AMD's 2nd Generation DX11 Video Card - Radeon 6800

A little over a year ago, AMD released the ATI Radeon HD 5000 family of graphics products and by doing so, AMD became the first company to offer DirectX 11 compatibility when Windows 7 was launched. This was a big deal and over the past year AMD has successfully released eleven video cards in the Radeon HD 5000 series and sold more than 25 million DX11 video cards. What is really interesting is that NVIDIA is still releasing more cards in their GeForce 400 series of products. NVIDIA has just five DirectX 11 cards released and the company still does not have a solid top-to-bottom DirectX 11 product stack like AMD does. AMD on the other hand is going to be releasing their next generation of GPUs today! The first two cards that are being released are the AMD Radeon HD 6870 and AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics cards. Unlike in past years AMD won't be starting with their flagship video cards, but rather a pair of cards that are positioned in the “Gamers’ Sweet Spot” as they like to call it. 

AMD DirectX 11 Market

The Radeon HD 5800 series was the first DirectX11 technology on the market. With a six month lead time over NVIDIA, AMD has captured 90 percent of the DX11 market. 25 million units sold is a pretty significant number, and something they want to hang on to.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Design Goals

The first and most important thing to notice is that these are now AMD Radeon graphics cards. ATI is finally gone from product naming. Looking at the design goals for "Barts", AMD wanted to have the performance of an Radeon HD 5800 series card at a lower power and lower price point. Simultaneously improving performance and functionality in areas like tessellation, image quality, Eyefinity, CrossFireX, and video decode. What they came away with is a very compelling package.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Overview

They were able to improve tessellation, add in a new Anti-Aliasing mode, improve efficiency for DirectCompute and gaming, and in turn still add value for gamers by lowering the price without killing performance.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Architecture

In the overall scheme of things not much has changed with the die itself. The UVD engine has been updated to UVD 3, HDMI 1.4a is on board for 3D Blu-ray. The biggest changes we noticed is that there is now an improved Tesselator Engine and that there are fewer Stream Processors (SIMD Engines) compared to the Radeon HD 5800 series. To compensate for this AMD has employed a second Ultra Threaded Dispatch Processor.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Performance Per Watt

This has added incredible performance efficiency to the die. On the same processing node of 40nm, AMD was able to go from 2.15 Billion Transistors to just 1.7 Billion. Overall die size is down close to 24%! It's not often that you shrink the number of Texture Units and Stream Processors and get an increase in performance! Let's take a look at the pricing and features.

6800 Strategy, Pricing, and a peek at the 6900 series

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Stretegy

As we mentioned, $179 for the Radeon HD 6850 and $239 for the Radeon HD 6870 are the suggested price points. While pricing is great we can't help but mention the changes in the names. For the Radeon HD 3000, HD 4000, and HD 5000 series x800 meant it was the top of the line in single card performance. So AMD has changed it up this time around with x800 denoting the "sweet spot" in pricing, whereas Radeon HD 6900 will be the big dogs. Regardless of the naming convention, with the 6800 series you can now get comparable performance to the 5800 series for about $100 less.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Product Lineup

You can see here what the new line up will look like. The Radeon HD 6950 is going to be similar to the Radeon HD 5850 in the line up, while Radeon HD 6970 would in the same position as the Radeon HD 5870 is today. The Radeon HD 6990 will be the flagship, replacing the Radeon HD 5970.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Refinement

In this slide we see more of what this architecture has in store. This is AMD's second generation DX11 design.

AMD Radeon HD 6870

Fewer transistors means that power consumption has dropped as well. The Radeon HD 6870 idles at 19w compared to 27w of the HD 5870, while load power has dropped to 151W from 188W! The Radeon HD 6870 has compute power of 2 TFLOPS. As was mentioned there are fewer available Stream Processors. The Radeon HD 6870 with just 1120 compared to the Radeon HD 5870's 1600. The Frame Buffer remains the same at 1GB of GDDR5 with a 256 bit width. Memory speed is down to 4.2 Gbps versus 4.8 Gbps of the HD 5870.Like we said, efficiency. The AMD Radeon HD 6870 has an MSRP of $239.

