XFX HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 1
Introduction
 
We recently got our grubby little hands on the HD5870 and were so impressed by it that we gave it our prestigious 'Performance award'. Much the same as the 3 and 4 series of Radeon graphics cards from ATI, the HD 5870 has a little brother, the HD 5850.  While not having the extreme level of performance as the range topping HD 5870, the HD 5850 offers greater value for money.
 
XFX are relatively new to ATI graphics cards being that they were once a stalwart of Nvidia, however XFX are keen to grab a greater share of the GPU market and have now spread there wings to include the red teams offerings. This began with the 4000 series of ATI GPU's which due to their success it is unsurprising they have followed up there lineup of GPU's with the latest 5000 series of graphics cards from ATI. I've always been a big fan of XFX, due in part to their dedication to the enthusiast market. We are now familiar with seeing XFX release pre-overclocked versions of graphics cards and while the HD 5850 we have for review today is stock clocked, XFX will surely follow this up with a 'XXX' edition with maximum overclocks to boot if past history is anything to go by.
 
Lets here what XFX has to say about their HD 5850:
 
Taking 3 enormous steps toward realistic gaming, the The XFX Radeon HD 5850 with Eyefinity Technology, gives the first-ever wrap-around in-picture experience to fully immerse yourself in the game, or maximise your productivity at work. Additionally, with ATI Stream Technology, boost your systems performance by offloading tasks originally sent to your CPU, to your GPU and max out your settings with the first ever full support for Microsoft DirectX11.
 
Specification
 
The following information was taken directly from the XFX product page:
 
  XFX HD5850
Chipset Radeon HD 5850 series
ASIC RadeonTM HD 5850 GPU
GPU Clockspeed 725MHz
Memory Clockspeed
1000MHz (4 Gbps)
Memory Interface 256bit
Bus interface PCI Express x16 (2.0)
Memory Type
1GB GDDR5
Microsoft® DirectX® Support 11
Shader Model Support 5
Open GL Optimization and Support 3.2
Minimum Power Requirement 500w with 2x6pin power cables
 
As you can see, the GPU clockspeed is down 125MHz from 850 to 725MHz when compared to the cards bigger brother, the HD5870. The card retains the old 256bit bus interface but as we saw with the HD 5870, this is no real big issue at present despite the whopping 1GB of GDDR5 running at 4000MHz.
 
Let's take a look at the card itself...


XFX HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
We first saw the 'X' packaging from XFX with the 4000 series of graphics cards and despite looking the business, I find the packaging excessive. I'll grant you, some may think that it is impossible to have excessive packaging but what bothers me most is that when the exterior card is removed from the box, you are left with one empty box and one much smaller box which contains the card and accessories. Were graphics cards available in your local supermarket, packaging is something that may determine which product you buy but with PC components this is not the case. That said, XFX are in a class of their own in this department and should be applauded for the extra effort they have put in to presenting the HD5850, my only hope is that this new box design does not add to the cost of the product.
 
 
box front box rear
 
Once the exterior card is removed we are left with two boxes, one which contains the goodies and the other which is empty, serving as a frame for the 'X' theme. The included accessories are what we have come to expect from XFX, 2x6 pin to Molex adaptors, installation and quick guide instruction booklets, driver CD, Crossfire bridge, a do not disturb door hanger and a free copy of Dirt2, down-loadable from steam (Dec 2009). I would have liked to have a full copy of the game included as waiting until December for Dirt2 is asking a bit much but this is levied as the first DX11 title due to be released and as such it makes sense to make use of this feature.
 
X packaging contents
 
The HD5850 is somewhat smaller than the HD5870 we reviewed previously and as such users should have no issues fitting the card in anything but the smallest of PC enclosures. Being a reference design, the only difference you will find with this card and that of other manufacturers is the stickers placed on top of the plastic cooler. Flipping the card over we see that ATI have this time not covered the static sensitive, exposed PCB with a backplate with only the GPU bracket affording any sort of protection.
 
card front card rear
 
Below you can see the difference in size with the GTX280 and the HD5850 which is easily an inch shorter, measuring 9.5 inches long. I must say I do like the red plastic inserts of the new ATI design which will make the card stand out in any windowed PC case. 
 
vs GTX280 side view
 
The inlets for the redesigned cooler are also trimmed with the same red plastic inserts, following the theme of the cards aesthetics. In contrast to the HD5870 though, this HD5850 has the 2x6 pin power ports snuggled inside one of the inlets. XFX recommend a minimum of a 500w PSU to power the card which should be plenty unless you intend on creating a fire breathing monster of a PC which will demand a larger power source.
 
