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MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Review

MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Review

Manufacturer MSI
UK price (as reviewed) £140 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed) $189 (ex tax)

We’ve been focused somewhat on the high end of the graphics market recently, thanks to the launch of the AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB and Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 3GB. Down in the more affordable price range the graphics battle is just as fierce. Between £90 and £150 there are a host of competing cards, with the differences in performance in some circumstances very small.

Enter the MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition. Not only is the Cyclone currently one of the cheapest Radeon HD 6850 1GB cards around at £140, but it also offers the delicious extras of a hefty factory overclock and a custom cooler. Is MSI trying to make all the other board partners look bad or something?

MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Review MSI Radeon HD 6850 Cyclone Power 1GB Review
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Built around a custom PCB measuring 21.5cm long, the Cyclone has ditched the black-box cooler and shroud of the stock HD 6850 1GB for the excellent Cyclone that we’ve seen (and loved) before. This cooler has two large nickel-plated heatpipes that curve out and around the fins of a central aluminium heatsink. Atop the cooler is a 90mm fan which blows air down onto the card and out through the cooling fins wrapped around the heatpipes. This means that the heat of the card is dumped into your case rather than exhausted out of the case’s rear.

MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Review MSI Radeon HD 6850 Cyclone Power 1GB Review
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The card’s PCB design is a little odd, as while the single 6-pin PCI-E power connecter is placed at the rear of the card (on the side), the six power phases supplying the GPU are found at the opposite end of the card and are fitted with their own small aluminium heatsink. There are two power phases supplying the memory at the other end of the card, fitted with MSI’s Super Ferrite Chokes, giving the card an 7+2-phase power layout.

MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Review MSI Radeon HD 6850 Cyclone Power 1GB Review MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Review MSI Radeon HD 6850 Cyclone Power 1GB Review
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Almost hidden underneath the cooler is a mysterious switch, that apparently toggles the card between ‘Performance’ and ‘Silence’ settings. On closer examination, it’s a vestigial leftover, as it’s not connected. Like all HD 6850 1GB cards, there’s only one CrossFire connector, so triple- and quad-card CrossFireX isn’t possible.

MSI R6850 Cyclone Power Edition Review MSI Radeon HD 6850 Cyclone Power 1GB Review
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With all this fancy power circuitry and cooling hardware MSI has been able to apply an aggressive factory overclock to the Cyclone HD 6850. The core clock has been increased from 775MHz to 860MHz, an 11 per cent increase, whilst the memory has jumped from 1GHz (4GHz effective) to 1.1GHz (4.4GHz effective,) a 10 per cent increase. These are fairly substantial overclocks as far as factory overclocked cards go, and should grant the card a healthy boost when it comes to frame rates.

Specifications

  • Graphics Processor ATI Radeon HD 6850
  • Pipeline 980 stream processors (860MHz), 32 ROPs
  • Memory 1GB GDDR5, 4.4GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 140GB/sec, 256-bit interface
  • Compatability DirectX 11, OpenGL 3.1
  • Outputs/Inputs Single-link DVI, dual-link DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI
  • Size 215mm long, dual-slot
  • Power Connectors 1 x 6-pin PCI-E, end-mounted
  • Warranty Two years