AMD Radeon HD 6870 & HD 6850 Review

Author: Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig
Date: October 20, 2010
Product Name: AMD Radeon HD 6870 / HD 6850
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Back on September 23rd 2009 the world was introduced to the HD 5870 and HD 5850; ATI’s first entries into what would quickly become a very lucrative DX11 marketplace. These graphics cards (code named Cypress) belonged to the Evergreen family and have enjoyed a huge amount of success. Naturally, part of that success was due to NVIDIA’s oft-delayed Fermi products but even with the GTX 400 series making some headway, ATI’s own DX11 parts are still selling like hotcakes.

Even though forward movement of in-game graphics technology seems to have nearly ground to a halt due to the extended life cycles of current consoles, AMD is now refreshing their mid and high-end lineups with a whole new range of GPUs. Code named Northern Islands, this family of graphics cards is a simple evolutionary step for the HD 5000 series, and should set a new benchmark for the price you pay for performance. This evolution can be likened to Intel’s tick / tock mentality where new chip designs are released every other cycle while refinements are rolled out in a minor “refresh” at the mid way point of an architecture’s lifespan. AMD has rolled a number of efficiency, tessellation and other improvements into their HD 5000-series in order to bring the HD 6000 series to market. They also happen to be the first products which ditch the “ATI” moniker.

The first Northern Islands products out of the gate will be the HD 6870 and HD 6850 – code named Barts XT and Barts Pro. Instead of going with the usual high-end first mentality, AMD is gearing the 6800 series towards the $199 to $250 market. According to our contacts at board partners and retailers, we should see the HD 6850 hit shelves for between $179 and $199 while the HD 6870 will go for $239 to $249 USD. These prices should make it quite obvious that Barts aims to attack the GTX 460 768MB and 1GB products head on. The result could be a quick marginalization of two products which NVIDIA has been banking on for the last few months.

The HD 5000 cards have proven their staying power as evidenced by AMD’s refusal to issue any meaningful price cuts even with mounting NVIDIA pressure. Nonetheless, we’re about to see if AMD has been able to regain their lead against NVIDIA’s latest and greatest.


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