updated 12:00 am EDT, Fri October 22, 2010
AMD Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 official
AMD tonight kicked off the launch of a new graphics core generation by launching the Radeon HD 6850 and 6870. The designs are roughly on par with the performance of the outgoing 5850 but, through a new architecture, are considerably cheaper at $179 (6850) and $239 (6870) while still being more power efficient, particularly at idle. The chip designer claims a performance edge of as much as 30 percent over the GeForce GTX 460; the move has already forced NVIDIA to drop the GTX 460's average price to $199 to compete.
The designs are still focused on DirectX 11 (OpenGL 4.0) graphics and general-purpose DirectCompute or OpenCL but bring a few new graphical features to the table. They now add new morphological antialiasing that should smooth out edges even in difficult scenes and improved anisotropic filtering that smoothes the transitions between textures. Hardware tessellation is now on board to automatically reduce detail for distant objects, and the universal video decoder has been sped up to reduce the workload on the main processor during Blu-ray movies and other HD videos.
Some boards will also be the first anywhere to support both the newer DisplayPort 1.2 spec as well as HDMI 1.4a, letting them carry audio over DP and 3D over HDMI. Most boards based on the reference designs will be ready for multi-monitor viewing with dual DVI ports, dual Mini DisplayPorts and an HDMI connector.
Either card has a 256-bit memory bus and 1GB of GDDR5 RAM, but the two are separated broadly by the number and speed of processing units. The 6850 starts with 960 stream (effects) processors, 48 texture units and a 775MHz core clock. A 6870 scales up to 1,120 stream processors, 56 texture units and a 900MHz clock rate.
AMD is delivering a 'hard' launch with cards already in stock as of Friday. Windows users will have access to boards from ASUS, Diamond, Gigabyte, XFX and other major card designers. Pre-assembled systems for multiple platforms are also likely to come with the new designs, but partners haven't pledged themselves to the 6850 or 6870 as of this evening. Higher-end 6900 series cards and more mainstream and mobile equivalents are expected in the next few months.