AMD Radeon HD 6850

The Radeon HD 6850 follows along behind the Radeon HD 6870. Compute power is down to 1.5 TFLOPS which happened by cutting out 160 Stream Processors, leaving it with 960. Comparatively the Radeon HD 5850 had 1440 Stream Processors. The Frame Buffer continues to be 1GB of GDDR5 with a 256 bit width and an overall speed of 4 Gbps. Idle power is 19W while load power is just 127W! The Radeon HD 5850 idled at 27W and pulled 151W under load.The AMD Radeon HD 6850 has an MSRP of $179.

Let's have a closer look at some of the features!

Stereoscopic 3D, HDMI 1.4, Eyefinity and More

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Eyefinity

AMD hit a Grand Slam with Eyefinity when it launched with the Radeon HD 5800 line. But why rest on "good enough?" There are now more display options thanks to Display Port 1.2.


AMD Radeon HD 6800 Display Port

A single card can now have 3-6 simultaneous displays with the right equipment on the Display Port connections. You no longer need a special, more expensive "Eyefinity Edition" card to take advantage of more than 3 monitors.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Display Options

HDMI 1.4a is also shipping on the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series cards. That means we now have honest to goodness 3D Blu-ray support for a HTPC! Worth noting in this photo is that there is now only one Dual Link DVI instead of the two that we have grown accustomed to. Those of you running a pair of 30" panels at 2560x1600 will need to look for a miniDP to DL-DVI adapter to get both of your panels running at native resolution. Even those of you with only one 30" panel will need to make sure that you're plugging into the DL-DVI port.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Eyespeed

The AMD Radeon HD 6800 series is a processing power house. As you can see above it supports UVD 3.0 for accelerated Blu-ray 3D and DivX decoding. AMD is continuing to back OpenCL on the GPU compute front.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Morphological AA

Anti-Aliasing has been with us for many years now and AMD is still working to provide new and better ways to get the job done. This time they are rolling out what they call Morphological AA. It delivers full-scene AA in a post process filter that is accelerated by DirectCompute. It has no limitations, works faster than super-sampling and works with any DirectX 9, 10, or 11 application!

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Anisotropic Filtering

AMD has again addressed Anisotropic Filtering by refining their algorithm. With the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series you'll see smoother transitions between filter levels, less mess in noisy textures, and it is angle independent.

3D Gaming

Something that NVIDIA is always touting that they have over AMD is 3D gaming support, well not anymore! AMD has partnered with 3D middleware vendors such as Dynamic Digital Depth and iZ3D to offer a great Stereoscopic 3D gaming experience with AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 3D Gaming

If it's 3D, the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series does it. Stereo 3D gaming is supported by both displays and glasses. AMD is enabling 3rd party stereo 3D software conversion!

AMD Radeon HD 6800 iZ3D

AMD has partnered with DDD and iZ3D to convert over 400 gaming titles in stereo 3D with native stereo 3D games are planned for 2011!

AMD Radeon HD 6800 DDD

DDD software has the power to automatically convert over 350 gaming titles raging from DX9-11, with flexible options to enable 3D gaming on lower ended graphics hardware. You can also capture 3D gaming sequences with the software.

As you can see, the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series graphics cards are packed full of features and make it a well rounded card. There isn't much that these video cards can't do!

