Packaging and Initial Impressions
Our pair of Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB graphics cards arrived in a standard glossy outer box that doesn't particularly deviate from the Add In Board partner's usual styling theme. On the box itelf, it has just about all you need to know about the graphics card if you were to decide to go and pick it up in a shop. This includes it's key features such as ATi Eyefinity, CrossfireX support, DirectX 11 compliance, System Requirements and so on.
As you may have noticed from the box, the package includes with a coupon that entitles the end user to download the well anticipated DiRT 2 Racing game, that will be among the first to take advantage of DirectX 11. Aside this, the accessory list is airly standard but more than acceptable. This includes an owners manual, DVI to VGA adapter, Driver CD, CrossfireX bridge, two 4pin molex to 6pin PCI-Express adapters and a Sapphire Sticker.
The graphics card itself looks very much like it's Radeon HD 5870 brother. It's PCB length however is down to a more respectable 9.5", which is directly comparable to the Radeon HD 4800 series and GeForce 8800/9800 series. This technically allows the graphics card to fit in cases which are less deep but do remember that you must factor in the size of your PCI-E 6pin cables as well because the sockets are situated on the back rather than the top.
After the removal of no less than 16 screws, the HD 5850's Heatsink was dismembered from the graphics card PCB. Following the removal of another couple of screws, the shroud could be removed, exposing it's blower fan and cooling block. Sporting two U shaped heatpipes, a copper base and tightly spaced Aluminium fins, it would seem as though ATi have specified the cooling solution well. Upon observing the spread of thermal paste on the Cypress core and the base of the heatsink, we were pleased with both core contact and the quantity of paste used. The craftmanship of the graphics card seems pretty good so far.
The installation of our Sapphire Radeon HD 5850's was trouble free. After the drivers were installed and the system had restarted, ATi's Catalyst Control Center had detected both cards and was then notified that CrossfireX had been enabled. From a noise point of view, the graphics cards were whisper quiet, very much like the HD 5870's that we have previously tested.