AMD’s Radeon HD 6870 & 6850: Renewing Competition in the Mid-Range Marketby Ryan Smith on October 21, 2010 10:08 PM EST
All things considered, the Radeon HD 5000 series has gone very well for AMD. When they launched it just over a year ago, they beat NVIDIA to the punch by nearly 6 months and enjoyed a solid term as the kings of the GPU world, with halo parts like the 5870 and 5970 giving them renewed exposure at the high-end of the market while mainstream products like the 5670 redefining the HTPC. Ultimately all good things come to an end though, and as NVIDIA has launched the GeForce 400 series AMD has needed to give up the single-GPU halo and lower prices in order to remain competitive.
But if spring is a period of renewal for NVIDIA, then it’s fall that’s AMD’s chance for renewal. Long before Cypress and the 5000 series even launched, AMD’s engineers had been hard at work at what would follow Cypress. Now a year after Cypress we get to meet the first GPU of the next Radeon family: Barts. With it comes the Radeon HD 6800 series, the culmination of what AMD has learned since designing and launching the 5800 series. AMD may not have a new process to produce chips on this year, but as we’ll see they definitely haven’t run out of ideas or ways to improve their efficiency on the 40nm process.
|AMD Radeon HD 6870||AMD Radeon HD 6850||AMD Radeon HD 5870||AMD Radeon HD 5850||AMD Radeon HD 4870|
|Memory Clock||1.05GHz (4.2GHz effective) GDDR5||1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5||1.2GHz (4.8GHz effective) GDDR5||1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5||900MHz (3600MHz effective) GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||256-bit||256-bit||256-bit||256-bit||256-bit|
|Manufacturing Process||TSMC 40nm||TSMC 40nm||TSMC 40nm||TSMC 40nm||TSMC 55nm|
Launching today are the first two members of AMD’s HD 6000 series. At the top end we have the Radeon HD 6870, a card utilizing a full-fledged version of AMD’s new Barts GPU. The core clock runs at 900MHz, which is driving 32 ROPs and 1120 SPs. Attached to that is 1GB of GDDR5 running at 4.2GHz effective. AMD puts the load TDP at 151W (the same as the Radeon HD 5850) and the idle TDP at 19W, lower than the last generation parts.
Below that is the Radeon HD 6850, which in the long history of 50-parts is utilizing a harvested version of the Barts GPU, which along with a lower load voltage make the card the low-power member of the 6800 family. The 6850 runs at 775MHz and is attached to 960SPs. Like 6870 it has 1GB of GDDR5, this time running at 4GHz effective. With its lower power consumption its load TDP is 127W, and its idle TDP is unchanged from 6870 at 19W.
The Barts GPU at the heart of these cards is the first GPU of AMD’s Northern Islands family. We’ll dive more in to its architecture later, but for now it’s easiest to call it a Cypress derivative. Contrary to the (many) early rumors, it’s still using the same VLIW5 design, cache hierarchy, and ROPs as Cypress. There are some very notable changes compared to Cypress, but except for tessellation these are more about quality and features than it is about performance.
Compared to Cypress, Barts is a notably smaller GPU. It’s still made on TSMC’s finally-mature 40nm process, but compared to Cypress AMD has shaved off 450 million transistors, bringing the die size down from 334mm2 to 255mm2. Much of this is achieved through a reduction in the SIMD count, but as we’ll see when we talk about architecture, it’s one of many tricks. As a result of AMD’s efforts, Barts at 255mm2 is right in the middle of what AMD considers their sweet spot. As you may recall from the 5870/Cypress launch, Cypress missed the sweet spot in the name of features and performance, which made it a powerful chip but also made it more expensive to produce (and harder to fabricate) than AMD would have liked. Barts is a return to the sweet spot, and more generally a return to the structure AMD operated on with the 4800 series.
With a focus on the sweet spot, it should come as no surprise that AMD is also focusing on costs and pricing. Realistically the 6800 series composes a lower tier of cards than the 5800 series – the performance is a bit lower, and so is the pricing. With a smaller GPU, cheaper GDDR5, and cheaper/fewer components, AMD is able to practically drive some members of the 6800 series down below $200, something that wasn’t possible with Cypress.
