MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Video Card Review

If you are looking for a robust Radeon HD 6850 video card that has the potential for a high level of overclocking, then this is the video card for you. We evaluate the MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition video card and perform in-depth overclocking using MSI Afterburner. This video card has great potential, and competes well with the competition.


Power Consumption

To measure power consumption, we used Battlefield: Bad Company 2 to load up the video cards and a P3 International Kill-A-Watt device to measure power consumption. The entire testing system, excluding the speakers and monitor, was plugged into the Kill-A-Watt device. Therefore, power consumption numbers include all components, not just the video card. For this process, we played through an entire testing run of the game while watching the Kill-A-Watt, and then recorded the highest number we saw during the test.

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Without a video card installed, our test system was drawing 157W from the wall socket while sitting at the desktop. After we installed the MSI R6850 Cyclone and its driver, power draw increased to 172W, for an increase of 15W. The reference AMD Radeon HD 6850 pulled 1W more, and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB pulled 4W less.

When playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2, the test system drew 315W with the MSI R6850 installed. That was 12W more than with the reference HD 6850 installed, and 33W less than with the GTX 460 1GB installed.

Finally, after we overclocked the MSI R6850 Cyclone (including our voltage tweaks), we measured a loaded power draw of 365W, for an increase of 50W over the out-of-box loaded power draw.

To summarize, the overclocked MSI R6850 Cyclone predictably pulled a little more power than the stock clocked AMD Radeon HD 6850, and a little less power than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB.

Temperature Measurement

To monitor temperatures on these video cards as we played, we used the built-in GPU-z temperature sensor support.

In what winter we get in the southern United States, the ambient temperature of our office has dropped to about 17 degrees Celsius, or about 62 degrees Fahrenheit. That is, of course, before we start gaming. After a few hours of FRAPS testing in our games, the office temperature measured about 22 Celsius, which is about 73 Fahrenheit. For temperature testing, we allowed the office to cool off between video cards so that they all started from the same ambient temperature.

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When idling, these three video cards ran at nearly the same temperature. The MSI R6850 Cyclone ran at 41c, the AMD Radeon HD 6850 ran at 43c, and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB ran at 42c. Under full load in Bad Company 2, the R6850 Cyclone peaked at 64 degrees, the HD 6850 at 76 degrees, and the GTX 460 1GB at 75 degrees.

After we overclocked the MSI R6850 Cyclone, its load temperature increased by another 8 degrees Celsius, warming it up to 72 degrees.

Fan Noise

When idling, the MSI R6850 Cyclone was nearly silent. From 3 feet away, it was undetectable over the noise of the CPU fan. Even when gaming, most of the time it remained very quiet. It remained nearly silent until the cooling fan reached at least 75%. Even at 100%, the fan was definitely detectable, but still not loud, and certainly not annoying. The only sound we heard then was the rushing of air, which is not altogether an unpleasant sound.

Of course, the stock Radeon HD 6850 and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB were almost dead quiet too. It seems to us as though AMD, NVIDIA, and their partners are quite in tune with their customers’ desire to have good cooling and quiet fans. This is a very good thing.