The AMD Radeon HD 6850


AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

The Radeon HD 6850 1GB GDDR5 is the first video card in the new Radeon HD 6800 series that we will be showing you today. The Radeon HD 6800 series has a whole new look to it and while they kept the red/black color scheme the 'batmobile' look of the Radeon HD 5800 series is long gone. This new card has what people are calling a wave motif as you can see from the picture above.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

This video card measures 9" long and is a dual-slot card with a squirrel cage type cooling fan on it.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

The back of the Radeon HD 6850 is open and doesn't have any of the 1GB GDDR5 memory visible on this side of the PCB.  The only thing worth noting here is the GPU support bracket that is also common on the current generation of video cards.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

Long ago we heard rumors that the Radeon HD 6800 series would be the first video card to support the PCI Express 3.0 standard, but we haven't heard that rumor in many months and this card supports just PCI Express 2.1.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

The 6-pin PCIe power connector on the AMD Radeon HD 6850 is located at the end of the video card on the top corner.  AMD says that a 500W or greater power supply is needed with at least one 75W 6-pin PCI Express power connector.  For those that want to run two Radeon HD 6850 cards in CrossFireX you'll need at least a 600W power supply and two 6-pin connectors. Since the card is only 9" long, it still should still be able to fit in most of the cases on the market today.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

The AMD Radeon HD 6850 has a pair of mini-DisplayPort 1.2 connectors on it that have double the data-rate of DisplayPort 1.1. In addition to the higher data-rate, DP 1.2 also brings support for higher resolution support and support for stereoscopic 3D. The new HD 6800 series supports up to six DisplayPort displays by "daisy chaining" them to two Displayport outputs. To the right of the pair of mini-DisplayPort connectors is a full size HDMI 1.4a output for 3D video (Blu-ray 3D) support and dual-link DVI-I and single-link DVI-I outputs.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card
You can see that AMD has some 'vents' that are located along the top edge of the Radeon HD 6850, but that isn't for hot air from the cooling fan.  That air is contained within a red 'tube' that is exhausted out of the case via the exhaust vent that can be seen on the PCI panel bracket. Notice that the Radeon HD 5850 only has one CrossFire interconnect.  This means that you'll only be able to run two cards together and that triple or quad CrossFire is out of the question.
AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

Taking the heat sink and fan cover we can see that a small copper heat sink and a 4-pin fan is used to cool the Radeon HD 6850. Also notice that the 1GB of GDDR5 memory chips have a heat spreader over them to help keep them cooler during use.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

Here is a shot with the memory heat spreader removed. The cooling fan is by a company called FirstD and is a 0.7 Amp DC Brushless 12V model with part number FD9238M12D. The copper heat sink doesn't have any heat pipes and is a

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

AMD is using Hynix branded GDDR5 ICs on their Radeon HD 6850 video card and the part number was H5G01H24AFR-T2C. These memory ICs are speed rated at 1250MHz or an effective clock speed of 5GHz.  Since AMD has this card clocked at just 1000MHz it is likely these memory IC's have room left in them to overclock!

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

We always get e-mails asking for something to be used to put things into size perspective, so here is a United States Quarter Dollar sitting next to the core. As you can see, the new die is about the same size as the quarter.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

Here is a closer look so you can see the markings on the core itself. This one was made week 37 of 2010 and you can see that it was an engineering sample as it has ENG stamped laser etched onto it. These dies are made on the 40nm process by TSMC over in Taiwan.

XFX Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

XFX sent over their custom designed Radeon HD 6850 for review as well and we wanted to take a second and show you that card. XFX already has a custom designed PCB and cooling solution card on the market! This card has model number HD-687A-ZN and is about half an inch shorter than the AMD reference design. It also features a larger cooler with a huge heat-pipe on it for better heat dissipation. The card features the same clock speed as the AMD reference design and the performance was the same. Due to this we'll be showing just one card in the performance benchmarks, but will be showing both the XFX and AMD cards in the power consumption and temperature testing as the cards do differ in those respects.

XFX Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

As you can see from the back of the card the PCB layout is totally different on these two cards, so no wonder we noticed a power and temperature difference! Since both cards are the same speed and model we will be running them together for CrossFire testing as well.

XFX Radeon HD 6850 Video Card

XFX also did something a little different with their display connectors and rather than offering two mini-DisplayPort 1.2 headers they opted to use a single full size DisplayPort connector. The also have their name cut into the exhaust bracket, which is a nice touch along with the red DVI connectors.

