The Radeon HD 5850 is certainly no slouch when it comes to performance, but those hoping it would convincingly better the last generation cards in a similar way to the HD 5870 will be disappointed – it’s quickly clear this is card targeted at a price point rather than conclusively taking the GTX 285’s scalp.
In Fallout 3
the HD 5850, like all the ATI cards, has something of a driver advantage over the Nvidia hardware when it comes to minimum frame rates, but even then the GTX 285 is remarkably close to the Radeon HD 5850 in the majority of tests.
There’s no arguing with the 5850’s performance advantage in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky
though, with the HD 5850 comfortably ahead of Nvidia’s top end card. However, this is another game that favours ATI hardware - the HD 4890 is equally capable of bettering the GTX 285 here, and can now be found for as little as £120 after all. Still, the Radeon HD 5850 turns an impressive performance, especially when it comes to minimum frame rates.
Dawn of War 2
performance is excellent too; with the HD 5850 particularly impressive at lower resolutions such as 1,680 x 1,050 where the Cypress GPU based cards are very strong. The gap closes at 1,920 x 1,200 though, and there’s not too much between the Radeon HD 5850 and the GeForce GTX 285. It’s much the same at the ultra high end 2,560 x 1,600 as well, where both cards score similar minimum frame rates (although the Radeon HD 5850 has a notably higher average).
When it comes to GPU testing Crysis
is still the daddy, and somewhat surprisingly the RadeonHD 5850 isn’t as capable as you might have thought. With 0xAA the Radeon is able to match the GTX 285 frame for frame and at 4xAA it’s actually a little slower than Nvidia’s previous generation top end GPU. As the resolution rises, these gaps become slightly larger and while the GTX 285 never conclusively pulls away, the HD 5850 is by no means a faster card in Crysis
The Call of Duty
engine might run on a tin of beans with a couple of AA batteries duct taped to it, but it’s still a good indication of performance, and as with Crysis
, the HD 5850 is unable to notably differentiate itself from the GTX 285. The ATI card, while notching very impressive frame rates, just can’t quite topple Nvidia’s flagship single GPU part.
Away from straight performance though the Radeon HD 5850 still benefits from the power consumption
and thermal advantages
of the Cypress GPU, with simply superb idle and load power consumption. At load especially it’s fantastic, drawing as much power as an 8800GT despite delivering more than twice the performance in a number of circumstances. Thermally things are good too, although the 5850 is a great deal hotter than the 5870, most likely due to the reduced dimensions of the cooler and loss of the rear air ducts despite the use of a similar GPU.
Value and Conclusions
As we’ve seen from the performance numbers, the Radeon HD 5850 is a solid match for the GeForce GTX 285
, beating the top end Nvidia card in some circumstances and falling behind in others, with the end result being a rough stalemate between the two cards across the board. It’s perhaps a shame that ATI hasn’t taken the opportunity to perhaps push this card a little harder and thus comprehensively outclass the GTX 285 though. It leaves the two cards in direct competition, although the Radeon HD 5850 does have a few aces up its sleeves to counter Nvidia's current single GPU heavyweight.
The Radeon's power consumption is simply fantastic, while its smaller 9in PCB and that crucial support for DirectX 11 are both important things to consider. While no games currently support the new API aside from Battleforge
(through a patch), you can be sure that there'll be a big selection of DX11 games creeping up on us over the next 12 months in the same way DX10 did two years ago, and that’s where the big advantage of the Radeon HD 5850 comes in.
, the HIS card we’re looking at today is pretty pricey in comparison to other HD 5850s on the market though, most of which are comfortably hitting £200
or thereabouts, while also still including the Dirt 2
coupon. £230 is still competitive in comparison to the GTX 285 (which itself has recently seen a price cut to the £230 mark in the hope of trying to hang onto some semblance of market share) but we can’t help but thinking HIS is asking over the odds here, despite the draw of DX11.
At £200 there’s no chance for the GTX 285 and it becomes largely irrelevant competition for the 5850. A more competitively priced HD 5850 has to be recognised as hugely compelling upgrade for those who picked up one of last year's performance parts (such as the HD 4870 or GTX 260), or who have been hanging on to their ageing G92 based card in anticipation for greatness. Of course, there's still the prospect of Nvidia's Fermi cards to come, but we're not expecting a part like the HD 5850 for quite some time - Fermi will likely launch this year, but not in any great volume. As a result, the Radeon HD 5850 is the card we'd buy at the moment if we were looking for a combination of DirectX 11 support, price and
While the HIS Radeon HD 5850 might be a little overpriced and not really a revolution when it comes to performance in comparison to last generation’s products, for the the price it's a competitive DirectX 11 capable alternative to the ageing GT200 range. We'd recommend hunting out a cheaper card though - there are plenty out there.