AMD Radeon HD 6850 and HD 6870 Graphics Processors

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The last quarter is one of the two times in a year when the GPU scenario looks very interesting—it’s when AMD launches their next generation of GPUs. The other is towards the end of first quarter when Nvidia spruces up the competition with their new lineup. The Radeon HD 5000 series met with good success.

The HD 6000 took off with the launch of HD 6870 and HD 6850. Going by AMD’s nomenclature, 6870 should be the most powerful single GPU followed by the 6850. But surprisingly it is not so. These are mid-range GPUs which fall behind the 5870 and 5850. The manufacturing process of the new GPUs remains the same at 40nm but there has been a 23 percent shrink in die size due to which the number of stream processors has been cut down. The HD 6870 has 1120 stream processors (30 percent lesser than HD 5870) and runs at 900 MHz. The GDDR5 memory tied to a 256-bit wide bus runs at 1.05 GHz which is 150 Hz slower than on HD 5870. The HD 6850 is leaner with 960 stream processors (33 percent lesser than HD 5850) and runs at 775 MHz.The memory speed remains unchanged at 1 GHz.

The EAH6870, hardcore for the price

Other changes in the HD 6000 include an improved tessellation engine that performs significantly better at lower tessellation factors, better anti-aliasing, UVD 3, HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.2. UVD 3 supports hardware acceleration for Blu-ray 3D, MPEG-2, and DivX and XviD codecs. A notable feature of DisplayPort 1.2 is that a single port can drive multiple displays (up to four full HD displays) by means of daisy-chaining monitors or using a media streaming (MST) hub.

Meet the Asus EAH6870 and EAH6850 Direct CU
The EAH6870 uses AMD’s reference design which is more or less similar to that of the HD 5870 with an intake fan that cools the heatsink with copper pipes running through. The cooler is enclosed in a plastic shroud that creates a chamber for the air to move through the fins and expel from the rear and a few vents on the side.The rear panel of the EAH6870 sports a two DVI ports, two mini Display Port and an HDMI port.

6870 has plenty of connectivity options including HDMI

The EAH6850 Direct CU breathes more freely with a custom cooler comprising a heatsink with two 8 mm thick copper heat pipes and a 75 mm fan fitted at the center. It’s not completely enclosed like in case of the reference design but the heatsink is covered by a plastic panel that facilitates airflow and prevents dust from creeping in. The rear panel is less elaborate than that of the EAH6870 with two DVI ports, a DisplayPort and an HDMI port.The core speed of both, the EAH6870 and EAH6850,run 15 MHz faster, but the memory runs at stock speed.
Test Rig
CPU: Intel Core i7-870, 2.93 GHz
Motherboard: MSI H57M-ED65
Memory: 2 x 2 GB Corsair XMS3-1600DHX C9
SSD: Intel X25M, 80 GB
Power supply: TaganBZ1300

The HD 6870 was just about able to handle Crysis Warhead at 1920x1080 using Enthusiast settings but with AA disabled. Just Cause 2 was relatively easy to handle with Very High settings and AA set to 8x. So you can rest assured that most of the latest games will run at comfortably full HD resolution with all the settings maxed out but with AA disabled or set to lower values depending on the game. The overall performance is good. It’s slightly more powerful than the GTX 470, but it takes a beating from HD 5870 which is 12 percent faster.Although the HD 6850 is 7 percent slower than the HD 5850, it has enough muscle to pump out playable frame rates at 1920x1080 albeit using medium settings. Crysis Warhead with Enthusiast settings was brutal, but it managed to handle Just Cause 2 with Very High settings and 8x AA.It performs at par with the 1 GB variant of GTX 460, but a good factory overclocked variant would give the 5850 a run for its money.

The 6850 looks beefy in it's custom avatar

Note how well the new GPUs perform in Unigine Heaven 2.1 benchmark which puts the GPU’s tessellation capability to thorough test. Nvidia has an upper hand here, but thumbs up to AMD for the significant jump in performance thanks to their built tessellation engine. The power consumption has also gone down due to the shrink in die size and reduction in the number of stream processors. Our total system power consumption went down by a good 12 percent when using HD 6870 instead of the HD 5870. But the idle power consumption dropped by a mere 2 Watt. The total power draw with the HD 6850 installed was only 210 Watts as compared to 220 Watts with the HD 5850, which is a 4.5 percent improvement.

Keeping the 6850 cool are a set of robust cooling pipes

First and foremost, don’t be mistaken that the HD 6870 and HD 6850 are more powerful than the HD 5870 and HD 5850 respectively.It would have made more sense if the new cards belonged to the HD 6700 series, but AMD seems to have adopted a different nomenclature.

Priced at Rs 17,500 and Rs 13,500 (MRP) respectively, the Asus EAH 6870 and EAH 6850 DirectCU offer good value for money for the kind of performance they offer. Competing GPUs by Nvidia also deliver similar performance at the same price points but the power consumption is slightly higher. You can expect price cuts on the older HD 5000 series graphics cards and on GeForce 400 series GPUs.

Published Date: Nov 08, 2010 04:05 pm | Updated Date: Nov 08, 2010 04:05 pm