It has been just over a year since AMD released the Radeon HD 5000 series, in which time they’ve shipped over 25 million of the first ever DirectX 11-capable graphics cards. NVIDIA took their sweet time in answering with their own GeForce GTX 400s last spring, which has since been adapted for various price points.
Now, a mere three months after the GTX 460 line of midrange video cards was launched to near universal acclaim, AMD has come back with their own new and improved midrange offerings. The Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 are poised to knock last generation’s most successful GeForce GPU from its perch, paving the way for the rest of the HD 6000 series in the coming months.
Being meant to offer HD 5800-class performance at a lower cost and with less power consumption, the HD 6800 series represents AMD’s plain attempt to win back some of the market share at around the $200 price point, also known as the “gamer’s sweet spot.” By optimizing the HD 5800 architecture, they’re claiming they’ve achieved the best performance per watt possible and have produced the fastest sub-150W video card in the market today.
Perhaps more important than simply improving overall performance, AMD sought to put a larger emphasis on tessellation and geometry output than their first generation of DX11 cards. As you may have seen, performance in tessellation-heavy apps is something that the HD 5000 series sorely lacked in comparison to the GeForce 400s with their dedicated shading processors. That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you’re the pioneer of a generation, but AMD hopes to have rectified that oversight by improving such performance up to two-fold with the redesigned HD 6000 parts.
The Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 will be replacing the HD 5850 and 5870 that have been on the market since October of 2009, at least until the 6900 series arrives. That’s an interesting proposition, to be sure, considering it’s a case of mid-range boards competing with much more expensive, high end ones. But hey, that’s why technology is so fun, right? To see if the 6800s succeed in filling those shoes and how they fare against the GTX 460, read on!