We love the HD 5870s and that's a problem for ATI because we expect to feel that same kind of passion for the HD 5850. If we don't there will be heck to pay, heck I tell you. Today marks the day of our first HD 5850 landing in our labs. The first company to make it out of the gates? Well, it was the same one that made it out of the HD 5870 gates, Sapphire.
So, with a full retail version of the HD 5850 on hand we're going to see how the card goes against some other important models on the market. In the performance department we're expecting it to sit in between the HD 4890 and HD 5870. The main reason for this is because it has to. If it was the same speed as the HD 4890 or even worse, slower, ATI simply would have been better off making the HD 4890 pricing even more aggressive.
We've got a very typical walkthrough today. First we'll see what package Sapphire has put together before having a closer look at the card itself. Then we'll have a look at the specification. Since this is the first time we've looked at the model we'll be going outside the normal information and including the core and memory clock and some more of the key features the card carries like stream processors, memory bus, manufacturing process and more.
Looking at the front of the package we can see it's not as big as the HD 5870 box that Sapphire had put together. This isn't uncommon as we tend to find only the highest model from Sapphire carries the larger box. Across the top of the box we have the Sapphire logo while to the right we see that the card comes with 1GB of GDDR5.
Moving down, we've got a picture of a girl and next to that we have the model, in this case the HD 5850 as we mentioned in our intro. Across the bottom we have the ATI logo along with some of the main features the card offers like DirectX 11, EyeFinity, CrossFire X and more.
Turning the box over, we've got a bit of a blurb on the model. Below that is a mention of what's in the box and then a few of the awards that Sapphire has won over the years. On the right side we have a more lengthy run down on the features and what they actually do for you.
Moving inside the box, we can see there isn't anything out of the ordinary. We've got a user manual, Sapphire Sticker and driver CD. As far as cables go we've got two molex to 6-Pin connectors, DVI to VGA connector and a CrossFire connector. Not quite as fancy as the HD 5870 bundle, but still everything we need to get up and running.
Having a look at the card now, you have to think at first sight that we've just re-used the photo of the HD 5870. Head on the cards look almost identical with the major difference being that this one has HD 5850 on it instead of HD 5870.
The only physical difference from head on which can't be noticed here is that the HD 5850 comes in 9.5" (24cm) which is the same as the HD 4890. It is 1" shorter than the HD 5890 which comes in at 10.5" (27cm). We can of course see that Sapphire has mixed it up in their own way with a sticker.
Looking at the back of the card where we have our two little holes we can see like the HD 5890 this card carries with it two 6-Pin PCI-E connectors. These are instead sitting at the back of the card rather than on top, though.
Speaking of on top, we can see our two CrossFire connectors sitting closer to the front. Here we have the chance to run up to three cards in a CrossFire X formation. While we won't be making use of the connectors today, we will be in the near future.
Moving to the I/O side of things, the setup is exactly the same as the HD 5870. We've got a little vent sitting on the top right with a single Dual-Link DVI connector. Below that we have another one while to the left we have a native HDMI port and DisplayPort. This setup of course gives us the ability to run up to three monitors via two DVI + DP or one DVI and one HDMI + DP.
Let's take a look at how the HD 5850 compares to the HD 4890 and HD 5870. Like the HD 5870 the HD 5850 carries 32 ROPs, up from 16 on the HD 4890, a 256-bit memory bus and 1GB of GDDR5 like the HD 4890. Like the HD 5870 the card utilizes a 40nm manufacturing process, unlike the HD 4890 which uses 55nm.
As far as clocks go, the core comes in at 725MHz which is down from the 850MHz clock the HD 5890 and HD 4890 carries. The memory clock is up compared to the HD 4890 which carries a 975MHz or 3900MHz QDR clock. The HD 5850 comes in at 1GHz or 4000MHz QDR. It is slightly down from the HD 5890 which comes in at 1200MHz or 4800MHz QDR. Like the HD 5890, the card carries with it the ability to run Direct X 11 in supported games.
Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage
Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 9.8, ATI Catalyst Cypress Driver, ForceWare 190.62,
Today we'll be seeing how the HD 5850 compares against the HD 5870. We'll also see what kind of performance we get out of this card compared to the HD 4890. We've also added the GTX 285 for good measure since this is the main card that the HD 5870 is targeted at. For the most part it's able to beat it on a consistent basis so we'll see how the HD 5850 goes up against it.
Let's get started!
