Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 Toxic 2GB Review
Reviewed by: ccokeman
Reviewed on: March 30, 2010
The HD 5000 series is well entrenched with a full product stack that fills just about any need and price point. With that full of a product line, why populate an already stacked deck with another card? For the same reasons people buy high performance cars. Sure you have options that go from the mundane grocery getter to the top of the line with all the luxury features. Then there are the specialty models that offer increased performance and it's that added flash that gets them noticed. Flash and performance are selling points that make a product appeal to a more exclusive club. For video cards, that group equals gamers and performance and flash sell to a group with higher expectations of performance. Sapphire does a good job of building cards to fit this niche with their "Atomic", "Toxic" and "Vapor-X" line-ups. Each of these lines add increased levels of performance and cooling as well as Sapphire's own proprietary construction.
The Sapphire Toxic HD 5850 2GB is a card that contains the whole ATI HD 5800 series feature set but comes with a bit more performance under the hood to easily set it apart from the crowd. With some of the highest clock speeds on the memory and GPU core at 765Mhz and 1125Mhz combined with Sapphires own Vapor-X cooling solution the Toxic HD 5850 is sure to offer some stellar performance numbers as well as excellent cooing performance. If the results from our testing of the 1Gb Toxic HD 5850 are any indication then this card from Sapphire should deliver the performance goods. The question is how good will it get?
The look of the packaging is a departure from the use of the ATI Icon Ruby on the front panel. This look is much more sinister looking and easily would stand out on store shelves. The front panel contains a wealth of information at a high level including mentions of many of the technologies used on this card including Sapphires proprietary Vapor-X cooling, Eyefinity support, Native HDMI / DisplayPort connectivity and CrossfireX readiness. The actual computing power is listed as two teraflops! The rear panel goes decidedly deeper about the attributes of the Toxic 5850 2GB, including ATI Stream technology, Sapphire's own Black Diamond Chokes and the benefits of GDDR5 memory.
Inside the outer sleeve you have a plain cardboard box that contains the HD 5850 Toxic and its associated bundle. The top panel of the box has a small symbol that signifies the box is made of recyclable materials, in fact, Sapphire states that both the inner and outer packing is made from 100% recyclable paper. The Video card is nestled securedly in a form-fit cardboard tray and is sleeved in bubble wrap with a foam block to keep the card from moving. The bundle is enclosed in a box of its own at the bottom of the box.
The bundle supplied with the HD 5850 Toxic 2GB is is pretty much the standard bundle that Sapphire has been sending lately. This bundle gives you everything you need to get started with this card from the instruction manual, the driver disk, SIM HD software from Arcsoft as a bonus, the required power adapters if your power supply is not equipped with the proper connections and a DVI to VGA adapter. One thing you do notice right away is this 2GB variant of the Toxic is going to use an 8 pin and a 6 pin PCIe auxiliary power connection.
Hmm an 8 pin power adapter means we could be in for some serious overclocking.
Sapphires HD5850 Toxic 2GB model for all intentsive purposes looks like the 1GB model save the addition of another 1GB of GDDR5 memory. While thats the short story, the rest of the story shows this card to be based on the Cypress core, built using TSMC's 40nm process. The core is equipped with 2.15 Billion transistors, 1440 shader cores, 72 texture units and 32 ROP's. THe 1440 shader core count is just 160 shy of what the HD 58570 uses. This allows the HD 5850 Toxic to deliver 2+ TeraFlops of computing power. As you can see from the heatsink cover the Toxic edition differs in appearance from the reference version and is far from the cookie cutter norm. The Blue and Black shroud is just the start of the differences. Under the cover you have Sapphires Vapor-X technology to cool the heat generated by the enhanced clock speeds used on this card. The reference cards come with a nice set of clock speeds at 725Mhz on the core and 1050 on the GDDR5 memory but the Toxic Edition gets the big bump in clock speeds with the core clock reaching 765Mhz with the 2Gb of GDDR5 memory reaching 1125Mhz. Both well above the stock clocks so we should see a nice performance boost over the reference version.
