AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire Performance E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards
Written by Steven Iglesias-Hearst   
Monday, 27 June 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire Performance
The Cards: HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo
The Cards: HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X
The Cards: HIS HD6950 IceQ X Turbo X
The Cards: MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III
VGA Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Street Fighter IV
DX11: Aliens vs Predator
DX11: Battlefield Bad Company 2
DX11: BattleForge
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX11: Tom Clancy's HAWX 2
DX11: Metro 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
AMD Radeon HD6850 and HD6950 CrossFire Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

AMD Radeon HD 6850/6950 CrossFire Performance

To run today's PC games at high resolutions with all the settings maxed out you need a high end video Card, or two mid/high end video cards in CrossFire/SLI. The best thing about CrossFire/SLI is that you don't need to buy both cards at once, meaning you can spread out the cost of a system build, or simply wait until prices drop before you make your second purchase.

Dual video card scaling has come a long way since its conception, in the early days Crossfire performance wasn't always what it was made out to be. However, our setups show near 90% scaling in most of our tests, this is great news for us budget enthusiasts out there as not all of us can afford to fork out $600 up front for the highest end equipment. In this article Benchmark Reviews will provide you with our performance and cost analysis of a HD6850 CrossFire setup and a HD6950 CrossFire setup.


For this review we will be comparing single HD6850, HD6870 and HD6950 video cards to the CrossFire Pairs in a mixture of DX10 / DX11 synthetic benchmarks and current games to get a good idea of the benefit of running dual video cards. We will also look at other factors you need to consider when running a CrossFire setup such as temperatures and power consumption, so without further delay let's move on and get stuck in.

Manufacturer: Hightech Information
System Limited
Hightech Information
System Limited
Hightech Information
System Limited
Product Name: HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X HIS HD6950 IceQ X Turbo X MSI HD6950 Twin Frozr III PE/OC
Model Number: H685QNT1GD H687QNX1G2M H695QNX2G2M R6950 Twin Frozr III PE/OC
Price As Tested: $184.99 at NewEgg and Amazon $229.99 at Newegg and Amazon $299.99 at NewEgg $299.99 at Newegg

Full Disclosure: The product samples used in this article were provided by HIS and MSI.



# Question?Inteller 2011-06-26 21:58
2 points.
1- I do really wish (for your graphs), you'd use a background that was uniform, to make them easier to see.

2- Nice evaluation as always, but I wish you would have included at least 2 or 3 nVidia based cards, for a broader range of comparisons.

But like I said, very nicely done (as always), & much thanks to BenchMark Reviews!
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# RE: Question?Steven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-06-26 23:44
1) The picture backgrounds of the graphs represent the benchmark it is portraying results for, so using one uniform picture is out of the window. Leaving it blank looks kinda plain... This is a graphics related review after all ;D

2) This article was meant only to show benefits of CrossFire.... No need for NVIDIA results.

Thanks for the positive comments.
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# Those temps seem high...RagingShadow07 2011-06-26 23:04
Great review, I've been looking for 68x0 Crossfire reviews ever since I picked up an XFX 6870 two weeks ago. I'll admit, I was shocked at the temperatures of the 6850/6870, though, since they seem high for two aftermarket cards. Is it normal for a Crossfire setup to make the temps increase that much over one single card (I'm used to my dual-fan XFX 6870 idling at 36c and peaking at the 65c mark)?

Also, can we expect a 6870 Crossfire review in the future by any chance? I'd love to see how two identical 6870 perform.
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# RE: Those temps seem high...Steven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-06-26 23:48
Given half a chance I'd review every combination of every model ever created :D

Any further spin off of this review will depend on its popularity, if there is enough interest then we will.
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# RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceOlin Coles 2011-06-26 23:13
It's very common for a dual-card set to run significantly hotter than a single card. Consider that you've got the heat from one card radiating to the next, and so they're working to cool themselves as well as fight off the added transfer heat.
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# RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceFarnsworth Worthington 2011-06-27 03:31
This is a very useful article for me. The real eye-opener was the difference in GPU temp from top card and bottom card. I live in an area where summer temps regularly sit above 95F/35C, so even if the #2 GPU retains good heat dissipation, the penalty to the #1 GPU would probably kill the setup.

