The GeForce GTX 460 saved Nvidia's hind last year when it hit the market at $200 (currently $150 for the 768MB version) beating the existing Radeon HD 5830, while simultaneously threatening the more affordable Radeon HD 5770. Meanwhile, the 1GB version of the same card was offered for $230, greatly diminishing the Radeon HD 5850's value. Even with the eventual price cuts on AMD's side, we felt the GeForce GTX 460 was a deserving winner at the time, offering users the best bang for their buck.
AMD vowed to keep on top of Nvidia throughout 2010 and into 2011, so an overhaul was in order. AMD then launched its current-gen Radeon 6000 cards last October, with the Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 priced at $199 and $239 -- suspiciously close to the GTX 460.
Despite the dubious naming scheme, the Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 weren't meant as replacements for the Radeon HD 5850 and 5870 previous-gen boards. In fact, depending on the game, the newer cards were slightly slower. AMD repositioned the new generation cards as mainstream offerings, saying these were intended to improve DirectX 11 performance and enhance display support.
Regardless of AMD's intentions, the Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 wound up ousting the 5870 and 5850 alongside the GTX 460 because they offered roughly the same performance at seriously discounted prices.
Looking at the market today, the Radeon HD 6850 remains one of the best options available to gamers shopping for a sub-$200 GPU, while the Radeon HD 6870 still commands the sub-$250 bracket with its only real competition coming from the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. It's not very often that we see mainstream-level GPUs settle down for long, in this case it appears there's nothing too big on the horizon and thus we were pleased to hear that HIS was preparing an update for all card versions this year.
The factory-overclocked 6870 IceQ X Turbo X and HIS Radeon HD 6850 IceQ X Turbo have upgraded coolers and are meant to be the fastest 6850 and 6870 graphics cards available out of the box -- albeit at a premium price. The 6870 IceQ X Turbo X is currently retailing for $250, while the 6850 IceQ X Turbo costs $190. Being the inquisitive type, we're determined to see if the extra fee is worthwhile. Read on.