For connectivity you get what is pretty much the standard setup with the HD 58xx series of video cards from ATI and its partners. Not that standard is bad its just the same which in this case is pretty decent as this setup can be used to run an Eyefinity setup with just a single card. What you get is a single DisplayPort, HDMI that supports HDMI 1.3 with Deep Color and 7.1 High Bitrate Audio, and two Dual Link DVI ports that combined with the DisplayPort connection you can enable an Eyefinity setup with resolutions up to 7680 x 1600 @ 60Hz - with one monitor supporting DisplayPort or by using one of the active adapters to go to a DVI connection. The back end does not have much for features but the power connections are here instead of on the spine of the card. Instead of the dual 6pin PCIe power connections used on the 1GB Toxic HD 5850 you get an 8 pin plus 6 pin power connection layout that shows that better overclocking may be on the agenda or maybe the additional power was needed for the additional vram. If one of these cards is not enough to get your gaming jones on, then you can hook this card up to three more for an increased level of performance. Of course just hooking the cards together is not the way to do it, as you need a motherboard that supports up to four cards in an CrossfireX setup.
When you open the Toxic edition up for inspection you get to see the first glimpse of the Vapor-X cooling solution as well as the self designed blue PCB. The back side of the PCB house the additional 1Gb of frame buffer memory under an aluminum heatshield used to cool off the modules. Once the card is stripped of its covers you can see the heatsink used to cover the voltage regulation circuits and the proprietary Black Diamond chokes that feature additional cooling to run up to 10°C cooler and 25% more efficient than standard designs. Plus you just have to love the additional ribs on the top to increase the cooling capacity of the chokes.
The cooling soultion on this card looks much like the one used on the HD 5870 Vapor-X edition and is the same cooling solution used on the 1Gb model of this card. It consists of a copper vapor chamber with 3 heatpipes running to an aluminum fin array with a downdraft fan blowing air through the heatsink to cool the GPU core and memory. The fan used has 11 blades and uses two ball bearings to reduce the noise from the fan, as well as increasing the lifespan so you don't cook your video card a year or two down the road. To cool the VRM circuit, you have just a small aluminum bolt on heatsink that receives airflow through the fin array to effect the cooling of the mosfets on the back end of the card.
The 40nm Cypress core houses 2.15 billion transistors,1440 shader cores, 72 texture units and 32ROP's giving 2+ TeraFlops of processing power for you to use in any number of ways from gaming to video encoding to just sitting back watching some Bluray content. This version of the HD 5850 Toxic series comes with clock speeds of 765Mhz on the core and 1125Mhz (4500Mhz effective) on the 2Gb of Samsung GDDR5 memory that runs through a 256 bit bus. This version of the Toxic comes with Samsung memory in place of the Hynix used on the 1Gb model, so I'm anticipating the memory overclocks to be similar in results from other cards using the same memory.
The last HD 5850 Toxic provided a nice boost in performance over the reference card, lets see if this one can improve upon that performance.
Before you can start fragging, you have to install the drivers so that you don't sit there utterly disappointed by the graphics performance of this shiny new card. Thankfully, Sapphire has included a disc to get you started although the manufacturer website is a great alternative. I will browse through the disc to see what is included.
After you insert the disc and allow the autorun to start the process, you end up with the Sapphire GUI on the desktop. There are three options to choose from, ATI Easy install, Online Manual, and Adobe Reader. Of course, the ATI Easy install is for installing the drivers and proprietary software to gain the most functionality from your new purchase. You have a choice of operating systems to choose from so just choose the appropriate OS and you get to start the ATI driver install wizard. The Online Manual is a link to download the manual while Adobe Reader links to Adobe's website to so you can download the latest version of Adobe Reader.
When you choose to install the drivers from the disc, just move forward through the process and check the options best suited for your needs. You have two options; you can choose either the express install that manages the whole process for you or the custom install that allows you to choose what software you will install from a list. Agree to the EULA, let the wizard finish, and do the customary reboot to finish the installation.
