AMD Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 Hands-On Preview

We see how the Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 stack up against the competition.

by

Flagship products are fun to talk about, but they're not particularly practical for more than a handful of us. The vast majority of PC gamers gravitate toward the $200 sweet spot for GPUs. So instead of trotting out a $600 part to premier its new lineup of GPUs, AMD is rolling out a pair of more accessible GPUs--the Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850.

Radeon HD 6870

The Specs:
Radeon HD 6870
$239
900MHz core
1120 stream processors
1GB GDDR5 RAM

Radeon HD 6850
$179
775MHz Core
960 stream processors
1GB GDDR5

The new 6000 series parts are basically architecturally refined 5000 series parts with a few new tricks. These new GPUs are more power efficient, have second-generation DirectX 11 optimizations, accelerate Blu-ray 3D, and feature new antialiasing and ansiotropic filtering techniques to improve image quality.

Radeon HD 6850

Morphological antialiasing, new to the Radeon HD 6000 series, provides full-scene antialiasing via a post-processing technique. Traditional AA modes are applied when the scene is being rendered, morphological AA is done after the frame has been generated. The new AA mode is compatible with any DirectX 9/10/11 game. Drivers for the new modes were delivered too late for us to perform a thorough testing of this feature.

Architecture improvements allowed AMD to reduce silicon size while keeping performance high and power consumption low. The Radeon HD 6870 consumes 150W at peak power, and the Radeon HD 6850 consumes 127W. Both GPUs idle at 19W. Compared to the parts they are replacing, both GPUs have fewer stream processors but feature much higher clock rates. By comparison, the Radeon HD 5850 has 1440 stream processors, while the HD 6870 has 1120.

The pricing and nomenclature of these new parts cause a bit of confusion when they are compared to AMD's current-generation GPUs. The Radeon HD 6870 actually replaces the Radeon HD 5850, and the HD 6850 boots out the Radeon HD 5830. The $300-plus Radeon HD 5870 will continue to rule the AMD roost for a bit longer. AMD will discontinue manufacturing Radeon HD 5800 and 5900 series parts going forward from the third quarter of 2010, but it will keep HD 5700-based parts in the product mix.

When lining up the potential competitors, nothing fits perfectly, but a few bucks here and there gets us close enough.

Price List:
$170 - GeForce GTX 460 768MB
$180 - Radeon HD 6850
$190 - GeForce GTX 460
$200 - GeForce GTX 460 OC
$240 - Radeon HD 6870

We leaned on the GeForce GTX 460 1GB at two speeds. We didn't have the slightly cheaper 768MB version of the GeForce GTX 460 on hand for testing.

It's clear that the new Radeon HD 6000 series completely replaces the older 5000 series parts. Its performance is superior in every test across the board. When compared to the competition, the Radeon HD 6870 trades blow with the overclocked GTX 460. The Radeon HD 6850 trails the slightly more expensive stock GeForce GTX 460 1GB.

Performance Tests

With the future of such lucrative GPU spots in flux, both AMD and Nvidia sent out flurries of e-mail adjusting prices, firing accusations, and in general muddying the waters. Nvidia's reduced pricing on the GeForce GTX 460 1GB makes it a difficult part to beat. For $220, you can find 800MHz GeForce GTX 460s, which makes for quite a compelling argument if a $200 725MHz version gives the Radeon HD 6870 such a good run. Nvidia also dropped the price of the GeForce GTX 470 down to the $260 range, which should offer the allure of slightly better performance for slightly more money. The Radeon HD 6850 competes well with the more expensive stock GeForce GTX 460 1GB, which means it's definitely competitive with the 768MB version of the GTX 460.

The battle for these important GPU price ranges isn't over yet. Both HD 6000 series parts have had to deal with heavily discounted and heavily overclocked parts on launch day. AMD has already mentioned that its partners are in the process of unveiling overclocked 6000 series GPUs as well. Pricing, as we know, is never final.

Determining a victor here is moot because even minor price movements and overclocked speeds would toss them under the bus just as fast as we can proclaim them. One thing is for certain, though: The Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 provide enough competition to force Nvidia to slash prices overnight, which honestly makes the consumer the real winner here.

Test System: Core i7 980x @4.2GHz, Asus Rampage III Extreme, 6GB OCZ DDR3, Seagate 750GB 7200.11, Windows 7 64-bit. Video card drivers - Catalyst beta, Forceware 260.89.

Discussion

118 comments
sorin_ro
sorin_ro

I have a HD 5870 im still happy with it.better than the HD 6870,GTX 470,GTX 460 and much better than my old GTX 285.

oblikua
oblikua

@C_Mieske Liked it?!I can do better, but i guess i shouldnt...it might cost me points!!those must be important...

