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ATI Radeon HD 5830 Review: Filling The Gap
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Date: Feb 25, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Related Info

Here we are, barely two weeks removed from the launch of the ATI Radeon HD 5570, and we find ourselves in the now familiar position of announcing yet another Radeon HD 5000 series card. With the breakneck pace (relatively speaking) of Radeon HD 5000 series releases over the past 5 or 6 months, it would be easy to dismiss today's launch of the Radeon HD 5830 as a move by AMD to simply use more marginal Cypress GPUs, thus increasing effective yields, while at the same time sticking it to NVIDIA yet again. But a quick look at the company's 5000-series product stack reveals the other major reason. Here's how the currently available cards in the Radeon HD 5000 series line up in terms of street price.

 Model Price
 Radeon HD 5450  $45
 Radeon HD 5570  $85
 Radeon HD 5670  $115
 Radeon HD 5770  $159
 Radeon HD 5850  $299
 Radeon HD 5870  $399
 Radeon HD 5970  $699


You'll notice there's a fairly significant gap between the Radeon HD 5770 and Radeon HD 5850, which just so happens to be where pricing falls for most of NVIDIA's current single-GPU based GeForce line-up. So, it should come as no surprise to the astute observer that filling that gap in the Radeon HD 5000 series is a pre-planned, strategic move on AMD's part. Oh, and while we're at it, there's also a relatively large gap between the Radeon HD 5870 and 5970; we wonder what AMD has in store to fill that gap? *cough* Radeon HD 5870 2GB Eyefinity 6 Edition *cough*.

The major features and specifications of the Radeon HD 5830 are listed in the slide below, but there's more to the 5830 story than what you see there. Or should we say, what you don't see?


The ATI Radeon HD 5830

ATI Radeon HD 5830
Specifications and Features



  


Much groundwork had to be laid over the preceding months and even years before AMD could produce the entire Radeon HD 5000 series of products. Although the GPU at the heart of the Radeon HD 5830 is based on the same architecture as the other members of the DX-11 class Radeon HD 5000 series, the chip does leverage technologies already implemented in previously released GPU generations, so it's not all new.  As such, we'd recommend perusing some recent HotHardware articles to brush up on a few of the technologies and features employed by the new Radeon HD 5830...

The articles listed above cover many of the features available with the Radeon HD 5830, like the UVD 2 video engine, Catalyst Control Center, PowerPlay, GDDR5 memory, and more. There are also, however, many brand new things that were introduced with the Radeon HD 5800 series that we detailed in our Radeon HD 5870 coverage, so that article at the very least is a must-read companion to this one--well, if you want to get the full scoop anyway.

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ATI Radeon HD 5830

As we've mentioned, the Radeon HD 5830 was designed to slot into AMD's graphics card line-up right in between the Radeon HD 5770 and the Radeon HD 5850. If you take a look at the specs in the table below, you'll see how AMD went about it.

The Radeon HD 5830 has the very same 2.15B transistor GPU at its heart as the Radeon HD 5850 and 5870. With the 5830, however, a number of stream processing units have been disabled, bringing the total active SP count down to 1120. The same 1GB of GDDR5 memory running at 1GHz (4.0Gbps effective) used on the 5850 makes its way onto the Radeon HD 5830, but the GPU clock on the 5830 is much higher--800MHz to be exact. Texture fillrate and compute performance for the 5830 is again somewhere in between the 5770 and 5850, but note that the Radeon HD 5830's raw pixel fillrate is actually a bit lower than the more affordable 5770. Also note, that the Radeon HD 5830 has a max board power of 175W, which is higher than the 5850. Despite having fewer Stream Processors, the higher GPU clock on the 5830 will result in higher peak power consumption.

    

 
Radeon HD 5830 cards from XFX, PowerColor, HIS, Sapphite, and Gigabyte

AMD also pointed out that the Radeon HD 5830 will be shipping from multiple add in board partners with custom PCBs and coolers from the get-go. This is in stark contrast to a typical launch, which is usually comprised of nothing but reference cards outfitted with different decals. It's not until the second wave hits (if there is a second wave), that the custom versions of a particular card arrive. Although we tested a reference card for this article, physically, it was nothing like some of the partner Radeon HD 5830 boards coming down the pipeline. Above is an assortment of cards from a few well respected AIB partners. Notice the difference in size between the XFX card and some of the others.

