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Written by David Ramsey   
Wednesday, 06 July 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
PowerColor Radeon AX6850 SCS3
Closer Look: PowerColor SCS3 HD6850
AX6850 1GBD5-S3DH Detailed Features
Features and Specifications
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis Warhead
DX11: 3DMark 11
DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.5
DX11: Battlefield Bad Company 2
SCS3 HD6850 Temperatures
AX6850 1GBD5-S3DH Overclocking
PowerColor Radeon HD6850 SCS3 Final Thoughts
AX6850 1GBD5-S3DH Conclusion

SCS3 HD6850 Temperatures

You might worry about the GPU temperature on this card, and you'd be right to do so. The PowerColor AX6850 1GBD5-S3DH is the most powerful GPU that's ever been fitted with passive cooling, to my knowledge. Good airflow over the card is critical to maintaining reasonable operating temperatures.

FurMark is the application to use if you want to drive video card temperatures as high as possible. Still, this is complicated by the extra controls AMD's built into its latest generation GPUs and drivers, which will automatically throttle themselves down if power draw or temperature exceed certain limits. In this respect they're similar to Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, which will also aggressively throttle themselves to stay within a pre-defined thermal and power envelope. I tested the card in a closed NZXT M59 computer case, with one intake fan at the lower front and one exhaust fan at the upper rear.

Video Card (two case fans) Ambient Idle Load
PowerColor Radeon SCS3 HD6850 1GB GDDR5 24°C 49°C >100°C

The card's idle temperature is a good 15 degrees higher at idle than you'd see in a reference design HD6850, and Furmark took the GPU temperatures high enough for the card's throttling to kick in, which would significantly reduce the card's performance in a real-world situation. The thing to keep in mind here is that these results will vary dramatically depending on the airflow over the card. How dramatically? Well, those of you familiar with the NZXT M59 computer case might know that it has a standard side-panel fan, a 120mm unit that blows directly on the top of your graphics card. I left this fan disconnected for most of my testing since I wanted to test under the conditions PowerColor gave on their box, which was a case with two fans.

Turning on the side panel fan made quite a difference:

Video Card (two cas fans + side panel fan) Ambient Idle Load
PowerColor Radeon SCS3 HD6850 1GB GDDR5 24°C 40°C 74°C

Yep, that's a lot cooler! The giant heat sink doesn't need much of an increase in airflow to have a dramatic effect on GPU temperature, and bear in mind that the 120mm vase fan in the NZXT's side panel probably moves a lot more air than the much smaller fan on a reference design HD6850.

Originally, I wasn't planning to overclock this card: that's not the point of the card, and after seeing it overheat under stress at stock speeds, I didn't think it would be possible. But everything changed with that side fan enabled, so off I went...



# RE: PowerColor Radeon AX6850 SCS3Mack 2011-07-06 19:41
Really nice review. I think I would really like this card if the unit did not eat up 3 slots, and of course price wise, you said it all.
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# Great review choiceJeff 2011-07-10 23:29
I would never buy such a card but its always interesting to see what seem to be engineering exercises by vendors. There are GPUs with quiet fans out there (like my reference GTX 460) so "silent" cards really aren't needed, but they're fun to read about.

Oh, and I'm one of the "disturbing" people who still us XP. Almost all my games are DX9 (amazing how many there are - especially RPGs) and it does exactly what I need it to.
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# RE: Great review choiceDavid Ramsey 2011-07-11 07:43
With XP, you're not only subject to memory limitations (SLI wouldn't really work for you, for example), but are much kore vulnerable to viruses and malware. But if it works for you...
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# RE: Great review choicekater 2011-07-27 05:24
Also, no SSD with TRIM for you :P And SSD w/o TRIM is basically pointless. But hey, to each his own :)
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# Great Review - But that price?Christopher Fields 2011-07-11 09:27
I looked on NewEgg this morning and found this card for $204.99 /

Just thought I would drop the news for those interested in buying it from somewhere else other than "Sears", lol. Since when did Sears get into the PC Parts market?
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# RE: Great Review - But that price?Olin Coles 2011-07-11 09:44
Thank you for sharing, but the Newegg price was already linked in the first/last page of this review.
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# Great shot!Zodar 2011-07-17 06:45
I was searching exactly for this card!
I use my PC (tower case) for games but also as media player with a beamer.
Since my PC is very close to my ears during "movie-watching sessions"... to keep noise low is very important.
Currently I am using a hd 4850 with Accelero s1 rev.2, but looking for a performance increase I was disapponted in seeing that I should had bought a card and a new separated special heatsink...

So... This SCS3 for me is exceptional! It fits all my needs. Just bought! It should arrive in 5-6 days...
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# RE: Great shot!David Ramsey 2011-07-17 10:51
Glad the reviewvwas useful for you! Let us know how you like it.
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# Nice Card!Zodar 2011-07-27 13:12
I tried this card not so much (I just became father... ;) ) but I like it. I put an enermax Cluster UCCL 120mm fan close to the heatsink to be sure that it will not overheat (I have a Cooler Master case, sileo 500, without side panel fan).
I have to say that the card doen't seem to need the additional fan (my case is however well vented), but as I said, I trid it not so much.
In my case, upgrading from 4850, the performance improvement is impressive (with Crysis 2 now I use Umtra settings, after downloaded hi-res texture and patch for dx11)!
And no noise at all when I watch movies (I have scythe kaze master as reobus for fan controlling and if I don't use the card for gaming, the even -really- ultra silent "magnetic bearing" fan is off).
So, in my opinion, if you search for noiseless card with high performance it is competitive with standard 6850 equipped with third part heatsinks and, for sure, with higher reliability.
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# Good reviewDaniel 2011-11-14 09:08
Thanks for this review. It helped me decide!
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# RE: PowerColor Radeon AX6850 SCS3Fiend 2012-01-30 02:55
Very nice review, thank you.
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