Sapphire HD6850 TOXIC Edition Review
We've long held the belief that graphics cards coolers are deliberately shoddy to allow the partners of nVidia and AMD to produce something special that would bring them the brand loyalty that everyone from Tesco to Ferrari seek.
However, conversely to CPU giants Intel and AMD who endlessly bring out chips that will run way above their rated specifications, GPUs are usually pretty close to their limits already.
Therefore what we are used to seeing time and again when it comes to specialist models from the GPU heavyweights is a card that has heat-pipes and fans on every inch of the card, but only a small increase in Core speed.
Sapphire have taken the mighty TOXIC Edition branding and turned the tables. Rather than focussing on a cooler that helps anyone tell at a glance the card in your rig is something special, they have concentrated everything on making it perform.
Looks, although nice, aren't really vital in our lust for the latest eye-candy crunching beast and the Sapphire TOXIC is bland at best. A very nice blue circuit board but otherwise it's the standard shroud style cooler with nothing specific to separate it from the pack.
Like the best 'street sleeper' performance car or Class A amplifier, everything about the Sapphire TOXIC is hidden under the hood. A 100 MHz increase in the GDDR5 has the obvious performance benefits we'd expect to see especially when the Image Quality is increased.
It's the GPU though that is far and away the star of the party. The 45MHz increase that Sapphire have given the HD6850 TOXIC over the standard HD6850 helps it just edge ahead of a reference design, but the quality of the chip and the board it's used on mean that the overclocking headroom is almost obscene.
We're used to getting maybe 50 or 60 MHz out of a good card. A great card and chip can give us perhaps 100 MHz improvement and if you've struck gold across the board you might see 150 MHz. By contrast the HD6850 TOXIC happily gave us 235MHz and has plenty more to give if the cooling and voltage was increases sufficiently. Even on stock voltage and cooling we were able to run at everything we could think of at 1000 MHz core, 225 MHz over a stock card and 180 MHz over the stock TOXIC itself.
I'm sure that the use of the higher capacity 6870 PCB is largely responsible for the improved overclocking performance and overheads. This does take a little of the gloss off of the wonderful nature though, because it's such a simplistic solution. Rather than being something that takes the TOXIC Edition branding and employs extraordinary tweaks to bring out the ultimate performance, it's just a 6850 GPU on the circuit board of it's bigger brother. The results can't be argued with though, but it does mean anyone could do it.
With a price-tag of around £165 we've already got a Gold Award worthy product, but the cherry on this delicious cake is the TriXX overclocking software that is also provided. It's simple to use, has a clear GUI and has everything you could want, including a small memory footprint. It works with any manufacturers card too which is just an added bonus and is the finest manufacturer overclocking utility we've seen.
The perfect blend of price and performance, with the biggest available headroom this side of a Hanger, the Sapphire HD6850 TOXIC Edition should be top of anyones mid-range want list and wins the OC3D Gold Award.