The Backplate are is identical to the HD5870 in that there are 2xDVI ports, an HDMI 1.3a port and a DisplayPort. Using these ports in conjunction with one another will enable you to run three monitors at once courtesy of AMD's EyeInfinity. This will certainly appeal to gamers as one screen can stretch across three displays making for the ultimate eye popping visuals every gamers craves.
 
inlet backplate
 
Removing the cooling shroud was straightforward enough as there are no hidden clips of screws, everything is exposed and easy to get at. The main section of the cooler is a copper base attached to an aluminium fin array courtesy of heatpipe technology. The memory and VRM's transfer heat produced via thermal tape with only the exposed GPU core having the luxury of thermal paste. The contact area was very good as was the paste used so I see little reason to replace the stock gunk unless you prefer an alternative cooling method.
 
cooler card
 
Here we see the same 40nm Cypress core of the HD5870. AMD have however made a few little adjustments of the core to coincide with the HD5850's price tag. 2 of the 20 SIMD arrays along with 2 of the texture units of those SIMD arrays have been disabled. Whether this change is physical or software based remains to be seen (BIOS flash anybody?). The clockspeed of the core has also been reduced from 850MHz of the HD5870 to 750MHz on the HD5850. The same 1GB of GDDR5 Samsung memory (HC04) chips are used on the card which bodes well however, this memory is also clocked slightly lower from 1200MHz to 1000MHz (4 GBps). How these changes affect the performance I can only guess at this stage but I would wage both the core and the memory will clock to the same levels as the stock 5870 which may make up some of the lost ground.
 
GPU memory
 
The overall package of the XFX HD5850 is very hard to fault. Everything is there to get you started (that is unless you don't mind waiting until December for Dirt2). I am not so keen on the X packaging as while it looks great, upon opening you will have to be very good with Chinese puzzles to get it looking like new again should you wish to sell it on in the future. That said, with the promise of ultimate performance I see no reason why anyone would want to!
 
Before we crack on with the benchmarks, let's take a look at our test setup and overclocking results...


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Test Setup

To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
 
i7 Rig

CPU: Intel i7-870 @ 4GHz
Motherboard: MSI P55-GD80
Memory: 2x2GB GSkill Trident @2000MHz 9-9-9-24
HD : Hitachi Deskstar 7k160 7200rpm 160GB
GPU: XFX Radeon HD5850
Graphics Drivers: Supplied by XFX
PSU: Gigabyte ODIN 1200w

 
As you can see, I decided to run the setup at 4GHz to prevent any possibility of CPU bottlenecks. The 2000MHz bandwidth afforded by the GSKill Trident should also ensure that there are no hold ups in our test setup, allowing the cards to stretch there silicon legs.
 
During the testing of the setups above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06
• 3DMark Vantage

3D Games
• Crysis
• Far Cry 2
• Oblivion

• Race drive: GRID
• Call of Duty IV
• Unreal Tournament III
 

Power Consumption

Power consumption was measured at the socket using a plug-in mains power and energy monitor. Because of this, the readings below are of the total system, not just the GPU. Idle readings were taken after 5 minutes in Windows. Load readings were taken during a run of Furmark.
 
 
The power consumption of the smaller HD5850 was excellent, consuming just 149w when idle and 259 when placed under full load (system draw at the socket).
 
Temperatures

Temperatures were taken at the factory clocked speed during idle in Windows and after 30 minutes of running Furmark with settings maxed out (2560x1600 8xMSAA). Ambient temperatures were taken with a household thermometer. As we use an open test bench setup consideration should be given to the fact that the temperatures would likely increase further in a closed case environment.
 
 
 
Temperatures were pretty much in line with the HD5870. Because of the lower clockspeed of the HD5850, the temperatures were slightly lower than the HD5870. Throughout the testing the fan on the redesigned, full cover shroud rarely span up at all, testament to the excellent cooling properties of the heatsink and fan assembly hitting just 30c at idle and 67c on full load after 15 minutes of Furmark (2560x1600 8xMSAA).
Overclocking
 
For our overclocking tests I used the Catalyst Control Centre utility which worked perfectly with our setup. I was however once more let down by the very conservative overclocks the overdrive utility allowed, reaching just 775MHz on the core and 1125 on the memory with both respective sliders maxed out.
 
stock overclock
 
Not happy with that, I decided to push things a little higher and used AMD's new GPU overclock utility which allowed much better results.
 
overclock good GPU-z
 
The card would actually clock higher but after an hour of looping 3DMark 06 I started to encounter some glitching and tearing so lowered the clocks a little which gave rock solid stability. With scorching overclocks such as these one can only wonder why the white coats at ATI do not allow higher overclocking with the Overdrive utility. Were I being cynical I would suggest they don't want you to overclock the card past the more expensive HD5870 clockspeeds, thereby saving you a wad of cash! Either way, whatever your perspective, the XFX HD5850 can certainly take the overclocks and offer the end user much more over stock form so expect to see some 'overclocked' editions hitting the shelves in the near future.
 
