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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  • mm2587 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    You guys honestly didn't include the 460 ftw in the charts after the whole mess with the launch article, or at least mention it in passing in your conclusion? Sure I can go back and compare the results with the past articles but that not the point. Here's your chance to compare overclocked cards to overclocked cards and you don't even mention it.

    This article really must be a joke after all it ends with an overclocked "kicking" a reference 460 to the "curb"
    Reply
  • keitaro - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    If it's not mentioned, then it is not mentioned. You said it yourself that you can just grab the numbers from the launch article. So why complain about it? If you believe that this is an omission or something missed, why can't you just point it out instead of making a fuss about it? Reply
  • whatthehey - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - link

    (I'm posting here because otherwise you get lost in the fanboy "debate" below.... My response isn't really to either of the above two readers.)

    You know, I didn't get into the initial 6850 + 460 FTW brouhaha because I figured any sensible being wouldn't have a problem with it. I also didn't bother wading through any of the comments on the "what do you want" follow up. I thought the amount of noise a select few made was stupid then, and it's even dumber now!

    AnandTech, you first need to wade through the users posting comments and do some research on past "input". Half of the users complaining and calling your credibility into question have no credibility to begin with! I swear there were a ton of new users that we have never heard from before. Seriously, do a Google on the most vocal user names and this site. Here are the nay-sayers posting on this article's comments; most of the others (i.e. 7Enigma in particular) are mostly interested in the bottom line rather than fanboy rage. So, here's a Google of site:www.anandtech.com {username}.

    AnandThenMan: almost never a nice thing to say, and definitely anti-Nvidia. Vote: AMD fanboy
    vedye: Never posted before GTX 460 and anti-Nvidia. Vote: AMD fanboy
    spigzone: Off and on poster over time, but EXTREMELY vocal on the 460 FTW issues. Definitely a squeaky wheel, but only represents ONE person.
    Ramon Zarat: Past posting history indicate strong AMD/ATI preference. Vote: AMD fanboy

    If you were to wade through the mass of posts on the two 6800 articles and eliminate flame wars, trolling, etc. you probably only get about 10% of the posts, and they're still a minority.

    I'd say the vase majority of us simply want more data. Had you overclocked a 6850 in the initial review, there would have been nothing to stand on. Maybe a simple statement of, "Time constraints (and lack of a retail card) led us to running stock settings; we'll be back next week with more data on 6850 overclocking." What's really stupid is that the conclusion wasn't even in favor of the GTX 460. All it said was, "yes, an overclocked 460 can do quite well, but it draws more power and costs more so it's not really desirable."

    This is making mountains out of mole hills and then some. Move along, nothing to see here people. AMD and NVIDIA both compete fairly well. AMD has a better midrange part right now, but NVIDIA has faster parts if you're willing to pay the price and power. Two years ago it was all NVIDIA, and back in the 9800 days it was all ATI.
    Reply
  • Galid - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - link

    I still love the fanboys debating for some more performance there and a little less there. Trading blows for some more peanuts on a side and you trow in a 5-10$ difference then light they'll bring wood and burn someone on a stake.

    And when there's not enough difference to speak of then they throw in driver issues and such not so credible arguments. Or how they toasted every card they bought from the other competitor which is actually run by a subsidiary of the devil himself.

    Always making my day when I see a new article about video card I jump right to the bottom and read the comments! :D
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    HULK SMASH!! LOUD NOISES!! FANBOY RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!! ;)

    More seriously, an OC 460 is a little faster than a stock 6870. An OC 6850 is (very surprisingly) almost the same. At $180 for a 6850 vs $190 for a 460 1GB (current Newegg prices), the 6850 wins - although with such a tiny price and performance differential means it really boils down to color preference: do you like red or green? Competition FTW.

    "Kicking to the curb" is over the top, but if it keeps the I❤AMD crowd from throwing another tantrum I'm cool with it.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Oh, 6850 compute performance fail. Now it matters say the amd fans - so hope they didn't do the stupid and get the 6850. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    It was made abundantly clear to us in the comments in our follow-up piece and in emails to us that you guys disapproved of our inclusion of non-reference cards in articles. As we strive to reflect the needs and wants of you, our reader, we have taken your advice to heart. You will not be seeing the FTW or similar cards in any articles besides their associated roundups. As such articles like this will focus solely on the series being reviewed, and will not contain results from overclocked or otherwise non-reference cards that are not among the cards being reviewed. Reply
  • mac2j - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    It was more about comparing: Reference vs Reference, OC vs OC

    Though I agree the best place for the 460 FTW is in a 6970 OC comparison article not a 6950 one.

    As for this article "MSI R6850 OC is just all-around worse" makes no sense to me - as someone who doesn't care about noise and doesn't know a single person that really does in that kind of range ... of all these cards I would buy the MSI as it has by far the best price to performance.

    I mean it's the only card that outperforms the 5850 and even, in a couple cases, the 6970 ... that's more performance for ~$50 less with similar noise... so calling it "all-around worse" is just crazy talk.... crazy talk man
    Reply
  • Targon - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    You mean 6870, right? The 6950 and 6970 have yet to be reviewed, at least in public, and we don't have any release date for the new high end parts, which will finally allow the 5870 to fade away as the top single-GPU cards from AMD. Reply
  • mac2j - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Ugh yea 68XX not 69XX ... been reading too many Cayman preview articles - sorry. Reply

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