Its been over six months since the HD 5XXX series cards came to market and the availability of DirectX 11 games continues to increase with titles such as Metro 2033, Dirt 2, Battleforge, Aliens Vs Predator, Battlefield Bad Company 2, STALKER Call of Pripyat as well as Unigines Heaven benchmark that has just been updated with an extreme tessellation mode as version 2.0. As time goes by there are more games and game engines coming online as developers make the switch to the DX 11 API.
The ATI Catalyst Control Center got a new look with the introduction of the 9.7 drivers so it's about time to take an in-depth look at the options and the interface to see how well the GUI is set up and how easy it is to navigate through. Since the basic view is well, basic, I will look through the Advanced panel. The first page to open with ATI Catalyst Control Center is the Welcome page, which has quick hyperlinks to check for driver updates, get in contact with customer care, to give feedback, visit the AMD website, or to join the Folding@Home cause. The next page is the Information Center, which is split into two tabs, one for Graphics Software information and the other for Graphics Hardware information. These two tabs can be very handy for troubleshooting any problems that crop up while using the Sapphire HD 5-series video cards. This series of pictures is a representation of what you will find in the control panel not the current driver selection used and is only for reference.
The Graphics Hardware tab of the Information Center contains information about the Sapphire HD 5850 Toxic, including BIOS version and date, chipset, memory, vendor code, and so on. Most people shouldn’t need the Graphics Hardware and Software information, but it's definitely handy when a problem may occur. The next page is the Desktops & Displays page – this page is for the basic settings of the monitor(s) and desktop. Users can figure out which monitor is which and rotate the outputted image. Clicking the properties or moving along brings us to the Desktop Properties page.
The Desktop Properties page has much more control over the desktop with settings such as desktop area, color quality, refresh rate, and again, rotation. The next tab in the Desktop Properties page adjusts the color, contrast, brightness, and gamma output. This can be handy on monitors that need some help putting out the appropriate colors – back when I used a CRT a long time ago it helped keep the colors closer to true when the monitor would get aged and get a gray or yellowish tint.
The Display Options page is very short and is used just for one option – Display Detection Option. The options are automatic or manual detection of displays. The 3D page has several tabs that allow users the ability to define a custom scheme for their games. There are previews for the effects or users can power through all of the settings on the 'All' tab at the end.
The Avivo Video page has five tabs dedicated to performance and quality adjustments for video output. A preview is included of a woman with flowers and fruit. Again, just as with the 3D page, there is an 'All' tab that can adjust all of the settings for the Avivo Video at once.
The last page on the graphics menu is the ATI Overdrive. To use this feature users must first click the "lock" to unlock the program after then agreeing to some terms. The software is capable of automatically overclocking the video card through Auto-Tune, but I prefer using the manual settings. Users can test their settings using the Test Custom Clocks button. Fan speed control is relatively new to ATI Overdrive and allows users to define what speed the fan or blower runs at. Underneath and to the right of this are gauges and readouts of some of the more important data for this card – temperature, usage activity, fan speed, GPU clock speed, and memory clock speed. The test feature brings up a full screen image that is pretty basic – greenish reddish with an AMD logo in the bottom left.
The latest additional menu is the HydraVision menu. The first page is the HydraGrid page, which allows users to define a grid-like component to lock applications to a certain chunk of desktop real estate. Options such as showing the grids when moving a window and showing an icon in the tray are settable at the bottom while adjusting the grid is near the top. The grid can be previewed as the default layout is seen with white bars representing the grids. Users can customize the grid layout to whatever they desire and the keyboard shortcuts are listed out in the image while the red bar means it is the selected grid component to be adjusted.
The next page is the Desktop Manager, which does exactly what the name implies – it manages the desktop. The desktop manager can keep track of application position and size, and allow spanning across multiple displays. The last page is the Multi Desktop. This name is also suggestive to its use – this program allows users to have multiple desktops ranging from two up to nine. Users can rotate between desktops with the scroll wheel, preserve display settings, and enable another tray icon. This can be useful for those who have a ton of desktop icons as a means to separate them out – one could for instance even make a desktop for each category of their own choosing even – gaming, work, school, and whatever else.