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Looking at 3DMark Vantage we can see the HD 5850 sits exactly where we thought it would when compared to the HD 4890 and HD 5870. As for how it goes against the GTX 285, it manages to pull out a win at the more extreme X preset.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.
Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
Offering a good jump on the HD 4890 we can see the HD 5850 manages to perform strong. The best gains can be seen at 2560 x 1600 with the HD 5850 able to break that 30 FPS minimum we need to see.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
CINEBENCH performance like most recent ATI releases is good. We can see it sits well ahead of the GTX 285 in this situation.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 18.104.22.168
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10).
The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
World in Conflict sees another very good gain when compared to the HD 4890. As for how it competes against the GTX 285, it manages to pull out a win at resolutions up to 1920 x 1200. While it does fall behind at 2560, it still manages to get that 30 FPS minimum which just wasn't possible on the HD 4890.
Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
Buy It Here
Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.
It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.
Not the best numbers under Warhead, again we've got a jump on the HD 4890 with the better gains being seen at the higher resolution. Unfortunately we're below that 30 FPS minimum we want to see.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here
The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.
Good numbers across the board under Far Cry 2 with the HD 5850 being able to beat out the GTX 285 at all resolutions. More importantly, we're able to break the 30 FPS minimum at the ultra high 2560 x 1600 resolution.
Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
Buy It Here
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World. The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.
Again, good gains under Clear Sky. We're able to get over 30 FPS in the minimum department at 1680 x 1050. It's only the second card doing this here with the other being the HD 5870. At 1920 x 1200 we're just under 2 FPS away from 30 FPS, so with a bit of detail tweaking we should be able to get that over as well.
Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
Buy It Here
Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.
Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.
Compared to the HD 4890 we again see the card perform very strong. Compared to the GTX 285 it manages to pull out a win at the highest two resolutions with it falling just behind the GTX 285 at the lowest.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AF
Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.
Far Cry 2
The HD 5850 doesn't perform well under Far Cry 2 with AA and AF on. While it offers a good gain when compared to the HD 4890, the number is still low for it to be considered playable.
World In Conflict
A nice little jump on the HD 4890, but not quite enough for WIC to be playable at these settings with this card. Unfortunately we're a good 4 FPS below that 30 FPS minimum we want to see for smooth game play.
Left 4 Dead
Like our non AA tests the HD 5850 performs strong under L4D here with it coming second only to the HD 5870.
Temperature and Sound Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).
There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
Checking the back of the core temps seems to be a little warmer than the HD 5870. It does come in cooler than the HD 4890 from HIS which actually used an aftermarket cooling solution.
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.
After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
Noise levels between all the ATI offerings are pretty similar. The HD 5850 seemed to be slightly louder than the HD 5870, but nothing serious.
Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Power draw compared to the HD 5870 is lower as you would expect. Compared to the HD 4890 and GTX 285 it also manages to be lower with the minimum coming in at just over 200 Watts and the load being over 50 Watts less than the next closest card which is the slower HD 4890.
After looking at the HD 5870 so many times I was feeling pretty confident that ATI were going to deliver with the HD 5850. The good news is they did. Really, like the HD 5870 we can see for the most part it's able to pull out a win against the GTX 285 which is NVIDIAs top single GPU graphics card.
As for pricing, the HD 5850 manages to be pretty aggressive. The GTX 285 sits around the $350 US mark, while the HD 5870 is about $30 US more expensive at $380 US. The HD 5850, however, comes in at $260 US. This is simply sweet pricing. Over the past few years any ATI card that has sat in the top series and has offered a 50 at the end of the model name has represented excellent value for money; this is really no different.
Really, to be honest this card offers better value for money than the HD 5870 for the plain fact that if you're gaming at 1920 x 1200 or below the top ATI card offers really no extra performance that would enhance your gaming experience over the HD 5850.
A prime example of this is Far Cry 2. At 1920 x 1200 the HD 5870 offers a minimum of 61.26 FPS, while the HD 5850 offers us 52.14 FPS. While the latter might be lower, the main thing we want to see is a minimum over 30 FPS. Now that's what we need for a good gaming experience. Mind you, it's right on the edge so if we can get around the 40 FPS mark we're happy. Moving to a 50 FPS minimum and then getting 60 FPS on another is going to offer no better or worse gaming experience.
It's disappointing that Sapphire didn't include the Dirt 2 coupon or at least another game like we saw in the HD 5870. With that said, leaving them out helps keep price down which increases the value for money and this is one area the card stands out in. We really can't wait to slap another one into our testbed to see what kind of performance CrossFire HD 5850 can offer.
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