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XFX HD 6850 Black Edition reviewed

by on28 October 2010



Review: The fastest factory overclocked HD 6850 yet
On October 22nd, AMD launched two new graphics cards from its Northern Islands family – Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6870. Today we have the honor of reviewing one of the highest factory overclocked HD 6850 cards. So for their HD 6850 Black Edition, XFX decided on 820MHz for the GPU and 1100MHz for the memory (4400MHz effectively). Note that reference clocks stand at 775MHz for the GPU and 1000MHz (4000MHz effectively) for the memory.

Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850 are not high-end cards but rather products made with medium budget in mind, so called Gamers’ sweet spot cards. MRSP for HD 6870 is $239 in the US and €199 incl VAT in EU. The HD 6850 will set you back $179 in the US and €150 in the EU. As is usual with overclocked cards, XFX's card will be priced 15-20 euro above reference cost.

AMD introduced some competition to its own HD 5800 as it delivered HD 6800, which offers really nice bang per buck. It has been decided that HD 5700 series will run shoulder-to-shoulder with HD 6000 series, meaning Barts, Cayman and Antilles based performance and high-end cards. The fastest Northern Islands’ GPU will be Radeon HD 6970’s Cayman core, whereas dual-GPU Radeon 6990 comes with Antilles core.

HD 6870 and HD 6850 cards are based on Barts core, which compared to the previous generation offers improvements on the field of tessellation, Eyefinity, video decoding and last but not the least – consumption. UVD engine is now in UVD 3 version; there’s also HDMI 1.4a for 3D Blu-ray as well as two DisplayPort 1.2 outs. The DisplayPorts support Multi-Stream  technology, allowing up to 6 monitors to be used via only two DisplayPorts.

Below you see GPUZ screenshot, confirming the clocks on our card (HD-685X-ZNBC) as well as the number of shaders (960). HD 6850 Black Edition is currently the fastest factory overclocked HD 6850 and as you’ll see in our overclocking section, Barts packs some nice overclocking potential.


XFX HD 6850 Black Edition card is a custom designed card with custom cooling.

The Looks

We are looking at XFX’s HD 6850 Black Edition card (product code HD-685X-ZNBC). The card’s GPu runs at 820MHz and the memory at 4400MHz (effectively). The card’s cooling is the same we’ve seen on reference-clocked XFX’s HD 6850 (HD-685X-ZNFC).

We suppose that when it hits retail, the card will carry Black Edition branding on its cooler as the card we’ve received has qualified for Black Edition series before the stickers were even done. You can see on the picture below that the cooler resembles the one on HD 5970 4GB Black Edition.
XFX’s HD 6850 Black Edition is a custom design that boasts 100% Japan capacitors and comes with XFX’s in-house cooling - circular heatsink with an upsized 80mm fan. The cooling isn’t particularly quiet in idle mode but it does a good job of cooling. After all, there is RPM regulation that you can rely on to make your card quiet. The entire card has a black plastic hood and large vents for hot air to escape. You can see what hides under the hood on the following pictures.


Just like reference card, XFX's card uses CHiL's CHL8214 voltage regulator which supports voltage control via I2C and comes with extensive monitoring and tweaking features. 

A simple metal heatsink cools voltage regulator circuitry.


HD 6850 Black Edition comes with 1GB of GDDR5 memory running at 1100MHz (4400MHz effectively). Eight Hynix GDDR5 memory chips are onboard to make 1GB of video memory. We’re talking about H5GQ1H24AFR T2C memory chips and they are rated at 1250 MHz (5000 MHz GDDR5 effectively).


There is a single CrossFire connector for adding another card to your graphics setup.


XFX’s HD 6850 consumes up to 127W, which makes one 6-pin PCI Express connector enough to power this card.


XFX Radeon HD 6850 Black Edition features two DVIs, one HDMI and one DisplayPort.  Like its HD 6870 brother, the HD 6850 also sports a XFX-branded exhaust vent.



The picture below shows a render of XFX’s HD 6850 Black Edition box – we didn’t get the box for the reason previously stated.HD-685X-ZNBC_3D
All Barts cards should also include a PSU INSERT which although is a simple piece of marketing it is an excellent opportunity to showcase XFX PSU range and recommend to the consumer the best PSU to use with their new graphics card purchase.


BLACK EDITION Bundle will also include XFX CASE LTD edition case badge, Limited Edition stickers, BLACK edition do not disturb door hanger.

