For years leading developers of graphics cards - ATI, graphics business unit of Advanced Micro Devices, as well as Nvidia Corp. - only allowed their partners among graphics cards manufacturers to produce reference graphics boards for some time after the announcement. However, in case of the new Radeon HD 6850 the situation is completely different.
Officials for AMD's graphics business unit said that customers can expect custom-design ATI Radeon HD 6850-based graphics cards starting from the first days of sales. Apparently, a number of manufacturers can already initiate sales of more advanced or less expensive add-in-cards featuring the latest code-named Barts processor for performance-mainstream market.
The recommended price of the Radeon HD 6850 is $179, but given the recent price-drops by Nvidia it is highly likely that manufacturers of actual graphics cards will try to decrease pricing of their HD 6850 models to lower points to stay competitive.
The Radeon HD 6800 family of graphics cards consists of two boards: Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850. The graphics boards are based on the code-named Barts graphics processor that features significantly improved tessellation module, improved texture filtering units, more advanced universal video decoder (UVD 3.0) as well as some other tweaks. There are also trade-offs: AMD's graphics chip engineers had to remove support for double-precision compute and increase maximum voltage so to enable higher clock-speed on chips that feature lower amount of execution units than its predecessor, the code-named Cypress chip, which powered the Radeon HD 5800. Just like Cypress, Barts is made using 40nm process technology.
The AMD Radeon HD 6800 series graphics cards are the first in the industry to offer support for both DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4a, providing PC users with expanded options for multi-monitor configurations, display selection, and new DisplayPort audio features. Thanks to new drivers, the new graphics boards also feature better support for third-party stereo-3D (S3D) middleware.
The new Radeon HD 6800-series graphics cards is supported by a dozen add-in-board companies, including Asustek Computer, Club 3D, Diamond Multimedia, Force3D, Gigabyte, HIS (Hightech Information Systems), MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire Technology, VisionTek and XFX.