Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 TOXIC Video Card

Sapphire has already given the HD 5870 the TOXIC treatment. Today the same happens to the HD 5850.

Manufacturer: SapphireTech
12 minutes & 44 seconds read time


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Being an ATI only partner, it's important for Sapphire to have a large array of variations when it comes to their model line-up. Split into four categories, we have our standard reference models from them. Moving up a notch to the Vapor-X line, you get a nice upgraded cooler, but the same reference clocks.

After the Vapor-X you've got the TOXIC variants which are what we have today. They're essentially an overclocked Vapor-X model, so you get the upgraded cooler, but also an upgrade in clock speeds.

In the top spot is the ATOMIC. That series carries with it an upgraded cooler and the best clock speeds that Sapphire can offer. It's been a while since we've seen anything fall under the ATOMIC line-up and we think the main reason for that is the supply issue that companies have had with the 5000 series. Hopefully that will change in the coming months.

Today we've got the TOXIC version of the HD 5850. I like the Vapor-X series because I like the new coolers, but there's just something that bit more fun about an overclocked card, so I'm excited that the HD 5850 has finally got the OC treatment.

Before we have a look at the card itself and its overclock, we'll have a quick look at the spread Sapphire has put together.

The Package

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Considering the card we're looking at is part of the HD 5800 series, it's a little disappointing to see that Sapphire haven't included a copy of Dirt II in the bundle or another game for that matter. In saying that, though, game inclusion is something that has died off over the last few years.

We do get the normal array of cable, connectors, CD and more, so it's not like we have nothing. We ultimately have everything we need to get up and running and of course the stand-out part of the bundle is the card itself.

Video Card

Checking out the card itself, it's clear we're dealing with a new cooler. The fan has been moved directly over the top of the core and if you look carefully, you can see the aluminum fins on the heatsink and a number of copper heat pipes coming out the top of the card.

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There's not a whole lot of branding on the cooler actually. We've got a Sapphire sticker in the middle, but apart from that we've got a blue and black color scheme going on with the cooler which is something a little new. Hopefully it cools as well as it looks; only time will tell for sure.

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A quick spin around the card doesn't show any surprises. At the back of the card power is supplied with the help of two PCI-E 6 Pin power connectors. Moving across the top of the card and closer to the front, we've got our two CrossFire connectors which give us the ability to run up to three of these.

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In the I/O department we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors, a single HDMI port and a single DisplayPort. You can see we've also got a little bit of an air vent in the top left corner which lets some of the hot air escape.


As we mentioned already, being part of the TOXIC series not only means that the card gets a fancy new cooler, but also a bump in clock speeds. Having a look below, you can see the new clock speeds that Sapphire offers while also seeing what the stock ones are.

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We can see that the core has gone from 725MHz to 765MHz, while the memory has moved from 1000MHz or 4000MHz QDR to a more impressive 4500MHz QDR. This is a nice little bump in clock speeds and should yield some good performance numbers.

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 Kingston Hyper X PC3-16000 2000MHz DDR CL9 (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows 7
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 10.1

We've barely tested HD 5800 series cards over the last few months and for that reason we've got very little in the pool when it comes to comparing the current crop of cards we've got coming in.

So, for that reason we've compared the overclocked HD 5850 TOXIC from Sapphire against the stock clocked HD 5870 from Sapphire. It'll be interesting to see just how far behind the TOXIC version of the HD 5850 sits behind the HD 5870.

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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.

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Straight away we can see some good performance from the HD 5850 TOXIC. There's really only a small gap between the performance of the two models when you look at it.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark (DX10 & DX11)

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

Note: If a card doesn't support DirectX 11 the benchmark will be left out, if it does it will be included along with the DirectX10 results.

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Having a look at Heaven, you can see that performance again from the HD 5850 is very strong thanks to the overclock that Sapphire has put on the TOXIC model.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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).

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Under CINEBENCH we can see that performance is very close; this doesn't come as much of a surprise, though.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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We can see across the board that performance from the HD 5850 TOXIC is very strong. More importantly, these numbers show we're able to play RE5 with max detail at resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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.

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Like RE5, we again see across the board performance from the Sapphire HD 5850 TOXIC is strong. More importantly, if we really look at the numbers you can see we're above that 30 FPS minimum we need at all resolutions which is fantastic.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used:
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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.

