Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 CrossfireX

Introduction

Introduction
 
Over one month on since the launch of ATi's latest generation of DirectX 11 solutions, the reign of the mighty Radeon HD 5870 remains prominent. As the fastest single gpu graphics card on the market, it hasn't got a lot of competition at it's retail price of around £300-320. On paper it doesn't sound so bad as right now, it offers respectable performance for it's price and gives users the opportunity to do more than they could otherwise do with the previous generation thanks to ATi Eyefinity technology and full DirectX 11 support and all of this in a package that doesn't eat a power station for breakfast and is quiet enough to run 24/7 without it being a nuisance. As time goes by however, the consumer wants to see price cuts and this is simply not going to happen until nVidia have responded with their upcoming "Fermi" codenamed graphics card. Until then, I'm sure that ATi has no intention of even touching their product's pricing as they will continue to sell by themselves just fine.
 
So what if you don't have £300 available to spend? Two options for you and the first one is to wait for a price drop. This might be the smart thing to do as competition should result in a price war but ultimately it will depend greatly on the quality of the competitor's product and when it arrives. In the context of nVidia's upcoming graphics card range, perhaps they might arrive by Christmas and stomp all over ATi's offerings. Perhaps it'll match ATi performance. Maybe the graphics card range will arrive late? Nothing is certain when it comes to a product that isn't available yet and as such playing the waiting game might be rewarding or it might be a waste of time.
The second option is to compromise. Today, ATi have four new graphics cards on the market. Two of them are likely to be inadequate for the high end customers and as already mentioned, the Radeon HD 5870 might be a little out of reach for some. This leaves us with the Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5. Priced at £200, it is considerably cheaper than it's bigger brother and as a consequence has decreased core and memory frequencies as well as 10% cut in Stream Processors. One can argue that the differences in the two graphics cards may mean that the HD 5870 isn't necessarily quick enough to justify it's added premium. Such a summary however opens a whole new can of worms but this time towards the prospective CrossfireX. Given a £100 saving per graphics card, might two Radeon HD 5850's be the sweetspot of Multi GPU solutions? Let's discuss.
 
Name
Sapphire Radeon HD 5850
Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 Crossfire
Sapphire Radeon HD 5870
Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Crossfire
Core Name Cypress
Cypress
Cypress Cypress
Core Frequency 725MHz 725MHz 850MHz 850MHz
Stream Processors
1440 2 x 1440 1600 2 x 1600
Memory Frequency 4000MHz (1000MHz x 4)
4000MHz
(1000MHz x 4)
4800MHz
(1200MHz x 4)
4800MHz
(1200MHz x 4)
Memory Interface 256bit 256bit 256bit 256bit
ROP Count 32 2 x 32 32 2 x 32
TMU Count 72 2 x 80 80 2 x 80
Price £198.95 £397.90 £299.00 £598.00
 
 
Straight off the bat, a quick Google Shopping search reveals a 33% saving incurred in opting for Radeon HD 5850's in Single or Multi GPU format over the equivalent HD 5870 configuration. The most significant change to the Radeon HD 5850's technical specification is the cut of 8 x 5 way shading units, which translates to a decreased Stream Processor count from 1600 to 1440. It does however still sport the same Memory Interface width and ROP count. and is only further stunted by decreased core and memory frequencies. What does this mean in practice? There's only one way to find out. Today, we are graced with the presence of two Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 graphics cards.
 
Sapphire is no newbie to the graphics card market by any stretch of the imagination. As the largest supplier of ATi cards, Sapphire has extensive experience with all segments of the graphics card market. Touting both experience and great innovation, the brand has released a number of successful graphics cards including the world's first 1.00GHz factory overclocked unit. With this in mind, let's find out how Sapphire's latest offerings perform as we put not one, but two Radeon HD 5850's through their paces.
 
 
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Most Recent Comments

01-11-2009, 21:25:50

tinytomlogan
Ask any man, 1 is never enough. Mul puts a pair of fast women on the bench to see how 2 Sapphire 5850 shaped ladies perform under preasure.

