Verdict And Purchase Recommendation
We're a bit torn here. A passive video card that can't do its job in an air-conditioned room on an open test bench (albeit, while being stress tested), makes us worry about the long-term prospects of dissipating mid-range wattages without the help of an active cooler.
The test results with the ultra-quiet extra fan, which managed to reduce the card’s temperature by more than 54 degrees Fahrenheit under load, prove that the passive heatsink is excellent, and it only needs a little help. This is also demonstrated by mounting the card into enclosures with good internal air flow. Operating this card in an enclosure without any fan at all is impossible, but cheating a little bit by adding a flow of cool air, generated quietly by means of an extra fan, enables this card's full potential. In that context, it's a board we can recommend, as no graphics card in this performance category has ever been as quiet.
The graphics card is 130 mm (5”) high, which is 20 mm (0.8”) higher than a regular card. Also it occupies two more slots, one at the front and one more at the back, totaling three. Owners of motherboards with PCI Express x16 slots closest to the CPU should assess whether the graphics card's oversized heatsink will even fit, as it protrudes a hefty 25 mm (1”) from the back-side of the card. If its dimensions aren't an issue, we can happily conclude that this is one of the most effective coolers we've seen.
The last issue to consider is this board's substantial cost. Available for $205 at Newegg, that price is significantly higher than most other Radeon HD 6850s. It may be justified for a fringe solution, as the heatsink undoubtedly adds to the bill of materials. But whether the perceived value is worth it or not is ultimately up to you. This car is definitely more than a mere feasibility study, but it's also clearly not designed to serve a broad audience, either.