AMD Radeon HD 6870 & 6850 Graphics Cards Debut

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Those of you that are familiar with AMD’s previous DX11-class GPUs should find the block diagram below very familiar. The new GPU—codenamed ‘Barts’—at the heart of the Radeon HD 6800 series borrows heavily of the previous generation, but it is refined in a number of ways. AMD states the new architecture offers up to 35% better performance per square mm, within a similar power envelope and that tessellation and geometry throughput has been increased. In addition, Barts offers new anti-aliasing modes, enhanced anisotropic filtering, and a host of display output and media acceleration updates.

The new Radeon HD 6800 series GPU, in its full configuration offers up to 2 TeraFLOPS of compute performance with a peak fillrate of over 24Gigapixles/sec. The tessellation unit has been upgraded over the previous generation to offer approximately double the performance in real-world gaming scenarios and it now has dual rasterizers to keep the chip fed and running more efficiently. In its full configuration, which is employed in the Radeon HD 6870, Barts has 14 SIMD engines with 1120 steam processor cores, 56 texture units, 128 Z/Stencil ROPs, and 32 Color ROPs. In the 6850, two SIMD engines have been disabled, bringing the total number of stream processors enabled down to 960, but all 32 Color ROPs remain enabled. If you’re keeping track, the Radeon HD 5850 had 1440 total stream processors enabled, with 72 texture units, and the same number of ROPs.

Like the previous generation, the Barts GPU powering the Radeon HD 6800 series is manufactured using TSMC’s 40nm process node. The chip is comprised of “only” 1.7 billion transistors, whereas the previous-gen Cypress GPU had 2.15B, and has a die size of 255mm2. Cypress is 334mm2. That’s quite a sizable reduction is die size, for a GPU that should offer similar or better performance, thanks to refinements to the architecture and increased clock speeds.

As we’ve mentioned, the Barts GPU offers approximately double the tessellation performance of the previous generation. But it also offers enhancements designed to improve image quality as well. The improved anisotropic filtering algorithm of the Radeon HD 6800 series addresses some issues which caused some visual anomalies in the previous generation. The new algo now offers smoother transitions between filtering levels and maintains full performance, regardless of angle.

A new anti-aliasing mode is set to debut with the Radeon HD 6800 series as well, but since it’s a post-processing filtering technique, this new "Morphological" Anti-Aliasing mode may be available to Radeon HD 5800 series owners as well at some point. The Morphological AA feature is accelerated using DirectCompute and delivers full-scene antialiasing, but at speeds much faster than super-sampling. It is compatible with any DX9, 10, or 11 applications and is switchable via the Catalyst Control Center.

Other enhancements to the Barts GPU included a new Unified Video Decoder engine, bringing it up to UVD 3. The only major change here is that the new architecture can now accelerate DivX and xVid files as well. The Radeon HD 6800 series also features HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2 support.

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soldier1969 4 years ago

These are for the mainstream users. Not a viable upgrade from my 5870. Waiting on the Caymen 6890 XT for my next upgrade. Bring it!

Dave_HH 4 years ago

That's Cayman (Radeon HD 6970) and yep, we want it brought too! :)

lifeskills 4 years ago

Good read!  Was glad too see some Branded cards, rather than the reference models I have seen so far.  Can't wait to see cayman and antilles coverage.

would love to hear about the stereoscopic 3d support these cards are introducing.

gibbersome 4 years ago

Great review! The excellent scaling bodes well for the dual-GPU 6990.

Some things that confused me:

-The naming convention will make it all the harder to compare previous generation cards with the new generation. Perhaps AMD wants to create more low to mid-end offerings and needed to free up some numbering space.

-Little disappointed that AMD chose to debut the series with the upper mid-range cards. Can't wait to see how the 6900 series perform, but right now the performance numbers are good, but not thrilling.

-The improvement in power, heat and noise will be very interesting to see in the mobile versions of these cards.


So all in all, AMD has served us a great appetizer course, but no entrée.

crowTrobot 4 years ago

It's weird how Sapphire chose to use the stock fan on the 6870 but placed the good, quiet cooling fan on the 6850.