The AMD Radeon HD 6870

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

At first glance the AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB GDDR5 video card looks identical to the Radeon HD 6850 video card.

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

It is only when you take a tape measure to the card that you notice this dual-slot card is actually more than one inch longer. The AMD Radeon HD 6870 PCB measures 10.5" in length. 

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card
The back of the Radeon HD 6870 is very similar to the Radeon HD 6850, but notice the GPU coolers fan shroud hangs over just a bit at the end of the card. The Radeon HD 6870 doesn't have any  GDDR5 memory visible on this side of the PCB either.
AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

Notice at the end of the video card the Radeon HD 6870 has no power connectors along the butt of the graphics card. This is because they are located along the top edge of the card. 

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card
This picture better shows the two 6-pin PCIe power connectors that are located along the top edge of the video card. AMD says the Radeon HD 6870 also needs a 500W or greater power supply for single card operation or a 600W or greater for CrossFire.
AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

The video connectors on the card are the same as the Radeon HD 6850.

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

Enough of looking at the outside let's take it apart also!

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card HSF

Once you remove the screws you'll notice that the GPU cooler on the AMD Radeon HD 5870 is much larger.  In fact the fan is larger and the copper heat sink has three large heat pipes on it along with a bunch off a aluminum cooling fins.  I wonder if we can get this fan shroud apart...

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card HSF

No screwdriver needed!  Just push the little plastic tabs and the CPU cooler comes easily apart! Notice that the Radeon HD 6870 has a heat sink that makes some older retail boxed CPU coolers look cheap!

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card HSF

The heat sink has a very nice appearance to it and it is no wonder in our temperature testing that the Radeon HD 6870 has better cooling temperatures.

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card HSF

Here is a better look at the copper base that sits directly on the GPU.

XFX Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

Speaking of the GPU, here is a closer look at the core that was on the AMD Radeon HD 6870.  They used plenty of thermal paste on this one! The Hynix GDDR5 memory IC's were identical to the ones used on the Radeon HD 6850.

XFX Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

XFX also sent out a Radeon HD 6870 for testing, but since it was identical to the reference design we won't go into much detail on that.  We did want to show you this picture of it though with the custom designed XFX Radeon HD 6850 sitting above the XFX Radeon HD 6870 to give you an idea of the size difference.

Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 Video Card

Our good friends at Sapphire and Diamond sent over some factory overclocked cards, but since they arrived yesterday we didn't have enough time to benchmark them and include them in this review. We'll post a review of these overclocked cards as soon as we get a chance to benchmark them all!

 

The Test System

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with all the latest updates installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Kingston HyperX T1 DDR3 memory modules were run in triple-channel mode at 1866MHz with 8-8-8-24 1T timings. The ATI Radeon HD 5000 series cards were all tested using CATALYST 10.10 drivers, the NVIDIA GeForce cards all used Forceware 260.89 WHQL drivers and. The ASUS P6X58D-E motherboard was run using BIOS 0303 with the processor running stock settings and Turbo enabled.

Windows 7 Drivers Used:
Intel Chipset Inf Update Program V9.1.1.1025
Realtek Audio Driver V6.0.1.6037 for Windows 64bit Windows 7.(WHQL)
Marvell Yukon Gigabit Ethernet Driver V11.10.5.3 for 32/64bit Windows 7.(WHQL)
Marvell 9128 SATA 6Gbps Controller Driver V1.0.0.1036 for 32/64bit Windows 7.

