AMD Radeon HD 6870 Evaluate

AMD has had an excellent run with the Radeon HD 5000 series, as it took Nvidia no less than six months to counter with its first Fermi products. It's been a year since we tested the Radeon HD 5870 and called it a "real winner and possibly one of the best graphics cards we've ever rated at this award". Within five months of releasing its first DirectX 11 GPU, AMD released an additional eleven graphics cards, ranging from affordable to extremely expensive.

On the other side of the fence, the GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 arrived months later and were nowhere near as well received as Nvidia had hoped. About two months after entering the DirectX 11 market, Nvidia tried to crank up the heat by releasing its GeForce GTX 465. Unfortunately, the card flopped and it was another six weeks before they finally made headway in the DX11 GPU market with their GeForce GTX 460.

At $ 200 (currently $ 170), the GTX 460 768MB outperformed the existing Radeon HD 5830 while threatening the cheaper Radeon HD 5770 cards. Meanwhile, the 1GB version of the GTX 460 was $ 230, reducing the value of the Radeon HD 5850.

The GTX 460 has been on the road for three months and has forced AMD to cut prices. However, we think the GeForce GTX 460 outperforms its immediate competition. This presents a serious challenge for AMD, which last year vowed to keep track of Nvidia in 2011 – an unattainable task without a radical overhaul. Today marks this revision as AMD is launching two new graphics cards for the GTX 460. Known as the Radeon HD 6870 and 6850, AMD's new offerings may not be what you think.

Given the naming scheme, you'd expect the new cards to replace the existing Radeon HD 5870 and 5850, but that's not the case. Instead, the new Radeon HD 6870 and 6850 are being introduced as new mid-range offerings in the AMD product range with a suggested retail price of $ 239 and $ 199, respectively – suspiciously close to the 1 GB and 768 MB GeForce GTX 460.

The annual Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 will be retired next month when AMD launches the Cayman-based Radeon HD 6970 and 6950 graphics cards. While the existing Radeon 5700 series is expected to take over the lower affordable graphics sector.

We expect the Radeon HD 6870 to be a bit slower than the 5870, while the Radeon HD 6850 should be slower than the 5850. But don't pay attention to the tricky naming. The new cards are said to improve the Radeon HD 5000 series with better DirectX 11 and improved display support, but perhaps most importantly, they offer better value than Nvidia's GTX 460. Continue reading.

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