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I've had this card since it came out, and quite frankly, can't see myself upgrading any time soon. With me being an FPS gamer, with the occasional play of WoW, this card is fantastic! I purchased it building a budget rig, which over time has been upgraded - the RAM, CPU, HDD's, Motherboard, NIC, all been upgraded. The only thing I've not upgraded is my graphics card. I play a lot of CoD4, used to play it competitively, and it's not the most graphic intense game on the market, however it would play that, with a HD config, with around 600 FPS to spare.... Which is quite a lot! I also do some graphic design and video editing for work, which the GPU helps with. When I loaded up world of warcraft for the first time, I really wasn't expecting the quality of the graphics to be as good as it was. The gameplay was smooth, the graphics were crisp, and I was running it at the second highest setting at 1080p on a 22" monitor. I also play BF3, and can just about run it on ultra, with everything ramped up. I've tinkered with the over clocking utility, but it didn't do much, so it's stock again. This has lasted me a good 6 years now, and it's had plenty of game hours run through it! The card looks fantastic too. I'm currently using air cooling, however I'm looking into water cooling for the entire system, which means I'll need to get a water cooling block for the card. I've played for hours on end at LAN parties on this thing, and it's done me proud - I'm more than happy to stick with it for another few years. It also doesn't show any loss of performance over time, which I love! Altogether, I think it's a stunning card for the price, and would recommend it to anyone, without a doubt
With Call of Duty MW3 and Battlefield 3 release looming, I found my graphics card to be perhaps one generation behind. Now I have had my 6850 for nearly 6 months and contemplated that it won't be able to handle MW3 or BF3 at the resoltuons and quality I would like.
This card actually is reteailing at around the price as the HD 6850 was six months ago. At £129 from Scan or Ebuyer this could be called a bargain. The nomenclature may suggest that it is a true HD 6870 but in actuality this is the HD 6850 (while the 6850 is merely a 6770). ATi had decided to change the way they name their products so it may have been somewhat confusing.
Anyways the main reason for buying Sapphire again is due to the number of features that comes with it. Sapphire also are very reliable and are the premium ATi partner so with that in mind and the fact that you can register for free games with your Sapphire card, its an added incentive.
It is quite large actually compared to the HD 6850 so its perhaps not ideal to install in a small case. With a medium sized case it isn't a problem to install. Simply click it into place in the PCI slot and its good to go. It does require a molex connector but Sapphire have been good in providing one as well as providing a HDMI/DVI to VGA converter so you can connect to any monitor. Sapphire also include a nice sticker, but more nicely Crossfire connector in case you want to hit the games with 2 cards. I am seriously contemplating crossfiring the 6850 and the 6870.
Apart from the niceties that Sapphire provide, there is the case of how it performs in games. As to be expected it outperforms the HD6850 by some margin. If you run frame rate tests with Fraps, you typically achieve 15-20 frames pers second more than the 6850 in Modern Warfare 2 and more so in Battlefield at around 25fps. For £30 more than what the 6850 retails, I think it is decent if not stellar. So here is hoping it performs quite decently in MW3 and BF3.
Thermal performance is very similar to 6850 however it does idle at around 45 degrees celcius and is slightly louder than its predecessor. Still it isn't nearly as loud as the 4850 used to be under stress. The card also doesn't put too much strain on your power supply unit unlike the HD6890 so that was another reason to choose this instead.
I will probably try some benchmarks in the future like Futuremark, however I always place more emphasis on in game performance rather than synthetic benchmarks. So far its performing really solidly and I look forwards to updating this review for MW3 and BF3.
In conclusion, the card gets my thumbs up for current generation of games and as a potential upgrade for the aforementioned upcoming games.