It looks like multi-GPU setups are out of the question for me unless I spend more on air conditioning. :P
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# RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceDavid Ramsey 2011-06-27 07:28
...or a case that mounts the motherboard vertically, like the Silverstonetek Ravens or FT-02.
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# RE: RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceAustin Downing 2011-06-27 08:28
I can attest that the Silverstone Raven RV02 keeps my OC'ed GTX 580 below 94c.
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# Poor Man's Hig-end RigLuay 2011-06-27 07:08
As long as you're sticking to a single 1920x1200 resolution display, anything above 6870 CF is a waste of money. Even 6850 CF will outperform a single GTX 580.

As for the top card's temperatures, any mid-end P67/Z67 motherboard has 3 slots open for each card and that should leave enough room for heat to dissipate from the bottom card. Right???
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# wasteofspacePigbristle 2011-06-27 10:51
Am I the only person here who thinks Crossfire/Sli is overrated?
Is it really worth the, added heat build up/extra power needed/price of 2 high end GPU's?

Take my advice & stick to one nice GPU, it's still going to play near enough everything.
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# RE: wasteofspaceDavid Ramsey 2011-06-27 10:59
Yeah, pretty much (you are). Note, for example, the difference in playing Metro 2033 at 1920x1080 (the most popular gaming resolution, according to Steam stats) with a single 6850 and dual 6850s. With one, it's almost unplayable, chugging along at just over 22fps, whereas with two, it's a smooth 45+FPS. Note that this is substantially better than the 6870 and 6950.

Now, a Radeon 6970 might have equalled or beat the CrossFireX 6850s, but it costs about twice as much as one, which matters if you're building on a budget and starting with a single card.
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# RE: RE: wasteofspacePigbristle 2011-06-27 14:09
In reply to David Ramsey;
First off, you are comparing one card to (double the price)two cards. Where as I was comparing one card with the same "value" as two cards.

Secondly, I see you don't mention the extra heat they give out & power draw they take, do you not consider this a added cost?
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# RE: RE: RE: wasteofspaceDavid Ramsey 2011-06-27 15:25
We can agree to disagree on the "value proposition".

Re power and heat: honestly, no, I don't consider those costs worth worrying about. If your electrical budget is that tight, you've bigger problems than the power your video card draws. Of course, if you need to upgrade your power supply, that's another issue. But presumably if you're planning for CrossFireX in the future, your original power supply was chosen with this criteria in mind.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: wasteofspacePigbristle 2011-06-27 16:15
Fair enough, we'll agree to disagree.

Would be interesting to see a survey done on people with sli/crossfire, to see if they will stick with it, come their next build, or go back to just using the one gpu.

My guess is a lot would return to the one gpu set-up, realising sli/crossfire just isn't worth the expense/trouble.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: wasteofspaceStupido 2011-06-28 00:46
Just to agree/add with David, I'll give my status to picture the statement:
2 months ago I bought 2 Asus 6850 DirectCU and I can assure you that it was worth every euro cent I have spent (2 x 119euros)
Here GTX580 costs 420 euros and 6970 is 320 euros, so you can see the price difference against performance...

with good choice of motherboard, case and fans the heat can be reduced.

In my particular case I have CM690 fully populated with Scythe Slip Streams, my motherboard is Gigabyte P45-UD3P that has 3 slots between PCIe x16 connectors, so when CF is used you practically have one slot of air combined with side fan blowing inside that area :)

Overall I'm quite happy with this build (although the CPU/motherboard/RAM combination is bit old, despite 4+ GHz overclock).
Next time when I upgrade (probably Ivy Bridge based) I'll retain the GPU setup. Of course until there is a game on the market that will choke it :) But until than, I intend to enjoy it as long as I can :)
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: wasteofspacePigbristle 2011-06-28 01:54
(quote; Stupido,with good choice of motherboard, case and fans the heat can be reduced.)

