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The AMD HD6850 1120/960 Shader Debate – comparisons

On friday AMD launched the first in their new series of 6 series graphics cards, namely the HD6870 and HD6850. We reviewed many partner cards on launch day, and the resounding feedback across the net was positive. The only downside that KitGuru commented on was a pricing fiasco throughout Europe.

Unfortunately in the aftermath of initial reviews it was discovered that some of the HD6850 cards reviewed actually had the same shader count as the HD6870’s, that being – 1120 instead of 960. Thankfully we noticed this beforehand and were sure to use the correct cards in our review (we were given a 1120 card), but it appears other publications didn’t.

This has caused a lot of confusion with people wondering if the HD6850’s are worth the money. You can easily check our reviews on KitGuru to get accurate results but we decided that it was time to put some cold, hard facts onto paper (well, your screens in this case), by comparing two identically reference clocked HD6850’s – one with 960 shaders and the other with 1120. We happen to have two HD6850’s with 960 and 1120 shaders at hand so it was a pretty straightforward task.

While we will use a mixture of synthetic benchmarks today, we also wanted to judge this in ‘real world’ terms by using DX9, DX10 and DX11 games for direct comparison. Synthetic benchmarks often don’t tell the whole story. While we normally test ‘real world’ via Fraps, today we are using games inbuilt benchmark systems, this will make it easier to analyse performance differences directly related to shader power.

So the big question is, how much do the ‘missing’ 160 unifed shaders really make to your gaming experience? Let’s find out.

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  • Tim

    Fascinating stuff Zardon. thanks for the info, I feel more educated now šŸ˜‰

  • Tri Color

    Excellent, the 960 performance is great, but I can see how the 1120 shaders can enhance the results, thats for sure.

  • Stefan

    I ordered a 6870 on Friday, good reading thanks šŸ™‚

  • Thomas

    If a few of these get leaked outside review sites they would be worth some money in the future, as a product never released šŸ™‚

  • Terry

    Very interesting, and ive never seen a ‘shader’ based review before. they really do make a difference, depending on the engine.

  • Eric K

    fascinating read, thank you.

  • Jon Smyth

    3dmark gets a nice boost of a 1000 points or so, nice.

  • Raymond

    Heh, shame they didnt start selling these !

  • Hank

    This is a lesson in shader power and how important it is. would have been awesome if they had sold these in stores for the same price šŸ™‚ a quick OC and its 6870 goodness at less money.

  • Trev

    Great to get facts rather than speculation. testing is really useful.

  • Garry

    Can AMD hardlock cards from being overclocked? I thought they could. they should have sold t he 6850 at the same price with 1120 shaders, but hardlocked it so it couldnt be overclocked.

  • Jerry

    Only downside with that Garry is that people would be able to hack the bioses to get the clock speeds up. then they basically could get a 6870 for 140 quid rather than 200. but i like the idea. a locked 775 core 6850 with shader power of 6870 which would be clocked at 900mhz and able to be overclocked. i think they would sell more, but it might stop sales of 6870 long term.

  • ET

    The Tessmark result is strange. How can you get a 36.8% performance increase with 16.7% more shaders? Must be something else at play.

  • Absolutely – no idea, but ive asked the program author to comment.

  • Lucifers armpit

    Amazes me at times how many sites do little research, I saw one other writer saying kitguru had run tests with a 1120 shader HD6850 in previous reviews. Yet here we are looking at this article and the 960 shader results in this match the sapphire and XFX reviews published last week for the 960 cards. the 1120 cards are clearly much better performers. Thanks for the info, very good read.

    I think the news here on kitguru, while controversial and funny at times tends to damage the amazing quality of the reviews.

  • CyBorg

    Thanks, my HD6850 arrived and my results are much the same as the 960 core version in this article. Bit of a bummer they didn’t let a few 1120 shader versions out into the wild as the differences are quiet noticeable.