Will the additional memory be a help or hindrance for the 2GB Toxic HD 5850?
Radeon HD 5850
PCI-E x16 (PCI-E 2.0)
2048MB / 256-bit GDDR5
765MHz Eclk / Effective 4500 MHz Mclk
Dual slot vapor-chamber cooler with auto fan control, 2 ball bearings.
Bracket Full Height
Display Support Dual DL-DVI-I
Native Hardware Crossfire
PCIe Graphic External 2 x 6 pin
Crossfire Interconnect Cable x 1
DVI to VGA Adaptor x 1
6 PIN to 4 PIN Power Cable x 2
- Factory overclocked at 765MHz engine/4500 MHz effective memory
- Award Winning Vapor-X cooling technology
- Microsoft DirectX® 11 Support
- ATI Eyefinity Technology, support up to 3 displays.
- ATI Stream technology
- Microsoft Windows 7 Support
- 40nm Process Technology
- 2nd Generation TeraScale Engine
- PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
- Advance 2GB/256-bit GDDR5 memory interface
- HDMI 1.3 support with Deep Color and 7.1 High Bitrate Audio
- On chip HDCP Support
- ATI CrossFireX™ multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance. (Use up to four discrete cards with an AMD 790FX based motherboard)
- ATI Avivo HD Support
- ATI Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD) for Blu-ray™ and HD Video. , Accelerated Video Transcoding (AVT), DVD Upscaling, Dynamic Contrast , Built-in HDMI with 7.1 surround sound support
- Dynamic power management with ATI PowerPlay™ technology including memory clocks
- Dolby® TrueHD and DTSHD Master Audio TM Support
All information courtesy of Sapphire Technology @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/?lid=1
Testing of the Sapphire HD 5850 2GB Toxic OC Edition will consist of running the card through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks, to test the performance against many popular competitors to gauge its performance. Comparisons to the 1GB model will be shown just to see if the additional 1GB of GDDR5 memory has an impact on performance. The games used are some of today's popular titles to give you an idea on how the cards perform relative to each other. The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel. I will test the card at stock speeds and then overclocked to see how much additional performance is available and determine if it can run with or faster than the current fastest single GPU cards on the market. Of course, all settings are left at defaults in the control panels of each respective manufacturer except where noted. I will be using the latest drivers from each manufacturer at the time of this review.
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 150x20
- Motherboard: MSI X58 Eclipse SLI
- Memory: Mushkin HP3 12800 7-7-7-20
- Video Card(s):Sapphire HD 5850 2GB Toxic OC Edition
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800 watt Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: NEC DV5700
- OS: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition SP2 64-bit
- Case: Thermaltake Armor +
Comparison Video Cards:
- Sapphire HD 5850 Toxic 1GB
- Sapphire HD 5870
- ASUS GTX285 MATRIX
- ASUS ENGTX275
- Asus GTX 260 Matrix
- Sapphire HD 4890 Vapor-X 1GB
- Sapphire HD 5770 Vapor-X
- Sapphire HD 5850 2GB Toxic OC Edition 906/1160
The first thing you want to do if you plan on trying for clock speeds in excess of the limits in the Catalyst control Center is download AMD GPU Clock tool and MSI AfterBurner to make sure you get all the functionality you can. The reason for the two utility approach is that when you set the clock speeds in AMD GPU Clock Tool and apply the setting, you default the fan speed to auto. If you go back into the CCC to change the fan speed you lose the clock speeds you set in the GPU Clock Tool, goofy, but it's what happens. Enter MSI Afterburner - this application was written by the same person responsible for Riva Tuner over at Guru3d and is an easy to use interface that is already able to work with the latest cards from ATI and their partners like Sapphire. The Catalyst control center really did not allow much inthe way of overclocking so it was straight to the aftermarket utilities. Knowing where the Toxic 1GB model was stable I started my testing at that point to see whether or not it would lead to stability and started with the GPU core first. This card easily went past 900Mhz up to 925 Mhz for 3Dmark06 and vantage testing but just would not pass in some of the games at this level. 910Mhz was good for all of the benchmarks but not 100% of the time so I reduced the clock speed on the core to 906Mhz and everything was stable at that point. Thats a good 141Mhz or 18.6% boost in clock speed. Now when it came to the memory there was not much to be had. Even dropping the core clock speeds down to stock speeds would not let me gain more than 35Mhz work of an increase in the GDDR5 memory speeds. Spooling the fan speeds to 100%, nothing helped get any higher with stability. Even so an increase is an increase and helps drive the overclocked performance higher. While running this card in an overclocked state I bump the fan speeds up to 100% to gain the maximum clock speed I can to keep the temperatures in check. The Vapor-X cooling used on this model does a great job of keeping temperatures in the tolerable level at stock speeds and does even better when you lean on the clocks and fan speed. running the fan at 100% my idle temperatures with the card overclocked measured 44°C and 56° C after an hour of looping 3DMark06's Canyon test at 2560x1600 4x AA and 16XAF. I have been a fan of Sapphires Vapor-X cooling for a reason.
