ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU Video Card Review

The ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU is brand new and sports a custom cooler with overclocked GPU frequency and Voltage Tweak technology. We test the EAH6850 DirectCU against the GeForce GTX 460 1GB in some of the latest games including Lost Planet 2 and Medal of Honor.

Introduction

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. is one of the largest and most successful computer hardware manufacturers in the world. A Taiwan-based company, they manufacture a wide variety of computer hardware, including motherboards, video cards, optical drives, notebooks, networking equipment, barebones desktop, and server systems, among many others. In 2008, they sold over 24 million motherboards, grossed 8.1 billion U.S., and won 3,056 awards from various enthusiasts and IT related outlets.

Today we are going to be taking a look at ASUS’s premium Radeon HD 6850: the EAH6850 DirectCU.

- Boost up to 50%* higher with ASUS exclusive Voltage Tweak

- Exclusive DirectCU thermal solution reaches 20% cooler

- Immersive multi-display gaming experience with advanced Eyefinity technology

- Stereoscopic 3D gaming and movie-watching experience with AMD HD3D support

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AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series

On October 21, 2010 AMD released a new generation of video cards for the mid-level market. The two new video cards, the Radeon HD 6870 and 6850, are based upon an evolved version of the 5800 series. With this architecture AMD has managed to improve performance while reducing transistor count and die size. All of this together means more performance with less heat and power.

The AMD Radeon HD 6850 is a little less powerful than the Radeon HD 6870 but at a targeted price of $179 it is also $60 less. The Radeon HD 6850 has a compute power of 1.5 (vs. 2.0) TFLOPs with a core clock speed of 775MHz (vs. 900MHz) and 960 (vs. 1120) Stream Processors. They both have 32 ROPs and 1GB of GDDR5. The Radeon HD 6870 however has its memory clocked at 4.2GHz vs. 4GHz for the Radeon HD 6850.


ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU

The ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU is currently $199.99 or $20 more than a stock 6850 can be had for. However the EAH6850 DirectCU also packs a couple extra features that may make that $20 a worthy investment. Unfortunately boosted frequencies are not one of them. We feel that ASUS has really wimped out in this department with a GPU frequency of 790MHz the EAH6850 DirectCU is only 15MHz above the reference specification. To put that in perspective that is a 1% boost in frequencies. The only thing more disappointing than that is that there is no boost on the memory at all with it clocked at 4GHz.

The two saving graces of the EAH6850 DirectCU are the unique cooling solution and ASUS’s Voltage Tweak. The cooling solution is made up of an aluminum heatsink and two large 8mm heat-pipes that are directly touching the GPU. With it ASUS is claiming up to 20% cooler temperatures. The EAH6850 DirectCU Voltage Tweak ability allows us to adjust the Vcore of the video card through ASUS’s SmartDoctor utility. Here they claim to be able to achieve up to a 50% performance improvement. We will take a look at both claims in our overclocking and temperature testing however with these two features we could fix the paltry boosted frequencies.

Box Shots

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The front of the box is dominated by a huge avatar with no direct correlation to the video card itself. ASUS has however put some valuable information on the front including a big graphic showing off that this video card does have Voltage Tweak. There is also a 1GB GDDR5 icon on the bottom along with an Eyefinity icon. ASUS has also decided to include an "Overclock Edition" icon which to us seems very despicable when you take into account that they are using the ridiculously tiny boost in GPU frequency as a marketing tool. They never once mention the actual GPU and memory frequencies on the box.

The back of the box goes over the standard rhetoric of "Powerful Features". We are however happy to see a picture of the actual video card, even if it is on the small side. There is also some specifications and marketing about the cooling solution and Voltage Tweak.

The Video Card Pictures

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We are glad ASUS has chosen to stick with a reserved theme on the EAH6850 DirectCU. It has a black plastic shroud with just four red stripes and an ASUS logo. Underneath that is of course the aluminum heatsink and the two 8mm heat-pipes. What we aren’t happy to see though is that the memory modules aren’t attached to the heatsink or even a heat spreader. There is also a huge gap between the PCI slot cover and the heatsink shroud with no attempt at even funneling the hot air to the half sized PCI slot vent.

The ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU is 9.75" long (or .75" longer than reference) and takes up two PCI slots. The front of the video card has an HDMI connector, a DisplayPort connector, and two DVI ports. The tail end of the video card has one six-pin auxiliary connectors pointed straight up which is an improvement over the reference design and for some may make up for it being an extra .75" long.

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The back of the EAH6850 DirectCU is uncovered and you can see the four bolts that holding down the heatsink. It comes with a Speed Setup Guide, a Driver and Manual CD, a Multi-language Manual CD, a crossfire connector, a DVI to D-Sub adapter, two 2 4-pin to 6-pin power adapter, and a cheesy feeling binder for CDs.