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ASUS EAH6850 DirectCU

You’ve heard rumors of new graphics cards from AMD, and now they’ve landed. The chipmaker has two recent arrivals just entering service – the Radeon HD 6850 and HD 6870. As their model numbers suggest, they’re evolving on from the HD 5000 series, which came out a year ago. However, AMD has changed the naming scheme for the new HD 6800 series, codenamed Barts, which can be slightly confusing for consumers.

While the HD 5850 and HD 5870 cards were high-end models within their series, the HD 6850 and HD 6870 are actually more mid-range, so the new HD 6850 is just a little over a HD 5830 in performance, while the HD 6870 is a little faster than a HD 5850. There’s an upcoming HD 6890 card in the works, and that one will be the leading performance model.

If you’re confused by all these numbers, don’t be – suffice it to say that the HD 6850 is enough to run even the most intense games out today on 1920X1200 in high detail, while the HD 6870 has a tad more horsepower at its disposal so it can handle slightly higher resolutions and more frames per second.

Both of the new HD 6800 series cards represent a progression from the HD 5000 series rather than a revolutionary step. They pack powerful features and equal if not better performance onto a more efficient design. To illustrate this, the stream processor count on the HD 6870 is “only” 1120, and on the HD 6850 it’s 960. Conversely, the HD 5870 has 1600 stream processors, and the HD 5850 uses 1440. That means the new HD 6800 series cards get almost the same work done with less hardware and no increase in energy consumption. They’re also somewhat faster by default, with their cores clocked at 775MHz and 900MHz (HD 6850/HD 6870), which is faster than the HD 5000 series cards. So the crux of these additions is the same performance through a more efficient design.

ASUS EAH6870

The upshot for those on the market for a new graphics card is that the new HD 6850 and HD 6870 are much more affordable on launch than the HD 5850 and HD 5870 were when they came out. In fact, the new cards should cost you less than their HD 5000 series counterparts will set you back even a year after their debut.

Plus, AMD believes the HD 6800 series is more optimized for DirectX 11 performance, with the new design having been entirely conceived after Microsoft updated the famed API. In other words, these are true, ground-up DX11 models. They also offer full support for AMD’s Eyefinity technology, which enables the connecting of up to six screens for truly big displays.

Importantly for people looking to experience 3D, these are the first cards from AMD to counter NVIDIA’s 3D Vision technology. Both HD 6850 and HD 6870 ship with HD3D, AMD’s 3D gaming and movie watching technology, so that’s something to note right there.

ASUS offers the EAH6850 and EAH6870, which add to the reference designs with a full range of features and exclusives. We just got our hands on them so we’ll keep you posted on these add-ons in coming days.

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