For today’s launch AMD is pricing the Radeon HD 6870 at $239, and the Radeon HD 6850 at $179. This is a hard launch, and boards should be available by the time you’re reading this article (or shortly thereafter). The launch quantities are, as AMD puts it, in the “tens of thousands” for the entire 6800 series. Unfortunately they are not providing a breakdown based on card, so we don’t have a solid idea of how much of each card will be available. We do know that all the initial 6870 cards are going to be relabeled reference cards, while the 6850 is launching with a number of custom designs – and in fact a reference 6850 may be hard to come by. We believe this is a sign that most of the card supply will be 6850s with far fewer 6870s being on the market, but this isn’t something we can back up with numbers. Tens of thousands of units may also mean that all the cards are in short supply, as cheaper cards have a tendency to fly off the shelves even faster than expensive cards – and the 5800 series certainly set a record there.
The rest of AMD’s products remain unchanged. The 5700 continues as-is, while the 5800 will be entering its twilight weeks. We’re seeing prices on the cards come down a bit, particularly on the 5850 which is caught between the 6800 cards in performance, but officially AMD isn’t changing the 5800 series pricing. Even with that, AMD expects the remaining card supply to only last through the end of the year.
Countering AMD’s launch, NVIDIA has repriced their own cards. The GTX 460 768MB stays at $169, while the GTX 460 1GB will be coming down to $199, and the GTX 470 is coming down to a mind-boggling $259 (GF100 is not a cheap chip to make, folks!). NVIDIA is also banking on factory overclocked GTX 460 1GB cards, which we’ll get to in a bit. Seeing as how AMD delivered a rude surprise for NVIDIA when they dropped the price of the 5770 series ahead of the GTS 450 launch last month, NVIDIA is a least trying to return the favor.
Ultimately this means we’re looking at staggered pricing. NVIDIA and AMD do not have any products that are directly competing at the same price points: at every $20 you’re looking at switching between AMD and NVIDIA.
|October 2010 Video Card MSRPs|
||$240||Radeon HD 6870|
||$180||Radeon HD 6850|
|$130||Radeon HD 5770|
|$80||Radeon HD 5670/5570|
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Quidam67 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkWell that's odd.
After reading about the EVGA FTW, and its mind-boggling factory overclock, I went looking to see if I could pick one of these up in New Zealand.
Seems you can, or maybe not. As per this example http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=32... the clocks are 763Mhz and 3.8 on the memory?!?
What gives, how can EVGA give the same name to a card and then have different specifications on it? So good thing I checked the fine-print or else I would have been bumbed out if I'd bought it and then realised it wasn't clocked like I thought it would be..
Murolith - Friday, October 29, 2010 - linkSo..how about that update in the review checking out the quality/speed of MLAA?
CptChris - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - linkAs the cards were compared to the OC nVidia card I would be interested in seeing how the 6800 series also compares to a card like the Sapphire HD5850 2GB Toxic Edition. I know it is literally twice the price as the HD6850 but would it be enough of a performance margin to be worth the price difference?
gochichi - Thursday, November 4, 2010 - linkYou know, maybe I hang in the wrong circles but I by far keep up to date on GPUs more than anyone I know. Not only that, but I am eager to update my stuff if it's reasonable. I want it to be reasonable so badly because I simply love computer hardware (more than games per say, or as much as the games... it's about hardware for me in and of itself).
Not getting to my point fast enough. I purchased a Radeon 3870 at Best Buy (Best Buy had an oddly good deal on these at the time, Best Buy doesn't tend to keep competitive prices on video cards at all for some reason). 10 days later (so I returned my 3870 at the store) I purchased a 4850, and wow, what a difference it made. The thing of it is, the 3870 played COD 4 like a champ, the 4850 was ridiculously better but I was already satisfied.