I have the Sapphire 6850 and its the quietest fans I have ever heard (or not heard), it only starts to get noticeably audible at 55%  inside a case but during OCCT/Furmark the fans only throttle up to 59% so its still relatively quiet when you are gaming.

bob_on_the_cob 4 years ago

The Crossfire scaling is insane. Almost double performance in some games. That's just crazy. Not that I have the money to drop in 2 cards. I am getting a good size pay check tomorrow. About time to upgrade and now seems like a pretty good time to do that. My budget will most likely be around the $150 - $200 price point so this review hits that hard.

AKwyn 4 years ago

I myself am also waiting for Caymen as well. I want that card to blow away the GTX480 if it wants to get my hard earned money.

der meister 4 years ago

Any one know when the 6900 series cards will be out?

marco c 4 years ago

@Der - We can't say exactly, but it won't be long.

Der Meister 4 years ago

[quote user="Marco C"]

@Der - We can't say exactly, but it won't be long.


Sweet! In the next week or so then I would assume... 

rapid1 4 years ago

Well it seems as I have no visible upgrade path at all until the Caymen hits, and even then if I stay on the ATI hardware. Of course my5870 and 5850 are humming right along beating everything compared here anyways minus 20 watts anyway. I don't think 20 watts of power is really worth it personally.

The one thing I see as a mess up here is the fact that the 5800 and even 5700 series were all widely adopted. Being as I see it as not much of an upgrade I would bet many see it the same or at least a good amount of people, but this includes especially the ones who would use the amount of money on a GPU that these call for. Then on top of that I would bet shortly there will be some massive sales on the 5800 series cards of which I am sure there are many in stock.

So while I applaud the upgrading they did and especially the areas they concentrated on, I just don't see this series as being as good financially for the company. I am hoping all the CPU goodies supposed to be streaming out of AMD in the next six months makes up for them on the CPU side of things as well as evens things about between there CPU GPU offerings overall making them stronger market wide. If this does not happen they may have very well stalled there recovery.

Tom Kamkari 4 years ago

I only wish ATI folded as good as Nvidia, otherwise they are doing great as pointed out.

AKwyn 4 years ago

[quote user="Tom Kamkari"]

I only wish ATI folded as good as Nvidia, otherwise they are doing great as pointed out.


Well the ATI cards are designed primarily for gaming so I don't expect folding to be a high point for them.

gibbersome 4 years ago

My thoughts exactly rapid. This release is a refinement rather than a revolution. Since the release is right on time with their upgrade cycle, perhaps refinement was the only way to move forward with 32nm process not available yet (I think the article mentions this).

rapid1 4 years ago

Yes; it does mention all off the things about refinement. I am pointing out that basically ATI may not be the UBER performer in AMD's camp this go around, because the enthusiast side may not see the point in upgrading there 5870 to a 6870. The thing which makes this interesting from a business standpoint is ATI (now AMD) has never tried to wholeheartedly rip off there valued customers as Nvidia does time and again (and of course much like abused spouses the fan boys cower at there knees and call them god). AMD seems to use it to try to claw back to where they were several years ago which in an of itself is quite interesting. I will not cut on Intel because thankfully to them CPU's have kept advancing for the last several years, and AMD has followed on their coat tails trying to keep up. They actually seem to be getting themselves out of financial purgatory as well. I just think it would have been a better strategy business wise to do my damnedest to get a barn burning GPU on the market prior to all the processor goodies which are supposed to be coming down ATI's path in the coming months. Then with both main product sides of the company firing on all cylinders watch the phoenix rise from the ashes an all around market beater again. Who knows maybe I am just wishing dreamily to see AMD blow Intel and Nvidia to smithereens, so that the market as a whole will blow up with new enhanced R&D like what brought us core2 duo, and of course the chips Nvidia limped on for years (and renamed/re-released numerous times). If you see it much as a true picture of why competition is good all the way around (IE: Prices/new technology faster) for humanity it is good for us all if every market leader steps into battle guns ablaze, rather than just on one flank.

Mike Coyne 4 years ago

Yeah, I did read about them Now i will remember that was ATI. Now it had changed to new name "AMD Radeon" I am sure it still be former ATI  video card

lifeskills 4 years ago

Its funny what "mainstream" cards are capable of these days....

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