One of the biggest pushes being made by the two big corporations, AMD and Intel, is the inclusion of Integrated Graphics Processing Units on their CPUs. We've looked at both available options in the past and found them to be okay, if not a replacement for a dedicated GPU.
nVidia have gone the expensive route, with even the GTX660Ti being £200. The cheapest AMD offering we've looked at so far was the HD7770 which struggled to be better than an integrated solution. Of course there are many people who want to do more than Peggle or Farmville, but still haven't got a lot of money to spend.
So if you're after a graphics card capable of playing some decent titles as well as the casual games, yet doesn't break the bank in either cost or power draw terms, is the Club 3D HD7850 Royal Queen the card for you?
There are three models to the Club 3D Poker Series, Queen, King and Ace. They are all identical except for the clock speed which ranges from 860MHz on the Queen to 1000MHz on the Ace. Although the Ace also has two fans to help keep things cool. But we're dealing with the Royal Queen today, the base model that comes as part of the Poker Series.
Product Name: Radeon HD 7850 Royal Queen
Bus Interface: PCI Express 3.0
GPU Chipset: Pitcairn Pro
GPU Clock: 860 MHz
Stream Processors: 1024
Multi-GPU: Dual CrossFire Ready
Memory Size: 1024MB
Memory Interface: 256 BIT
Memory Type: GDDR5
Memory Clock: 4800 MHz
Cooling Type: Active Fansink, CoolStream High Performance Cooling Technology
Idle ZCP mode enabled: 3W
Maximum load: 130W
DirectX version: 11.1
OpenGL version: 4.2
OpenCL version: 1.2
Slot Width: 2 Slots
Profile: Standard profile
Card Size: 198*107*36 mm
Card Weight: 482 grams
DVI: 1x Dual Link DVI-I
VGA: via Dongle
HDMI: 1x version 1.4a
DisplayPort: 1x version 1.2
HDCP ready: YES
Maximum Resolution analog: 2048x1536 (via Dual-Link DVI to VGA adapter)
Maximum Resolution Single-Link DVI: 1920x1200
Maximum Resolution Dual-Link DVI: 2560x1600
Maximum Resolution HDMI 1.4a: 4096x3112
Maximum Resolution DP 1.2: 4096x2160
Maximum Outputs Simultaneously: 3
Club 3D Radeon HD 7850 Royal Queen graphics card
Club 3D CrossFireX bridge interconnect cable
Club 3D Doorknob hanger
Driver & E-Manual CD
Quick install guide
The packaging for the Royal Queen hints at the small size of the card itself. Thankfully, despite it being a prime candidate for shelf space somewhere, Club 3D have resisted the urge to fill the box up with logos and such. We like it very much indeed. Inside you get all the bits you'd expect from such a good value card, driver disk, install guide, bridge, and a code to download the rather risible Dirt Showdown. But you can't grumble at a free title and at least it's not Dirt 3 which everyone in the universe has a copy of by now.
The minimalist design continues to the card itself. In fact it's an amazing looking thing. So often at this price point you're stuck with a reference cooler or, if you do get a third party one, it's always plastic. This is all metal and has definitely been designed with the HD7850 in mind. There are no rough edges or bits hanging off. Even the red PCB only accentuates the red highlights on the cooler.
Being such a low power card there is no need for a wealth of heatpipes. The cooler is perfectly proportioned and the card is compact in size and weight. The branding on the visible edge is a nice touch.
Demonstrating how frugal the Royal Queen is we only have as single 6 pin PCIe power input. Outputs are a single DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
If the performance matches the looks this could be a winner.
As always we test at exactly the same 1920x1080 resolution, with the detail set to maximum. Normally we don't need to make special mention of this fact but because we're dealing with a graphics card that is down at the affordable end of the spectrum we need to make it clear that more realistic settings will produce vast improvements.
Club 3D HD7850 Royal Queen
AMD Catalyst 12.8
Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.6GHz
8GB G.Skill Trident 2400 @ 10-12-12-31
ASUS P8-Z77V Pro
Cougar CM1000 PSU
Corsair F80 SSD
Thermalright Silver Arrow
Windows 7 x64
Out of the box the Royal Queen is a modest 860 MHz. We know that Club 3D produce a 1GHz model, so we should at least achieve that.
This is the clocks that we're achieved by tweaking nothing more than the speed themselves. All voltages and power draw at stock. 332 MHz is a pretty decent overclock, and certainly should see a decent bump in performance. It's already far beyond the Royal Ace model.
If you don't mind increasing the power target percentage then there is even more performance to be had. Of course you can overvolt the GPU too if you desire for even further gains. However, as this is designed for the average user with average means we feel longevity is as important as huge speeds, and the 1192MHz overclock should be good enough to see some extra performance so that's what we're sticking with.
Finally temperatures, and the Club 3D CoolStream cooler is magnificent. Even with our huge overclock the temperatures barely increase above stock. It's so quiet and so cool we can't help wonder why the Royal Ace has two fans. This is stunning.
3D Mark Vantage
At stock you can feel that the Royal Queen is a little short of breath, sliding in between the HD7770 and HD7870. The overclock though really helps the card to shine and brings it up to the performance of the GTX570 and/or HD7870. A nice start.