Continue Reading

02-11-2009, 14:12:16

MeltedDuron
Great review as usual Mul. The 5850's look like a good buy! They should be awesome around christmas when the price drops kick in, ATI's cards are the real working class hero's of graphics

02-11-2009, 14:28:23

Mul.
Quote:
Originally Posted by name='MeltedDuron'
Great review as usual Mul. The 5850's look like a good buy! They should be awesome around christmas when the price drops kick in, ATI's cards are the real working class hero's of graphics
Cheers MeltedDuron.

As for price drops, I fear it may well go the other way until nVidia has a direct competitor. Given that the production of GeForce GTX 260/275/285's, VAT increases and a (currently) low supply of Cypress cards to meet demand, prices could even rise. We'll see how things pan out though.

02-11-2009, 15:07:35

Rastalovich
Great review.

Got a few questions I'm not sure of:

  • Is the difference between the 5850 & 5870 purely clock speed, or is there something capability-wize the 5870 can do that the 5850 can't ?

  • Why does the i7 cpu score in the FutureMark benchie vary so much with the differing 4 setups ?



Unless there's a non-clock answer to the 1st question, I don't see any point in any1 buying 2x 5870 to xfire. There's a difference of some %age of fps in games that the 2x 5850 are already scoring over 100s. To that end, I don't see the cream.

Need to revisit this once there are some/few Dx11 comparisons to be had. Making comparisons of these cards in Dx10 at best doesn't seem to present much visible differences.

Decent card on the face of it. Nothing being made of AMD scoring nice pricing, and perhaps more to come, from the fact they have the only Dx11 out in this window. We know it would, and will, be different in a months time, and I'm sure there will be some shouting from the roof tops then - especially when these cards get cut.

02-11-2009, 15:24:58

Mul.
Cheers for your thoughts Rastalovich,

The answer to the first question is no unfortunately. Aside Frequencies, the 5850 variant of the Cypress core has 8 5 Way Shading Units disabled, resulting in a 1440 Stream Processors overall, which is 10% less than the HD 5870 at 1600. The consequence is that you'd need to push a HD 5850 to slightly higher core frequencies in order to match the HD 5870.

As for the second question, I'm unsure as to why the CPU Score varied so much. Identical testbeds were used, and the same goes for the drivers.

With regards to revisiting these cards with DX11 hits, I completely agree.

02-11-2009, 15:28:55

Rastalovich
The variation of the cpu score concerns me.

If u were to lay out a flat comparison of 5850/5870/5890, I'd personal need a serious answer to why the likes of the i7 cpus are either being held back or being used to bolster deficiencies.

Moreover, would it mean that if u had

02-11-2009, 15:39:54

Mul.
It's a shame I didn't publish the results on the Futuremark ORB so at least the scores could've been dissected further. It's also interesting that the HD 5850 CPU scores are similar to each other, as are the HD 5870 CPU scores. One couldn't rule out an anomalous result for one of the two but I couldn't see how the differences could be so considerable. Prior to testing, I had confirmed the system's CPU and DRAM frequencies at 3.40GHz and as mentioned, the same driver sets and testbed was carried forward for both tests. Strange.

02-11-2009, 17:42:56

iceie
the temp on the 5850 is really impressive

04-11-2009, 12:54:31

Talonaer
"Straight off the bat, a quick Google Shopping search reveals a 25% saving incurred in opting for Radeon HD 5850's in Single or Multi GPU format over the equivalent HD 5870 configuration."

300 - > 200

or 600 -> 400 ?

Thats a 33% saving or a 50% increase in price, dependant on which way oyu look at it :P. Sorry to be picky just annoyed me

04-11-2009, 13:07:04

Bungral
Yeah I saw that but couldn't be arsed to say anything.

Was more interested in the results.

08-11-2009, 12:07:14

Mul.
Quote:
Originally Posted by name='Talonaer'
"Straight off the bat, a quick Google Shopping search reveals a 25% saving incurred in opting for Radeon HD 5850's in Single or Multi GPU format over the equivalent HD 5870 configuration."

300 - > 200

or 600 -> 400 ?

Thats a 33% saving or a 50% increase in price, dependant on which way oyu look at it :P. Sorry to be picky just annoyed me
School boy error quite frankly. Fixed
Reply
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