Sapphire HD 5850 Reviewccokeman - October 15, 2009
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The 5850, much like its bigger sibling, is built around the RV 870 "Cypress" core. The core is chock full of 2.15 Billion transistors and slightly fewer stream processors to the tune of 1440, down from the 1600 on the HD 5870. Likewise there are 8 fewer texture units at 72 while the ROP count stays the same at 32. The Sapphire HD5850 is noticeably shorter in length than the HD 5870, which relieves some of the concerns about the 11 inch length on the 5870. This ought to make fitting this card into a mid-tower case a less challenging proposition. The steam processor and texture units are not the only thing to be reduced. The clock speeds have been reduced to 725MHz on the core and 1000MHz on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory causing a reduction in memory bandwidth and overall processing power. The top of the card has a red plastic cover that like the 5870, but does not light up. For the cost of a few LED's you could bring the bling with the performance. The back side of the card is bare instead of having a back plate like the 5870 but really does not need it as there are no memory modules to cool down on the backside of the PCB.
On the front end of the card you have a total of four outputs in which three can be used at one time and support a resolution of 3x2560x1600. Yes 3x2560x1600! This way you can use a series of three monitors in an Eyefinity setup for full immersion gaming. You have two Dual Link DVI ports, a single DisplayPort and an HDMI output for HD gaming. The rear of the card has a set of air intakes with the top one filled up with the two 6 pin PCIe power connections. The Sapphire HD 5850 is CrossfireX capable with the bridge connections on the top of the card so you can with a supporting motherboard run up to four of these beauties at a time.
Cooling is always a priority on a high performance video card and ATI's cards have taken a lot of heat (no pun intended) for the cooling performance of their reference cooling solutions. When you have the stickers melting off the back of the cards, something is wrong. With this generation it looks like they may have gotten it sorted out. While you still have the blower noise, the cooling performance is miles better than it has been before. At idle I would get temperatures in the low 30 Celsius range in part due to the low power consumption in 2D mode at 27 watts. Load temperatures were not out of the ordinary, either at 66 Celsius under load with the fan controlled by the driver, or even lower when overclocked with the fan speed at 75%. The cooling solution is a hybrid design with a plate covering the voltage circuits and and a copper/aluminum two heatpipe design covering the RV870 core.
On the left side of the PCB you can see that the DVI ports are shielded to reduce interference. To the right side of the RV870 core and memory is where you have the voltage regulating components of the HD 5850. The core has a total of 2.15 Billion transistors 72 texture units and 32ROP's. The RV 870 Cypress core is built upon the 40nm process and runs with clock speeds of 725MHz on the core and 1000MHz on the 1GB of GDDR5 Samsung memory. The core has a shim around it to keep the copper heatsink from crushing it.
With a pretty hefty set of specs the HD 5850 looks to perform, at least on paper, as well as the current Nvidia crop of cards.