Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB OC Review (Page 3 of 13)

Page 3 - A Closer Look, Test System

Just to deviate off topic a bit, in the past I have always used my compact camera for all my reviews, despite owning a digital SLR camera all along. It is simply easier to use with small tradeoffs in visual effect; especially considering the types of photos we are taking and using such a small resolution. With my recent purchase of a new Canon Speedlite 430EX II external flash module, I decided to give it a shot and started using my dSLR for most of the photos on this page -- the most noticeable attribute is a significantly increased depth of field due to a large aperture setting. The white balance isn't all properly tuned, but hey -- it's a Saturday afternoon. I think they still turned out to be pretty good.

The Gigabyte GV-R685OC-1GD Radeon HD 6850 1GB OC features the company's Windforce 2X cooler. As its name suggests, this graphics card has a large heatsink with two 80 mm PWM cooling fans; used to pull the heat away from the graphics processor core as well as its memory chips by direct contact. This process is accelerated by two copper heatpipes leading away from the center block in different directions. The fins are organized with optimized angles to reduce air turbulence noise (Such a phenomenon is usually caused by straight perpendicular fins), which is essential to designing a silent cooling solution in addition to using quiet fans. Meanwhile, as shown in our photo above, the cooler is actually slightly longer -- about 2 cm -- than the non-reference printed circuit board measured at 9 inches (About 23 cm). The heatsink carries a predominantly blue and black color scheme with lots of CGI graphics to provide a sense of its cooling capabilities. The Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 is manufactured in Gigabyte's facilities in Taiwan.

Turning the graphics card around, Gigabyte's signature blue PCB can be seen more clearly. From an aesthetics point of view, I have never really liked Gigabyte's blue motherboards in my windowed case, but as far as graphics cards are concerned that has never really been a problem for me. All connectors come with a blue cap out of the box for extra protection. Like all modern midrange to high performance video cards, the Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB occupies two slots, and the rear connector panel takes advantage of this configuration. One DVI-I port is found at the top, while a DVI-D port is situated at the bottom. Residing next to it is an HDMI connector, followed by a DisplayPort connector. A small vent is implemented into the backplate's remaining space for direct heat exhaust outside the chassis. Internally, its CrossFire bridge connector is located on the left side of the outer edge. And finally, I don't think I need to mention this, but just in case, the connection interface is PCI Express 2.1.

Four spring loaded screws with clear plastic washers are located on top of the board to hold the heatsink to the card. Once the four screws were unscrewed, the heatsink came off very easily. With its dual heatpipe and dual fan configuration, Gigabyte promises its Windforce 2X design runs 29.5% cooler than AMD's reference stock heatsink. We will post actual temperature results shortly. Our photo above should provide a little more insight into the hardware used on Gigabyte's Radeon HD 6850 card. The 6-pin PCI Express power is still located on the outer edge of the board facing towards the front of the chassis -- but for its non-reference design, Gigabyte has 100% Japanese made solid state capacitors, ferrite core/metal choke, and lower RDS(on) MOFSET for improved reliability, lower power consumption, and lower heat output. Combined with its 2oz copper PCB, Gigabyte markets this as its Ultra Durable design. One of my previous video cards is a Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850 with Gigabyte's custom passive cooler, and I have had absolutely no complaints with regards to their reliability using the card every day for two years straight.

The custom heatsink features thermal pads that go over the memory chips to provide additional cooling. My only complaint is the base of the heatsink has a very rough machine finish, which may limit its performance due to reduced contact with the surface of the graphics processor core. Additional, the fans are programmed to run at 50% even during idle, which is very audible. Fortunately, the fan speed can easily be reduced. We will discuss this in more detail later on in this review.

I forgot to measure official idle/load temperatures for our Page 12 results before removing the heatsink and clean out the thermal paste to take the photo above. However, I have been using the Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB for several weeks prior to taking these photos, and have been watching the temperature very carefully when adjusting my fan speed. At a fixed rate of 33% set in Catalyst Control Center -- I'll tell you why I used this value later -- the idle temperature in my silent low airflow chassis configuration was around 66 degrees Celsius; while the load temperature is typically around 76 degrees Celsius, if I recall correctly. Most people should get better results in real life than our hot running test bench environment. The temperatures dropped noticeably a bit after I reinstalled the heatsink with high performance aftermarket thermal interface material, but then again, I will go over these in detail later on in this review. The only reason why I mentioned it here is because I want to point out the stock paste is not very good, and this falls well within the hardware section of our article.

Back to the photo above, in the center of it all is AMD's Radeon 6850 "Barts" graphics processor unit, which we have discussed in detail in the preceding page. This GPU is designed to run at 775MHz stock as aforementioned, but Gigabyte gave it a slight bump in the factory firmware to run it at 820MHz; a modest 6% overclock. Our card came with eight Hynix H5GQ1H24AFR memory ICs for a total of 1GB GDDR5 graphics memory. That is 128MB per chip, running at 1050MHz (4200MHz effective) from AMD's card specifications at 1000MHz (4000MHz effective) for a yet again modest 5% overclock.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i5-750 @ 4.00 GHz
CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-D14
Motherboard: Asus P7P55D-E Premium
Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws F3-12800CL7D-8GBRH 2x4GB
Chassis: Cooler Master 690 II Advanced NVIDIA Edition (Noctua NF-S12B FLX, NZXT Sleeved LED Kit)
Storage OCZ Vertex 2 60GB; Western Digital Caviar Blue AAKS 500GB
Power: NZXT HALE90 750W
Sound: Auzentech X-Fi HomeTheater HD
Optical Drive: NEC AD-7170A 18X DVD+/-RW
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64

Compared Hardware
- AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB (Stock reference)
- AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB (Stock reference)
- Gigabyte Radeon HD 6850 1GB (820MHz Core/4200MHz Memory)

Page Index
1. Introduction, Specifications, Bundle
2. AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series Architecture
3. A Closer Look, Test System
4. Benchmark: 3DMark 11
5. Benchmark: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
6. Benchmark: Call of Duty: Black Ops
7. Benchmark: Colin McRae: DiRT 2
8. Benchmark: Far Cry 2
9. Benchmark: Just Cause 2
10. Benchmark: Metro 2033
11. Benchmark: Unigine: Heaven v2.1
12. Power Usage, Temperature, Noise
13. Overclocking and Conclusion