Power, Temperature, & Noise

With the variety of card designs it’s the difference in power draw, heat dissipation, and acoustics that truly separate the cards. It’s not just the difference in physical designs that helps set these cards apart, but also how the manufacturer has decided to tune the cards to balance these attributes. A balanced card is usually the most desirable.

Radeon HD 6850 Load Voltage
Ref 6850 XFX 6850 MSI 6850 Asus 6850
1.094v 1.148v 1.148v 1.148v

As we noted in the introduction, all of our 6850s except the reference card have a load voltage of 1.148v, versus 1.094v. We’re still trying to get to the bottom of the issue, but in the meantime this means all of these cards run worse than the reference 6850 when it comes to power consumption.

Out of our 3 partner cards and our reference card, our idle power results are tightly clustered among all of the 6850s except for the XFX card which draws a few more watts at idle. We believe this is due to XFX’s fan choice, though we can’t rule out component selection either.

In terms of power consumption the Asus card is closest to the reference 6850, followed by the XFX and then the MSI card. This isn’t particularly good for XFX here, as the other partner cards all have at least a token overclock while the XFX card is doing notably worse than the 6850 reference cards even though it’s operating at the same clockspeeds. Even compared to the Asus card it’s doing worse here.

Meanwhile the MSI R6850 ends up being rather close to the 5850. Given that it achieves 5850-like performance, this isn’t particularly surprising.

All 3 partner cards do better than the 5850 when it comes to idle temperatures thanks to their open designs. The price of a fully exhausting design is more noise and higher temperatures, which the reference 6850 pays the price for here.

Once again the open coolers on the partner cards give them a significant leg up over the reference card. Even with the reference card’s lower power consumption, it runs hotter than all the open cards as we’d expect. Topping this chart is the XFX card, which with XFX’s extreme focus on cooling manages to hit only 60C on Crysis and 66C under FurMark.  This is followed by the Asus and MSI cards, which are neck-and-neck, which is a reasonable outcome given the similarities between their coolers. All of the partner 6850s end up doing better than the NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB, which uses a cooler similar to the XFX card.

At idle most cards run up against our noise floor. The standouts here are the Asus card, which ends up being a dB over the quietest cards, while the XFX card does significantly worse here at 46.8dB. In practice the Asus card shouldn’t be any worse than the other cards, but the XFX is noticeable (but not distracting) at idle.

It’s when we move to looking at load noise that we see our 6850 cards significantly separate. The reference 6850 was a tough card to beat here being that it was tuned for noise, but Asus did it, coming in at 45.3dB, quieter than any reference card in its class. Meanwhile the MSI and XFX cards do significantly worse; the XFX at 59dB is outright loud, but this was a conscious design decision on XFX’s part to focus on cooling over noise concerns. MSI on the other hand has a card with similar temperature characteristics as the Asus card, but does significantly worse than the Asus card when it comes to noise. It’s difficult to do a straight comparison here, as while both cards have the same load voltage, the MSI card has a much larger overclock than the Asus card. The MSI card still seems too loud for what it is, even though the amount of noise is comparable to the 5850 and other cards with a similar power draw.

The Test & Stock Gaming Performance Overclocking: Performance, Power, Temperature, & Noise


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  • tech6 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Please don't feed the troll. Reply
  • haplo602 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    on the test setup page:

    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
    XFX Radeon HD 6850
    MSI R6850 OC
    Asus EAH6850

    However the card is nowhere in the graphs. Yet 5770 is there .... I was actualy interested in that comparison. thanks for the good work.
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I actually don't have the GTS 450 on the new test suite. We'll be updating Bench this next week, at which point it'll show up. Reply
  • Marburg U - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    http://img838.imageshack.us/i/gpu46068706850ocstud... Reply
  • DoktorSleepless - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I would actually love to see the GTX 460 FTW in these charts because 850 mhz is a typical OC you can get from any regular GTX 460. The 460 and the 6850 are direct competitors so having both their overclock results side by side would be nice. Reply
  • kmmatney - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I have a HD4890, which is a power hog, yet I can run it at near silence, fully overclocked, with an Accelero S1 Rev 2 and a whisper fan. Too bad they don't offer a card with this sort of cooler pre-installed - then it would be possible to overclock these cards and still keep a quiet system. I wonder if this cooler will fit on these new cards? The cooler worked great onteh HD4890, but I did have to buy an extra heatsink for the VRMs (and had to hacksaw that to make it fit). Reply
  • Pantsu - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Can't the XFX cooler be adjusted with a tool like Afterburner? I mean that would solve the noise issue afaik. But if it's stuck that way there's no reason to buy it. Reply
  • casteve - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    +1. Why not use Afterburner to remove some of the variables and see how the tested coolers stack up db vs temp? Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, November 14, 2010 - link

    Yes. Reply
  • El_Capitan - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Newegg's Lowest prices (11/8/2010):
    HD 5870 1GB.................$299.99 (plus $2.99 shipping)
    GTX 470 1.28GB............$249.99 (free shipping)
    HD 6870 1GB.................$239.99 (plus $7.56 shipping)
    HD 5850 1GB.................$239.99 (free shipping)
    GTX 460 1GB..................$189.99 (plus $3.99 shipping)
    HD 6850 1GB.................$179.99 (plus $7.56 shipping)
    GTX 460 768MB.............$159.99 (free shipping)
    GTS 450 1GB .................$109.99 (free shipping)

    Just comparing the above, there's really two competitive ranges:

    The $239.99 to $249.99 price range which includes the GTX 470 1.28GB, the HD 6870 1GB, and the HD 5850 1GB.

    The $179.99 - $189.99 price range which includes the GTX 460 1GB, and the HD 6850 1GB.

    How, if we're going by OVERCLOCKED comparisons for a SINGLE card, especially at the highest two resolutions (1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600):
    1. The GTX 470 1.28GB overclocked definitely edges out both the overclocked HD 6870 1GB and HD 5850 in performance, while the HD 6870 1GB would be my pick over the HD 5850 1GB, both being the same price.

    2. The GTX 460 1GB and the HD 6850 1GB are both great cards. However, seeing the Max Overclock for the HD 6850 with a Max Overclocked Voltage at 1.22v being 960MHz, and a Max Overclock witnessed for the GTX 460 1GB with a Max Overclocked Voltage at 1.087v being 1015MHz (most are in the 880MHz - 950MHz range), the GTX 460 1GB has a greater potential of overclocking ability than the HD 6850. Given that a GTX 460 1GB overclocked slightly betters that of a GTX 470 1.28GB at stock, the winner is obviously the GTX 460 1GB.

    Please include the GTX 460 1GB overclocks when comparing overclocks with the HD 6850. Most of us are mature and smart enough to make our own decisions based upon test results, rather than guesswork. Those that are biased one way or another are going to believe what they want no matter what. All that we really losing out on, is our confidence that the site that's doing the review is behaving the same way. If we don't see it here, we're just going to go see it somewhere else.

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