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We continue to see some good numbers with the minimums being almost identical between the cards. As for the 30 FPS minimum we want, we're pretty good for the most part with us falling only a single FPS behind at 2560 x 1600 which can be easily gained.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.

Without PhysX

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Again we see some very strong performance from the HD 5850 TOXIC. More importantly, the minimums are all above 30 FPS which mean we're going to have some smooth game play.

Benchmarks - Darkest of Days

Darkest of Days

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.

The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.

Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High Darkest of Days take advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, NVIDIA based cards though will be tested at Low and High.

PhysX set to Low

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Again and again we see performance from the HD 5850 TOXIC to be very strong. Across the board you can see we're smashing that 60 FPS average we want to see.

Benchmarks - BattleForge


Version and / or Patch Used: Auto Patched at Load
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

The Gods have disappeared and the old sun has died, letting a vile twilight engulf the world of Nyn. In exchange for all treasures the mortals possessed, the evil giants agreed to forge a new sun and hurl it into the sky.

But the deal was betrayed, the treasure stolen and now the mortals flee the wrath of the giants. Under the light of a new sun the mortals stumble into a world changed and twisted by an age of twilight. The long journey home has become a conquest of survival.

Note: Supporting DirectX 11 we have seperated the graphs for NVIDIA and ATI cards. While the numbers between the two brands can be compared you have to make note that ATI based HD 5000 series cards are running DirectX 11.

DirectX 11 (ATI HD 5000 Series Only)

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While we see we've dropped just below that 60 FPS average we want at 2560 x 1600 on the HD 5850 TOXIC, we're not far away from it and in the lower resolutions we perform very strong.

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.

Resident Evil 5

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With the detail cranked right up including AA and AF, we can see the HD 5850 does fall below that 60 FPS average we want to see. If you look, though, we're not even an FPS away from it.

Far Cry 2

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With the detail right up under Far Cry 2 we can see both HD 5800 series cards struggle to break the 30 FPS minimum we want to see.

World In Conflict

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Like Far Cry 2, we again struggle with the minimum and getting close to that 30 FPS mark we want to see.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature 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.

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While the HD 5850 TOXIC does have the upgraded cooling, it does run a bit warmer than the HD 5870.

Sound Tests

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).

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Looking at noise levels, we can again see the TOXIC is a little louder than the HD 5870.

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.

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Power draw between both cards is very similar at load. In the idle department the power draw on the TOXIC is just a little up.

Final Thoughts

The first thing we need to talk about is the cooling. While the card runs a little warmer and noisier than the HD 5870 which uses the stock cooling, due to the overclock the card runs warmer than normal and of course because it runs warmer the fan spins a little faster.

On the more important performance front, the card is absolutely awesome. You can see in our benchmarks that it really performs very similar to the HD 5870. To be honest, while the HD 5870 does run a little faster, for the most part it's not really a game changing difference here. This of course would change as we climb up the resolution table with setups like Eyefinity.

The extra MHz on the card does a great job of bringing performance close to the HD 5870. There's no doubt that if you spend the time you'll be able to squeeze even more MHz out of it and boost performance even further with it possibly overtaking the HD 5870 at some points.

The HD 5850 in itself is a good model so we know straight away that the performance we receive is going to be strong. Throw in a decent overclock like Sapphire has done and performance becomes only better.

All in all we've got a really nice HD 5850 on our hands which stands out. Performance is strong thanks to the overclock Sapphire have offered that isn't too insane, but at the same time isn't just a small bump. It's good to see them actually give us a real overclock; there's nothing more frustrating when a company gives us a 10MHz bump on the core and calls it an overclock, especially on these higher end models.

At $339.99 over at Newegg it's one of the more expensive HD 5850s at about $30 to $40 more than a standard model. With most companies removing the game bundles from the model these days, the package lines up with most, so for the extra money you're getting a new cooler which is pretty nice along with a good overclock that gives us some strong performance.

Most companies haven't attacked the HD 5850 yet with overclocks and new coolers due to supply issues. Sapphire has come out quickly and ahead of the pack making it a real stand out version of the popular HD 5850. If you're looking for something that's a bit different than the stock model and carries with it an overclock that will actually help performance, this is a fantastic model.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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