 Here's how COD 4 looked with overclocked vs stock settings:
 
 
 
As you can see, it's well worthwhile overclocking the HD5850 with some quite dramatic gains to be had, even at the highest resolutions. As always, the usual disclaimer applies when overclocking any card: You may not get the same results yourself or you may even be lucky enough to get higher overclocks. Each card is likely to overclock slightly differently from the next but the above should give you a good indication of what most XFX HD5850's are capable of.
 
After returning the card back to it's default speed, I ran our standard set of GPU benchmarks and compared it against the HD5870 and GTX285 2G... 


XFX HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 4


3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
Futuremark has placed the HD5850 directly in between the GTX285 and the HD5870. In all but one of the tests, at all of the resolutions, the HD5850 showed it's capabilities. With results such as these,  ATI are sure to have a very smug grin on their face. NVidia on the other hand have been knocked down a peg or two because not only has the ATI flagship utterly destroyed the best the green team has to offer but the HD5870's little brother has also easily surpassed the performance of the GTX285!

Let's see if this transfers over to our real world gaming benchmarks.


XFX HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 5

 
Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
GRID
 
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a 2 minute race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.
 
 
 
 
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
Results Analysis
 
Interestingly, the HD5850 could not repeat it's amazing performance in the real world gaming tests that it had with the synthetic Futuremark benchmarks. GRID aside, it wasn't until the resolutions and filters were increased that the HD5850 really begin to stretch it's legs. Let's take a look at the next batch of games...


XFX HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 6

 

 
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 

Oblivion from Bethseda is now an 'old' game by today's standards, but is still one of the most visually taxing games out there. The benchmark was run in the wilderness with all settings set to the maximum possible. Bloom was used in preference to HDR. The test was run five times with the average FPS then being deduced.
 

 
 


Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
 

 
 
Results Analysis
 
In contrast to the previous set of gaming results, the HD5850 easily out performed the GTX285 and was only 10-15% behind the HD5870. As ever, it appears each GPU manufacturer has it's favoured titles and while ATI had traditionally struggled with Crysis, ATI it appears seem to have unlocked some fantastic performance from their latest cards and drivers. Far Cry 2 has always favoured the ATI cards so no surprises there but the much older Oblivion still appears to put both teams to the test with it's magnificent sceneries.
 
Let's move on to the conclusion...


XFX HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 7
Conclusion
 
XFX graphics cards have always been held in high regard at OC3D so it really should come as no surprise that we also love this card. I do like it when an underdog comes out on top so when I first began to see how well the XFX HD5850 performed when compared to the GTX285 I was grinning from ear to ear. Not that this makes the GTX285 a bad card you understand, but when one manufacturer has been on top for so long it can sometimes stagnate the market resulting in a slowdown of the performance evolution.
 
We never expected the card to beat it's bigger brother, the HD5870 but in the overclocking department it certainly did. Reaching huge overclocks of 910/1300MHz on the core and memory respectively, the card was made for overclocking which does beg the question - why have ATI limited the overclocks available in CCC's Overdrive utility. ATI will no doubt chew on my ear for this but you could save yourself a few pennies by overclocking the HD5850 past that of the HD5870 to make of for the texel shader deficit. Not only that but the card consumes slightly less power and runs a little cooler too, although this would probably be a different matter when the card is overclocked.
 
Perhaps my only gripe with the XFX HD5850 is with the bizarre 'X' packaging. While it is appealing to the eye, I felt like a chimpanzee with a Rubiks cube trying to fit it all back together for the photoshoot. End users will not have to worry about such matters of course until they come to sell the card on come upgrade time but with performance such as we have shown today, upgrade time should be a long, long way off.  The HD5850 offers oodles of performance which coupled with a very competitive £200 price tag, makes the HD5850 a very wise purchase indeed. For this kind of performance you would have paid double the price 6 months ago!
 
The Good
- Excellent Overclocking
- Included accessories
- Quiet running
- Price
 
The Mediocre
- Inconsistent in older games (driver issue?)
- 'X' Packaging (although available in normal box).
 
The Bad
- Nothing
 
 
 
Thanks to XFX for providing the HD5850 PCIe 1GB graphics for todays review. Discuss in our forums.