Final thoughts and ratingSapphire, PowerColor and ASUS have now brought three custom-designed Radeon HD 6850 graphics cards to the market in the form of the TOXIC, PCS+, and DirectCu, respectively. Basing them on the HD 6850 is a good idea, because our benchmarks show that a basic card offers solid performance and class-leading energy efficiency for the £150 outlay.
Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 TOXIC
Coming to the 820MHz/4,400MHz-clocked Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 TOXIC first, it is designed to be overclocked from the get-go. A Radeon HD 6870 PCB is complemented by two six-pin PCIe connectors, twin mini-DP v1.2 ports, and a chunky heatsink. Sapphire also includes its easy-to-use TRIXX overclocking utility, which we used to push the card to the highest frequencies in our HD 6850 face-off.
While checking all the tickboxes on the spec. sheet rather nicely, the card's cooler isn't as good as it first appears. The TOXIC is easily the loudest of the trio of cards, clearly heard above the system's fans when playing games. We'd look upon it more kindly if it kept temperatures well below the competitions', but this is not the case, and manually reducing the fan-speed compromises thermal performance. A well-thought-out card, set to retail for £165, that's let down by the noisy cooler.
PowerColor Radeon HD 6850 PCS+
The Sapphire-frequency-matching PCS+ looks rather tame sat next to the TOXIC. Appearances can be deceiving, however. Much quieter when gaming and overclocking nearly as far, the 8.5in card's lack of voltage adjustment hampers its appeal to the die-hard enthusiast. Temps are good given the way the hot air remains largely in the chassis and the overall package is a decent bet at around £160.
ASUS Radeon HD 6850 DirectCu
The ASUS offering takes the middle ground between the two other cards. The 9.5in PCB is seemingly straight off an HD 6870, albeit bereft of a second six-pin PCIe connector, while the outputs match the PowerColor's. It's clocked in at 790MHz core and 4,000MHz memory and therefore benchmarks at a lower level than the other two, but the bundled SmartDoctor application enables it to be pushed significantly higher.
Relatively cool and very quiet when gaming, it's our pick of the trio based on a sub-£150 retail price and three-year warranty. We'd take it over a stock-clocked GeForce GTX 460 1GB card, too. Now if only the partners would sweeten the deal with a new-ish game.
The ASUS Radeon HD 6850 DirectCu is currently on pre-order at SCAN.co.uk.
Sapphire and PowerColor prices TBC.
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