Please realise, no matter which "good choice of motherboard/Case/fans" you eventually decide to go with. You can't get away from the fact, one gpu will run cooler & cheaper then two in that same system.

And remember, both amd/nvidia are trying to show sli/crossfire in a good light, their bound to, it sells them twice as much of their product.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: wasteofspaceStupido 2011-06-28 02:33
I don't get away from that fact. It is a fact and nobody is disputing it.
But the thing is that one GPU will for sure run cooler but I don't agree that always be a cheaper variant. Did you saw the prices I mentioned?

As of temperatures in case of 1 or 2 GPU - yes, 2 GPU will run hotter but as I said, with good setup the temperature can still be in the safe zone...
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: wasteofspaceStupido 2011-06-28 02:36
ah, yes... I don't mind buying 2 'smaller' products against one 'bigger' if combination of 2 smaller is cheaper and more performing than a single 'big one' ;)
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: wasteofspacePigbristle 2011-06-28 02:54
(Quote Stupido: I don't mind buying 2 'smaller' products against one 'bigger' if combination of 2 smaller is cheaper and more performing than a single 'big one')

But does it really work out cheaper after you have added the more expensive PSU you will need, plus the added running cost over the years, not to mention driver/heat related issues?
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: wasteofspaceStupido 2011-06-28 03:41
The PSU is the 'old' one I already had (Corsair TX750) thus that is not added cost. Power consumption wise they are on pair, thus if you already have GTX580 and that PSU runs it, most probably it will run the 6850 CF. Thus 'PSU & running costs' factor is off the equation. The only thing you have left is the driver & heat. As I already stated, with proper component selection, heat is under control. The driver issue is typically solved over time (some time sooner, some timer later, but hey, it is software... blink-blink ;) )
And I have to admit, with latest drivers AMD has done a very good job with their CF scaling and driver support. Actually that was one of the main triggers for me to jump into CF wagon (I was happy user of GTX280 before this setup). The other was that I was locked to CF since I have older motherboard.
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# Approaching Power Limit for One SlotBruce 2011-06-28 05:58
Remember how the GTX580 and the HD 6990 had to be artificiall throttled back by firmware, because at full speed they would burn up? Those cards are on the hairy edge of power density for an electronics package. It's actuall BETTER to spread the heat load and the power load amongst two or three slots. Doudle the fan capacity, double the surface area of heat exchanger fins, double the thermal mass of the heatsink, and only half the current flowing in the power connectors makes for a better design, IMHO.
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# RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformancePigbristle 2011-06-28 04:29
So you already had an TX750, why did you not buy a cheaper 500w unit? my guess is you bought it to run 2 gpus (in my book that's an added cost).

lets not get into an argument, lets just agree to disagree.
My overall point is only to enlighten people to the fact, that there is more to running sli/crossfire then "just" the cost of the extra card, & in "my opinion" it's not worth it.
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# RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-06-28 04:37
Which is covered in my final thoughts...
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# RE: RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceStupido 2011-06-28 05:20
I'm not arguing here :) Just saying my '2c' & I agree to disagree :)
as to Pigbristle and to Steven :) I think we are all correct from our standing points :)

so here is my closing thought on this subject:
I had the possibility to easily upgrade (performance wise) from single GPU to CF for very little cost and I did it. Simple as that.

As Luay subjected it: "Poor Man's Hig-end Rig" :) I think that is in essence what I'm saying...