 
 
 
Our Reference Radeon HD 5830 Looked Just Like A 5870

The reference ATI Radeon HD 5830 we tested was virtually indistinguishable from a Radeon HD 5870, aesthetically speaking. The card was 10.5" long and featured a black fan shroud that encased the entire PCB. The card's cooler has a barrel fan that draws air into the shroud, where it is forced through the heatsink and partially exhausted from the system through vents in the card's mounting plate. Two more small vents at the back also direct some air within the system.

The outputs on the Radeon HD 5830 consist of dual, dual-link DVI outputs, an HDMI output (with audio) and a DisplayPort output, and like the other members of the Radeon HD 5000 series the 5830 supports 3-monitor Eyefinity configurations. Also note, that because the card has a max board power of 175W, it requires dual 6-pin supplemental PCIe power connectors.

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Test Setup and Unigine Heaven

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard powered by a Core i7 965 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 965 (3.2GHz)

Gigabyte EX58-UD5
(X58 Express)

Radeon HD 5830
Radeon HD 5850
Radeon HD 5770
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 275

6GB OCZ DDR3-1333
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
ATI Catalyst v10.3b
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v196.34

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine v1
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
H.A.W.X.
FarCry 2
Crysis*
Left 4 Dead 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - Custom benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Synthetic DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmarks is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine. with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), and it also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering. Due to the fact that we tested Heaven in DX11 mode, no NVIDIA cards are represented in the graph below.


 

The three Radeons performed as expected in the Unigine Heaven benchmark. The new Radeon HD 5830 is sandwidched right in between the higher end 5850 and more affordable 5770.

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3DMark Vantage

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.




According to 3DMark Vantage, the new Radeon HD 5830 is a better performer than the similarly priced GeForce GTX 275, and of course the Radeon HD 5770. The Radeon HD 5850 and GeForce GTX 285, however, come out ahead.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on a radically enhanced version of id's Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many smaller textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.




The NVIDIA powered cards and the higher-end Radeon HD 5850 outperformed the new Radeon HD 5830 in our custom ET: Quake Wars benchmark, but all of the cards performed well. The 5830 was only marginally faster than the 5770 in this test, which is due to the cards having such similar pixel fillrates.

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Crysis Performance

Crysis v1.21
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance


Crysis

If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player, FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine produces some stunning visuals that are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the PC to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is a beast of a game.  We ran the full game patched to v1.21 with all of its visual options set to 'Very High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested  A custom demo recorded on the Ice level was used throughout testing.




The Radeon HD 5830 and GeForce GTX 275 perform at virtually the same level in our custom Crysis benchmark, with each card trading victories depending on the resolution, but even then the deltas were tiny. The Radeon HD 5850 has a relatively commanding lead here, with the Radeon HD 5770 bringing up the rear.

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FarCry 2

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA enabled.




The results from the FarCry 2 benchmark look very much like those from Enemy Territory: Quake Wars a few pages back. Here, both GeForces and the Radeon HD 5850 pull well ahead of the new Radeon HD 5830, which was only a few percentage points faster than the 5770--once again, due to the cards' similar pixel fillrate.

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Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


Left 4 Dead 2

Like its predecessor, Left 4 Dead 2 is a co-operative, survival horror, first-person shooter that pits four players against numerous hordes of Zombies. Like Half Life 2, the game uses the Source engine, however, the visual in L4D 2 are far superior to anything seen in the Half Life universe to date. The game has much more realistic water and lighting effects, more expansive maps with richer detail, more complex models, and the list goes on and on. We tested the game at various resolutions with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.




The new Radeon HD 5830 pulled ahead of the GeForce GTX 275 and trailed only the 5850 and GTX 285 at resolutions of 1680x1050 and 1920x1200, but with the resolution cranked way up to 2560x1600, the GTX 275 came roaring back.  All of the cards handled Left 4 Dead 2 very well.

