After weeks of speculations and false rumors we at NordicHardware have managed to dig up the most important details on AMD’s new graphics card series, Radeon HD 6800. Targeting the mid-range segment AMD will launch Radeon HD 6850 and HD 6870 on October 18th.

Back in August we could confirm that AMD would stir things up by naming the mid-range series Radeon HD 6800. The GPU ”Barts” is the successor to Juniper GPU of the Radeon HD 5700 series, but it is being moved up a notch. The list of specifications that was leaked at several sites last week said that Barts would launch as Radeon HD 6700, which made us wonder about the authenticity of the document. We have had it confirmed that our previous information on Barts and Radeon HD 6800 were correct, which we can now back up with detailed specifications and launch dates.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 (Barts Pro) and HD 6870 (Barts XT) will launch on October 18th (19th in some countries, if nothing gets changed in the last minute) and the new Northern Islands architecture is tuned and optimized for better performance per watt. We should not expect any revolutionary improvements over current models, but more on that soon.

 Specifications Radeon HD 5770 Radeon HD 5850 Radeon HD 6850 Radeon HD 6870
GPU Juniper XT Cypress Pro Barts Pro Barts XT
Manufact. tech. 40nm 40 nm 40 nm 40 nm
GPU frequency 850 MHz 725 MHz 725 MHz 850 MHz
Stream processors 800 1440. 800. 960
Memory frequency 4 800 MHz 4 000 MHz 4 000 MHz 4 200 MHz
Memory bus
128-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory buffer
Power consumption
108 watt 151 watt ~ 120 watt  >150 watt
Rel. Performance
Better than 5830 Better than 5850

Barts will bring at most 960 stream processors, which should be proof enough that this is a mid-range circuit, and not to play with the big boys. Little brother Radeon HD 6850 will settle for 800 stream processors and lower clock frequency, but AMD has also revised the texture units and efficiency of the stream processors, which makes the numbers a bit misleading when compared directly to previous generations.

AMD Juniper will be replaced by Barts on October 18th

Radeon HD 6870 will, according to reliable sources, perform better than today’s Radeon HD 5850. Not to bad for a card that is intended to replace Radeon HD 5770, but at the same time makes the naming scheme a bit confusing.

Little brother Radeon HD 6850 will in turn be a bit slower than Radeon HD 5830, but consume a lot less power. This isn’t all bad, but it will be confusing for buyers as the new mid-range model should outperform the lower ranked cards of the previous generation.

As we mentioned above, AMD has focused on performance/per watt with the new architecture. With the same 40nm technology it has refurnished and tweaked the Evergreen architecture and managed to find a lot of extra performance. The power consumption of Radeon HD 6850 will be well below 150 watt, around 120 watt according to our sources. While Radeon HD 6870 will be sucking well above 150 watt, which puts it on par with Radeon HD 5850, a card it should outperform with margin to spare.

The biggest reason AMD starts off the new family with Barts is the market focus. Radeon HD 6850 and HD 6870 has been trained to hunt down and kill NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460, the graphics card NVIDIA is building its volume sales upon. AMD has no strong competitor for GTX 460 today, but it hopes to change this with the Radeon HD 6800 series.

GeForce GTX 460 is also the reason for the confusing naming scheme. The GeForce GTX 400 series was built upon NVIDIA’s GF100 GPU, but when NVIDIA launched GTX 460 with the stripped down  GF104 GPU and still put it part of the GTX 400 series AMD saw no other solution but to follow and move up its mid-range cards in the hierarchy. On a positive note the coming Caymen series, to replace Radeon HD 5800 in the performance segment, will also move up the ladder to avoid any confusion within the own ranks.

AMD Radeon Evergreen 40nm (2009-2010) Northern Islands 40nm (2010-2011)
Mid-range Radeon HD 5700 (Juniper) Radeon HD 6800 (Barts)
Performance Radeon HD 5800 (Cypress) Radeon HD 6900 (Caymen)
High-end Radeon HD 5900 (Hemlock) Radeon HD 6990 (Antilles)

AMD Radeon HD 6870 will according to sources to NordicHardware be a pure reference product that will be sold ready-to-ship from AMD to partners. In other words, packaging and stickers on the reference cooler will be the only difference at launch.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 on the other hand will be available in tailored suits from the major partners, which will hopefully result in some unorthodox solutions and cool third-party designs.

We don’t have any concrete pricing to offer just yet, but considering AMD is countering GeForce GTX 460 they should appear in the $150-250 segment.

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