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


View All Comments

  • tech6 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Nice work Ryan.

    Let's all turn it down a notch about the 460 OC cards. This was never an issue and it still isn't. A number of available cards are chosen for comparison purposes but you can never include all possible variations. So those that are seeing some sort of conspiracy that has Anand taking bags of cash from a vendor in return for leaving out some card in his comparisons - it's time to take off you foil hats and come out from your basements. AT is an excellent and thorough tech review site and to throw out unsubstantiated charges of bias is just a cheap shot. If you have some sort of persuasive proof to contrary then please share it with the rest of us.
  • silverblue - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    ...it may be better to just compare the 6870 and its OCed variants to the best 460s around in a separate article. It's obvious (at least, to me) that in terms of performance, the OCed 6850s cannot match the 460 FTW and that the true competition would be the OCed 6870. In terms of power and temperature, the 6850 will win, but that's not of much concern when people want the fastest card. Reply
  • Veroxious - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Well I guess it's a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't..... IMO you should have included the superclocked EVGA GTX460 (focusing the article on OC results) as it would then be an apples to apples comparison. If one does refer back to the 6850/6870 article you will see that the 2 best overclocking cards (Asus and more so MSI) are neck and neck with the EVGA GTX460 FTW. So buying any of these cards would be an excellent buy.

    The DIFFERENCE is while the EVGA is arguably a limited version/best case scenario for the GTX 460 it costs $240. There is no price for the MSI card but the Asus card is $185 (out of stock currently on Newegg). As you can see in the article ALL the 6850 cards could hit 940Mhz on stock volts.

    So you have a 185$ card that will give you the performance of a $240 card? No wonder there is no stock. At this price ($55 less) it gives the term "value for your money" real meaning. Can I have 2 please?
  • El_Capitan - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I'm sorry, but the EVGA GTX 460 1GB FTW isn't the best overclocking GTX 460 1GB card. It may be the best factory overclocked card, but the winner goes to:
    1. ASUS from $199.99 to $219.99 where available, hitting 1015MHz core clock.
    2. MSI Hawk from $189.99 to $199.99 where available, hitting 960MHz core clock.

    Comparing those prices to any of this review's HD 6850 cards that range from $184.99 to $189.00 plus shipping, the prices are equal.
  • Stuka87 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Am I the only one who is not seeing *ANY* XFX scores on the benchmarks page?

    None of the graphs have it there??
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I'm not seeing them either...WTH? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    The XFX is stock-clocked, and when overclocked all of our cards reach common clocks. So we don't break out the scores separately. Reply
  • rpmrush - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I love the in-depth vid card reviews here. I really wanna c the custom cooled 6870 cards. I'm waiting to pull the trigger on the one that is quietest with decent overclocking head room. Reply
  • danielkza - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    At page 8:

    "All of the cards could hit 850MHz core at stock clocks"

    Didn't you mean:

    "All of the cards could hit 850MHz core at stock voltages"
  • tomoyo - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    It's funny to me that it'll seem like our wants are flipflopping, but the issue is pretty clear.

    An article about a brand new video card that isn't overclocked, should be compared against the same type of video card.

    An article about overclocked video cards should be compared against overclocked video cards of the same market.

    Simply put, you unfortunately made the wrong mistake both times, but at least this issue is pretty easy to correct. I hope you also add overclocked GTX 460 results into this one as an update, it does make sense to. The issue originally was that you compared an overclocked GTX 460, but did not compare it to an overclocked Radeon 6850.

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