AMD ATI Radeon HD 5850 Performance Review - HotHardware

AMD ATI Radeon HD 5850 Performance Review

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Exactly one week ago today, AMD unleashed the ultra powerful, DirectX 11-ready ATI Radeon HD 5870 upon the PC gaming world and staked a claim as the undisputed 3D performance leader. Having evaluated the features, performance, and image quality of AMD's latest and greatest flagship we were left thoroughly impressed, not only with the new Radeon's killer performance, but its extensive feature set, excellent image quality, power consumption, and competitive price.

In our coverage of
the official launch
of the Radeon HD 5870, we also revealed AMD's plan to release a more affordable, pared-down version of the card, with a shorter PCB, lower core and memory frequencies, also sans a few stream processors and texture units, dubbed the Radeon HD 5850. Unfortunately, cards did not arrive in time to be tested alongside the 5870. The Radeon HD 5850 did arrive in the lab a few days later, however, and we jumped right on testing it.

We've got our evaluation of the $259 Radeon HD 5850 available on the proceeding pages. First up some specs and a quick refresher, then its onto the close ups, performance, and a little overclocking...

AMD Radeon HD 5850 DirectX 11 Graphics Card

AMD ATI Radeon HD 5850
Specifications and Features

2.15 billion 40nm transistors

TeraScale 2 Unified Processing Architecture
  • 1440 Stream Processing Units
  • 72 Texture Units
  • 128 Z/Stencil ROP Units
  • 32 Color ROP Units
GDDR5 Memory Interface

Up To 128GB/sec of memory bandwidth

PCI Express 2.1 x16 bus interface

DirectX 11 support
  • Shader Model 5.0
  • DirectCompute 11
  • Programmable hardware tessellation unit
  • Accelerated multi-threading
  • HDR texture compression
  • Order-independent transparency
OpenGL 3.2 support

Image quality enhancement technology
  • Up to 24x multi-sample anti-aliasing
  • Super-sample anti-aliasing modes
  • Adaptive anti-aliasing
  • 16x angle independent anisotropic texture filtering
  • 128-bit floating point HDR rendering
ATI Eyefinity
  • Advanced multi-display technology
  • Three independent display controllers
    • Drive three displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls, and video overlays
  • Display grouping
    • Combine multiple displays to behave like a single large display

ATI Stream acceleration technology

  • OpenCL 1.0 compliant
  • DirectCompute 11
  • Double precision floating point processing support
  • Accelerated video encoding, transcoding, and upscaling
    • Native support for common video encoding instructions

ATI CrossFireX multi-GPU technology

  • Dual, triple, and quad GPU scaling
  • Dual-channel bridge interconnect


ATI Avivo HD Video & Display technology

  • UVD 2 dedicated video playback accelerator
  • Advanced post-processing and scaling
  • Dynamic contrast enhancement and color correction
  • Brighter whites processing (blue stretch)
  • Independent video gamma control
  • Dynamic video range control
  • Support for H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2
  • Dual-stream 1080p playback support
  • DXVA 1.0 & 2.0 support
  • Integrated dual-link DVI output with HDCP
    • Max resolution: 2560x1600
  • Integrated DisplayPort output
    • Max resolution: 2560x1600
  • Integrated HDMI 1.3 output with Deep Color, xvYCC wide gamut support, and high bit-rate audio
  • Max resolution: 1920x1200
  • Integrated VGA output
  • Max resolution: 2048x1536
  • 3D stereoscopic display/glasses support
  • Integrated HD audio controller
  • Output protected high bit rate 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI with no additional cables required
  • Supports AC-3, AAC, Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio formats

ATI PowerPlay power management technology

  • Dynamic power management with low power idle state
  • Ultra-low power state support for multi-GPU configurations

Certified drivers for Windows 7, Vista, and XP

Speeds & Feeds

  • Engine clock speed: 725 MHz
  • Processing power (single precision): 2.09 TeraFLOPS
  • Processing power (double precision): 418 GigaFLOPS
  • Polygon throughput: 725M polygons/sec
  • Data fetch rate (32-bit): 209 billion fetches/sec
  • Texel fill rate (bilinear filtered): 52.2 Gigatexels/sec
  • Pixel fill rate: 23.2 Gigapixels/sec
  • Anti-aliased pixel fill rate: 92.8 Gigasamples/sec
  • Memory clock speed: 1 GHz
  • Memory data rate: 4 Gbps
  • Memory bandwidth: 128 GB/sec
  • Maximum board power: 151 Watts
  • Idle board power: 27 Watts


Radeon HD 5850 Feature Summary

The Radeon HD 5850 shares the exact same features as the more powerful Radeon HD 5870. In fact, the GPU powering the card is essentially the same chip with a few functional blocks disabled. Radeon HD 5850 cards are still DirectX 11-ready, support ATI Eyefinity multi-display technology, offer the same UVD updates, and new anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering modes.

Where the two cards differ are in their allotment of stream processors--the Radeon HD 5850 has 1440 versus 1600 on the 5870. The Radeon HD 5850 also has fewer texture units, a shorter PCB, and a lower clocked GPU and memory. The changes made to the 5850 result in a much lower-power, more affordable product. How much performance has changed remains to be seen, so let's get a move on, shall we?

Article Index:

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Great review guys. Looks like the 5850 directly competes with the GTX285, offering almost identical (to very slightly better) performance at less power consumption.