 

The Test System

Here is the Intel LGA 1366 Test platform:

Intel Test Platform

 

Component

 

Brand/Model

 

Live Pricing

 

 Processor

Intel Core i7-970

 

 Motherboard

ASUS P6X58D-E

 

Memory

6GB Kingston DDR3 1866MHz

 

 Video Card

 

 See Below

 

 Hard Drive

 

 Crucial C300 256GB SSD

 

 Cooling

 

 Titan Finrar

 

 Power Supply

Corsair HX850W

 

 Chassis

 

 None (Open Bench)

 

 Operating System

 

 Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

Video Cards Tested:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB GPU-Z

XFX Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card:

XFX Radeon HD 6850 1GB GPU-Z

AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB Video Card:

AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB GPU-Z

Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs Predator D3D11 Benchmark v1.03

Aliens vs Predator D3D11 Benchmark v1.03 is a standalone benchmark test based upon Rebellion's 2010 inter-species shooter Aliens vs. Predator. The test shows xenomorph-tastic scenes using heavy tessellation among other DX11 features.

Aliens vs Predator D3D11 Benchmark v1.03

We cranked up all the image quality settings in the benchmark to the highest level possible, so we were running 4x AA and 16x AF with SSAO enabled at both 1920x1200 and 1280x1024 on all the video cards.

Aliens Vs. Predator Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: To start off our benchmarking we ran AvP with the image quality cranked up and we got a great chart for you to look at. The AMD Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 cards were split by the Radeon HD 5850 video card. It was interesting to see that a pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 cards run in SLI were roughly the same speed as a single Radeon HD 6870. The AMD Radeon HD 6870 costs $229 and a pair of GeForce GTS 450 cards in SLI $110 each after rebate, so the pricing and performance of the cards is almost perfectly lined up.  The EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1GB FTW video card is factory overclocked with the core at 850MHz and it retails for $230 after rebate. The overclocked GeForce GTX 460 1GB pulls out a victory here, but the card has higher power consumption levels and you have to deal with rebates to get a price this low.

Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an action-adventure stealth video game based on DC Comics' Batman for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive in conjunction with Warner Bros.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

For our testing we set everything as high as it would go including Multi Sample Anti-Aliasing as we set that to 8x.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY edition showed the AMD Radeon HD 6870 and 6850 video cards could easily play the game with the eye candy cranked up.  In CrossFire mode the Radeon HD 6870 and 6850 again looked great. The new Radeon HD 6800 series cards were neck to neck with the Radeon HD 5850 once again.

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 is a sandbox style action video game currently under development by Swedish developer Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive, published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2006 video game, Just Cause. 

Just Cause 2 Game Settings

Just Cause 2 employs a new version of the Avalanche Engine, Avalanche Engine 2.0, which is an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause.  The game will be set on the other side of the world, compared to Just Cause, which is on the fictional tropical island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Rico Rodriguez will return as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former boss, Tom Sheldon.

Just Cause 2 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Just Cause 2 does better on AMD video cards from our experience and that proved true again here today. The AMD Radeon HD 6850 was able to perform better than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470! The CrossFire performance from matching two cards together was stellar.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.

Metro 2033 Settings

This is another extremely demanding game. Settings were left at High quality with AA and AF at lowest values- AAA and AF 4x, respectively, for each DirectX 9, 10 & 11 APIs. Advanced DirectX 11 settings were left at default. The section of Metro 2033 tested was the Prologue with fraps polling from when you are climbing up the ladder until opening the door to exit the metro station. This section includes many features found throughout the game including four creatures which attack you before you exit the building, dense particles, ammo in cabinets, a few computer controlled sections and, of course, Miller, your first companion.

AXLE Radeon HD 5670 1GB Test Results: Metro 2033 @DX9

Benchmark Results: Metro 2033 is a killer on pretty much all graphics cards and only the $200+ video card/s were able to run this benchmark above 30fps at a screen resolution of 1920x1200. The Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 had respectable scores and were pretty close to the performance levels of the Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

Stalker Call of Pripyat DX11 Performance Benchmark

The events of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat unfold shortly after the end of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl following the ending in which Strelok destroys the C-Consciousness. Having discovered the open path to the Zone's center, the government decides to stage a large-scale operation to take control of the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat utilizes the XRAY 1.6 Engine, allowing advanced modern graphical features through the use of DirectX 11 to be fully integrated; one outstanding feature being the inclusion of real-time GPU tessellation. Regions and maps feature photo realistic scenes of the region it is made to represent. There is also extensive support for older versions of DirectX, meaning that Call of Pripyat is also compatible with older DirectX 8, 9, 10 and 10.1 graphics cards.

