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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  • Ryan Smith - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Quality is unchanged. UVD 3 adds a few fixed function blocks, but quality is a matter of post-processing and hence affected by the drivers once you have sufficient shader power to do all the post-processing. Reply
  • Pastuch - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I posted about this earlier but my post was deleted.

    Ryan there is a ton of HTPC users on this site.

    1. Exactly how long is the Radeon 6870/6850 vs the GTX 460?

    2. How does the GTX460 compare to the Radeon 6 series regarding bitstreaming high def audio?

    3. How UVD3 post-processing compare to Nvidias?
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    It's exactly the same as this: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3973/nvidias-geforce... Reply
  • HigherGround - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Why was EVGA card included in this test? The rest of the field is generic (non OC, no brand), so why included an OC card, which skews the readers perspective? Pretty sure EVGA paid you to included its top OC card in this review ... Reply
  • Parhel - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    No, NVidia paid them to include it. NVidia sends "guidelines" to all the hardware review sites, telling them what settings to use and which cards to use in the comparison. In the guidelines for today's review was to use the EVGA GTX 460 FTW, and and site you see using it is essentially a paid NVidia shill.

    I could care less about ATI vs NVidia, as I'm not really a gamer, but I'm very disappointed today to see my long time favorite hardware site stooping to this level. In the end, it gives consumers bad information, which should be antithetical to the purpose of a site like this.
    Reply
  • AtwaterFS - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I agree, this site is typically class-leading, but this article give AnandTech a bit of a black eye and the results dont particularly jive with "un-biased" sites like HardOCP. Reply
  • DrKlahn - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I was going to post the same thing. As a long time reader of this site, I was very disappointed with the decision to include the overclocked card. Either the ATI cards should have been overclocked and their results provided in every test or it should have been excluded as per the normal benchmarking guidelines.

    I would have no issue with a followup or side article comparing factory overclocked offerings. But this is clearly bowing to pressure from Nvidia and I expected better of this site.
    Reply
  • aungee - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    To Include the EVGA GTX 460 FTW was unfair and whether intentional or not it did spoil the launch party for AMD on this site to some degree. It would have been more appropriate to make a small mention of it's existence and to benchmark it in the future against any factory OC 6800 cards.

    After getting your head around the naming, AMD needs to be credited for bringing such a performance on only a 255 mm2 package (it even caused the price drop for the 530mm2 GTX 470) . AMD has headroom to drop the price of the 6800 cards so lets hope they do soon.
    Reply
  • tigersty1e - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I couldn't find the clocks, but if you do include an OC'd card in your benches, you should give us the clocks. Reply
  • dertechie - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    850 MHz Core, 1700 MHz shaders, 4 GHz Memory, up from 675 MHz Core, 1350 MHz shaders, 3.6 GHz Memory.

    That's a 26% Core OC and an 11% Memory OC. However, the cost has been OC'd too, the FTW card costs the same $240 as the stock Radeon 6870.
    Reply

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