Summing up today’s test session, we have to admit that the Radeon HD 5850 is going to be the only real opponent to the Radeon HD 5870 until the arrival of the next generation of graphics cards from Nvidia. In fact, it is such a dangerous opponent that purchasing the top RV870-based model may not seem reasonable. To remind you, the difference in price between the Radeon HD 5870 and HD 5850 is $100 (or 25% of the price of the HD 5870) but the actual difference between the two cards is vanishing quickly as soon as you overclock your Radeon HD 5850 to the frequencies of the HD 5870. Can any Radeon HD 5850 be overclocked to 850/4800MHz? We guess it is almost 99.9% probability as long as all these cards use the reference design and are equipped with the same GPUs and memory chips. The option of increasing the GPU voltage from software (if your particular card cannot overclock at the default voltage) is already available.
As a matter of fact, we have not found any flaws in the Radeon HD 5850. The graphic card delivers high performance, has excellent overclocking potential, and comes with a very effective and low-noise cooler. Besides, the Radeon HD 5850 is highly power-efficient and 38 millimeters shorter than the Radeon HD 5870 and thus can fit into more system cases. Its DirectX 11 support is a nice bonus, too, even though there are few DirectX 11 games available as yet. There are still some problems with drivers (you can recall Lost Planet and Left 4 Dead) but that’s normal for new products from both ATI and Nvidia. The only thing this Radeon lacks is PhysX (and we don’t think the Radeon series will ever acquire it considering that Nvidia does not want to lose the advantage its solutions have in PhysX-supporting games), but anyway – bravo, ATI!
Our exploration of ATI’s new series will continue. We are going to publish a review of CrossFire configurations based on Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 and a special report on how much the Radeon HD 5870’s performance depends on the computer’s CPU. Stay tuned!