The AMD Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 proved to be two very solid performing mainstream video cards from what we saw in our initial testing with them. These cards are officially AMD’s second generation DirectX 11 video card series, which is impressive as NVIDIA still has not released all of their first generation cards yet. When AMD designed the Radeon HD 6800 ‘Barts’ series of GPUs they wanted to have Radeon HD 5800-class performance, but optimize the GPU to lower power use and the price tag. The cards do in fact have Radeon HD 5800-class performance in general and we saw much better power efficiency from the cards. This was done by lower the transistor count from 2.15 billion to 1.7 billion and as a result the die size went from 334mm2 to just 255mm2. Since both the Radeon HD 5800 and 6800 series are built by TSMC on the 40nm process we can see that AMD really cleaned things up inside the core and tuned this GPU for efficiency.
The Radeon HD 6800 series has great display connectors on the card as
you have a pair of mini-DisplayPort 1.2 headers, HDMI 1.4a and of course
a set of DVI connectors. The card still can do three panel ATI Eyefinity, but now you the ability to daisy chain three DisplayPort
monitors off each mini-DisplayPort connector! If you
wanted to run six panels you can now do so on a card that costs under
$200! Those that don’t want to run that many panels will be more than
happy with the HDMI 1.4a connector and the enhanced multimedia
acceleration. Thanks to the beefed up UVD3 (Unified Video Decoder) the
AMD Radeon HD 6800 series can now run Blu-ray 3D.
After spending some time with the Radeon HD 6800 series we found out that it pretty much is a new core that is derived from a refined Radeon HD 5800 series core. You get some new features like morphological anti-aliasing, the new UV3D engine, HDMI 1.2a and DisplayPort 1.2. On top of that you get a more efficient video card that has much lower power consumption than the competition.
AMD has set pricing for these cards rather aggressively, which was needed since the mainstream market is very competitive. The AMD Radeon HD 6850 will be available today for ~$179 and the Radeon HD 6870 will be priced at ~$239. AMD said that todays launch will be a hard launch and that thousands of boards will be available to purchase by the time you are reading this. AMD board partners will also have overclocked boards available at launch and while we didn’t have time to benchmark them we did get in overclocked cards from ASUS, Diamond, Sapphire and XFX that we will be testing in the near future. NVIDIA made some rather drastic price cuts today and lowered their Suggested Etail Pricing (SEP) on the GeForce GTX 460 768MB to $169.99, the GeForce GTX 460 1GB to $199.99 and the GeForce GTX 470 to $239.99. After you toss in the rebates that are going on right now you can find a GeForce GTX 460 1GB for $169.99 and a GeForce GTX 470 for $219.99. As you can see a pricing war has happened on mainstream video cards, so for ~$200 you can get a very powerful GPU.
Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon HD 6800 series of video cards retains Radeon HD 5800-class performance, but brings new features and better efficiency to the table.