3D Mark 11
Again the stock result is right where you'd expect it to be given its place in the AMD range, but we can bring out a lot of extra performance with a simple overclock and the card is close to the GTX570 and only a bit behind the HD7870. It's certainly a massive step better than a HD7770.
The first of our gaming tests continue the initial findings we saw from 3D Mark. An overclock really can help this card to shine. Either way though by virtue of being equal to the HD7870 and GTX570 and a mile ahead of the HD7770, it's certainly looking like a good value purchase.
Batman Arkham City
We could call the Arkham City result our first big disappointment, but the game itself is disappointing enough. Still there is definitely a lack of grunt from the HD7850 in this configuration. It's so behind the PCS HD7870 that we are left wondering if any updates to either the drivers or the game itself have caused such a marked drop in frame rate.
If the performance in Batman was poor then the performance in Battlefield 3 is exceptional. Easily matching the GTX660Ti. Even at these high settings with our overclock in place you can get to the magical 60FPS. Fantastic.
Now would be a good time to remind you to check the settings we're using for our testing. This is fully patched, DX11, 8xAA, Hi-Res Texture Crysis 2 and we're getting 40 FPS from a £130 card! It feels very smooth indeed to play and looks a treat.
At first glance it might appear that Dirt 3 is a poor performer. Certainly it isn't putting up the gaudy numbers we've seen from other cards, but what it is doing is giving you over 60FPS at all times. You can't ask for more than that.
Far Cry 2
We've always known that Ubisoft's Far Cry 2 was happier on AMD cards, but nonetheless the performance of the Club 3D Royal Queen is better than the GTX660Ti, and if that doesn't cause you to sit up and take notice we don't know what will.
Metro 2033 is nothing if not a consistently performer. However, this consistency can at least shine a light on the available performance from your card. Although the Royal Queen doesn't hit the giddy heights (!) of 30FPS that we'd expect from a single GPU, it's not a long way behind the GTX660Ti, and when playing the game for our benchmarking it didn't feel as sluggish as the result would make it seem.
Resident Evil 5 - DX10
Capcom's Zombie killer can run on a toaster, such is the optimisation of the main engine. The Royal Queen runs the GTX570 close, which is good enough for us considering the price.
Talk about getting a big improvement from an overclock. At stock the Royal Queen is around the same performance as the HD7870, but with our overclock on board it's capable of matching the much more expensive GTX660Ti. Hugely impressive.
As we've said often in this review, if you played at settings more in keeping with the cost of the card, you'd get a big improvement in performance. The difference between anti-aliasing on or off in Unigine Heaven is worth the thick end of 20 FPS.
It's very easy to get caught up in the arms race that is involved when buying a new GPU. "For another x pounds I can get a y, and for a few more than that I could upgrade to a z". Before you know it you've doubled the cost of your purchase. But reality is nothing if not a harsh mistress and the fiscal restraints placed upon us all in these dark times mean that there often isn't a chance to stretch your budget a little further. So if you are extremely short on cash, does the Club 3D HD7850 Royal Queen give us the all-important bang for buck without causing you to live on beans on toast for a month?
We think you'd struggle to make it to the end of our review without coming to the conclusion that not only is the Club 3D HD7850 Royal Queen a fabulous bargain buy, but with the combination of performance, overclocking capability, and near silence of the cooler, it's possibly the best value graphics card on the market right now. If you haven't yet reached that conclusion then let us tell you that it certainly is the case.
When you're dealing in hardware at this low price you expect to pay more for the underlying processor than any aesthetic pleasures, yet Club 3D have managed to tick every single box. The packaging is excellent. No photocopied pamphlets or what have you. The card itself is really attractive. Devoid of the cheap 'plastic with a sticker' cooler than we might expect at this price, it's a full metal affair, designed specifically for this card. Not only that but the performance of the cooler is stunning. To say it's quiet is doing a disservice to quiet things. It's a church mouse in slippers. Even under the heaviest loading, and with our big overclock, it remains as quiet as the Silver Arrow CPU cooler. This is on an open test bed about a foot away from us. In a case you'd never notice it at all. The inclusion of a game, even a poor one, is merely icing on the cake.
Obviously nobody expects this to outperform a HD7970 and even tuning the anti-aliasing from maximum to just 2x and lowering the shadow detail slightly from ultra to medium will have a massive improvement in frame-rates. You only have to look at the 20FPS improvement in Unigine to see what is possible. So we test in the same way so that all of our results are comparable, but more realistic settings should see the Royal Queen capable of handling anything you choose to throw its way. If it can run Crysis 2 with the High-Res texture pack without a glitch, we're certain that lesser titles will be no problem.
We're big fans of good value items here at OC3D. Anyone can produce a 'money no object' item of hardware and make it perform well. That's not difficult. To produce something with this level of performance and in such an attractive package really takes some clever thinking. It's so good we'd suggest you don't bother with the King or Ace models and just overclock this yourself. We can't think of a single thing we don't like about it. It's cheap, overclocks like a lunatic, is whisper quiet and looks the business. An unhesitatingly high recommendation from us, and an easy winner of the OC3D Gold Award. At only £130 it has to win our Value For Money award too.
We love it, and you will too.
Thanks to Club 3D for supplying the HD7850 Royal Queen for review. Discuss our findings in the OC3D Forums.