AMD Radeon HD 6870 & HD 6850 Video Card Review

AMD is launching its new mainstream performance lineup, the Radeon HD 6800 series. The 6800 cards will offer much more performance at the $179 to $239 price range. We compare the new Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 with AMD and NVIDIA cards and find out which delivers the best gameplay experience and value.


Power Testing

We tested the power utilization at the wall of the entire system without a video card, and with each video card at idle and full load. For full load power and temperature testing we used FurMark version 1.8.2 to stress each video card at the highest load. We found 1920x1200 with 2X AA and 2560x1600 with No AA to be the sweet spot for stressing the GPUs without bottlenecking them. The power supply used in testing is a PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1200W. Our system is very lean with only one optical drive and one hard drive being powered. Total system wattage at idle without video card is 190W.

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The system had the lowest idle Wattage when the AMD Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 were installed. The total system Wattage was 203W at idle, which was lower than with the Radeon HD 5850 and GeForce GTX 460 1GB.

At full load, the system with the Radeon HD 6850 installed had the lowest power draw at 334W, which is a whopping 65 Watts less than the GeForce GTX 460 1GB. This means that the Radeon HD 6850 producing higher framerates using less power than the competition. The AMD Radeon HD 6870 seems to be using slightly less power than the Radeon HD 5850, yet in its case we know it performs slightly faster than a Radeon HD 5850. Keep in mind that it is doing this with a smaller die size, less transistors and less Stream Processors.


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NOTE: Our GeForce GTX 460 1GB video card we are using utilizes a custom cooling solution, so it is no surprise that it has superior GPU temperatures.

You will notice that the slower and less power hungry AMD Radeon HD 6850 has a higher idle and full load temperature compared to the Radeon HD 6870. There is a reason for this; the Radeon HD 6870 actually utilizes a beefier heatsink and fan combination compared to the shorter Radeon HD 6850. The Radeon HD 5870 uses a triple heat-pipe cooling solution with aluminum fins and a full height fan. The Radeon HD 6850 uses a vapor chamber solution with aluminum fins and a half-height fan. For the performance these video cards product, the temperatures are quite acceptable. It is nice to see temperatures not breaking 90c on load. We cannot wait to see what custom coolers can do for these GPUs.

Fan Noise

There isn’t much to write about fan noise because it was very quiet. Even with these video cards running full out we did not experience any loudness or annoyance out of the fans. We certainly did not feel like there was any concern with fan noise. At idle the fan speeds seemed to be working at 22%, and the GPU downclocks to 100MHz and the memory to 300MHz on both video cards.