AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card Review

The ATI Radeon HD 5850 is launching today! It is based on the same 5800 architecture as the HD 5870. We aim to find out how it compares to an HD 5870 in single GPU and 5850 CrossFireX configurations. The ATI Radeon HD 5850 is bringing with it an incredible PC gaming value.



Note: These overclocking results may not represent the abilities of retail video cards since these are engineering samples.

We utilized Overdrive in Catalyst Control Center to overclock the ATI Radeon HD 5850. Similar to overclocking the Radeon HD 5870, we ran into limitations within Overdrive. The highest value possible for the GPU core clock speed in Overdrive is 775MHz; this is only 50MHz higher than the stock frequency. The highest possible memory frequency possible in Overdrive is 1125MHz (4.5GHz GDDR5), so not a lot of room there either.

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Both of our Radeon HD 5850 video cards were able to hit the highest values possible in Overdrive, 775MHz GPU and 4.5GHz memory. We feel the ATI Radeon HD 5850 has more room than that for overclocking, but we are simply limited by Overdrive. As third party utilities come online supporting these ASICs perhaps we will see some very nice overclocks out of Radeon HD 5850 video cards. We will certainly test every retail video card with software that can maximize overclocks.

Power Testing

We tested the power utilization at the wall of the entire system without a video card, and with each video card at idle and full load. For full load power and temperature testing we used FurMark version 1.7.0 to stress each video card at the highest load. We found 2560x1600 to be the sweet spot for stressing the GPUs without bottlenecking them. The power supply used in testing is a PC Power & Cooling Turbo-Cool 1200W. Our system is very lean with only one optical drive and one hard drive being powered. Total system wattage at idle without video card is 161W.

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AMD was serious about the idle wattage on the Radeon HD 5850 matching the Radeon HD 5870, because we had the exact same power wattage sitting in Windows with both video cards. There was no difference with idle power of single-GPU video cards here. When we added in another HD 5850 and enabled CrossFireX the idle wattage rose by 27 Watts to 219 Watts at idle. Therefore, adding in a second video card does pull exactly what AMD specifies the cards should pull at idle, 27W. It is amazing how well that worked out in our testing here, to be honest we are stunned it is so exact. Good job AMD/ATI!

On the full-load testing, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 reached 357W in Furmark, which is 26 Watts shy of the Radeon HD 5870. With ATI Radeon HD 5850 CrossFireX full-load power utilization reached 497W, which sounds high, but remember this is Furmark and we pick it to stress the GPU(s). During real world gaming, we never saw it reach these Wattages. HD 5850 CFX seemed to hover around 340-350 Watts at max during gaming.

Temperature Testing

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Surprisingly, ATI Radeon HD 5850 CrossFireX had higher idle GPU temperatures. We double checked this, and it came out the same each time. It could be due to the video cards being placed so close together in CrossFireX. We noticed that the fan on the video card at the top was running slightly faster than the bottom video card in both idle and full-load testing. The single Radeon HD 5850 does not get as hot as the Radeon HD 5870 thank goodness. Most motherboards we are seeing now days also have spaced the first to PCIe X16 slots further apart to allow for better airflow to your video cards.

Fan noise? There is none, as far as we can tell the Radeon HD 5850 is a silent video card, at least it never once surpassed the sound of the CPU fan, the hard drive, the CDROM drive spinning up, or anything. It was as if the video card wasn’t there. Fan noise is not an issue.