But since Nvidia will most likely cut the price of the GTX 285 to 5850's levels, this card will the start of higher end value cards.

Another thing is that in most gaming tests, it offered more than 80% of the performance the 5870 offered. So it seems like a better value than the 5870.

However, keep in mind that with ATI EYEfinity, you want the best card possible to future proof yourself. In this sense the 5870 is your best bet since the 5850 deficiencies will disappoint those planning a 3x1 LCD config.

Great marketing move ATI, and I think the gamers will benefit from the price war that will ensue.

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So they're doing what they always do. Driving prices down for the masses,...

Since they always respond to NVIDIA's products and always for a lot less money.

That's why I support them by buying ATI. The market would be terribly expensive without them around.

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Admirable performance, but not quite as close to the 5870 as I would have liked.  But it is indeed the GTX 285 killer as it offers generally better performance at a lower price.  Unless Nvidia adjusts that card to $249 or less, I see those stocks sitting where they are.  Reminds me of the 4850 beating the 9800GTX at a lower price point, forcing Nvidia to replace it with the faster 9800GTX+ (GTS 250).  So I wonder if history will continue to repeat and the GTX 360 will aim for 5870 performance and the GTX 380 will be the fastest single GPU card.  But we shall see.

Opting for the 5850 over the 5870 would get you 20% less performance, but it's also 30% cheaper.  Those with a 4870 / GTX 260 or higher would probably opt for the 5870, but those with 4850 or 9800GTX+ or lower could settle in here and be pretty happy I think.

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   I am really looking at some memories on this specific card. I do not have one (at least not yet), so this opinion is just by looking at the hardware specs of this unit. In a way and also using memory, these very close specs bring back a familiar one. Everyone on here that has been into hardware for some time, will most likely fondly remember the way ATI used to do things. They would release a top end card, and then (and there are special circumstances here) would release another card on there mid value line, of course among all the cards they had. The specific was usually only either in PCB color or sometimes very specific model numbers. This card was usually also with a bit of difference in the end unit, but otherwise basically the same components other than size.

   I bet many of you (at least those who will remember this specific ATI phenomenon) are seeing where I am leading here. Please mind you this is not fact based, as I do not have one of these units physically for testing or mod "yet". When you got one of these units in days gone by, I would think almost 10 years now since the last time I saw this. You would need one with the right PCB or serial# specific's, you could then generally flash the GPU's internal bios, and in the end your card would be recognized as the top model card, and perform on par if not above in some cases.

   The tell tale on this was usually the card would although looking different have the same GPU, and Memory but be under clocked in both cases. Yes you could just OC it and get close to the faster card performance, but you could not match or exceed a stock unit without flashing the cards internal BIOS. So I think I am either going to be watching the various boards (this one being my fave of course), for some news on this, or buying one and attempting some mod work myself, as I said watching various forums (specifically some of the OC boards I use) to see where and if this pops up. I will also be hoping this is the case, as many things have changed in the hardware world bus wise, over clocking method wise etc. . So I could be wrong, but the specifics to me look positive with the exact same GPU, and memory unit speeds.

One of the other specifics on those old units would be specific memory, If I remember correctly it was Samsung memory. This would generally always be the same the cards that could be flashed and out perform the highest units would have a specific version of this memory. The main differing thing would often be a specific of two or three units memory wise sometimes by the same manufacturer sometime by a few different ones.

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Sheesh rapid1 why dont you just say you are talking about the 9700pro and 9500pro and how if you got lucky you could flash a 9500pro to 9700pro. At that time those cards were the only DX9 capable cards, but they spanked the living crap out of what Nvidia had at the time with their 4800Ti series cards. I definitely like the way AMD is pushing these ATI cards and keeping prices down, but i dont think that this is the old 9700pro deal at all, it is close. Maybe next gen we might see this phenomenon, it all kinda boils down to if Nvidia's GT300 is really good, and if it can get to market soon enough.

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Exactly; The memory, gpu specs, and everything on this board looks limited purposefully to me. This is because the specs are overall so similar. Yes as well that is exactly what I am talking about (9500/9700 pro). But the specs are so close why would the card have differing performance in any way. The only real difference I see is a 8 port and 6 port power conneter and a smaller PCB, which if you remember was exactly (PCB) the only difference hardware wise in the 9500/9700 deal.

I think it is actually a very smart way to capture two market segments, just like it was back then. If they do that and grab a big chunk of the market and get the hype running, then Nvidia drops there new card and it east the high end or mid high end it doesn't hurt nearly as bad. Because they would have part of the mid high and middle as well as mid low in there pocket. Those sectors are overall the most profitable of the market anyway.

So the software recognition on the cards sub bios recognizes and auto clocks the 5850 auto, and the make twice the money selling one card as 2. Plus on top of that if Nvidia drops a absolute killer card, well ATI just takes some of those 5870 GPU's and Memory, and throws them on a cheaper smaller PCB. Seems like a money all around strategy to me!

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Lol, I was looking at you computer specs Drago, and ours are so close it is almost a joke. I use the same MB, MEM and HD only diff I really see is  I use a 3870 GPU, and  my cpu is now a x2 4000 which I clock at 5000! The old CPU which was the same is in the other desktop, as well as my ATI X1650xt pro, on an Elitegroup MB.

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