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6850's in Xfire - half the price of the GTX580, better performance?

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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January 20, 2011 3:38:37 PM

Recently picked up a U2711 (2560X1440 res monitor) and the old HD4890 isn't quite cutting it. I'm looking for the best bang for the buck upgrade, and I keep coming back to a pair of 6850's.

You can pick up a pair of 6850's for $280 after rebates.

Almost every chart I'm looking at puts these on top for the money.

People say they run too hot - they're about the same temp as a single GTX 570, and cooler than a single GTX480. http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph4051/34543.png

I've read they take too much power, but they require less than a GTX580. http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph4051/34540.png

"They're too noisy", yet they put out the same dba as the GTX580, and are quite a bit less than the GTX480. http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph4051/34546.png

"Their 1GB of VRAM is not enough to support higher resolutions", yet at 2560X1600 they smack the $500 cards in the mouth. http://media.bestofmicro.com/Q/D/273109/original/BF%20BC2%202560.png and http://media.bestofmicro.com/W/O/272040/original/DiRT%202%202560.png

So, before I drop the $$$ on a pair of these, will someone tell me why I shouldn't?
a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 3:46:40 PM

there is no reason you shouldn't, its a hell of a pair

in fact this months gpu reccomendations on tom's puts 2x6850 at a reccomended over a gtx 570 or 6970 single card

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gaming-graphics-car...

i personally love my dual cards.. but dirty little secret abotu sli/crossfire is that not all titles scale as well as others, so while you will almost always get better performance than one card you will not always get 190-200% scaling over 1 card

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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:03:34 PM

Ya, I personally prefer single card solutions, unless you are seeking higher performance than a single card can give. The main reason is some games don't even support SLI/CF. Some cause glitches, and they are just plain louder and hotter.

If it were me, I'd look at a gtx 570 or HD 6970. I personally like the 6970's AA options, bu the 570 has physX.
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January 20, 2011 4:06:36 PM

Ugh, I'm also torn between the 6950 and 2x 6850s..... same price after rebate, I'm looking for the best value, and I've got the space and power; it's incredibly hard to choose.

Anyway, I guess it would depend on what games you are planning to play...
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:12:12 PM

There are some newer titles that have a bit poor scaling in Crossfire (just like there are some where SLI scaling is poor). There are a lot of reasons why people will buy a more expensive 580 over 6850s in Crossfire (which perform similarly or better on average): preference for single card, preference for NVidia (physx etc), wanting "the best" card on the market, wanting super high performance from 580 sli, etc. Those reasons are all ok and valid to some degree.

One thing that you can't really argue about is whether 6850s are a better value than a 580- they are. Period- especially at the price you listed (they typically have been around $180 each online in the us). For a more compelling value comparison, take a look at 460s in sli (or wait for 560s which should be released very soon).
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:13:59 PM

yeah honestly if you were at 1080p I'd say go with 6850s but since you have that high res monitor the 6970 is a much better option because of its 2gig frame buffer which will actually get used somewhat at that high res whereas at 1080p it doesnt make much of a difference... go with the 6970 hands down, in some cases it will be a tad slower then 6850 crossfire but at high res it will soar, also in games that don't utilize crossfire well you will have much better performance, not to mention that you will likely always have better minimum fps from the single card. I mean 280 for the card AR or $350 AR for the 6970 but personally at that high of a res I think you need more than 1 gig of vmemory, also, a year from now or so you can pick up another 6970 and crossfire it for even better performance::

MSI 6970 $350 AR free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:16:15 PM

beltzy said:
There are some newer titles that have a bit poor scaling in Crossfire (just like there are some where SLI scaling is poor). There are a lot of reasons why people will buy a more expensive 580 over 6850s in Crossfire (which perform similarly or better on average): preference for single card, preference for NVidia (physx etc), wanting "the best" card on the market, wanting super high performance from 580 sli, etc. Those reasons are all ok and valid to some degree.

One thing that you can't really argue about is whether 6850s are a better value than a 580- they are. Period- especially at the price you listed (they typically have been around $180 each online in the us). For a more compelling value comparison, take a look at 460s in sli (or wait for 560s which should be released very soon).


Yet I'd argue that a 570 or 6950/70 is a better value at a similar cost. In optimum situations, it would be less powerful, in poor conditions, the single higher end card would be a lot better. On average, you just have less headaches.

