There are some considerable differences with this launch: gone is the ATI namesake, as it’s now exclusively AMD. Long live ATI! And the naming moniker of these new 6870 and 6850 is rather odd since they’re not really successors to the former flagship cards. The Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 of 1GB falls under a mid-range graphics card, released in 2010.
In fact, these new cards are more mainstream or “low-end” gaming cards in the new lineup. This means that while there may be some initial confusion, the performance prospects are tantalizing. It remains to be seen if AMD can pull more winners out of the hat.
Barts New Features
There are some critical differences to note with the launch of the 6000 series graphics cards.
First and foremost, gone is the ATI moniker, a branding icon in the graphics industry. It has now been replaced by AMD branding, which shouldn’t really come as a surprise since ATI was purchased by the chip giant several years ago; we all knew it was just a matter of time. So these new cards are now known as AMD Radeon Graphics cards, not ATI. For all intents and purposes, ATI is dead; long live ATI!
The second major difference here is the naming conventions for the cards. These Radeon 6800 cards are based on the Barts core, the “low end” of the new premium gaming cards. AMD has decided to separate the model lineup with a more granular setup than the 5000 series, thus avoiding any actual “successor” comparisons.
This means that the 6870 is in fact not the direct successor to the 5870, and the 6850 isn’t the new 5850. These new 6870 and 6850 may sound like flagship cards, but they’re actually not; since they’re based on the Barts core, these are the lower end of the gaming cards. Therefore, we should expect the 6000 series cards to improve in performance from here on out.
Undoubtedly this will cause a great deal of confusion, particularly amongst non-enthusiasts or serious gamers who will not know the difference. The rationale for this naming shift should become more apparent as further models are released in the near future, and hopefully, it begins to make sense as we see more models hit the market at various price points and market segments.
Now, as far as the 6870 and 6850 cards themselves shake out so far, there are some specific key differences between the two models. Below is a summary chart that identifies those key differences.
Note that the raw specifications indicate potential performance improvements of up to 33% (at least on paper), so it will be interesting to see the actual differences when we run the cards through our benchmarking suite.
Certainly, the appeal and immersive of 3D gaming are tantalizing, but at this point, the technology and hardware required are fairly cost-prohibitive for the most part, not to mention the phenomenal graphics horsepower required to maintain reasonable framerates in modern games.
That being said, the differences and successes of 3D technology are beyond the scope of this particular review, and 3D gaming is still experiencing teething problems, but it will be interesting to keep a close eye on developments as they move forward.
The last new feature incorporated by the 6000 series cards relates to bit streaming audio. Until now, a Home Theater HD card sound card was needed to process these lossless audio formats.
Typically this card required a cable routing the video signal from the graphics adapter to the sound card. The sound card then combined the digital audio soundtrack with the video signal and sent the matched-up signals to the monitor via an HDMI cable.
Sapphire is AMD’s biggest board partner, and we’ve come to expect big things from Sapphire. And today’s 6850 is no different; it sports a non-reference heatsink and boasts some strong gaming horsepower in what is a rather diminutive card compared to some of the behemoths we’ve seen in the past. Sounds tempting. Let’s take a close look at the Sapphire Radeon 6850 1GB.