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Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 1GB Video Card w/ 960 Shaders

We get our hands on a HD 6850 that carries the reference 960 Shaders. Let's compare this to our 1120 Shader sample.

Published Tue, Oct 26 2010 11:36 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Specifications


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Oh my head! This whole 1120 Shader debacle that has shown up in the last few days has caused nothing but headaches. If you've missed it all and are wondering why we're doing a "Take 2" on the Sapphire HD 6850, let me give you quick crash course on what's happened.

Last week when I started to receive HD 6850 samples, as usual I take the normal GPU-Z screen shot and discover that the numbers are wrong or unknown in GPU-Z 0.4.6. This isn't unusual at the launch of a new card. Anyway, later that day GPU-Z 0.4.7 came out and it displayed everything. Unfortunately the Shaders showed as 1120, where it should've been 960. I checked my other HD 6850 and it had the same thing, so I put it down to a software error.

Come Friday which brought the launch of the HD 6800 series and we're seeing two kinds of reviews; HD 6850s with 1120 Shaders and HD 6850s with 960 Shaders. You ask; the similarity between all reviews? Everyone's using GPU-Z 0.4.7. All of a sudden, what looked to be a software error now looks like it isn't.

Over the next 36 hours it had come out that some HD 6850s did carry with them 1120 Shaders. This is what we know; the HD 6850s that we (and some other sites) received for launch carried with them HD 6870 cores and companies had forgotten to disable the extra Shaders. What we don't know is, do all the HD 6850s carry the same cores on a retail level and companies have now disabled the extra Shaders via a BIOS? We hope to find that answer out in the next few days.

Anyway, we've looked at the Sapphire HD 6850 1GB already and while it carried with it more Shaders, the bundle and look of the card is the same, so if you want to look at what exactly comes with the card I recommend you check out our Sapphire HD 6850 1GB review. If you're not interested or you've already seen it, let's have a quick look at the GPU-Z screenshot and how it differs to the original one.


What I've done is place the two HD 6850 screenshots in a single image below. The left one is the one we're looking at today, while the right is of our original Sapphire HD 6850 sample.

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Click image to view

Across the board everything is almost identical and there are only two differences. The main one is the Shaders. You can see our original samples shows 1120, while the one we're using today shows the correct amount at 960. The other difference is the Texture Fillrate which is linked in with the amount of Shaders. The more Shaders? The higher the Fillrate. That's why the 1120 version has a higher number.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

We're keeping it simple today. What we've decided to do is just include the two HD 6850s; this Sapphire HD 6850 that carries with it the correct 960 Shaders and the original sample we received which carried with it 1120 Shaders.

We want to know just how much of a difference having these extra Shaders impacts our performance and if having them affects our overall thoughts on the model.

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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Under Vantage we can see there's a bit of a difference. 1000 points at P and 700 at X can be seen here, but nothing too serious. We're more interested in real world performance numbers.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Even with the correct Shaders the performance under Heaven is still very strong. AMD really has done a good job on improving Tessellation performance.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Performance is a little lower, but nothing major. The most important thing here is that all our games continue to remain playable and you can see even with 960 Shaders we're still a good chunk above the 60 FPS average we need at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X is an arcade-style flight simulator video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iPhone OS.

The fundamental gameplay mechanics are similar to those of other console-based flight series. Players take on enemies with over 50 aircraft available. Each mission is at real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first person, and third person view are selectable. The third person view gives the player an external view of both their plane and the target.

Set above the skies of a near-future world, increasingly dependent on private military companies with elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States.

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We again see that performance is a little down. The most important thing is again that our games are still playable and even with 960 Shaders our average is above that 60 FPS number at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Our focus here isn't so much on the numbers, but if the games are still playable with minimums over 30 FPS and averages over 60 FPS. As you would expect, our averages are down, but we're still above 60 FPS at 1920 x 1200 which means we're still at playable levels. At 2560 x 1600 we've got an unplayable number on the 960 Shader version, but we've also got an unplayable one on the 1120 version.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Under Lost Planet 2 we can see that we're way below the 60 FPS average we need on both cards. In the end the 960 Shader version doesn't affect the gameplay of Lost Planet 2.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Like Lost Planet 2, we're below playable numbers across the board. While not as extreme, it again doesn't affect your gaming experience; at these settings it would be poor on either card.

Benchmarks - Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Elezen (Male)
Developer Homepage: http://www.square-enix.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.finalfantasyxiv.com/

Final Fantasy XIV, also known as Final Fantasy XIV Online, is the fourteenth installment in the Final Fantasy series. The game is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game and is developed and published by Square Enix. The game takes place in a land called Hydaelyn, mainly in a region named Eorzea, which will have a contemporaneously aesthetic blend of science fiction and classic fantasy elements.

The battle and job systems will be different from the one previously used in Final Fantasy XI, which utilized experience points and level-based progression. Final Fantasy XIV is being designed to utilize a skill-based progression[15] system similar to that of Final Fantasy II. Character races will resemble and allow players to create avatars similar to ones in Final Fantasy XI. Group play has been de-emphasized, and now solo and group play have been balanced. Weapon use will alter "character development".

Note: Final Fantasy XIV gives us a score and not a normal FPS rating, our understanding is that anything around 2000 points or above is considered playable.

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We continue to see big numbers under FF XIV; more importantly the game is going to be playable on either setup.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/

While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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Big numbers across the board; no surprise that we're still playable at all levels.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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We continue to be over a 30 FPS minimum and 60 FPS average. At the highest resolution the minimum jumped a little, but the average did drop, though. Either way, the game continues to be playable.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/

Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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Like Far Cry 2 the numbers are still very good; above 30 in the minimum department and above 60 in the average.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Apart from SF IV the numbers are at a level which aren't playable. The closest is Far Cry 2 and we're sure with some help of an overclock we could get that minimum up.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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It's interesting to see that the 960 Shader card ran a little cooler which is good news.

Sound Test

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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There was no change in noise levels.

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw was similar; idle a little higher and minimum a little lower. More so this is just some fluctuation.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and ATI are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark Vantage, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Final Fantasy XIV, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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What we see is with all the numbers together the card does fall a little behind the GTX 460 overall. That's mainly due to the higher number benchmarks like 3DMark Vantage and Final Fantasy XIV impacting overall performance a bit more. Of course, it has to be taken into account that the GTX 460 is overclocked quite high and the HD 6850 is at stock clocks.

Total Value Rating (TVR)

Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on Newegg.com. In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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The overall value has dropped a bit, but it still remains in second spot, so on a whole the proper 960 Shader version hasn't affected the card in a major way.

Final Thoughts

Performance across the board is down. This isn't a surprise as the card carries less Shaders which is only going to have a negative impact on performance. There's one thing we needed to really know today, though; have any games gone from "playable", or in other words, having minimums of over 30 FPS and averages of over 60 FPS, to "unplayable", or in other words, having numbers below those ones just mentioned?

In a word, the answer to that is No. Any game or resolution that was playable on the 1120 Shader version of the card remains playable on the 960 one; and unplayable resolutions or games on the 1120 version are of course still unplayable on the 960 one.

Overall what we've done is drop the performance rating and value rating by 1%. Ultimately, though, it doesn't affect our thoughts on the product; we continue to love the HD 6850 and while the name is still a little confusing for some, it's a very good product.

There's not much more we can say about the HD 6850 that hasn't been said already, so as I mentioned in the introduction, for a bit more of an in depth look in words, I would suggest that you check out our original Sapphire HD 6850 1GB review.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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