|XFX Radeon HD5830 DX11 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Friday, 26 March 2010|
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Detailed Features: XFX Radeon HD 5830
For most high-end video cards, the cooling system is an integral part of the performance envelope for the card. Make it run cooler, and you can make it run faster has been the byword for achieving gaming-class performance from the latest and greatest GPUs. The XFX HD 5830 uses a tried and true GPU cooler design that makes the most of its components. While seemingly simple, compared to the monster coolers that we enthusiasts sometimes covet, the radial fin design is a very efficient one. Sometimes, less is more. Really.
Two large, 8mm diameter heatpipes are clamped to a solid copper contact block that sits on top of the GPU. The surface finish of the block is a bit rough; especially when you consider that the mating surface of the ATI Radeon GPU is like glass. As any cooling aficionado can tell you, the combination of two mirror finishes, with the smallest possible amount of Thermal Interface Material, can't be beat for effective heat transfer. We'll have to wait for our testing to see if the rough surface is a deal breaker, or just a missed opportunity to put some icing on the cake. Although there was some excess Thermal Interface Material pushed out from the sides of the GPU, it doesn't look like XFX used an over-abundance of TIM during assembly. The compound was initially placed on the surface of the GPU and flowed out from there.
While there is no official HD 5830 reference design from ATI for sale anywhere, there still seems to be a broad consensus on power supply design, at least among several vendors. The power supply section on the XFX HD 5830 is very similar to some other HD 58xx non-reference designs from a variety of suppliers. For example, the architecture and component selection is almost identical to the design of the Powercolor HD 5870 PCS+, a factory-overclocked card. The implementation on the XFX card is actually a bit better, as XFX uses chokes instead of resistors in several filter circuits, and also includes a few extra decoupling capacitors in places that are left unpopulated on the Powercolor board. Any power supply designer will tell you that an L-C circuit is more effective than an R-C circuit, at filtering out AC components riding on top of your DC supply voltage.
The XFX Radeon HD5830 uses Renesas R2J20602NP DrMOS (Driver-MOSFET) power semiconductor chips in the VRM section, although you would never know it unless you pulled the heatsinks off and looked. XFX doesn't mention it in any of their marketing materials, unlike other manufacturers that make a big deal about it. DrMOS is a term that describes the integration of three discrete devices into one chip. Putting the driver circuit and the two power MOSFETs on one chip not only saves space, it improves both thermal and high frequency performance, compared to a discrete implementation. High clock frequencies aren't just helpful in computing; they also improve the efficiency and performance of many power supply circuits; in this case, a DC-DC convertor.
The main power supply controller chip used on the XFX HD 5830 is a UP6213AJ chip, a 4-phase PWM controller that does not support software voltage control, like the more expensive Volterra chips used on the reference 5870 boards. The more adventurous overclockers among us can still perform old school hardware volt mods, if the urge strikes. So, there's always hope for those who desperately want to join the 1GHz GPU club.
The memory choice for the XFX HD5830 video card is consistent with the high GPU clock rates that ATI blessed this card with. Even though the basic 5830 specs only require 1000 MHz chips for the memory, XFX has supplied the same memory chips that go into a 5870, which are good for 1250 MHz. At least on the memory side, there looks like lots of headroom is available for overclocking.
We've spent a lot more time in this review on the board design, since this is our first sample of a production model HD 5830. When we previewed the prototype for the 5830, we promised to look at the design and construction of a retail card in much more detail. Now that we've done that, we also want to validate that the production sample performs as well as the prototype GPU, so let's move on to the Testing section of our review.