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Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card 21162-00-50R
Radeon HD 5850 Features
Sapphire 5850 Closer Look
Video Card Testing Methodology
ATI Eyefinity Multi-Monitors
3DMark Vantage GPU Tests
BattleForge Performance
Crysis Warhead Tests
Devil May Cry 4 Benchmark
Far Cry 2 Benchmark
Resident Evil 5 Tests
SPECviewperf 10 - Pro/E
Radeon HD 5850 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
Radeon 5000-Series Final Thoughts
Radeon HD 5850 Conclusion

Radeon HD 5850 Conclusion

Although our rating and final score are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at different points in time. While we do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that would render our rating obsolete. Please do not base your purchases solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating at the time of publication. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

The first section rated in our conclusion is performance, which considers how effective the Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 DirectX 11 video card 21162-00-50R performs in designated operations against direct competitor products. Nailing down a direct competitor model is tricky though, since the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 and GTX 275 both sell in the same $240-260 price segment as the ATI Radeon HD 5850. In terms of DirectX 10 performance however, the HF5850 was more of a threat to the GeForce GTX 285. In synthetic 3DMark Vantage tests, the Radeon HD 5850 performed up to 22% better than an overclocked GTX 285, depending on the test scene and resolution. In DX10 games the HD5850 either met or exceeded GTX285 performance, but completely left the GeForce series behind in the DirectX 11 game BattleForge. Temperatures at load were very good, even though the Cypress GPU has 54% more transistors per square millimeter of chip die than the GT200. Aside from impressive DirectX 11 performance, electrical power consumption was extremely efficient with only 31W consumed at idle and 157W under full 3D load. For the time being, ATI's Radeon HD 5850 is the best value among single-GPU products available, and one the only graphics card capable of playing DirectX 11 games in Windows 7.

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Product appearance is relative to personal tastes, but the entire Radeon 5000-series looks very similar to one another with the only difference being overall length. The Radeon HD 5850 measures 9.5" long, making it a good fit for most all ATX cases. Lately it seems that almost everything has been encased in a plastic housings with a label fixed to the top, so I'm rather used to the basic style lines. In the end, ATI strikes a comfortable blend of elegance and flair that seems appealing to my senses.

Construction is solid, but there seems to be some room for design improvements. While I appreciate ATI for not placing memory module IC's on the backside of the PCB, the heated exhaust vents could have received more attention. Most overclockers are no fan to hot air inside the computer case, and the ventilation design of the Radeon 5800-series doesn't exhaust all heated air outside of the case. Instead of the 0.5x1.5" diameter vent in the I/O plate, ATI could have extended the vent to at least 2.0-2.25" wide with larger vent holes.

While most consumer buy a discrete graphics card for the sole purpose of PC video games, there's a very small niche who expect extra features beyond frame rates. AMD isn't the market leader in GPGPU functionality, but their ATI Stream Technology is the only one designed to utilize DirectCompute 5.0 and OpenCL code. ATI Eyefinity technology is impressive, as it demonstrates yet another dimension of visual experience that the competition cannot offer. For most consumers, it's the added connectivity that really counts: native DisplayPort and HDMI interfaces.

As of December 2009 the ATI Radeon HD 5850 sells at NewEgg for $309.99 and other retailers online for around $300, but supplies from any of the ATI partners seem extremely limited. Only weeks after the initial launch, NewEgg discontinued stock of the Sapphire HD5850, but still lists the ASUS and Diamond models. The interesting story here is that each of the nine suppliers of the HD5850 sell their product for the exact same price, and since these are all reference models you'll want to compare support and warranty. If you're in the market for an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 video card (that sells for roughly $330), the Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 is the obvious choice. DirectX 11 and energy efficiency change this dynamic considerably, and make the decision lop-sided towards the new Radeon 5800-series.

In summary, there's a long future ahead for the Radeon HD 5850. DirectX 11 is the future of gaming, whether the competition likes it or not, and ATI has a huge head-start on absorbing an early market share. Eyefinity is a nice touch and it certainly adds to the gaming experience, but there's such an incredibly small portion of potential users for the technology that in reality the Radeon 5800 series has only its shear graphics power to make the sales pitch. Although the HD5850 is clocked at 725MHz and doesn't have the top-end power (or shaders) as the HD5870, it also doesn't share the same price. For the cost, my recommendation is for the Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 DirectX 11 video card. High-performance gamers and multi-monitor power users can't go wrong at this price point, and will only get better.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Second-fastest DirectX 11 graphics accelerator
+ Consumes only 24W at idle and 157W under full load
+ Native HDMI 1.3b uncompressed audio and video output
+ Outstanding performance for ultra high-end games
+ Eyefinity Technology through DisplayPort and DVI (x2)
+ 1440 GPU cores at 725 MHz
+ 1 GB of 1000 MHz 256-bit GDDR5 vRAM
+ 1080p HDMI Audio and Video supported for HDCP output
+ Very-quiet cooling fan under loaded operation
+ Supports CrossFireX functionality
+ 2.154 Billion-transistor ATI 'Cypress' GPU
+ 9.5" Length fits most standard ATX cases
+ Excellent value for the $260 price point
+ Kit includes CrossFire bridge and DirectX11 video game

Cons:

- Fan exhausts some heated air back into case
- Maximum post-processing Anti Aliasing is limited to 8x
- Expensive premium-level product

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.50
  • Appearance: 9.00
  • Construction: 9.50
  • Functionality: 9.75
  • Value: 8.00

Final Score: 9.15 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.

Nomination: 2009 Editor's Choice Award for Discrete Graphics Products.

Questions? Comments? Benchmark Reviews really wants your feedback. We invite you to leave your remarks in our Discussion Forum.


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