Before we start conclusion, over the weekend there has been some debate about initial batches of cards with 1120 shader processors instead of 960. Our results are based on the 960 Shader processor model.
HIS products have always been top notch, they are keen to address noise levels and pretty much ensure a pleasant user experience. The very same can be said for today's products. Though the bundle is a little skinny, the products themselves offer good value if the suggested launch prices will indeed be right.
Both the R6850 and R6870 in baseline performance are 100% similar to the two reference products from our launch review. There's not a MHz different in-between the products. In fact, the R6870 is merely the reference product with another sticker on. But that's not a bad thing as the 6870 all by itself is a really lovely product that offers performance and features at a decent price while keeping your power consumption, heat and noise levels well under control.
To be honest we also expected a reference 6850 from HIS, but they decided to flip things around, we spot a custom blue colored and rearranged PCB and a completely different cooler. Now the truth is... this design does not offer much more of an advantage over the reference products, but it was quiet and overall 4-5 degrees C cooler in both IDLE and LOAD GPU states. It also overclocks a notch better, especially the memory seems to be key here. So yeah, we like it alright.
The improved feature set of course is grand with the new HD3D and UVD 3 update of the video processor. While capable, the HD3D implementation we feel is a loss 3D gaming wise. Pretty much what AMD is doing is saying, "here's a hardware capable product... and you guys do the rest." The complexity of finding the right TV/Monitor, glasses and then 3rd party software you need to buy is in our eyes too complex for the generic end user without any guarantees that the 3D experience will work properly, as it's not backed by AMD whatsoever. Time will tell, though we think that the complexity of a 3rd party solution for a lot of end-users will simply be too complicated, making them choose the competition's solution as that's a handy straight out of the box kit alright. But sure, with the introduction of HD3D and HDMI 1.4a AMD also brings 3D Stereoscopic features to the new 6000 series graphics cards, which is a welcome addition of course, yet requires optimal monitors and shutter glasses. As stated, we do not like the complexity of the 3D gaming side at all, but watching movies and pictures in 3D is an easy to accomplish task.
On the architecture side of things both products today merely are improved tweaks based on the last-gen architecture. There are no ground-breaking new designs aside from some feature updates. Price performance wise however you will have noticed that the R6800 cards do offer a truckload of value for money.
The Radeon 6850 offers plenty of performance for all modern games. We feel its sweet spot gaming wise is for gamers with a monitor up-to roughly 1600x1200, even 1920x1200. At that resolution pretty much any game will play excellently with good options in image quality settings like AA.
The Radeon HD 6870 is, as far as I am concerned, definitely the more interesting card. It does have a handful more shader processors over what we expected initially, and armed with a nice 900 MHz clock frequency this product simply makes really good sense. It will bring a lot of value to the table but also will allow you to play your games at 1920x1200 extremely well.
HIS has been around for a long time and over the years they have become more prominent on the ATI graphics card market. We here at Guru3D.com have a lot of respect for them and their products. Over the weeks to come you'll also spot factory overclocked series 6800 products and of course an ICEQ edition as well. For now, the 'regular' clocked 6850 and 6870 will keep you more than happy. Both cards come recommended, if you want a breeze more performance then go for that 6870, if you like a completely inaudible product... then the 6850 might be your choice of weaponry. It is good to see these products available before the Christmas season starts.
Two thumbs up, and both products we'd happily grant a recommended award.
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