Stalker Call of Pripyat DX11 Performance Benchmark

The game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: CoP has no internal benchmarking tools built into the game engine, but they do have a standalone benchmark available that we used for our testing purposes. The screen capture above shows the main window of the benchmark with our settings. Notice we are running Enhanced Full Dynamic Lighting "DX11" as our renderer.

Stalker Call of Pripyat Advanced Image Quality Settings

Under the advanced settings we enabled tessellation and 4x MSAA. We didn't enable ambient occlusion as we wanted to use these test settings for mainstream cards down the road and these settings should be tough enough to stress any and all DX11 enabled video cards.

Stalker Call of Pripyat Advanced Image Quality Settings

Benchmark Results: When S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat first came out it was one of the toughest DX11 benchmarks that you could run, but as you can see all of the DX11 video cards on the market today can easily run this PC Game title. Here we see the AMD Radeon HD 6870 was just a tad faster than the ATI Radeon HD 5850 and having about the same performance as a pair of Radeon HD 5770 video cards running in CrossFire.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty DX11 Performance Benchmark

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a military science fiction real-time strategy video game developed by Blizzard Entertainment for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. A sequel to the award-winning 1998 video game StarCraft, the game was released worldwide on July 27, 2010. It is split into three installments: the base game with the subtitle Wings of Liberty, and two upcoming expansion packs, Heart of the Swarm and Legacy of the Void. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has had a successful launch, selling three million copies worldwide in less than a month.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty Settings

The game StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty has no internal benchmarking tools built into the game engine, so we recorded a scene and played it back at normal speed and measured performance with FRAPS. The screen capture above shows the system settings that we were using for StarCraft II. Notice we are running the graphics quality and textures set to Ultra and maxed out everything in the menu. We did not manually enable AA in the drivers though, as we wanted to keep testing simple and consistent to the choices offered in the games settings menus.

Stalker Call of Pripyat Advanced Image Quality Settings

Benchmark Results: StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is fairly easy on video cards and all of the current mainstream graphics cards don't struggle to playback this games content smoothly. In this benchmark we found the Radeon HD 6870/6850 performing faster than their now 'old' counterparts the Radeon HD 5870/5850. NVIDIA GeForce cards do well on this benchmark though and the factory overclocked EVGA GeForce GTX 460 768MB SuperClocked video card made short work of the Radeon HD 6800 series cards.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

3DMark Vantage

The Extreme settings were used for testing, so a resolution of 1920x1200 was used.

3DMark Vantage Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: It's strange that in some real game benchmarks we saw the Radeon HD 6870 performing better than a Radeon HD 5870, but then when you a synthetic benchmark like 3DMark Vantage we see the opposite. In fact this benchmark showed the Radeon HD 5870 scoring 21% faster than the Radeon HD 6870. AMD's internal testing showed that the Radeon HD 6870 should score around X7700 and our testing showed that it scored X7645. It looks like AMD was spot on with their assessment and that is good to see. When run in CrossFire the Radeon HD 6870 scored nearly X14500, which is nothing to laugh at.

Unigine 'Heaven' DX11

Unigine DirectX 11 benchmark Heaven

The 'Heaven' benchmark that uses the Unigine easily shows off the full potential of DirectX 11 graphics cards. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging, experience of exploring the intricate world is within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extent and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming. The distinguishing feature of the benchmark is a hardware tessellation that is a scalable technology aimed for automatic subdivision of polygons into smaller and finer pieces so that developers can gain a more detailed look of their games almost free of charge in terms of performance. Thanks to this procedure, the elaboration of the rendered image finally approaches the boundary of veridical visual perception: the virtual reality transcends conjured by your hand.

