Review of Asus Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 Graphics Card
As usual when a new generation of graphics cards are is released, the first cards out on the market are the high end cards. In this case the HD 5870 and HD 5850. Later these have been followed by the 5770 and 5750 and we will soon see some lower end versions coming out too.
The release of the HD 5800 series brought a associate of new technology innovations with it. The “ATI Eyefinity” is a technology which enables one single card to sustain up to 6 monitors. “ATI Stream” enables GPU accelerated calculations, OpenCL gives us similar GPU-CPU processing. However, the most important update is the sustain for DirectX 11 which in itself incorporates complete sustain of Windows 7. This time around, Microsoft promises that the update of the DirectX API method a direct increase of the ratio between the graphical quality and the use of system resources.
AMD says their new GPU can unprotected to 2.7 TFLOPS, which really doesn’t say much about what the GPU performs like in real world (gaming) situations, but it does tell us that it is truly a very powerful data processor. The manufacturing technology is now down to 40nm, which should average less strength consumption and heat development.
Talking about the strength consumption, AMD now promises that the max consumption will not go beyond 190W in complete load and in idle mode the card will not surpass 27W. If this is correct it would be a big improvement compared to their past generation of cards.
ASUS EAH5850 SPECIFICATIONS
OK, enough rambling about all the new technologies and promises of the new AMD series, here are the hard facts of the Asus HD 5850 card:
ASUS EAH5850 (Radeon HD 5850)
GPU Radeon HD 5850
Manufacturing technology 40nm
Stream processors 1440
Texture units 72
GPU speed 725MHz
Memory 1GB GDDR5
Memory speed 1000MHz (4Gbps)
Memory bandwidth 128GB/s
Cooling system Reference, double slot
Video exits D-Sub (adapter included)
Compatible with HDCP Yes
Compatibility with CrossFireX Yes
External strength 2 x 6 pin PCIe
Maximum consumption 170W
Supported technologies DirectX 11, DirectX 10.1, Shader form 4.1, UVD 2, ATI Stream, ATI PowerPlay, ATI Eyefinity, ASUS Splendid, ASUS Gamer OSD, ASUS Smart Doctor, Voltage Tweak
Asus hasn’t additional any physical alternations on this card; it is basically Asus’ version of the generic AMD 5850. However Asus has a series of software tools which help us overclockers to reach the maximum possible of this card; the “Gamer OSD” and “Smart Doctor”. This last application will be most useful since it allows us to play with the voltage of the chief.
ASUS EAH5850, FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The card comes in a nice looking card board box with loads of aggressive printing on it. As is customary with graphics cards, ASUS pushes a lot on the overclocking tools. Also, the bundle (EAH5850/2DIS/1GD5) includes the game DIRT 2. When I opened the box, I almost got a little Apple feeling for a moment when I saw the black cover with the Asus logo in gold. Underneath the cover I found two boxes. The bigger box contained the graphics card itself, enfolded by a standard anti static plastic bag and protected by a white foam plastic material. The other box contained the accessories.
Except for the DIRT 2 game (digital download, no DVD), I wasn’t overly impressed by the accessories; CDs with drivers and applications; a printed manual; a strength adapter (2 molex to 1 x 6 pin PCIe), a DVI-VGA adapter and a CrossFireX bridge.
ASUS EAH5850 IN DETAIL
My first impression was that it really looks powerful with its red and black finish. The card faithfully follows the AMD reference card in all aspects. This is a big card, the length is 240 mm and it takes up two slots. The fan is a 70mm and I hope it will not bee too noisy, but looking at the rather small air exhaust in the back of card, I don’t feel overly positive.
The front of the card holds two 6 pin PCIe connectors which would theoretically provide 150W to the card. Although I wanted to take the cooler off and have a closer look at the PCB I decided to let go of that intention since I would have to loosen a multitude of screws and it was impossible to remove only the housing without also clearing the cooler itself, which felt a little too risky. A great thing about AMDs new cards is their connectivity. They include two DVI-I, a HDMI and a DisplayPort. With the ATI Eyefinity technology, it is possible to use 3 monitors simultaneously with this card, not bad.
MY TEST SYSTEM
OK, so here comes the list of the hardware elements I used for this test:
Processor AMD Phenom II x2 [email protected]
Cooler Zalman CNPS9900A LED
Motherboard ASUS Crosshair III Formulates
Graphics card ASUS EAH5850
Sound card Integrated
Memory Kingston HyperX DDR3 1333 2×2GB (7-7-7-21)
Hard disk Samsung SP2504C (SATA II, 7200rmp, 8MB)
strength supply Zalman ZM660-XT
Box Cooler Master 690 cm PURE
Operating system and software
Operating system Windows 7 64bits
System drivers BIOS 0805
DirectX August 2009
Benchmarks 3D Mark 06
3D Mark Vantage
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Games The Last Remnant
Tom Clancy´s Hawx
Street Fighter IV
They reside Evil V
ineffective May Cry 4
Stalker Clear Sky
Officers’ Club of Revolutionary Armed Forces Cry 2
Other software CPU-Z 1.52
And here’s the screenshots of my configuration:
The main changes in my test setup are that I have included the benchmark software “Unigine Heaven” and removed Lightsmark 2008. The main reason for this is that it enables me to compare the difference in performance between DirectX 10 and DirectX 11.
I will not compare these results to the consequence I have received in past graphics cards reviews since my test system has been updated. I was very interested in what the performance comparison between DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 would produce. As you can see from the graphs above the results were opposite of what I had expected, the performance was truly lower with DirectX 11 than with DirectX 10.
GAMING TESTS I
It is interesting to observe that the performance remains high already when adding filters. This is something that AMD has corrected from their past series which really suffered when filters were additional. Otherwise, same here; the performance is very good but I will not make any direct comparisons to past reviews.
GAMING TESTS II
The second batch of games includes more demanding games as usual. This test clearly shows that the EAH5850 has a lot of strength under the hood and it was only in two games where the FPS rate didn’t keep up steady above 30 FPS with the highest possible settings.
OVERCLOCKING, REFRIGERATION AND CONSUMPTION
On the packaging, Asus emphasized the “Voltage Tweaking” which is done with the Asus Smart Doctor software which also lets us modify the frequencies of both the chief and memories.
It’s a dream to work with Asus’ tool for overclocking the card and it is impressive just how far this card can be clocked.
The cooling system of the card is very effective. The fan is noisy at complete strength but mostly it didn’t bother me too much.
I measured the total strength consumption of my system in idle mode and in complete load, here are the results:
Clearly the difference is enormous and it should be since AMD’s PowerPlay technology has drastically reduced the strength consumption in 2D.
OK, so here are the results from the overclocking tests:
The increase in the 3D Mark Vantage was truly impressive and this is also confirmed by the increase of 6 FPS in Far Cry 2 and the increase is there with filters enabled in addition.
I must first praise AMD for the work they have done with this card. It is both energy efficient and a high performer, very impressive. Asus has taken AMDs reference design and additional a lot of value to it with their smart technologies and software tools. The main advantage with this Asus card is of course its overclocking abilities which are nothing short of fantastic. ASUS EAH5850 is already on sale at a price that oscillates between the $270 and $300, which is very competitive given its performance, overclocking abilities and the fact that it includes DIRT 2.