NVIDIA’s 6870 Competitor & the Test

As we mentioned on the front page of this article, AMD and NVIDIA don’t officially have competing products at the same price points. The 6870 and 6850 are more expensive than the GTX 460 1GB and 768MB respectively, and above the 6870 is the GTX 470. However NVIDIA is particularly keen to have a competitor to the 6870 that isn’t a GTX 470, and so they’re pushing a 2nd option: a factory overclocked GTX 460 1GB.

As a matter of editorial policy we do not include overclocked cards on general reviews. As a product, reference cards will continue to be produced for quite a while, with good products continuing on for years. Overclocked cards on the other hand come and go depending on market conditions, and even worse no two overclocked cards are alike. If we did normally include overclocked cards, our charts would be full of cards that are only different by 5MHz.

However with the 6800 launch NVIDIA is pushing the overclocked GTX 460 option far harder than we’ve seen them push overclocked cards in the past –we had an EVGA GTX 460 1GB FTW on our doorstep before we were even back from Los Angeles. Given how well the GTX 460 overclocks and how many heavily overclocked cards there are on the market, we believe there is at least some merit to NVIDIA’s arguments, so in this case we went ahead and included the EVGA card in our review. As a reference point it's clocked at 850Mhz and 4GHz memory versus 675MHz core and 3.6MHz memory for a stock GTX 460, giving it a massive 26% core overclock and a much more moderate 11% memory overclock.

However with that we’ll attach the biggest disclaimer we can that while we’re including the card, we don’t believe NVIDIA is taking the right action here. If they were serious about having a higher clocked GTX 460 on the market, then they need to make a new product, such as a GTX 461. Without NVIDIA establishing guidelines, these overclocked GTX 460 cards can vary in clockspeed, cooling, and ultimately performance by a very wide margin. In primary reviews such as these we’re interested in looking at cards that will be around for a while, and without an official product from NVIDIA there’s no guarantee any of these factory overclocked cards will still be around.

If nothing else, pushing overclocked cards makes for a messy situation for buyer. An official product provides a baseline of performance that buyers can see in reviews like ours and expect in any cards they buy. With overclocked cards, this is absent. Pushing factory overclocked cards may give NVIDIA a competitive product, but it’s being done in a way we can’t approve of.

Moving on, for today’s launch we’re using AMD’s latest beta launch drivers, version 8.782RC2, which is analogous to Catalyst 10.10. For the NVIDIA cards we’re using the WHQL version of 260.89.

Keeping with our desire to periodically refresh our benchmark suite, we’ve gone ahead and shuffled around a few benchmarks. We’ve dropped Left 4 Dead (our highest performing benchmark) and the DX11 rendition of BattleForge for Civilization 5 and Metro 2033 respectively, both running in DX11 mode.

With the refresh in mind, we’ve had to cut short our usual selection of cards, as we’ve had under a week to (re)benchmark everything and to write this article, shorter than what we usually have for an article of this magnitude. We’ll be adding these new cards and the rest of our normal lineup to the GPU Bench early next week when we finish benchmarking them.

CPU: Intel Core i7-920 @ 3.33GHz
Motherboard: Asus Rampage II Extreme
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1015 (Intel)
Hard Disk: OCZ Summit (120GB)
Memory: Patriot Viper DDR3-1333 3 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 6870
AMD Radeon HD 6850
AMD Radeon HD 5870
AMD Radeon HD 5850
AMD Radeon HD 5770
AMD Radeon HD 4870
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1GB FTW
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 260.89
AMD Catalyst 10.10
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
What’s In a Name? Crysis: Warhead
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  • Quidam67 - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    Well 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..
    Reply
  • Murolith - Friday, October 29, 2010 - link

    So..how about that update in the review checking out the quality/speed of MLAA? Reply
  • CptChris - Sunday, October 31, 2010 - link

    As 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? Reply
  • gochichi - Thursday, November 4, 2010 - link

    You 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.
    Reply
  • rag2214 - Sunday, November 7, 2010 - link

    The 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. Reply
  • Philip46 - Monday, November 15, 2010 - link

    The 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 !
    Reply
  • animekenji - Saturday, December 25, 2010 - link

    Barts 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. Reply

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