DirectX 11 benchmark Unigine engine

We ran the Heaven v2.1 benchmark that just recently out with VSync turned disabled, but with 8x AA and 16x AF enabled to check out system performance. We ran the benchmark at 1920x1200 and 1280x1024 to see how the benchmark ran at some different monitor resolutions. It should be noted that we ran the new extreme tessellation mode on this benchmark.  These are the toughest settings that you can run on this benchmark, so it should really put the hurt on any graphics card.

Heaven v2.1 was really important to include as it has a setting for extreme tessellation and that should see if AMD has really made any performance increases with their new tessellation engine as they claimed they are seeing up to a 2x performance improvement over the Radeon HD 5000 series with the new Radeon HD 6000 series.

AMD Improved Tessellation

If things are working like they should then we should see some good tessellation performance with the Radeon HD 6000 series cards since they have improved thread management and buffering.

 

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Benchmark Results: Sure enough we see a modest 9% performance gain in the Radeon HD 6870 compared to the Radeon HD 5870. The NVIDIA 'Fermi' GeForce 400 series cards do very well at tessellation though. AMD's 7th generation hardware tessellator does look like a step in the right direction. What happened to the up to 2x performance gain that AMD talked about?

AMD Improved Tessellation

Well, the key word there is up to and it depends on the tessellation factor that is being run on the GPU. As the tessellation factor increases the improvements made to thread management and buffering decrease in effectiveness. We aren't sure what tessellation factor is being used in the Heaven Benchmark.

FurMark 1.8.2

FurMark 1.8.2

FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that's why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool (also called GPU burner) for the graphics card.

FurMark 1.8.2

The benchmark was rendered in full screen mode with no AA enabled on both video cards.

Furmark Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Furmark shows the AMD Radeon HD 6870 and the Radeon HD 5850 having identical performance in this OpenGL benchmark. 

Temperature Testing

Since video card temperatures and the heat generated by next-generation cards have become an area of concern among enthusiasts and gamers, we want to take a closer look at how the graphics cards do at idle and under a full load.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card Idle Temperature:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card GPU-Z Details

XFX Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card Idle Temperature:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card GPU-Z Details

AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB Video Card Idle Temperature:

AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB Video Card GPU-Z Details

As you can see from the screen shot above, the idle state of the Radeon HD 6800 series drops the GPU core clock frequency down to 100MHz and the memory clock down to 81MHz to help conserve power and lower temperatures.  At idle on an open test bench the Radeon HD 6850 video card temperature was observed at 46C and the Radeon HD 6870 was at 31C. The fan speed on the card was around 21-22% and nearly silent as it spins under 1,000 RPM at an idle. 

We fired up FurMark and ran the stability at 640x480, which was enough to put the  GPU core at 100% load in order to get the highest load temperature possible. This application also charts the temperature results so you can see how the temperature rises and levels off, which is very nice. The fan on the video cards were left on auto during temperature testing. When we hit the space bar to stop the rendering the temperature dropped.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Load Temperature:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Load Temp

XFX Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Load Temperature:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Load Temp

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card Load Temperature:

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card Load Temp

The GPU fan got up to 49% or 1920RPM during temperature testing and it was definitely audible over the CPU coolers fan.  The AMD Radeon HD 6870 peaked at 73C and the Radeon HD 6850 peaked at 81C. 

Temp Testing

Most of the mainstream video card temperatures are right around 73C, but there is one card to take a closer look at. The AMD Radeon HD 6850 reference design cooler isn't that impressive and had a peak load temperature of 81C. The custom cooler on the XFX Radeon HD 6850 only got to 63C at load! It also had a much lower idle temperature, so you can see that putting a decent air cooler on the Radeon HD 6800 series will really help bring down temperatures. Having full load temperatures in the low 60's on these are insane! Take a look at the GeForce GTX 470 that NVIDIA says is price competitive with the Radeon HD 6870. It tops out at 93C versus just 73C on the Radeon HD 6870!

