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Régis Jehl Published on May 25, 2011
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  • Chip Barts
  • GPU frequency 775 MHz
  • Memory quantity 1 GB
  • Memory type GDDR5
  • Memory frequency 1000 MHz
  • Cooler Double-decker
Second in the HD 6000 range, the Radeon HD 6850 is a scaled down version of the HD 6870: it's the same card but cheaper and with a slightly reduced spec. Is it better value for money than the 6870?

Size, Noise and Heat

At 23 cm long, the Radeon HD 6850 is slightly smaller than the 5850 (24.5 cm). It does, however, retain the double-decker type cooler. It's both efficient and quiet. At idle, we measured a noise output of 41.5 dB(A), which is very good result. The HD 6850 is therefore a very discreet graphics card.

In 3D gaming the fan noise does increase (53.8 dB(A)) but remains within tolerable limits: those around you in the same room shouldn't be too disturbed by it. Chip temperature remains reasonable at 36°C when idle and 82°C during gaming.

Power Consumption

Power consumption is very well handled. At idle, our test card drew 89 watts. In 3D gaming, it's just as good at 293 watts. These figures are comparable to the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB card's 90 watts when idle and 330 watts when active.

Gaming Performance

Generally speaking, the Radeon HD 6850 1 GB offers similar performances to the Radeon HD 5850 1 GB and the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB.
Like with the 6870 then, this card has been strangely named. It would have seemed more logical to us to call this model the Radeon HD 6830, as an uninformed buyer might be forgiven for thinking that the Radeon HD 6850 gives better performances than the old HD 5850.

There is some logic in what AMD is doing, however, as the Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 are soon likely to come off the market. The range will then be constituted as follows: HD 5770 < HD 6850 < HD 6870 < HD 6950 < HD 6970 < HD 6990. The Radeon HD 5700s will therefore remain on the market and aren't likely to be replaced in the near future.

In any case, the HD6850 gives performance of the first order. It can run the most demanding games under very good conditions, even DirectX 11 games.

Tt hd 6850
Average general performance
Click on the image to see all our readings
and compare this model with other graphics cards

In real terms, in Crysis Warhead at 1920 x 1200 with filters activated, the Radeon HD 6850 and 5850 give an average of 24 and 25 fps per second, while the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB gives an average of 22 fps.

To really appreciate the Radeon HD 6850, you have to forget what it's called. For a launch price significantly lower than the Radeon HD 5850, it gives equivalent performance. Its direct competitor, the GeForce GTX 460 1 GB (with the same level of performance but offering a wider range of additional features that are easier to access e.g. 3D Vision, CUDA), has now seen its price slashed in response to the release of this new Radeon card.

Graphics Cards: Performance Index Tables

The card at a glance
For our tests, we used a stock Radeon HD 6850 1 GB straight from AMD. The card has ample connectivity, with two DVI connectors (a dual link and a single link), an HDMI 1.4a connector and two mini Display Port 1.2 connectors.

We also like the fact that you can get DTS HD MA and Dolby Digital True HD in bitstream through the HDMI out. Also note that it's possible to extend the display onto two, three, or up to six monitors as well as uping the overall resolution (the Eyefinity function).

3D Blu-rays are on the agenda with PowerDVD and CinePlayer. You will however have to wait for the updates to this software to access stereoscopic 3D and, of course, you'll need a compatible TV.

As for stereoscopic 3D games, AMD HD3D means AMD is finally on board. Set-up is however a little complicated. You first need to acquire a sort of special driver from a partner (IZ3D or DDD, for example). This will cost from $19.99 to $24.99 and will make a certain number of video games compatible with the system.

If you play on a monitor (3D compatible of course), you'll have to invest again for your 3D glasses. Here you can get them from Xpand, RealD and BitCauldron. The glasses aren't yet available but are likely to cost somewhere in the region of £80.

Lastly, if you do your gaming on a 3D TV, you will of course use the glasses that come with it or are sold separately, depending on your model.


  • DirectX 11 compatibility
  • Good gaming performance
  • Silent in 2D mode
  • Low power consumption
  • Eyefinity, HDMI 1.4, HD audio bitstreaming


  • 3D stereo gaming: difficult to set up
  • Strange choice of name when you look at its performance


A card without any major faults, except for a poorly chosen, misleading name. For the rest (performance, noise and energy efficiency) it does very well. Make sure you monitor pricing in comparison to the competition to make sure you get the best buy.
3 AMD Radeon HD 6850 1 GB DigitalVersus 2011-05-25 00:00:00
Compare: AMD Radeon HD 6850 1 GB to its competitors
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