AMD Radeon HD 6800 series is the new midrange graphics champ

The Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 offer fantastic performance at a price gamers can live with.`

Value and Efficiency

How do these two new cards compare to AMD's nearest kin--the less expensive Radeon HD 5770 (roughly $149) and the more expensive Radeon HD 5850 (around $279)? To find out exactly how much bang for the buck these new cards offer, we averaged the benchmark results for all of our real-world game tests and then divided by the price to arrive at a metric we call Dollars per Frames per Second. On this chart, lower numbers are better: The less you have to spend, the better. For this computation we used AMD's suggested prices of $179 for the Radeon HD 6850 and $239 for the Radeon HD 6870. Prices from individual brands may vary a bit, especially for factory-overclocked models, but they should fall roughly in line.

The closest direct comparison from nVidia's lineup would have been the 768MB and 1GB versions of the GeForce GTX 460, but AMD's launch has prompted a last-second price reduction from nVidia on the 1GB GeForce GTX 460 (down from $269 to around $219) and the faster GeForce GTX 470 (down from over $300 to $259). These price drops can't be good for nVidia's bottom line: The GeForce GTX 460 is based on a GPU (the GF104) that is 44 percent larger than AMD's Barts chip, and the GTX 470 is based on a GPU (the GF100) that is over twice as big. It certainly makes purchase decisions interesting, though.

It appears that the Radeon HD 6850 provides exceptional bang for the buck, even surpassing the value-oriented Radeon HD 5770. At $239, the Radeon HD 6870 is a far better deal than the Radeon HD 5850 (whose price just dropped), offering similar or superior performance at a lower price.

11_208189-6800-series-specs-chart_original

AMD says that it worked hard to optimize power utilization on these new cards, delivering even lower idle power than the already-excellent Radeon HD 5850 and 5870. The Radeon HD 6850 requires only a single six-pin PCIe power connector, while the 6870 requires two. This is an improvement over the 5800 series, but the cards are going to have a hard time matching the low power draw of the Radeon HD 5770. The numbers on the chart below represent total system power as measured at the plug, not just graphics board power. With a high-end CPU like our Core i7 980X, you can expect high overall power numbers.

It's unreasonable to expect these new cards to match the power consumption of the Radeon HD 5770, which has a much smaller GPU and a 128-bit memory interface, but the Radeon 6800 series impressed us by using about the same amount of power at idle and 20 to 50 watts more under load.

12_208189-6800-series-specs-chart_original

Factoring in the performance of these cards, we can get an idea of how power-efficient they are, not just how much raw power they use. By dividing the average frames per second of all our game tests by the power use under load from the previous chart, we arrive at a measure of Watts per Frames per Second. Here again, lower numbers are better.

Though the Radeon HD 5770 uses less power than any of the other cards, it is a much slower performer. Thus, its performance per watt is much worse than any of the other three cards assessed below. The new Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 offer similar performance per watt to the Radeon HD 5850--but both also use about 25 watts less power at idle.

13_208189-6800-series-specs-chart_original

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags pc componentsgraphics cardsAMD

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jason Cross

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?