Power Consumption

During our conversations with AMD on the Radeon HD 6000 series of video cards it was crystal clear that one of the goals in mind was improved performance per Watt.

AMD Radeon HD 6000 Series Performance Per Watt

AMD says they met their design goals as the AMD Radeon HD 6870 uses less power at idle and the same amount as the ATI Radeon HD 5850 at peak load. What is also interesting is that the AMD Radeon HD 6870 has slightly better performance than the Radeon HD 5850, yet has 25% less silicon in use as the die size is smaller.

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.8.2 at 1920x1200 resolution.

Total System Power Consumption Results

Power Consumption Results: The architecture changes that AMD made in the Radeon HD 6800 'Barts' series of video cards is rather amazing. As a single card the Radeon HD 6850 used roughly the same amount of power at idle and load as an NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 and it crushes that card in the benchmarks. When you run a pair of Radeon HD 6850 video cards in CrossFire you get great performance and the power consumption is still less than a stock clocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470! AMD has great power consumption on the Radeon HD 6850, but the Radeon HD 6870 isn't that far behind. We found that the Radeon HD 6870 uses about 35W more power at load than compared to a Radeon HD 6850, but get this.  The Radeon HD 6870 manages to use less power at load than a ATI Radeon HD 5850 or 5870!  AMD has done some great stuff here with power management with the Radeon HD 6000 series.

Overclocking

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Overclocking

To overclock the AMD Radeon HD 6800 graphics card series, we used the ATI Overdrive utility that is part of the CATALYST Control Center. When you 'unlock' the ATI Overdrive, you can manually set the clock and memory settings or let the 'auto-tune' utility set the frequencies for you.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Overclocking

Just for fun, we tried out the auto-tune feature to see if it could really find a stable clock configuration, and it worked in about 15 minutes and did not lock up the system. This utility determines the highest core and memory clock frequency that is stable and shows you what the GPU temperature is and how much load the GPU is under during testing.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Overclocking

Before Auto-tune was run we started out at the default settings of 775MHz on the core and 1000MHz on the memory and was able to reach 840MHz on the core and 1130MHz on the GDDR5 memory. We know auto-tune is a little conservative, so we manually bumped it up another 10MHz and was able to reach 850MHz on the core clock and 1140MHz on the memory. This is a 75MHz overclock on the core and a 140MHz boost on the GDDR5 memory ICs. 

To test out the overclock we fired up 3DMark Vantage to see what this overclock was like. 

The AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Stock 775MHz/1000MHz:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 OC Video Card Overclocking

The  AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Overclocked 850MHz/1140MHz:

ATI Radeon HD 68500 OC Video Card Overclocking

Running 3DMark Vantage with the Extreme preset we got a score of X6063.  The score went up X6623 3DMarks when overclocked, which was an improvement of 9.2% with this mild overclock. Let's see how the AMD Radeon HD 6870 overclocked using the same methods.

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Video Card Overclocking

The AMD Radeon HD 6870 comes with a 900MHz core clock and 1050MHz memory clock.  We ran auto-tune on this card and the program came back saying that it was able to reach 940MHz on the core clock and 1140MHz on the memory. This is a 40MHz overclock on the core and a 90MHz boost on the GDDR5 memory ICs. 

To test out the overclock we fired up 3DMark Vantage to see what this overclock was like. 

The AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Stock 900MHz/1050MHz:

AMD Radeon HD 6870 OC Video Card Overclocking

The  AMD Radeon HD 6850 Video Card Overclocked 940MHz/1140MHz:

ATI Radeon HD 6870 OC Video Card Overclocking

Running 3DMark Vantage with the Extreme preset we got a score of X7645.  The score went up X8099 3DMarks when overclocked, which was an improvement of 6% with this easy to do overclocking method. Seeing a nice 6-9% performance gain with pretty much zero effort was nice to see and when we have more time we are sure these cards could be pushed even harder!

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

AMD Radeon 6800 Series Video Cards

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. 

AMD Radeon 6800 Series Video Cards

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.