Final Thoughts

As this is a two-sided article, there are two things we’d like to touch on: Radeon HD 6850 overclocking in general, and how well the cards in today’s roundup stack up.

We’ll start with 6850 overclocking in general. While we only use a subset of our most performance-hungry games in overclocking testing, it’s clear that 6850 overclocking isn’t going to be a simple case of overclocking the core first, and getting what you can out of the memory second. In fact it looks to be the opposite: the 6850’s big performance pickup from overclocking is due to the memory overclock first, then the core overclock. As a result we’re less concerned with core overclocking (and overvolting) as we are with memory overclocking. Overclocking both is going to be necessary to compete with the 6870 in shader-bound games, but even the memory overclock alone can be quite potent. AMD’s Overdrive limits don’t look so bad in this respect, and based on our 4 cards 850/1150 is probably attainable on most cards.

On this note, it’s interesting that the only card in our roundup with a significant factory overclock, the MSI R6850 OC, had a much bigger memory overclock than a core overclock. We normally don’t put much thought in to how partners choose their overclocks beyond choosing things that bin in large enough numbers, but this certainly grabs our attention. Perhaps MSI has realized the same thing we have?

This brings us to the second half of our article: the 6850 roundup. Balance is usually the key to a good card, and in the mainstream market this is even more important. So among the 3 cards in our roundup it catches us off-guard to see that only 1 of the cards is really balanced: the Asus EAH6850. While the XFX Radeon HD 6850 has excellent cooling, it’s much too aggressive in our tests; lower temperatures don’t do anything on their own, we’re only concerned about them to the point that they’re low enough that we need not be concerned with the lifespan of a card. Meanwhile the MSI R6850 OC is just all-around worse, which while explainable at stock speeds due to its overclock, is hard to explain when we normalize clocks and voltages at 1.172v, 940/1150. There’s always something to be said for the benefits of a factory overclock, but compared to the Asus card it seems like there’s a lot to give up to get there.

And that leaves us with the Asus EAH6850. Asus’s design philosophy is normally what we’d call “aggressive”, as we have seen a number of their cards that trade temperature for noise, similar to the XFX. But this isn’t the case for the EAH6850 – it’s as balanced a card as we could ask for. It does well enough at cooling while approaching whisper-quiet noise levels, and even overclocked it manages to keep the 6850 in check without getting too loud or drawing more power than is necessary. At 9.5” long Asus did have to make some kind of tradeoff, but unless you have an extremely cramped case it’s definitely a reasonable tradeoff. Ignore the ridiculous token overclock, and you have the Radeon HD 6850 that not only stands above all others, but can more than give the GTX 460 1GB a solid kick to the curb.

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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