To be honest we were rather unforgiving of the HD 6850, at launch it was pricing itself almost out of the market.

It was going toe-to-toe with Nvidia's 1GB GTX 460 which, at the time, just about had it pipped in performance terms. It was also a little pricier than the GTX 460, coming in around the £160 mark.

Again though time has been kind to the HD 6850. The price has dropped a huge amount, indeed AMD recently announced a further price-drop bringing the card down to less than £120, which for a spec like this is a serious bargain.

AMD's constant driver updates too have meant that performance has increased over time as well. The Barts Pro GPU core at the heart of the HD 6850 is a reworking of the Cypress Pro that made the HD 5850 such an impressive card back in the day. It doesn't have the huge number of Radeon Cores the HD 5850 had, but still maintains the ROPs count of 32.

It's not, however, quite the performance powerhouse the older card still is, but then you won't find that GPU for the same price as the HD 6850.

Extra hertz

Thanks to the smaller chip size AMD has managed to squeeze some extra megahertz out of the silicon, that 50MHz bonus however doesn't make up for the shortfall in unified shaders, but still makes it a quality performer for the cash.

At the ludicrous 30-inch resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 the HD 6850 manages to get into double figures in Heaven 2.5 and that's with the tessellation settings on 'extreme'. That's the GPU equivalent of turning the amp up to 11.

It means at the more reasonable resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 there's barely a game out there you can't top 30fps on the highest graphical settings. Indeed, we almost managed to hit 50fps in DiRT 3 and could even get the beautiful Shogun 2 above 30fps in the full HD res of 1,920 x 1,080. The famously system-taxing tessellating monster, Metro 2033, almost managed to get up to 20fps with all the good stuff maxed out. That may not sound like a lot, but is actually a pretty significant score.

This then is a serious gamer's graphics card for a bargain price. In fact you're not only limited to the moderate 1,680 x 1,050 resolution with this card - it will do pretty well at powering a proper 1080p HD monitor.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Thermal performance
100% Load: Degrees Centigrade: Lower is better
XFX HD 6850: 55
XFX HD 5770: 73

DirectX 11 tessellation performance (2,560 x 1,600)
Heaven 2.5 Frames Per Second: Higher is better
XFX HD 6850: 12.3
XFX HD 5770: 7.9

DirectX 11 gaming performance (1,920 x 1,080)
Shogun 2 Frames Per Second: Higher is better
XFX HD 6850: 32
XFX HD 5770: 26

Power performance
100% Load Watts: Lower is better
XFX HD 6850: 210
XFX HD 5770: 188

DirectX 11 gaming performance (1,680 x 1,050)
DiRT 3 Frames Per Second: Higher is better
XFX HD 6850: 47
XFX HD 5770: 40

DirectX 11 gaming performance (1,680 x 1,050)
Metro 2033 Frames Per Second: Higher is better
XFX HD 6850: 18
XFX HD 5770: 14

DirectX 10 gaming performance (1,680 x 1,050)
Just Cause 2 Frames Per Second: Higher is better
XFX HD 6850: 39
XFX HD 5770: 29

DirectX 10 gaming performance (1,680 x 1,050)
Far Cry 2 Frames Per Second: Higher is better
XFX HD 6850: 75
XFX HD 5770: 53

XFX hd 6850

For less than £120 that's an impressive feat, and makes this a far more intriguing prospect that the GTX 460. People are now running down stock of that old master, with prices sitting around the £150 mark at best.

The HD 6850 now has that Nvidia card pipped in both performance and value stakes too. If you can afford to top the £100 mark for your budget graphics card then you will not be disappointed by the impressive HD 6850.

The recent price-cuts, and subsequent performance updates via the driver improvements, have made this the budget card of choice.

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