XFX kaže da je Black Edition Line up was created for true Gamers. As A Black Edition Member, they enjoy the following benefits:

  • Priority Technical Support – 5 Star Black – Actual live support in realtime, Dedicated XFXPert,
  • Invitations to members only events This was event we held we held in UK and some pictures on our facebook page.
  • Members only Product Offers.
  • Exclusive Information on XFX (Hear it first)
  • Exclusive competitions


Technical advantages

Black Edition cards go through a rigorous screening & testing process at the XFX factory.   First the product is put through the production line, then tested and yielded to determine the yield % (pass %) for XXX overclock SKUs.   Then, from these XXX SKUs we go through further processes to screen out the Black Edition product.  So it can be said that if an XXX clock can attain a 30% yield off of the production line, then a Black Edition card may only be 30% again (of the 30% XXX). So Black Edition cards are a very SELECT bunch of product! At XFX we also add in a ‘buffer’ in core and memory clocks (at testing) to yield the OC SKUs (i.e. we test above the shipping clocks) as we know the nature of the users of these cards is hardcore. On top of this all Black Edition members receive priority support levels and other opportunities to purchase BE products in advance or take part in BE activities.


Motherboard: EVGA 4xSLI
CPU: Core i7 965 XE (Intel EIST and Vdrop enabled)
Memory: 6GB Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24
Harddisk:   OCZ Vertex 2 100 GB
Power Supply: CoolerMaster Silent Pro Gold 800W
Case: CoolerMaster HAF X
Fan Controler: Kaze Master Pro 5.25"
Operating System: Win7 64-bit
10.10 CCC

3DMark Vantage


Aliens vs Predator


Dirt 2

Metro 2033


AMD says that this test does not reflect actual gaming results, but since TessMark uses OpenGL and is focused solely on the GPU’s tessellation engine, we included it in our tests. Nvidia seems to handle this test much better, but note that HD 6800 have scored pretty well compared to HD 5800.


Unigine Heaven





Overclocking the card to 940MHz increased the GPU temperature to 70°C with our gaming results increasing up to 11%. Bear in mind that each sample overclocks differently, so you might get equal, higher or lower scores depending on the card. We managed a 110MHz overclock for the GPU without meddling with voltages, because while this card supports software voltage regulation - current tools don’t feature support for that.




XFX HD 6850 Black Edition is powered via one power connector. Reference HD 6850 consumes up to 127W (19W in idle) whereas Black Edition will naturally need more.



XFX did a good job designing HD 6850 Black Edition and while they ended up using a cooler that is pretty efficient, the fan noise isn’t something we liked. FurMark temperatures were at 67 degrees Celsius, but we shouldn’t forget we’re talking about a factory overclocked card here. The card’s core runs at 45MHz higher than reference (820MHz) and the memory is at 4400MHz (reference clock is 4000MHz).

Idle temperature is about 37°C, but the fan runs at about 41% RPM when idle making it a bit loud. In our case, the graphics card’s fan was much louder than the fan on EVGA 4-Way SLI motherboard’s chipset, so you can imagine what we’re talking about. Of course, you can regulate RPM from within Catalyst Overdrive.

All in all, the cooling is efficient but it could be a little quieter.


XFX is the first company to launch an overclocked HD 6850, and the company dubbed it HD 6850 Black Edition. The card’s GPU runs at 820MHz (45MHz overclock) whereas memory got boosted from 4400MHz to 4800MHz.

HD 6850 Black Edition (product code HD-685X-ZNBC) comes with nonreference cooling which is efficient when it comes to cooling the GPU, memory and power components. Unfortunately, we can’t say it’s particularly quiet. Thankfully, there’s always CCC where you can make adjustments the way you see fit.

Radeon HD 6850 uses new Barts Pro core, a part of Northern Islands family. This is AMD‘s second DirectX 11 graphics generation and in layman’s temrs, Barts is an optimized Cypress chip (HD 5850/5870). So, AMD introduced a bang-per-buck competition to its HD 5800 series. Note that Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850 aren’t high-end cards but rather Gamers’ sweet spot cards.

HD 6870 can be found in EU priced at €199 incl. VAT, whereas HD 6850 will set you back about €150. As is usual with overclocked cards, XFX’s card should cost some €15-20 more, but this is subject to change.

Black Edition cards are factory overclocked but have gone through intensive stability testing, so it’s quite likely that any of these cards will run stable even beyond 900MHz. We easily pushed the card by additional 120MHz for the GPU and 100MHz for the memory (400MHz effectively).

There are many fields where AMD introduced improvements - tessellation performance, video decoding, Eyefinity, consumption-performance ratio, video engine (UVD 3), etc. The card has HDMI 1.4a for 3D BluRay, two DisplayPort 1.2 outs with MultiStream technology and more.

In conclusion, there’s really nothing we didn’t like about the card except somewhat high noise levels at load. However, the pros outweigh the cons by a significant margin and the card promises to deliver great bang for the buck. With this in mind, it’s a no brainer – XFX HD 6850 Black Edition is officially a Fudzilla Recommended graphics card.

Last modified on 10 December 2010
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