470, the newly released Radeon HD 6870, and the overclocked GTX 460 as represented by the EVGA GTX 460 1GB FTW. At $260 the GTX 470 is several percent faster than the 6870, and at only $20 more NVIDIA has done a good job pricing the card. If performance is your sole concern, than the GTX 470 is hard to beat at those prices – though we suspect NVIDIA isn’t happy about selling GF100 cards at such a low price.

Meanwhile if you care about a balance of performance and power/heat/noise, then it’s the 6870 versus the EVGA GTX 460; and the EVGA card wins in an unfair fight. As an overclocked card in a launch card article we’re not going to give it a nod, but we’re not going to ignore it; it’s 5% faster than the reference 6870 while at the same time it’s cooler and quieter (thanks in large part to the fact that it’s an open-air design). At least as long as it’s on the market (we have our doubts about how many suitable GPUs NVIDIA can produce), it’s hard to pass up even when faced with the 6870.

Without the EVGA card in the picture though, the 6870 is clearly sitting at a sweet spot in terms of price, performance, and noise. It’s faster than the 5850 while drawing only as much power and yet it’s still slightly quieter. Meanwhile it completely clobbers the reference clocked GTX 460 1GB in gaming performance, although with NVIDIA’s new prices and the $30 premium we would hope that this is the case. If nothing else the 6870 wins by default – NVIDIA doesn’t have a real product to put against it.

As for the Radeon HD 6850 however, things are much more lopsided in AMD’s favor. It’s give and take depending on the benchmark, but ultimately it’s just as fast as the GTX 460 1GB on average, even though it’s officially $20 cheaper. And at the same time it draws less power and produces less noise than the GTX 460 1GB. In fact unless the GTX 460 1GB was cheaper than the 6850, we really can’t come up with a reason to buy it. For all the advantage of an overclock when going up against the 6870, the stock clocked card has nothing on the 6850. Even the GTX 460 768MB, while $10-$20 cheaper than the 6850, still has to contend with the fact that the 6850 is almost 10% faster and only marginally louder.

In fact our only real concern is that while the reference 6850 is a great card, the XFX card is less so – XFX heavily prioritized temperatures over noise, and while this pays off with a load temperate even better than the GTX 460, it comes at the price of noise levels exceeding even the 6870. Shortly before publication we got a note from XFX that they’re going to work on releasing a BIOS with a less aggressive fan, which hopefully should resolve the issue. In the meantime we suggest checking back here next week, as we’ll have several custom 6850s arriving next week that we’ll be reviewing as part of a 6850 roundup.

Wrapping things up, we believe this will probably go down as being the most competitive card launch of the year. AMD and NVIDIA reposition themselves against each other with every launch, but by first launching the Radeon HD 6000 series against NVIDIA’s mid-to-high range GTX 460, AMD has gone head-first in to one of NVIDIA’s most prized markets, and NVIDIA is pushing right back. If you would have told us 3 months ago that we would have been able to get GTX 460 1GB performance for $180 only a couple months later, we likely would have called you mad, and yet here we are. The competitive market is alive and then some.

Ultimately this probably won’t go down in history as one of AMD’s strongest launches – there’s only so much you can do without a die shrink – but it’s still a welcome addition to the Radeon family. With a new generation of Radeon cards taking their foothold, we now can turn our eyes towards the future, and to see what AMD will be bringing us with the Radeon HD 6900 series and the Cayman GPU.

Power, Temperature, & Noise


View All Comments

  • Donkey2008 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Can you provide a link to your website so I can read your review of the cards? That would be awesome. Reply
  • Natfly - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Sure, right here: Reply
  • BlendMe - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    So you're telling me I can get two 6870 and spend lest money, use less power and have more performance than a GTX 480? I like the idea of going back to what made the 48xx cards so great. Small, cheap and expandable.

    Can't wait for the rest of the line up.
  • tpurves - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    how is it that the nvidia cards go UP in framerate when you increase the resolution from 1650 to 1920 and add 4xAA? Did you mix up some test run numbers? Reply
  • mapesdhs - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    It's a pity the charts don't include SLI results for the EVGA 460. I would like to have seen
    how close it came to 470 SLI, given the 470s inferior power, GPU load temp and noise
    results. The 470 GPU load temps under Crysis for just one card are particularly scary;
    the idea of using two 470s SLI, and even more so oc'ing them, seems like a recipe for
    thermal mayhem - alien astronomers with IR telescopes would wonder what the heck
    they've spotted. :D

    The price drop on the 470 is interesting, but the EVGA 460 still looks like a better buy
    because of the power/heat issues, especially so for those considering SLI (as I am),
    and also the fact that the EVGA is as good or better than the 6870. This graph is the
    one that interests me:

    The stock 460 SLI is clearly nowhere near as good as 6870 CF or 470 SLI, but given
    a single EVGA 460 matches the 6870, I'd really like to know how two EVGAs perform.
    Any chance you could add the data later?

    On the other hand, one could assume the 6870 should have some oc'ing headroom,
    but toms' review didn't show that much of a gain from oc'd 6870s.

    The 6870 here in the UK seems to be about 200 UKP (Aria, Scan), though the XFX
    version looks to be an exception (178 from Scan). The EVGA is 174 (Scan, but no
    stock yet). For those who don't want to spend that much, the 800MHz Palit Sonic
    Platinum 460 has dropped down to only 163 (last week it was 183). I almost bought
    two of the Palit cards last week, so I'm glad I waited.

    Obviously the pricing is all over the place atm, and likely to wobble all over again
    when the next 6xxxx cards are released. Either way, despite the lack of major
    performance increases atm, at least there's finally some pricing/value competition.
    I think I'll wait until the dust settles re pricing, then decide. Quite likely many others
    will do the same.

  • AtenRa - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Why did you run at 1920x1200 and not 1920x1080 ??

    most 1920x1200 monitors are extincted from the market and 1920x1080 is becoming the defacto resolution.
  • Lunyone - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Well with bowing down to nVidia on the selection of "what" GPU to use, you have lost all credibility in my eyes. Even Tom's Hardware took a higher road and agreed to use the "hand picked" GPU, but limited the clocks to near stock settings, so there was a more "real" world comparison. Who nows if this isn't the first time that this has happened at Anandtech. I notice no rebuttals on Anand's part, so I'm guessing that they are quite amazed that people are seeing how one sided this issue is. This article wouldn't affect my purchase, since I look a several sites to draw a conclusion from. But my confidence in quality and fair reporting from Anandtech's reviews have been compromised, IMHO. I don't know if I will put any merit to any on Anand's reviews, time will tell. Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Gee. You know whats all this about Anandtech losing credibility? Nvidia specifically asked them to test one card and the consumer benefits from having this information. Its not like anandtech didn't include the reference gtx460 as well. Anything that tells the consumer more about how valuable his dollar really is, is a good thing imo.

    I currently have an oced radeon 5850 and it annoyed the hell out of me trying to justify whether or not the extra 30 bucks I eventually ended up paying for it, was worth it. There weren't any reviews at the time you see...
  • SandmanWN - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    You can't gauge value of an overclocked card against a stock card. You have no idea what the other card can do. What you are saying is nonsense if you really put two seconds into thinking about what you just said. Reply
  • mindbomb - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    we are talking about factory oc'd cards.
    It's not like Anand was playing around in rivatuner.

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