Asus 5850 TOP Review
Phew. That was a lot of testing.
One of the things that became apparent very quickly was that the extra headroom allowed by the better cooling, which gave a better overclock, meant this was definitely going to come out on top. In some ways that made testing slightly frustrating because the answer was clear before the benchmarks were run. However, for accuracy, run them we must and it's good we did because the Dirt 2 result was very surprising.
Let's go back a little bit first. The packaging, as we've come to expect from ASUS, is excellent. Nicely following the ASUS standard of a good box, with their standard black box of goodies within. The foam around the card was cut out accurately giving a tight fit and, with the manual box on top, ensuring your precious HD5850 Top wouldn't get bumped by an errant postman.
The box contains all you'd expect and the driver installation process is swift and pain free.The card definitely looks the business in its serious gun-metal coating and is weightier than most we've had through the labs.
Performance is excellent as, thanks to the Voltage Tweak BIOS and the brilliant cooler, even a monster 250MHz overclock didn't stress the card at all. Our benchmarks also bore this out with it coming out on top in all our tests.
The real star of the show though is the DirectCU cooler. For comparable results we always run all our graphics card fans at 50%. More often than not we find an assault on the ears rather than a treat for the eyes. With the ASUS HD5850 Top we had that magical combination between great cooling performance and low noise.
Finally we, as ever, need to consider pricing. It looks like this will hit the streets around £265, which is about the price you'd expect to pay for a reference card and a third party cooler. To get both professionally fitted and with the ASUS warranty is obviously something that, if silence is an element you care about, something that can't be missed. The performance differential between the reference design and this is small enough that you might consider saving a few pennies. I wouldn't.
Good performance and excellent noise levels make this clearly a winner of our Gamers Choice award.