The recent release of the ATI Cypress graphics processor (RV870) and the first Cypress-based graphics card Radeon HD 5870 has been more than successful. The new product has proved to be as fast as the dual-processor Radeon HD 4870 X2 (and even faster in some applications) but at lower noise, power consumption and price. It is far superior to Nvidia’s single-processor solutions, too. The shortage of cards and some flaws in the Catalyst driver have been but temporary difficulties that usually accompany each newly released graphics card.
There is one more, hidden, danger for the commercial success of the Radeon HD 5870, though. We mean its junior counterpart called Radeon HD 5850. Based on the same GPU with a few subunits turned off, this graphics card is priced $100 lower. We don’t know if the disabled subunits can be turned back on to get a full-featured RV870, but we can check out the difference between the HD 5850 and 5870 in terms of performance and see if the gap can be bridged by overclocking. It is also going to be interesting to learn the difference in power consumption, noise and consumer properties of these models and to compare them with Nvidia’s solutions. We will carry out all these tests in today’s review.
ATI Radeon HD 5850 Positioning, Price, Specs
The following diagram compares the official recommended prices of a few graphics cards. They are very close to the respective retail prices (except for the prices of Radeon HD 5850 and HD 5870).
As you can see, the GeForce GTX 285 is the only potential opponent to the Radeon HD 5850, being similar to the latter in price. The other cards are either much cheaper or much more expensive. A CrossFireX tandem of two Radeon HD 5850 would cost about $600 and there is no single graphics card or multi-GPU configuration with a similar price. The difference from the senior model is a substantial $100. So, the Radeon HD 5850 seems to have no opponents other than the GeForce GTX 285 but it is actually quite a dangerous rival to more expensive solutions as you will see shortly.
Now let’s take a look at the specs of these graphics cards: