It’s been 2 months since the launch of the AMD’s 2nd
generation DX11 mid-range graphics cards. Time enough for manufacturers to really get to know Bart, time enough to figure out how to keep it’s head cool. And so MSI’s recently launched R6850 Cyclone Power Edition landed in the Tbreak office and I quickly got to burning
testing the card.
There are two key aspects of the R6850 Cyclone, the cooling solution and the subsequent overclock. Firstly, the huge heatsink up front has massive coils spread around the face of the card, the central fan keeping everything cool as heat is picked up under it and spread to the surrounding fins. Secondly the factory overclock done by MSI which has Core clock set at 860MHz (85MHz over AMD defaults) and 1100MHz Memory (100MHz over AMD defaults). That’s a respectable 11% increase in Core and 10% increase in Memory clock speeds.
One last feature I’d like to touch upon is the fan speed control on the R6850 Cyclone, which is basically a miniscule switch between “Performance/Silence”. I can see many people wanting a better control knob or switch located at a more convenient place, but as you’ll find out later on, this is not exactly a big deal.
This is probably the last time our old testbed will be used for benchmarks, something new and shiny is coming along to take over the mantle. So let’s give the old girl a round of applause and see what she’s made of. An An Intel Core i7 965EE @ 3.2GHz on an ASUS Rampage II Extreme motherboard, packing 3x 1GB Corsairs XMS3-1333 ram, a Kingston 64GB V-Series SSD running Windows 7 Ultimate; all of which is powered by a Corsair HX1000W PSU. The latest Catalyst 10.12 drivers were used for benchmarks. For comparisons, I’ve selected the Gigabyte HD 6850
and ASUS EAH6870
and Zotac GTX 460
Performance wise the R6850 Cyclone sits square in the middle of the HD 6870 and the regular HD 6850. Unfortunately there are no benchmarks for the GTX 460 on 3DMark 11 yet; it's surprisingly hard to get a hold of that card right now. Perhaps Nvidia really is bringing a mid-range entry to combat AMD, but nothing has been "announced" as of now.
Performance seems to be slightly better than the GTX 460, but the R6850 Cyclone still trails behind its bigger brother in everything. This is simply the extra shaders, and hence the price difference at work here.
While overclocking the card, I used MSI's Afterburner to increase Core speed to 911MHz and Memory speed to 1151MHz, which is a further 51MHz Increase in Both Core and Memory clock speeds from what MSI had already set. In total that's an effective 17.5% Core clock speed increase and a 15% Memory clock speed increase from AMD default values.
With such a significant overclock, the R6850 Cyclone finally seems to be catching up to the HD 6870, but not quite beating it.
I want to take some time out here and mention the Cyclone heatsink on the R6850 which does an absolutely superb job of keeping the card cool and extremely quiet during idle and full load conditions. On idle the R6850 stays at around 37C while full load, even when overclocked, stays under 72C. And whether I put the switch on the card on Performance or Silence, the effect was the same in terms of temperatures and sound level; nothing more than a mere whisper. I don't know whether this was because of a faulty switch, that perhaps on "Performance" there should have been more noise or further cooling, or maybe nothing really stressed the card enough for it to actually break a sweat. In either case, the Cyclone heatsink on the R6850 does one hell of a job, and is definitely worth the small price hike over regular HD 6850.
And that's exactly how I'd like to conclude this review, that the MSI R6850 Cyclone 1GD5 Power Edition has a really long name, but shows it's worth by outperforming any other HD 6850 due to the factory overclock while also keeping its cool and quiet despite crunching bigger amounts of data.