I guess that I'm looking into this matter more like PC enthusiast/hobbyist...
That would be the reason to consider high-end GPU or even multi-GPU, to have overclocked my CPU, to buy a good & powerful PSU (that will allow some breathing room), to buy VelociRaptor as main HDD, to constantly follow web sites like this one for reviews and sharing thoughts and advises... ;)

Otherwise I just go the nearby computer shop and just by the PC that suits my budget and call it a day... :)
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# kevStupido 2011-06-28 05:24
sorry for the spelling errors (not native english speaker): I wanted to say "buy the PC that suits my budget"
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# RE: kevStupido 2011-06-28 05:25
why there is no edit button?
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-06-28 05:24
And now you must change your name to Intellectuo (insted of Stupido) as you obviously aren't stupid...
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-06-28 05:30
Oops that sounds a little sarcastic, no offence intended. You, like many, have realised that a little cash needs to be thrown about to get good performance. No point in buying an OEM PC you will only regret it...
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceStupido 2011-06-28 06:47
No worries... No offence taken.
I used my diagnosis as my nick name :-P
hehe :) If I cannot joke with my self, than with whom I can?! :)

I know about OEM PCs... that is why I always build my PCs (at least the last 3)...
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# questionKyle 2011-08-06 12:38
First off sorry of posting in something old. I do not have access in your forums. Why do you pair a 6870 with a 6850 when the 6870 scales down? Sorry I am new to building and computers?

Another thing do you think an MSI 6870 Hawk is just as good as the IceQ 6870? Going to get a single 6850/6870 since I am on a budget then get another by next year.
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# RE: questionOlin Coles 2011-08-06 12:45
The web is timeless, so no worries. Also, our forum is open to everyone, but new accounts may only reply for their first post. We have a post for this article already.

I'm not sure what you mean about pairing 6870 with 6850. So far as I know, CrossFire won't work this way. Please explain what you mean.
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# RE: RE: questionKyle 2011-08-06 12:59
With the 6000 series you can combine GPU with same related number. Such as 800 together or 900 together. Well that is what the reviewer stated and did.
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# RE: RE: RE: questionOlin Coles 2011-08-06 13:00
That could be possible, but I have no experience with it so we can wait for him to reply. I can tell you that they will both speed down to the lowest common GPU/DDR clock rate.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: questionSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-08-06 13:27
I paired the 6870 and 6850 together because I didn't have two 6850's or two 6870's. As you said it will scale down and so the score from it was represented as 6850 CrossFire, hence the title of the article.

The MSI 6870 Hawk will give you the same framerates as the IceQ 6870 if they both have the same clock speeds, there differences will be A)Noise level B)Cooling capability C)Power design D)Overclock capability. Since I don't have the MSI 6870 Hawk I can't really answer your question truthfully.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: questionKyle 2011-08-06 13:41
Thank you for the reply. I saw the review for the Hawk on your site. It got a good score and looks nice.

It is also about 15-20 dollars cheaper right now. Clock speed is about 45mgz less.
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: questionSteven Iglesias-Hearst 2011-08-06 13:54
I think the Hawk will easily hit the same speeds as the IceQ, since it's cheaper I reccomend you snap it up while you have the chance bud.
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# RE: AMD Radeon HD6850 & HD6950 CrossFire PerformanceTrae 2011-11-18 02:27
I like not having to throw my card away when I upgrde to a new one.

It's awesome that I can SLI together a 5850 and a 5950 and the 5950 works at 90% and the 5850 works at 90% which is something like 160% of the power of the 5950.

Sure, I could just buy a top end card every time, but I would end up spending (2x)-x where x is the number of upgrades of the money.

Example. 10 upgrades.

9 * 600 = 5,4000
10 * 250 = 2,000

I took 1 off of the 600 dollar card because I figure you only need 9 cards to equal 10 of the cheaper cards performance (if used in pairs)

I never buy cheap motherboards anyway, even if they are single PCI-E 16x slot they will be over 100$.

I also never buy a cheap PSU. Even w/o using SLI my PSU is a high profile brand of 600 watts because PSU failures are very very costly and if you're on a budget then that can cause problems.
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# numbersRobin 2012-04-01 00:57
I know this is quite an old post but Iwould like to point out that you have gotten percentages wrong. Example if single 6850 scores 40 fps and in crossfire it scores 80 fps. Crossfire does not increase performance by 50% over single, this would be an increase of 100% however the latter would be correct if you were to say decrease of 50%.
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