|Radeon HD5830 DirectX-11 Gaming Performance|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Friday, 12 March 2010|
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Radeon HD5830 DirectX-11 Conclusion
I didn't have any preconceived notions going into these tests; I did have two goals, though. I wanted to see how well these cards worked in DirectX-11, and I wanted to see if the relative performance of the HD 5830 shifted around as a result of using DX11. The enthusiast community has been very vocal about the performance they wanted to see in the Radeon HD 5830. Right or wrong, their expectations were pretty tightly defined, and I think it's a fair assessment to say those expectations were not exceeded on launch day. Given the increasing role DirectX-11 is going to play in future gaming titles, it looked like a good idea to benchmark the DX11 performance of these cards a little deeper than has been done by anyone else, to date.
First off, the performance of all the cards in DirectX-11 was generally in line with the DX10 results. All three benchmarks took a minor hit to the average frame rate, but there were no major degradations in rendering speed. It's nothing like some of the results we saw earlier this year, when Benchmark Reviews switched all our testing from DX9 to DX10. Crysis took about a 50% hit then, for very little gain in image quality. In contrast, the visual enhancements from fully developed DirectX-11 techniques are nothing short of stunning. Heaven's just not Heaven without it, IMHO.
The relative performance between the three Radeon HD 5xxx options in the $150-$300 range was not shifted consistently one way or the other when using the DirectX-11 graphics API. To me, that's a good sign, because it indicates that DX11 is what's called "hardware agnostic". But, perhaps I'm being a little too optimistic, since almost all DX11 coding was done by developers working on an ATI Radeon platform. We will have to do the same type of testing when the Fermi platform finally hits the market, with a wide enough range of video cards to see a difference. Please, no G92 re-brand jokes.
Anti-Aliasing has always been handled a little differently by the Red and Green teams. That's one reason I chose to test every single MSAA setting with this batch of cards. Once we have competitive cards from NVIDIA, I want to be able to compare the performance penalties across product lines. There were major differences between the individual benchmarks in how much performance was traded away as Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing was increased. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat suffered the worst, with a 49% decline in frame rates, as MSAA was increased to the maximum of 4x. Certain components of image quality are completely subjective, but there's no way that I would say that image quality improved by the same 49%, when using the maximum allowable MSAA. I say, stick with 2x MSAA unless you have GPU power to burn. It's just not worth the penalty to go any higher.
I'm happy with the DirectX-11 performance of the ATI Radeon HD 5830 in the DX11 benchmarks that I normally use. There isn't the same performance hit that we saw when upgrading from DX9 to DX10, and the increase in visual quality is definitely a major step forward. I'm also confident that the relative performance ranking of the 5770, 5830 and 5850 remain unaffected by the introduction of DX11. Some have said, in Washington DC terms, that the HD 5830 leans to the left; i.e. it promises more than it delivers, and it costs too much. I say that it will quickly seek its own level in the market, an institution that has a better track record than any marketing department for calculating and assigning value.
What can we conclude from these few tests with DirectX-11 benchmarks and ATI's latest Radeon 5xxx video card? 1.) DirectX-11 offers the opportunity for a significant step up in image quality. Once people get a taste of it, they will not want to go back to DX9 or DX10. 2.) DirectX-11 techniques like tessellation offer a more efficient way of improving image quality than older techniques like Anisotropic Filtering and Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat offers the most compelling evidence: 8x MSAA basically reduces the frame rate in half, for a moderate increase in visual quality. That's not a very efficient use of technology, IMHO. 3.) Every game and benchmark is different. There are just so many variables in the way video graphics are constructed and then optimized, that it's impossible to accurately predict the performance of a new hardware product, even if it is built on a familiar architecture. 4.) The HD 5830 is a victim of the HD 5850's success. Sometimes the DNA strands just snap into place, and a star is born; the 5850 is an Olympic medalist in a family of college all-stars.
Introducing DirectX-11 into the comparison does nothing to change the outcome of a friendly game of one-on-one between the Radeon 5xxx siblings. 5.) Testing video cards with different levels of MSAA is a good idea, since it can affect the relative performance levels between two or more cards. By relaxing the MSAA in the Heaven benchmark, the HD 5830 picked up 10 percentage points against the competition. 6.) Consequently, it looks like there is still room for fine tuning of in-game settings in order to maximize the total experience. That's always been a part of PC gaming, the opportunity for diligent tyros to make their box run the latest titles better than everyone else's, even with the same hardware. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The ATI Radeon HD 5830 is avialable in many speeds and cooling options. The PowerColor PCS+ version offers better cooling and a factory overclock for $240, and as of March 2010 this is the most affordable model. Gigabyte ($250) and Sapphire ($250) also offer reference models at a decent price.
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