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Sapphire Radeon HD6850 and HD6870 Review

The Sapphire HD6870 is a fantastic board which manages to keep up with our overclocked GTX460’s … sometimes even leading the way, and always in the top grouping. We haven’t made it easy for AMD’s new mid range flagship product as we have pitted it against some of the most powerful GTX460’s available today such as the eVGA GTX460 FTW and the MSI GTX460 Talon Attack.

We are excited to see how Sapphire will modify the HD6870 design later, because we aren’t that impressed with the reference cooler. It isn’t bad, but it can get a little noisy when pushed hard.

The HD6870 can be clocked a little higher, although all of our samples seemed to be limited to around 950MHz on the core, which is only a 50MHz increase. Memory can be increased from 1000Mhz to around 1140-1150MHz without experiencing an issue. This card will retail at a very competitive £197 inc vat.

The star of this review however is the stunning Sapphire HD6850, which delivers very solid performance levels without breaking the bank. With the price looking to settle at just over £150 inc VAT, this card has surely to be on the shortlist of many people wanting a new gaming card for high resolution gaming.

As we expected, the heatpipe based cooler is excellent, keeping the card running under 60c at all times and the return to idle state is also very impressive, averaging 15 seconds.

The new TriXX overclocking tool from Sapphire however really brings this card into a new playing field, as we managed to get the core to 950MHz (almost 23% up from the stock clock of 775MHz) before it would hardlock. This was achieved by increasing the core voltage to 1299 which raised temperatures by around 10c when loaded (i.e. to 70c when gaming).

KitGuru says: Sapphire’s holding a winning pair here, no doubt. It has to be said again that we have been comparing these cards against the very best, overclocked GTX460 cards on the market. AMD could have launched its second generation DX11 cards with a £400 leviathan. Instead, they have aimed squarely at the best nVidia card on the market and, based on several days’ testing, have hit the bull’s eye.

Update: 22 October: Be sure to check UK stores as the prices are dropping to £135 for HD6850 and £175 for the HD6870.

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Rating: 9.0.

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