Value and Conclusion
|9.0||As mentioned before, HIS has sent us a HD 6850 card that seemed to be based on an engineering sample GPU from AMD. As a result our card ran with 1120 shaders, when it shouldhave 960 instead. This would have resulted in an unfair performance increase that the regular customer would not get. Since neither HIS nor AMD could help us get our card fixed we had to take things into our own hands and manually reconfigured the card to run at the proper configuration. If you see HD 6850 reviews that show surprisingly high performance numbers, ask the reviewer to double-check using GPU-Z or fillrate tests.|
The HIS Radeon HD 6850 shatters the DirectX 11 affordability barrier being priced at a mere $179. Never before has high-resolution full-detail gaming be available for so little money. Thanks to AMD's aggressive pricing, NVIDIA has also announced price drops on their own, and there's probably more to come.AMD's architectural improvements in the HD 6800 Series have not been to the core architecture but adress weak spots like the tesselation engine. Another field of advancement is the display output logic which has been expanded on again, giving AMD even more margin against NVIDIA here. Support for DisplayPort 1.2 allows up to six displays connected to a single card and enables daisy chaining and hub functionality for easier monitor hook up. HDMI 1.4 includes support for Blu-ray 3D titles which seems to be more of a features list bullet point than a real need-to-have feature at this time.AMD also managed to reduce power consumption even further, boosting performance per Watt some more. Unfortunately Blu-ray power consumption has been missed in these optimizations which results in a power consumption increase vs. the HD 5000 Series in that scenario. It also seems that the AMD-provided thermal solution of the HIS HD 6850 is far from optimal. The card emits much more noise than the last generation HD 5850 which is roughly comparable in performance. This is surprising considering the improvements in power consumption and suggest that engineering focus has been lacking here.
Overclocking was very disappointing on our HIS HD 6850 which could have been because they sent us a card with an engineering sample GPU. Another explanation could be that the GPU did not manage the clock qualification to be used on a HD 6870 (900 MHz), so it ended up on a HD 6850. Once we increased voltage, the card did gain some OC potential, but the maximum of around 920 MHz is something we've seen other HD 6850s do out of the box without any fan or voltage changes.
If you are looking for the best price/performance in the sub $200 segment then the choice will be between the HD 6850 and the GTX 460 768 MB. Both cards overclock very well, the most notably difference being CUDA/PhysX support on the GTX 460 and vastly more display output options on the HD 6850. The difference between 768 MB and 1 GB makes no significant difference in most games. At this point it probably comes down to brand loyalty - or future price cuts.