In any case, the naming... the 3870 was no more than $200.00 I think it was $150.00. And it played COD4 on 24" 1900x1200 monitor with a few settings not maxed out, and played it so well. The 4850 allowed me to max out my settings. Crysis sucked, crysis still sucks and crysis is still a playable benchmark. Not to say I don't look at it as a benchmark. The 4850 on the week of its release was $199.99 at Best Buy.
Then gosh oh golly there was the 4870 and the 4890, which simply took up too much power... I am simply unwilling to buy a card that uses more than one extra 6-pin connector just so I can go out of my way to find something that runs better. So far, my 4850 has left me wanting more in GTA IV, (notice again how it comes down to hardware having to overcome bad programming, the 4850 is fast enough for 1080p but it's not a very well ported game so I have to defer to better hardware). You can stop counting the ways my 4850 has left me wanting more at 1900 x 1200. I suppose maxing out Starcraft II would be nice also.
Well, then came out the 5850, finally a card that would eclipse my 4850... but oh wait, though the moniker was the same (3850 = so awesome, so affordable, the 4850 = so awesome, so affordable, the 5850 = two 6-pin connectors, so expensive, so high end) it was completely out of line with what I had come to expect. The 4850 stood without a successor. Remember here that I was going from 3870 to 4850, same price range, way better performance. Then came the 5770, and it was marginally faster but just not enough change to merit a frivolous upgrade.
Now, my "need" to upgrade is as frivolous as ever, but finally, a return to sanity with the *850 moniker standing for fast, and midrange. I am a *850 kind of guy through and through, I don't want crazy power consumption, I don't want to be able to buy a whole, really good computer for the price of just a video card.
So, anyhow, that's my long story basically... that the strange and utterly upsetting name was the 5850, the 6850 is actually right in line with what the naming should have always staid as. I wouldn't know why the heck AMD tossed a curve ball for me via the 5850, but I will tell you that it's been a really long time coming to get a true successor in the $200 and under range.
You know, around the time of the 9800GT and the 4850, you actually heard people talk about buying video cards while out with friends. The games don't demand much more than that... so $500 cards that double their performance is just silly silly stuff and people would rather buy an awesome phone, an iPad, etc. etc. etc.
So anyhow, enough of my rambling, I reckon I'll be silly and get the true successor to my 4850... though I am assured that my Q6600 isn't up to par for Starcraft II... oh well.
rag2214 - Sunday, November 7, 2010 - linkThe 6800 series my not beat the 5870 yet but it is the start of the HDMI 1.4 for 3dHD not available in any other ATI graphics cards.
Philip46 - Monday, November 15, 2010 - linkThe review stated why was there a reson to buy a 460(not OC'ed).
How about benchmarks of games using Physx?
For instance Mafia 2 hits 32fps @ 1080p(I7-930 cpu) when using Physx on high, while the 5870 manages only 16.5fps, while i tested both cards.
How about a GTA:IV benchmark?, because the Zotac 2GB GTX 460, runs the game more smoothly(the same avg fps, except the min fps on the 5850 are lower in the daytime) then the 5850 (2GB).
How about even a Far Cry 2 benchmark?
Co'me on anandtech!, lets get some real benchmarks that cover all aspects of gaming features.
How about adding in driver stability? Ect..
And before anyone calls me biased, i had both the Zotac GTX 460 and Saffire 5850 2GB a couple weeks back, and overall i went with the Zotac 460, and i play Crysis/Stalker/GTA IV/Mafia 2/Far Cry 2..ect @ 1080p, and the 460 just played them all more stable..even if Crysis/Stalker were some 10% faster on the 5850.
BTW: Bad move by anandtech to include the 460 FTC !
animekenji - Saturday, December 25, 2010 - linkBarts is the replacement for Juniper, NOT Cypress. Cayman is the replacement for Cypress. If you're going to do a comparison to the previous generation, then at least compare it to the right card. HD6850 replaces HD5750. HD6870 replaces HD5770. HD6970 replaces HD5870. You're giving people the false impression that AMD knocked performance down with the new cards instead of up when HD6800 vastly outperforms HD5700 and HD6900 vastly outperforms HD5800. Stop drinking the green kool-aid, Anandtech.