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Sapphire HD 5850 Review

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The Sapphire HD 5850 does not disappoint. It's one step down the performance ladder and it gives the GTX285 a run for its money. It does not always come out on top in that contest, but in 26 out of 40 tests the results show the HD 5850 to score higher either in frames per second or total score. That's better than 50% of the tests! When you consider the fact that this card retails for 260 bucks or 100 dollars less than the GTX 285, the former heavyweight single GPU champ takes a beating in the price vs. performance battle. At this price point and level of performance its hard to argue against this card as a good upgrade choice from the 4XXX series if cost is a concern. You get great performance in current DX9/10/10.1 games as well as being the second DX11 card out to market. But with only 1 game out that is patched for DX11 that I know of, you will have to wait a little while longer to reap the benefits of this capability.

With the Cypress GPUs you have the ability to run what is called "Eyefinity", a multi-monitor setup with just a single video card. Just imagine a three monitor wrap-around setup to really get deep into the gameplay. You can use up to three monitors in a variety of configurations with a single card or a total of six monitors with an Eyefinity card that uses six display port connections to the monitors. While I see this as great for office work, it will be limited until the borders of the monitors are shrunk enough to render them non-visible to the casual glance. Flight sims or racing games might not be that bad though since you do have pillars in the vehicles that could be renders on the edges of the monitors. The jury is out on how many people will pony up the dough for a three or six monitor setup, although I am sure some will take the plunge.

The HD 5850 is a bit smaller than its big brother the HD 5870. Its smaller stature in no way is a reflection on the performance that is delivered by this card - it just eases the minds of those who have a smaller chassis and are looking for an upgrade path. The only down side I have on the 5800 series is the fact that while the 5850 has much improved cooling with its two heatpipe equipped heatsink, the fan noise is still there. But you do not have to peg the fan either so that is some small consolation.

The temperatures the Sapphire HD 5850 produced under load were actually quite low for a card with this kind of horsepower. When I ran the card through its stock load testing it would idle at 36/37 degrees Celsius and load at 66 with the fan speed controlled by the driver. The fan speed stayed low enough to not be heard at this level. Once I overclocked the card and manually set the fan speed to 70% I got idle temperatures of 33 Celsius and a load temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. Not bad when you consider the bad rap that ATI has taken for the cooling solutions on their cards over the past two generations. Sapphire's HD 5850 was able to produce excellent overclocking results by posting a core clock increase from 725Mhz to 870MHz and and increase on the Samsung GDDR5 memory to 1225Mhz from 1000MHz, increases of 20%+ on both counts. When tested, the overclocks yielded significant gains throughout the entire suite of games and benchmarks almost reaching the level of the HD 5870! If you want great performance in the 250 dollar price range you would be hard pressed to make a choice other than the Sapphire HD 5850 at this point.



  • Overclocking
  • Performance
  • Cool running
  • Price
  • Size
  • Eyefinity
  • DX11
  • 40nm



  • Noise
  • Lack of DX 11 titles


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