Limp_Laky
Limp_Laky

These benchmarks are lower compared to other sites. Worth checking out a little bit more about these cards because they are outstanding and the 6870 is accepted as a much better card than indicated here.

C_Mieske
C_Mieske

@oblikua that was colorful. angry much?

oblikua
oblikua

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

IsmirZone
IsmirZone

LOL and here comes GeForce GTX 500 next month.

C_Mieske
C_Mieske

@oblikua "opinions" is what these boards are about. if you weren't failing so much, you might have one of your own.

oblikua
oblikua

intel onboard GPUs are the best!!!Fanboys suck!Stop discussing stuff based on opinions!!It leads nowhere!!!

mo654
mo654

6870 is made to compete with Nvidia GTX 470 and 460 and it DID what it was made for 6870 has higher prefomance over price ratio than gtx 470 so does the 6850 without any doubt ati is ahead of Nvidia check benches, see temps, power consum and see the difference :)

C_Mieske
C_Mieske

ATI can do what they want. I've been a PC owner since late 80's. (Early 80's on a Vic20, Commodore 64) I have used nvidia and ati cards throughout the years, even some voodoo's. I have had many problems with various ATI cards and never with an nvidia. Whatever ATI does, nvidia will always do better, period.

skinntech
skinntech

lol they tested with the beta catalyst drivers. Anyone notice the games they used? Is anyone actually building a pc for Just Cause 2 or Lost Planet 2 for that matter? I guess Dirt 2 is pretty relevant, but the other 3 games are just silly. Common Sarju Shah your not even trying, this was a limp noodle article at best. On a positive note, happy days are here for the mid range market pc gamer!!!! hazzzahhh long live the price wars so my money stays in my pocket!

OilySuperWillie
OilySuperWillie

real nice will wait until the 6970 or 7000 series for an upgrade though

calanorn
calanorn

@plm3d_basic As snaptrap mention engines these days are buillt much better than the consoles they are used on can use. Hopefully we have moved out of the unreal engine 1 for all mindset. dragon age was the start albeit it a minor upgrade in the way you could control your view but also the graphics were far superior. crysis i think will look amazing on pc just check out the comparison from the E3 videos they released in which they talked about how the pc will look better and showed videos of it side by side with 360 and then with ps3. http://www.pcgameshardware.com/aid,686669/Crysis-2-PC-version-with-better-graphics-than-PS3-and-Xbox-360/News/ i cant find the exact link to the interview. On the subject of upgrades i do agree its unneccesary i just love doing it but my old cards dont go to waste i upgrade my older pc.

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

@Snaptrap Crytek claims to have done it with the cryengine 3. We'll have to wait and see. So far nobody has done it otherwise the Wii version of all of these games would use the same engine and same levels. I don't share your optimism and Cevat Yerli is known for blowing smoke. That's not to say that Crysis 2 won't look amazing on the pc, especially with some of the leaked videos they have on youtube of the pc version, but the potential to make something truly revolutionary and inspiring is lost. Remember that video of Project Offset that was released a couple of years ago that was the closest thing to realtime CGI that you'd find in movies. They also were able to create hundreds of AI/NPC on screen at once (part of dx11 now). There is just so much potential that is lost and I hope these pc hardware companies start to realize that their future depends on actively supporting game developers instead of taking a passive role and hope for the best. I mean who is going to go out and buy a core i7 or Phenom 3, 6970, or GTX 570 just to play the next COD or some other console port, WOW, or another RTS. Even if it was $100 I wouldn't waste my money just to get 10-50 more frames when I'm already getting around 60 fps. Makes no sense anymore. I'm a pc enthusiast and I love upgrading my pc, been doing it every year for over ten years, but at some point it becomes redundant and pointless.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

@plm3d_basic That's why some developers are focusing their efforts on making game engines that allow the quality to be down-scaled for lesser hardware without affecting the potential quality for high-end systems.

C_Mieske
C_Mieske

trolls are sofa king we todd did.

raichou
raichou

Console trolls commenting: plz leave NOW

squidbilly22
squidbilly22

I'm hanging on to my HD4890 until Dx 9 is obsolete,it still plays everything at max settings on a 24' mon. My ps3 is my blu ray player and who really needs improved AA that bad. I'm no fan boy of either company,anything PC related is basically a rip off anyway,6-12 mo later something better always comes out for the same cash you paid while games are far behind unable to utilize most of the new features anyway.

acasero44
acasero44

Ati 6890 to replace ati 5870? If it comes around 270 bucks ill get it XD

nolderine
nolderine

My radeon HD 2900 xt still plays all the brand new titles (and i mean i havn't come across one acception) on absolute full settings on a 32" screen 1920x1080 res .I don't see any reason to buy a new GPU yet .

