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.
|Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 ||Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 Crossfire ||Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 |
|Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Crossfire |
|Core Name ||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) || |
(1000MHz x 4)
(1200MHz x 4)
(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.