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Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
DirectX Gaming Performance


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is an aerial warfare video game that takes place during the time of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.  Players have the opportunity to take the throttle of over 50 famous aircrafts in both solo and 4-player co-op missions, and take them over real world locations and cities in photo-realistic environments created with the best commercial satellite data provided by GeoEye.  We used the built-in performance test at two resolutions with all quality settings set to their highest values, using the DX10 code path for the GeForce cards, and DX10.1 path for the Radeons.




Once again, we see the Radeon HD 5850 pull well ahead of the pack, as the new Radeon HD 5830 and GeForce GTX 275 finish within a couple of frames per second of each other. The GeForce GTX 285 was marginally faster than the 5830, and the 5770 trailed the pack.

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Total System Power Consumption

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.


We're not going to focus much on these power consumption numbers, mostly because the reference Radeon HD 5830 card we tested is nothing like all of the partner boards we've seen coming down the pipeline. With that said, due to the Radeon HD 5830's higher GPU clock, it is likely to consume more power than the 5850, despite the fact that the 5830 has few active stream processor. The specs provided by AMD even have the 5830 with a higher max board power than the Radeon HD 5850.

In our tests, the Radeon HD 5830 consumed slightly less power than its higher-end counterpart at idle, but slightly more under load. The 5830's idle and load power characteristics were both lower than either of the GeForce cards, however.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: All things considered, the Radeon HD 5830 proved to be a strong performer. At its expected $239 price point, the Radeon HD 5830's closest competition from NVIDIA is currently the GeForce GTX 275. In that match-up, strictly from a performance standpoint, the GeForce GTX 275 has a slight edge overall. In the games and applications we tested, the Radeon HD 5830 wins a few tests and the GeForce GTX 275 wins a few. But the GTX 275 pulled ahead more often than not. The deltas separating the two cards, however, were always relatively small. Factor in the Radeon HD 5830's lower power consumption, and support for DX11 and Eyefinity, however, and it easily becomes the better buy in our opinion.

When we started this article, we explained that the Radeon HD 5830 was being introduced to fill in the gap in the Radeon HD 5000 series separating the Radeon HD 5850 and the 5770. Looking back at the numbers, it's blatantly obvious that's exactly where the Radeon HD 5830 falls in AMD's current graphics card line-up in terms of performance. And with an SEP (suggested e-tail price) of $239, the Radeon HD 5830 falls smack dab in the middle of the $319-ish Radeon HD 5850 and $165-ish Radeon HD 5770 too.

Although it's clearly a solid performer, the Radeon HD 5830 is a tricky recommendation. If you've got a monitor with a native resolution of 1680x1050, it may be advisable to save a few bucks and go with the 5770, which was right on the 5830's heals at that resolution throughout testing. If you've got a monitor that supports a native resolution of 1920x1200 or higher though, the additional investment necessary to score a Radeon HD 5850 may be worth it.  See our L4D2, H.A.W.X., and ET:QW results if you need more convincing.

Regardless, the Radeon HD 5830 is clearly the best card to purchase at its price point. Unless you've got to have PhysX support, we'd trade the GTX 275's slight performance advantage overall for the Radeon HD 5830's support for DX11 and superior power consumption/thermal characteristics.


But Wait! There's More! The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition Is On The Horizon

So, with the Radeon HD 5000 series fully fleshed out and covering virtually every meaningful price point, you may think AMD is done with product launches for a while, but you'd be wrong. The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is slated for release sometime in the not too distant future. As you can see in the slide above, the card is essentially the same as the current Radeon HD 5870, but with a larger 2GB frame buffer and of course, support for up to 6 monitors. Power consumption is marginally higher as well, due to the increased number of chips and outputs on the card.

Stay tuned to HotHardware for more details on the ATI Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition as they become available. We promise, it won't be long.

  • Competitive Price
  • Strong Performance
  • DX 11 Support
  • Eyefinity Support

     

    • Relatively High Power Consumption
    • Doesn't Dominate the Older GTX 275

       



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