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Conclusion

Having tested the new Radeon HD 6800 series in 19 gaming and synthetic benchmarks, we can make some observations about its performance. The senior Radeon HD 6870 model is a success overall. It is generally faster than the more expensive Radeon HD 5850 and also brings about a number of improvements such as higher tessellation performance which was apparent in a few tests. The summary diagrams make it clear enough.

It must be noted that the new card could not beat the GeForce GTX 460 1GB at 1600x900 but went ahead at 1920x1200 and enjoyed an average advantage of 16% at 2560x1600. Moreover, the Radeon HD 6870 was generally faster than the Radeon HD 5850, the gap being quite large in a few tests. This seems to be a death sentence for the latter card, just as AMD has planned. However, considering the price of the Radeon HD 6870, users who need an affordable but high-performance card for modern games may want to take a look at the GeForce GTX 460 1GB, especially at its factory-overclocked versions with a GPU clock rate of 750-800 MHz. Such cards will be just as good as the Radeon HD 6870 and will also provide such exclusive technologies as PhysX for certain games. Owners of Radeon HD 5870s shouldn’t worry about an upgrade, either, at least until Radeon HD 6900.

The Radeon HD 6850 is an average 15% slower than its senior cousin, the gap amounting to 20-40% in certain games. This new card has no chance against the Radeon HD 5850. It may be faster in tessellation-using applications but such games are rare as yet. It also doesn’t look good against the GeForce GTX 460 768MB. Let’s take a look at the summary diagrams.

The Nvidia card is definitely faster at low resolutions. The Radeon HD 6850 wins but a few tests, and by a very small margin. The cards become equal to each other at higher resolutions. The outcome of their fight depends on the specific game at 1920x1080 whereas the 2560x1600 mode is not meant for graphics cards of this class. Should you upgrade from a Radeon HD 5830 to a Radeon HD 6850? We guess, yes. The newer solution is far more balanced in terms of functionality and performance. But it is not definitely better than the GeForce GTX 460 768MB.

The Radeon HD 6800 models both look competitive in terms of pricing, specs and performance. AMD has done a good job on getting rid of one of the bottleneck in the Radeon HD 5800 architecture, the low speed of tessellation and the low speed of geometry processing at large. Besides, a few multimedia related innovations make these cards unique. We mean their support for DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4a, their new video engine that offers hardware DivX decoding, and the opportunity to connect up to six monitors simultaneously in nearly any configuration imaginable.

Considering the power consumption and size of the new cards, we cannot recommend them for typical HTPCs, but the 6850 model might be good enough for a gaming HTPC.

The Barts GPU supports all HD video formats including Blu-ray 3D. It delivers very high, even though not perfect, quality of Blu-ray playback and DVD upscaling according to the HQV 2.0 benchmark. The support for HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 2.0 means that the new cards can be used together with modern TV-sets and projects to enjoy stereoscopic 3D content.

So it looks like Nvidia, which was late in releasing its DirectX 11 architecture and transferring all its product lines to it, has been given no time to rest. AMD has used its opponent’s delay to prepare a new and sensitive blow. We are now looking forward to the Radeon HD 6900 “Cayman” to see if it will bring AMD the title of the maker of fastest single-chip graphics cards.

Radeon HD 6870 Summary

Highs:

  • High performance in contemporary games;
  • Can outperform Radeon HD 5870 in some tests;
  • High tessellation speed compared with Radeon HD 5800;
  • Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
  • Best anisotropic filtering quality in the industry;
  • Supports up to six monitors;
  • Fully-fledged hardware HD video decoding, including DivX and 3D;
  • High-quality HD video post-processing with scalability;
  • Integrated sound core with HD support;
  • Sound over HDMI;
  • HDMI 1.4a;
  • DisplayPort 1.2;
  • Low power consumption for its class;
  • High energy-efficiency in power-saving modes.

Lows:

  • Noticeable noise level;
  • Not very efficient cooling system;
  • Supports less GPGPU-accelerated software than the competitors.

Radeon HD 6850 Summary

Highs:

  • Good performance in for its class;
  • High tessellation speed compared with Radeon HD 5800;
  • Wide range of supported FSAA modes;
  • Best anisotropic filtering quality in the industry;
  • Supports up to six monitors;
  • Fully-fledged hardware HD video decoding, including DivX and 3D;
  • High-quality HD video post-processing with scalability;
  • Integrated sound core with HD support;
  • Sound over HDMI;
  • HDMI 1.4a;
  • DisplayPort 1.2;
  • Low power consumption for its class;
  • High energy-efficiency in power-saving modes.

Lows:

  • Yields to GeForce GTX 460 768 MB in low resolutions;
  • Noticeable noise level;
  • Not very efficient cooling system;
  • Supports less GPGPU-accelerated software than the competitors.
 
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