I'd go with the 6950 or 70 so you have 2gb of ram which is quite useful at your resolution. Then sometime down the road, you can add a 2nd one for super performance.
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:17:29 PM

^+1 pretty much what i just said above,lol, and what you said before me :) 
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:19:14 PM

jjb8675309 said:
^+1 pretty much what i just said above,lol, and what you said before me :) 


It's hard when people are typing at the same time! :p 
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:29:05 PM

word
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:37:57 PM

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-570-gf110-performance,2806-8.html

The 6850's in crossfire get the same or better performance as compared to the 6970 in all but 1 game benchmark (AVP) at 2560x1600. The 6850's he's referencing cost $280 vs $370ish (perhaps $350 on a deal w rebates). How is that a better value at his resolution? I'm all for preference, but it's hard to argue with benchmarks. This is why in the GTX 570 review I referenced they end up discussing 6850's so much.

Edit: future upgrade potential IS a compelling reason to go for a 69xx instead of 6850s. You would be invested in an upgrade path that you can just about double your performance if you decide to do so. Factor that into your decision.
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:43:13 PM

true the 6850 crossfire for cheap is the best value, im just saying a better value in terms of less hassle from a 2 gpu setup etc, but yeah I guess the benchmarks don't lie and I was just going off what I've heard since I don't pay too much attention to whats going on after 1080/1200p since the dang monitors cost a grand, but your right and the 6850 crossfire is the best value simply bc its much cheaper and performs the same, sometimes better, sometimes a bit worse but overall on par with todays top cards
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January 20, 2011 4:44:58 PM

bystander said:
I'd go with the 6950 or 70 so you have 2gb of ram which is quite useful at your resolution. Then sometime down the road, you can add a 2nd one for super performance.


Yep - I've read that suggestion now a few times. For higher resolution, you want cards with more than 1gb of RAM.

The thing is, every chart out there shows Xfired 6850's @ 2560X1600 hanging in with and often beating cards like the GTX580 and HD5970.

2 6950's would be better down the road, no doubt. But that's $600 versus $280.

It seems that best bang for the buck *today* at any res is the Xfired 6850's.
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:46:30 PM

Domina said:
Yep - I've read that suggestion now a few times. For higher resolution, you want cards with more than 1gb of RAM.

The thing is, every chart out there shows Xfired 6850's @ 2560X1600 hanging in with and often beating cards like the GTX580 and HD5970.

2 6950's would be better down the road, no doubt. But that's $600 versus $280.

It seems that best bang for the buck *today* at any res is the Xfired 6850's.


+1^yeah your absolutely right the 2 gigs does not make much of a difference in todays games compared to the 6850s, the 6850s are much cheaper and are the clear winning
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 4:58:24 PM

in asswer to your 2x6850 vs 6950/6970 or 570

value right now 2x 8650 will out preform either of the other choices

6950/6970 offers mroe performance down the lien if you can put a seocnd card in and with the added ram while it will cost mroe will last you longer .. the question is will you be keeping them for only a year or two... if so get the 6850's

if keeping them for 3-4 years 6950/6970 or 570 and get a second down the road
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 5:13:08 PM

beltzy said:
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-570-gf110-performance,2806-8.html

The 6850's in crossfire get the same or better performance as compared to the 6970 in all but 1 game benchmark (AVP) at 2560x1600. The 6850's he's referencing cost $280 vs $370ish (perhaps $350 on a deal w rebates). How is that a better value at his resolution? I'm all for preference, but it's hard to argue with benchmarks. This is why in the GTX 570 review I referenced they end up discussing 6850's so much.

Edit: future upgrade potential IS a compelling reason to go for a 69xx instead of 6850s. You would be invested in an upgrade path that you can just about double your performance if you decide to do so. Factor that into your decision.


While benchmark sites will always show games where CF and SLI excel, the truth is, they always benchmark the same games over and over. They omit games which don't support CF and SLI. The games which are commonly benchmarked on the sites get extra attention from ATI and Nvidia, so they make sure their drivers perform at their peek in those games.

Unfortunately, when you play games that aren't on their list of favorite benchmarks, things start to fall a part a lot more often. I have 4-5 games I've played over the last year in which CF and SLI either don't work in, or cause glitches.
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 5:14:28 PM

yeah i think there is some truth to that bystander
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January 20, 2011 5:22:38 PM

Would someone be kind enough to list a few recent game titles that suck in Xfire? I'm curious to know how limited this setup might be.
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 5:28:53 PM

The most played game in at least the USA, World of Warcraft. CF and SLI are not officially supported. However, there are some cases where it works (it works well with the 5870 and 4870) and others were it will cause loss of performance (the 6850 and 6870) and some were it does nothing. It's also played in windowed mode by most people, and CF/SLI does not work in windowed mode.

Elven Legacy is a turn based strategy game I play, it causes glitches with both SLI and CF. Most noticeably is the water flickers on and off.