TheRealUku
TheRealUku

lol disappointing?! , its a mid range card , priced better than the nvidia equivalent , outperforms even the 470gtx on some stuff and draws alot less power! , all tech reviews including toms hardware and bit-tech all are praising this card . wait till the 6970 and 6990 come out next month (january for the dual gpu 6990) there gonna be very impressive!. and as a moot point , two 6870's in crossfire scale at 90% which is better than any dual card setup thats been before , so if you buy 2x6870's they obliterate a a single 480gtx and almost match two 470's in sli!. not bad for a mid range card released to replace the 5770

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

Pt 3 Furthermore, a AAA pc title with never before seen graphics is the best advertisement that money can buy for hardware. These companies spends millions of dollars on advertisements which is probably better spent on investing $10 million dollars in 4 major AAA titles a year. Nothing moves hardware faster than a graphic intensive pc game. Looking back, when Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 were released it lead to large sales in gpu/cpu/pc. The original open GL Quake and Tomb Raider lead the way for the introduction of graphics accelerator on the pc from 3dfx which costs $200 back in 1996. Crysis gave Nvidia one of its largest profit margins due to the sales of the 8800 series. Console ports and non-AAA titles are not going to move hardware. Intel, AMD, and Nvidia invests hundreds of millions of dollars on R&D and it's a damn shame that that advance technology is not being properly used and wasted on console ports.

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

Pt 2 For Crysis 2 to really push hardware, a separate PC version must be created that shares little to nothing with the console version like what happened with Far Cry vs. Far Cry Instincts. The development of the pc version should not be limited to what the consoles can run period. If they are all the same then the only difference between the pc version would be having a higher resolution and possibly better textures like EVERY single multiplatform game. So far there's no word on Crysis 2 having super hi res textures for the pc so it'll be up to mods to provide that feature. The games you mentioned are not well known and don't look anywhere near what Crysis was when it was released. Furthermore, they are not in the mainstream where most people buy and know of it and don't have $100 million sales, meaning these are not games that people are upgrading their systems for. In order for developers to create a separate pc version which takes time, money, and hard work, they require financial incentives which should come from pc hardware manufacturers. Developers are not going to do it for free and what usually happens if we're LUCKY is a console port with higher resolutions, maybe some physics, and maybe some dx11 effects instead of something as revolutionary as the original Crysis.

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

@calanorn & gameking92 Pt 1 All major AAA titles have massive production costs which in turn must have a broader audience in order to make up that cost. When a game is multiplatform it has to conform to the lowest common denominator in order for it to run properly. Developers can't develop for the highest system and then try to dilute it towards the lower end systems, ie. consoles. It doesn't work because there's a level where if you dilute it further then the game looks horrible. There's a reason why the Wii gets its own version when a game is released on the xbox360/PS3/PC. There's also a reason why they they haven't been able to port Crysis to the consoles. It's not just the graphics but the level design, AI, physics, and amount of NPC or AI on screen at once. Crysis 2 may be developed separately on each platform but they all share the exact same levels, ie. it's made for the lowest common denominator. It's no different than COD4 being on three different systems.

gameking92
gameking92

@plm3d_basic consoles also use graphic cards from ATI or NVidia. They have to make better graphic cards for the next generation of consoles. To pay the research they will have to sell graphic cards with that new technology.

calanorn
calanorn

@ plm3d_basic You are wrong in that the games are console ports or mmo's crysis 2 if you look it up is being made seperately for ps3, pc and 360 so i fully expect my pc to be pushed to its limit by crysis. Also if you only play the mainstream games from certain publishers they console ports. please point me in the direction of the 360 or ps3 version's of x3 terran conflict or mount and blade warband two of my favourite pc games terran conflict looks stunning. Or show me the 360 version of ARMA 2, Total war series. Also i see a pc gaming bloom ahead crysis 2 has a seperate build for pc even EA who used to shove console ports out the door had dragon age which ran far far far better on pc especially with the possibility of zooming out isometric whether that continues now that developemnt of the second is purely under the wing of EA we will see. Ruse was also very good on pc dont count the PC out yet and those who have will be looking at these nicely priced graphics cards to redeem the error of there ways :)

huntersX2
huntersX2

The Technology is there and it's always good to look forward to the future and never the past. I'd take advantage of it because I know at one point they might be upping the prices back to 500-800 for the "best quality" gpu's. I remember my old Radeon cost me 200 dollars just 5 years ago and to see that this is far surpassed my old one for less is shocking to my eyes. Cpu upgrades should be the most aim because games are only getting bigger and you need speed and memory to process that power.

