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Report: AMD Radeon HD 6870 and 6850
by Damien Triolet
Published on December 5, 2010

A year after the arrival of the Radeon HD 5000s, AMD has introduced its second range of DirectX 11 graphics cards. With the first models, the Radeon HD 6800s, AMD is looking to target the excellent GeForce GTX 460s. A hard fought battle in perspective!

While AMD had recently got us used to launching its largest GPUs under the x800 naming, as with the Radeon HD 3800, 4800 and 5800, the arrival of the Radeon HD 6000s marks a break with this. Thus the largest GPU in the series, named Cayman, which will introduce a revised architecture, will first be introduced in the Radeon HD 6900s as well as the bi-GPU derivative.

Barts, used in the Radeon HD 6800s tested here, is a smaller GPU. It’s a development of Cypress used in the Radeon HD 5800s designed to approach the performance of these at the same time as being more economical. Yes, the Radeon 6800s will give lower performance than the Radeon HD 5800s. They will however be cheaper and promise to improve the price / performance ratio.

Of course, Barts could have been called the Radeon HD 6700 or even be inserted into the Radeon HD 5000 range. Why this change in naming philosophy then? AMD hasn’t come out clearly on this but we can make several suppositions. Firstly, using the x900 label shows an ambition to knock the NVIDIA offer off top spot.

Next, AMD is counting on keeping Juniper and the current Radeon HD 5700s as part of its new offer. AMD has therefore rejected the Radeon HD 6700 naming because they say it could be confusing to have two x700 products in the catalogue. Renaming them as Radeon HD 6600s could also have been problematic as AMD is expecting to introduce new entry level GPUs and needs space for its CPU Fusion graphics cores. As the Radeon HD x800 brand has a good rep, AMD probably also wanted to use it for products destined for higher volumes of sales.

Thankfully, AMD hasn’t taken advantage of the situation to relax its agressivity in terms of pricing. Quite the contrary, as you’ll see if you read on. Moreover, NVIDIA felt the danger coming and anticipated it by announcing significant price cuts on the GeForce GTX 460 and 470.

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