AMD Radeon HD 6870 And 6850: Is Barts A Step Forward?

The Radeon HD 6800 Verdict

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” It’s obvious that when Shakespeare penned this famous quip, he was foretelling the arrival of AMD’s Radeon HD 6800-series cards. Wherefore art thou, Radeon 6700?

All kidding aside, once you accept the outright-confusing naming scheme, the Radeon HD 6870 and 6850 have a lot going for them. These are the cards that lead AMD’s charge into the realm of stereoscopic 3D, the cards that make six-monitor Eyefinity a much more accessible possibility, the cards that add the first post-processing based AA mode, the cards that bring AMD’s tessellation performance much closer to the GeForce-based competition.

More important than all of those points put together, though, the Radeon HD 6800-series lowers the buy-in for very powerful graphics cards. Last week, the cheapest GeForce GTX 460 you could find was $220—the Radeon HD 6850 offers performance in the same league for an MSRP of $179.99. Not very long ago, the Radeon HD 5850 was priced at $300—and enthusiasts were happy to pay that much! Now, the Radeon HD 6870 ups the ante a little for the low price of $240.

Almost as a validation of the notable price/performance potential of AMD’s new Radeon models, Nvidia very quickly slashed its own prices in a very aggressive fashion. At $200, the GeForce GTX 460 is more powerful than the Radeon HD 6850 and offers some stiff competition. We’re already seeing these prices on Newegg, sometimes even lower with rebates. Even more impressive is the price reduction of the GeForce GTX 470, with at least one model reduced to $260 on Newegg—once again, even lower with rebates. AMD contends that these prices are temporary and will go back up after three weeks. Fine. Buy now while the value is there.

For anyone interesting in upping their game (or buying a Christmas present for a PC gamer), all of these cards are fantastic buys at prices we couldn’t have imagined back when they launched, Radeon and GeForce alike. It remains to be seen whether AMD can deliver the Radeon HD 6800-series in force to supply the inevitable demand, but the company claims that ten thousand cards are already waiting to be sold.

It also remains to be seen if Nvidia can maintain the long-term price war it recently declared. Every single GeForce GTX 470 is equipped with a monolithic GF100 GPU in the 530 square millimeter range. That’s close to twice the size of the Radeon HD 6870’s 255 mm2 die. How long can Nvidia keep up such a numbers-based fight? Not long, we’d guess, if there’s nothing else waiting in the wings. But this sure would be a good time to introduce a card with a fully-equipped GF104 and 384 CUDA cores enabled (Ed.: I can’t comment, but I know something that you don’t, Don).

But enough speculation. The bottom line is that the new Radeon HD 6800-series refreshes excellent performance. It also introduces a handful of notable features at lower prices that what we were seeing previously. It’s hard to complain about that. To misquote the bard, “Now go we in content!”

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    Top Comments
  • Poisoner
    I think AMD did a great job with these cards. Its just sick at what performance you can get for 200 bucks.
    34
  • cangelini
    forcesnice but... where is Crysis!!!? they can play Crysis i know but how well can they play it? everyone has Crysis and have played Crysis and will play it... , its a nice game to compare perfomance...


    We actually discussed Crysis, but I'm honestly really damn tired of Crysis. When Crysis 2 comes out, I'll be all over it like Rosie O'Donnell on a $5 pie sale at Marie Callender's. For now, we're going to phase that one out, though :)
    34
  • TheRockMonsi
    I like where AMD is going with the 6000 series, not so much with naming, but pretty much everything else about it. Can't wait for the 6900's, those are going to be beasts!!!!!
    33
  • Other Comments
  • SteelCity1981
    Yeah I agree. I don't get AMD's marketing on the 6000 series. One would think that the 6870 would obv performan better then the 5870 at first glance but instead it yelds less performance then the 5870. That just doesn't make any sense from a consumor standpoint.
    30
  • TheRockMonsi
    I like where AMD is going with the 6000 series, not so much with naming, but pretty much everything else about it. Can't wait for the 6900's, those are going to be beasts!!!!!
    33
  • Randomacts
    Its here.....
    -21
  • Poisoner
    I think AMD did a great job with these cards. Its just sick at what performance you can get for 200 bucks.
    34
  • Anonymous
    Super review. but i think HD6850 is faster than 1gb gtx 460....
    21
  • duk3
    Nice benchmark suite!
    I am looking forward to the 6900 series and 22nm gpus later on for some real performance improvements.
    7
  • takeapieandrun
    Not exactly powerhouses, but I do believe they will be great for market competition.
    14
  • agnickolov
    This is what happens when a company is left with no competition for so long...
    -24
  • forces
    nice but... where is Crysis!!!? they can play Crysis i know but how well can they play it? everyone has Crysis and have played Crysis and will play it... :(, its a nice game to compare perfomance...
    21
  • rottingsheep
    6850 vs 1gb 460. i would pick 460 because it overclocks a lot better
    -21
  • cangelini
    forcesnice but... where is Crysis!!!? they can play Crysis i know but how well can they play it? everyone has Crysis and have played Crysis and will play it... , its a nice game to compare perfomance...


    We actually discussed Crysis, but I'm honestly really damn tired of Crysis. When Crysis 2 comes out, I'll be all over it like Rosie O'Donnell on a $5 pie sale at Marie Callender's. For now, we're going to phase that one out, though :)
    34
  • SteelCity1981
    So I guess AMD has no plans to replace the Radeon 5700 series on down then according to the chart in the first page for a while to come.
    6
  • L0tus
    Sorry but I'm disappointed. Decent cards but VERY misleading names. I don't like being misled.
    22
  • dragonsqrrl
    Well, I think we can finally agree that the so called "illegitimate" Barts/HD68xx rumors have been confirmed. In retrospect, it really is quite interesting what some people were trying to claim, and how confident they were while doing it.

    http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/11395-55-report-launching-radeon-6000

    Great cards, giving some fierce competition to the upper mid range segment.
    8
  • shura4ever
    "The MSRP of the Radeon HD 6870 is $40, a bit less than the Radeon HD 5850"
    $40? sell it to me :D
    14
  • winner4455
    shura4ever"The MSRP of the Radeon HD 6870 is $40, a bit less than the Radeon HD 5850"$40? sell it to me


    Exactly what I was thinking when I read it xD

    It's actually $240 though... D:
    3
  • scrumworks
    You seemingly want to talk more about nvidia and their magnificent Fermi than AMD. The whole introduction was almost concentrated on downplaying AMD and telling "Nvidia's Answers". It's like you wanted to review another Fermi but were forced to review a new Radeon.
    -15
  • dogman_1234
    These are great cards...being for price compared to their 400 dollar counterpart.
    7
  • buzznut
    very smart to release a card that can compete with the GTX460. Looks like a win for AMD.
    24
  • ohim
    L0tusSorry but I'm disappointed. Decent cards but VERY misleading names. I don't like being misled.

    I totally .. agree .. is either they wanna change the names of the lower end cards or this 6000 series is such a fail.
    -12