lazlow64
lazlow64

Upgrades are necessary if you have a lower end pc but most pcs that have at least an Radeon 4000+ HD class can play most of all games. I like that they are making new technology that surpasses their old technology, but no ones gonna buy new stuff if their old stuff works just as well as the new.

plm3d_basic
plm3d_basic

I honestly don't understand why anyone will continue to upgrade their gpu or cpu when most games now on the pc are console ports or crappy MMOs. If Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and pc brand manufacturers like Dell, HP, and Gateway want to continue selling pcs and hardware they need to start funding games in order to push hardware. Currently I have a q9650 and a Radeon 5870 and I have absolutely no reason to upgrade. The xbox360 and PS3 will be around for at least another 2 years meanwhile technology on the pc continues moving forward with nothing to take advantage of it, not even Crysis or Crysis 2.

sorin_ro
sorin_ro

jollybest1 you dont know what you're talking about.the 8800 GTS cant play all the games maxed out. lol .even the HD 5870 cant as 9841507 stated.go check how many times the 5870 is better than your little 8800 GTS.actually better than any of the Nvidia cards including GTX 480 considering it has better power comsumption,its colder and less noisier and the performance is almost the same.before saying anything go do your homeworks Nvidia fanboy.

Oracleas
Oracleas

@ jodudeit i really enjoyed your comment, and i partially agree. But: If hardware companies stop developing advanced hardware every month, the PC will devalue a lot. Just think about it, how many times do you go ingame and see that AMD, or NVIDIA (aaaaaaaa) logo? if that didn't exist, a lot of the game development companies just wouldn't release on PC. Sure, the XBOX gets money from games, but the PC sells about 300% more with hardware. plus, while this card is probably the same as last year's, it's got very good value, and is pretty cheap. AND if you buy it, you get a 5 year gpu. On another note, i think i will finally be getting a new gpu.

strosdegoz
strosdegoz

Video cards are looking pretty cheap, you can play about every existing and none existing games on a 24" monitors with a $150 video card, pretty nice.

jodudeit
jodudeit

There should be a year where all the hardware developers go, "Guess what our new does?" Then they say, "Not one blessed thing that the last generation didn't!" They then go on to say that it is on par with last generations, costs less, is a lot more energy efficient and meets last gens specs. If they did that to all of the cpu stuff and also did that in the os department every 20 years or so, I think it would be healthy for the market. They should also do that for games. The sequel runs with better graphics on the same system the last game did. Treat the PC like an xbox and stop demanding more power to run the game!

jorge69696
jorge69696

GTX 460 are 140$ at tigerdirect. AMD will need a price drop quickly considering that an overclocked 460 performs better than a 6850.

sentencer
sentencer

Last sentence says it all, we win because this will cause prices to drop.

Fishy_Joe
Fishy_Joe

Im still rocking duel Radeon HD 5870's with windows 7 64bit haven't had a single problem with them and they continue to impress me with just what they can do however i do need to upgrade my sis' pc and i might have to think about the 460's

jollybest1
jollybest1

MY 8800 GTS still makes me wonder....why should i buy a new card when i can play all games on max settings (except that phiysx thing and some games that at some point are geting a little laggy-just for a moment ), and it is 3 years old (maybe older but 3 years i've used it).......still ati is good but i will stick with nvidia if i will buy a new card (better software support , and i didn't had the problems that ati users had with some games)...that doesn't mean they are bad but the software support is worst than nvidia (i know because one of my friends uses ati and he has problems finding good software and updates )

jedediahpelland
jedediahpelland

Judging from the thumbs up on my previous comment, and the comments in general, I see there are alot of nvidia enthusist here. Nothing against radeon by the way.

Vlaimir_Lem86
Vlaimir_Lem86

I'm still running dual 8800ultras... might Have to get dual 470s in the near future.

Maliceit
Maliceit

The only thing i care is: WHEN IS DUAL GPU COMIN OUT?

Exorte
Exorte

Isn't GTX 260 a old card....

N3cr0_Visi0N
N3cr0_Visi0N

sgtandy2006, seems like you have future plan for SLI eh! wow, that would exponentially multiply the cost ain't it? You must be one of them willing to spend 700W highly cooled system just for the sake of two GTX 260s (hypothetically :P ) btw, I had a banner with "sarcasm" written on it while typing~! :P

sgtandy2006
sgtandy2006

The new Radeon 10380 cards ought to be able to play Battlefield 1942 maxed out on the highest settings... we hope!

sgtandy2006
sgtandy2006

My GTX 260 beats most of ATI's recent and almost recent cards.

sgtandy2006
sgtandy2006

Does anyone really care what ATI is churning out? Is anyone still buying their products?