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Darkest of Days
- Call of Duty World at War
- Warhammer 40,000 DOW II
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Resident Evil 5
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
Far Cry 2:
Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.
- DirectX 10
- Anti-Aliasing: x2
- Game Settings: Very High
- VSync: Off
The 5850 Toxic cards show a performance advantage over the stock cards. That's to be expected. The 2GB model shows a 1 FPS advantage in a few resolutions but when overclocked the scores are almost identical. So far not a big improvement.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- Anti-Aliasing: x2
- Game Settings: Enthusiast
- DirectX 10
Performance is almost spot on with the 1GB model but again offers additional performance up top even if it is 1 FPS it is measurable. However, this could be considered with margin of error. Considering the same base clock speeds, obviously not much is changing.
What would testing be if you did not show both sides of the fence? In this test, PhysX was set to low, while leaving the remaining settings intact. You have seen time and again where the ATI cards suffer when PhysX is enabled. Mirror's Edge and Cryostasis are two prime examples. Darkest of Days is no different. What happens in this test shows that, although the game can be played by cards from the red team, the video effects and quality are diminished.
- 4x Anti-Aliasing
- 16x Anisotrophic Filtering
- PhysX: Low
- Ambient Occlusion: On
- Quality: High
- Resolution: 1280x1024 - 2560x1600
Higher is Better
Darkest of Days is the first game to show a drop in performance when compared to the 1GB edition. Overclocking does yield a benefit in all four resolutions delivering performance close to or higher than the level of the HD 5870.
Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought CoD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a high resolution. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare the performance of these video cards.
- Game Settings: Maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
The GTX 285 is still a bit stronger on the top end than the HD 5850 Toxic editions but the lower resolutions allow the HD 5850 Toxic 2GB to deliver equal or better performance.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a Real Time Strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can play either as a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.
- Vsync: Off
- Ultra Preset
- Game Settings: Maximum
At 2560x1600 the 2GB Toxic performed better than the 1GB and reference HD 5850's.
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to reign the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of Physx technology to create a rich environment for you to play your trade.
- 4x Anti-Aliasing
- PhysX: Off
- Ambient Occlusion: Off
- Quality: High
- Resolution: 1280x1024 - 2560x1600
THe higher clock speeds of the Toxic Edition cards help drive performance above the level of the stock cards. The 2GB model shows an additional jump in performance with the additional physical memory driving performance almost to the level of the GTX 285 at stock speeds and equal to or better than it when overclocked.
Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield, a survivor of the events at Raccoon City who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents, you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and a Co-Op gaming style.
- 4x Anti-Aliasing
- PhysX: Off
- Ambient Occlusion: Off
- Quality: High
- Resolution: 1280x1024 - 2560x1600
Performance of the Sapphire HD 5850 Toxic 2GB is close to the level delivered by the GTX 285 across all four resolutions and exceeds the performance of the 285 at 2560x1600. When overclocked, the Toxic delivers performance just about on par with the HD 5870.
Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!
- Anti-Aliasing: x4
- Anisotropic Filtering: x16
- Game Settings: Maximum
This game lets the 2GB Toxic stretch its legs and lets it deliver a boost over the performance of the 1GB model and delivering a higher FPS than the GTX 285 in two resolutions.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
Compared to the 1GB Toxic the 2GB model shows a higher level of performance in 3 out of 4 tests and easily out paces the GTX 285.
Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.
- Settings (each preset): Default
- Entry: 1024x768
- Performance: 1280x1024
- High: 1680x1050
- Extreme: 1920x1200
The HD 5850 Toxic 2GB card shows a benefit above the 1GB model in the High and Extreme tests. When overclocked it delivers performance just shy of what the HD 5870 delivers.
When it comes down to it, a reference designed video card is just that. One with a sticker slapped on it and and plopped into the AIB's (Add in Board) partners packaging. There really is not anything to differentiate the card from manufacturer X & Y but the sticker, warranty and bundle. Don't get me wrong the warranty, bundle and looks of the graphic on the card are selling points, but really underneath you have the same thing. Where am I going with this you ask? Well here it is Sapphire has long had a history of building their own high performance models that offer a non reference design with improved electrical components and cooling. Most of these boards rely on Sapphires Vapor-X cooling to keep the thermal loads under control while running quieter than the reference solution. These cooling solutions are well designed and do the job they were intended for with Sapphire specifying a 15° C drop in temperatures and 10dB drop in noise levels. Even the HD 5970 uses vapor chamber cooling and is a testament to the viability of the technology. In addition to the self designed PCB and power circuits, Sapphire uses proprietary Black Diamond chokes that run 10% cooler and 25% more efficiently to give you a better product and differentiate their brand from the rest.
So hows it perform? It does well in the benchmarking, most of the times delivering comparable performance with the 1GB model of this card but in other games such as Left 4 Dead and Batman, it shows a decided advantage. As a factory overclocked card it is easily faster than the reference card by way of comparison. Cooling performance is another aspect that was measured since this card does use a non-stock cooling solution. Running with the factory clock speeds and letting the driver control the fan speed, the maximum temperature I recorded was 66° C under load with a 39° C idle temperature. The fan reached 43% utilization at this load temperature so you have both cool and quiet. At 100% fan speed you will have some noise but nothing like the reference solution. However, the temperatures are kept in line with a load temperature of 56° C and a 44° C idle temperature. Not bad for the Vapor-X cooling solution. Overclocking on this card was a mixed bag. Leaning on the core yielded an almost 20% increase in clock speed up to 906Mhz, A 25Mhz increase over the 1GB version I looked at last month. That's the good part of the overclocking, now the bad. The memory speed just would not offer any stability past 1160Mhz offering up a paltry 35Mhz in overclocking headroom. Nothing is guaranteed but I had expected a little more from the memory. Still there is headroom offering an improvement in performance. This card requires both a 6 pin and 8 pin PCIe power connection and may be the reason for the higher core clocks by comparison. It does not seem to have impacted overall power consumption though as this card consumed 310 watts vs the 309 watts on the 1GB model. Idle consumption was at 180 watts when the card dropped into 2D mode. The one thing to really set off this card would be an LED or two under the hood to light up the blue highlights on the heatsink cover to give the card a little more flash appeal for those that have a side panel window. Not a crucial item but really would go a long way towards giving it that real bling factor that the design hints at.
With the Sapphire HD 5850 Toxic 2GB OC Edition you have a card that comes equipped for the latest DirectX 11 games, supports Eyefinity technology and has a host of Hi-Def capabilities that makes it a sound overall choice for both gaming and entertainment purposes. Excellent cooling and great looks aside this card offers both increased gaming and cooling performance for a slight up charge. Hey you have to pay to play!
- Core Overclocking
- Vapor-X cooling
- Proprietary construction
- Good Looks
- DirectX 11
- Lower Power consumption
- Poor memory overclock
- No bling