Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 CrossfireX


So it would seem that once again, Sapphire has presented us with yet another fantastic product. It should be mentioned of course that much of the credit really goes to ATi as unlike many of Sapphire's offerings, their Radeon HD 5850 is based entirely on the reference design specified by ATi. The graphics card has proven itself as a solid performer that is more than capable of hanging in there with it's bigger brother, despite it's lower clock speeds and cut shading units. Once you factor in it's considerably lower price tag, it surely seems as though the Radeon HD 5850 is a rather appetising proposition indeed. The performance itself appears to be different enough (stock vs stock) to distance the two sufficiently to make the top of the line HD 5870 worthwhile for those who can afford it but for the wide majority that are big on "Bang per Buck" factor, it would seem as though the 5850 prevails.
From an ATi Crossfire perspective, the Sapphire Radeon HD 5850's scaled very well indeed. With an overall outlay of just under £400, the end result is a graphics configuration that performs a little over midway between a single HD 5870 and two HD 5870's. Given that the 5850's in Crossfire was capable of playing everything that we threw at it, we're tempted to say that the £200 saving is well worth the performance deficit. This is especially true if the money that's been saved can be put to use towards a more capable Processor, Cooling, RAM or Motherboard for your brand new gaming setup as it should be remembered that it takes more than ordinary hardware to complement today's top end graphics cards. ATi Crossfire in this particular context has also proven to be reliable and practical throughout the testing process. We'd also like to reiterate that such a graphics card configuration does not command excessive Power Supply Units and the well designed Heatsink allows for quiet operation even under load.
I think the big question for many is how much more demanding will the upcoming generation of games be, but more importantly whether the Radeon HD 5850's technical shortcomings will be more apparent under such conditions. As noted from our example of Crysis where even a 4fps decrease between graphics cards can make a reasonable difference to overall gameplay, this can just as equally hold true for future games releases that may typically operate below a 40 frames per second average. This also ties in with that mythical phrase known as "future proofing"  as we should all know that preparing one's computer to withstand the test of time in terms of performance is nigh on futile. What's absolutely clear is that the Radeon HD 5850 will play pretty much anything you'd wish to throw at it and was next to no trouble at the same in Crossfire mode. For now, it doesn't appear as though these graphics cards will be brought to their knees in the immediate future and as such, we believe that the Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 (in both single and crossfire mode) is a fantastic choice of graphics card for those with performance orientated expectations as well as a tighter wallet.
The Good
- Excellent Performance for the Money
- Quiet Operation
- Shorter 9.5" Length
- Reasonable Accessory List (Inc DiRT 2 Coupon)
The Mediocre
- None
The Bad
- None
All at OC3D would Like to thank Sapphire for supplying the 5850's for review. You can discuss further in our forums
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Most Recent Comments

02-11-2009, 19:12:16

Great review as usual Mul. The 5850's look like a good buy! They should be awesome around christmas when the price drops kick in, ATI's cards are the real working class hero's of graphics Quote

02-11-2009, 19:28:23

Originally Posted by name='MeltedDuron'
Great review as usual Mul. The 5850's look like a good buy! They should be awesome around christmas when the price drops kick in, ATI's cards are the real working class hero's of graphics
Cheers MeltedDuron.

As for price drops, I fear it may well go the other way until nVidia has a direct competitor. Given that the production of GeForce GTX 260/275/285's, VAT increases and a (currently) low supply of Cypress cards to meet demand, prices could even rise. We'll see how things pan out though.Quote

02-11-2009, 20:07:35

Great review.

Got a few questions I'm not sure of:

  • Is the difference between the 5850 & 5870 purely clock speed, or is there something capability-wize the 5870 can do that the 5850 can't ?

  • Why does the i7 cpu score in the FutureMark benchie vary so much with the differing 4 setups ?

Unless there's a non-clock answer to the 1st question, I don't see any point in any1 buying 2x 5870 to xfire. There's a difference of some %age of fps in games that the 2x 5850 are already scoring over 100s. To that end, I don't see the cream.

Need to revisit this once there are some/few Dx11 comparisons to be had. Making comparisons of these cards in Dx10 at best doesn't seem to present much visible differences.

Decent card on the face of it. Nothing being made of AMD scoring nice pricing, and perhaps more to come, from the fact they have the only Dx11 out in this window. We know it would, and will, be different in a months time, and I'm sure there will be some shouting from the roof tops then - especially when these cards get cut.Quote

02-11-2009, 20:24:58

Cheers for your thoughts Rastalovich,

The answer to the first question is no unfortunately. Aside Frequencies, the 5850 variant of the Cypress core has 8 5 Way Shading Units disabled, resulting in a 1440 Stream Processors overall, which is 10% less than the HD 5870 at 1600. The consequence is that you'd need to push a HD 5850 to slightly higher core frequencies in order to match the HD 5870.

As for the second question, I'm unsure as to why the CPU Score varied so much. Identical testbeds were used, and the same goes for the drivers.

With regards to revisiting these cards with DX11 hits, I completely agree. Quote

02-11-2009, 20:28:55

The variation of the cpu score concerns me.

If u were to lay out a flat comparison of 5850/5870/5890, I'd personal need a serious answer to why the likes of the i7 cpus are either being held back or being used to bolster deficiencies.

Moreover, would it mean that if u had Quote

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