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


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  • 529th - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    the marketers wanted to differentiate themselves from Nvidia, that's why they are using their second place cards to be in the same category as nvidias second place cards

    If you are shopping for a top of the line card you should know atleast a little bit about them although the un-educated video-card shopper would think that a 470 and 5870 or 6870 is on the SAME performance level, WHICH ISN'T TOO FAR FROM THE TRUTH, but I think it's here where AMD marketers are trying to make a statement

    i could be wrong, i have had very little sleep last night, cedar point was a blast!
  • SininStyle - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    Can I just say THANK YOU for adding a OC edition of the 460. Don't know why everyone is whining. If you don't want to know how an OC edition compares then ignore the stupid bench for it. Why is such a huge deal?
    I personally am glad they included it and this is why. The 460 1gb stock is 675mhz and can OC "reliably" to 850mhz.. That's 175mhz gain and its noticeable. Stock volt stock fan. And for those that wanna claim heat, mine shows 64c at 75% fan on OCCT. The 6870 get 50hz OC at stock volt/fan. SEE why this is important people? $180 vs $240 with same results.

    Now with volt changes I'm sure they both have room to go I'm not sure how much. I tend to shy away from higher voltages at least for now.

    The 6850 is the better buy between the 2 68xx cards. That has allot of headroom to OC. That would even be a better comparison to the 460 due to the price. And owning the 460 doesn't make me a fanboy and I will say you can flip a coin for value on these 2.

    So again thanks for the added information. Cant see why anyone would complain about more info. If you don't like the info ignore it if it makes you feel better. Feel free to add OCed 6850s and 6870s I look forward to the comparison.
  • Parhel - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    "The 460 1gb stock is 675mhz and can OC "reliably" to 850mhz"

    No, it absolutely cannot. the FTW card is a "golden sample" which is why there are so few available. Stock cooling on a stock card will not get you to 850Mhz with 24/7 reliability. You *might* get to 800Mhz, probably a bit less. That's a great value, IMO. If I were in the market at the moment, I'd pick a base model GTX 460 and OC it. Not arguing that point at all. But presenting this card in the 6870 launch article is a sham and major black eye to Anandtech's credibility.
  • rom0n - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    Is it possible to post the GPUZ of the HD6850. It seems there are numerous cases where HD6850 has 1120 sent out to reviewers. See If this happens to be one of them the results may be a little misleading. If not then it'll reaffirm the results.
  • GullLars - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    This means a 6870 with open-air fan optimized for noise will be my early winter solstice present for myself, togheter with the 4x C300 64GB i just got :D
    I went for a value-upgrade of my old rigg with P2x6 1090T, 8GB kingston value DDR3, and AM3 mobo with SB850, so once i get both the SSD in RAID-0 and the GPU, I'll be a happy camper (or rusher) <3
    It'll tide me over untill i can get Bulldozer or a next gen Intel (high end/workstation) around winter 2011/2012.
  • poohbear - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    "Apparently a small number of the AMD Radeon HD 6850 press samples shipped from AIB partners have a higher-than-expected number of stream processors enabled.

    This is because some AIBs used early engineering ASICs intended for board validation on their press samples. The use of these ASICs results in the incorrect number of stream processors. If you have an HD 6850 board sample from an AIB, please test using a utility such as GPU-z to determine the number of active stream processors. If that number is greater than 960, please contact us and we will work to have your board replaced with a production-level sample.

    All boards available in the market, as well as AMD-supplied media samples, have production-level GPUs with the correct 960 stream processors."

    so which one did Anandtech get? false marketing is such BS, just wanna be sure your benchmarks for the 6850 are reliable and we're not getting overrated benchmarks due to a cherry picked review sample.
  • lakrids - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    The review ended up looking like an advertisement for EVGA at page 7 and beyond. Why EVGA? Why not some other brand?
    Why include that brand at all? Just mark the card "GTX 460 OC'd 850MHz".

    At the very first benchmark: Crysis 2560x1600, you didn't include the reference GTX 460, you pitched the HD6870 against the EVGA overclocked version. EVGA here, EVGA there, EVGA everywhere.

    Would you blame me if I suspect you of being on EVGA's paycheck?
  • Lolimaster - Sunday, October 24, 2010 - link

    When I call you a Intel/Nvidia biased site I'm saying the truth. Are you reviewing the HD6000 or doins an EVGA product reviews.

    This is an insult.

    Nvidia will disappear like the dodo, just a bit more time and at that time all this sh1t will end.
  • SininStyle - Sunday, October 24, 2010 - link

    You do understand if Nvidia vanishes the price of GPUs goes through the roof right? Nvidia isnt going to vanish any earlier then Radeon. Saying either just translates into "Im a fanboy"

    Stop defending a sticker and start shopping price performance. Neither company would hesitate to rape your wallet if the other would allow it. Case in point look at the price of the 57xx and 58xx 2 months ago. Then look at the price of the same cards including the 68xx cards now. Any of these cards perform less then they did 2 months ago? But the price is a whole lot cheaper isnt it? Well you can thank the 460 for that. Competition results in better pricing for the same performance. You should be thanking Nvidia not hating them.
  • Super_Herb - Sunday, October 24, 2010 - link

    I love it - "as a matter of policy we do not include overclocked cards on general reviews"..........but this time nVidia said pretty please so we did. But because our strict ethical policy doesn't allow us to include them we'll just tell you we did it this one special time because a manufacturer specifically sent us a special card and then our integrity is still 100% intact......right? Besides, the "special" card nVidia sent us was so shiny and pretty!

    Back to [H]ard to get the real story.

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