Dawn of War 2 - has no support for SLI or CF.

Gothic 4 - causes some weird ghosting images when in CF or SLI.

There are others I'm sure. Those are just some games I played recently and had issues.
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a c 125 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 5:49:11 PM

Minecraft doesn't support it!

But seriously I'm very sure that crossfire support is a Radeon issue and has absolutely nothing to do with the game. Once they release a driver revision and new app profiles after the game is out, crossfire should work. For example F1 2010 initially had poor CF performance as well as some texture losses but it's all fixed on AMD's side.
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 5:55:55 PM

domina, what games do you play? I will tell you which ones play nice with crossfire
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 6:02:45 PM

wolfram23 said:
Minecraft doesn't support it!

But seriously I'm very sure that crossfire support is a Radeon issue and has absolutely nothing to do with the game. Once they release a driver revision and new app profiles after the game is out, crossfire should work. For example F1 2010 initially had poor CF performance as well as some texture losses but it's all fixed on AMD's side.


I played all the games I listed with both SLI and CF. It's not a Radeon issue. WoW is weird. Most cards get no gains from CF and SLI, yet the 5870's did. Not that it matters to most, as most play in windowed mode for that game.

The glitches in Elven legacy happens with both 470's and 5870's. I've tested both. Same with Gothic 4.

Most games which work with CF or SLI work with the other. Same goes for those which don't work. WoW is one that is weird and has some success with some cards, but no success with most.
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 6:05:25 PM

on WoW ...

WoW can be forced into sli/crossfire in nvidia control panel or cat control... only works in full screen mode... scalign varies but highest i've seen in accuratly doen benchmarks was an 80% gian... which is signifigant
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 6:12:46 PM

g00fysmiley said:
on WoW ...

WoW can be forced into sli/crossfire in nvidia control panel or cat control... only works in full screen mode... scalign varies but highest i've seen in accuratly doen benchmarks was an 80% gian... which is signifigant


Ya, that 80% scaling was on 5870's. The only other card I've seen scale well was the 4870's. I have seen numerous people with 6850 and 70's complain of loss of performance. I've not see anything good out of the SLI setups either.

Another game I played recently which doesn't scale or doesn't support SLI or CF was Sacred 2.
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a b U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 6:17:27 PM

wow actually scales decent in sli, my gts 450's in sli got a 75% improvment, took a while to optimise and play with nvidia controls though, started at around 60% scaling
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a c 217 U Graphics card
January 20, 2011 6:20:14 PM

g00fysmiley said:
wow actually scales decent in sli, my gts 450's in sli got a 75% improvment, took a while to optimise and play with nvidia controls though, started at around 60% scaling


Ya, well, that one is hit and miss. You can't know what you will get from WoW without confirmation from someone with the same setup. I do know it's not officially supported and I know the 6850/70's aren't scaling at all, but some setups are.
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January 20, 2011 6:42:44 PM

always go for single card, if u have the money.
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February 25, 2011 8:36:52 PM

jimishtar said:
always go for single card, if u have the money.



This phobia people have about the supposed issues with two cards is getting out of hand. The fact is there are very few issues anymore. I run crossfire 4850s in WoW, I get 150+ FPS in the old world with CF and barely 90 without. Same thing in raids, the minimum FPS is ~20 in huge fights while using CF and about 11 without it. The 6850 is a beast in CF, and even games that don't "support" CF still get a benefit, and the reduction in performance is almost always a bad driver or people trying to run x16 x4 CF.

Think about it, we are comparing $600 to ~$300. That is DOUBLE the price, and by the time someone wants to throw in another top end card its a waste of money as it will be 2+ years down the road and by that time you might as well build a new rig.

The performance is about equal, and in most cases better, AND it costs half as much. NO BRAINER....CF the 6850's.
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February 25, 2011 8:54:48 PM

17seconds said:
Maybe this thread discussing the new 11.2 drivers will temper your enthusiasm:
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/309630-33-post-result...



An excellent resource, again showing that most issues are driver related. Maybe I am in the minority, but I never install new drivers right as they come out. Let the forums be flooded with feedback to learn if they work for you. The nature of computers is that they are all slightly different, and there will always be someone out there that has an issue. I don't think anyone is going to find a "11.2 drivers are freaking awesome" thread. Obviously if someone is having trouble they are more likely to be on a forum trying to fix it, as opposed to those not having issue, it is not a representative sample.

Point is, the MAJORITY of people are fine with the drivers, and again it is not the end of the world to use an old driver if a particular one is not working for you. I especially would not let one thread on a forum with a nonrepresentative sample encourage me to drop an additional $300 to avoid things that may happen, but more often than not will never occur.
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