Review: Pre-overclocked gaming goodness
XFX was working hard to bring AMD cards to the market while waiting for Nvidia’s Fermi. They launched a bunch of AMD Direct X 11 cards starting from the smallest and cheapest HD 5450 which will costs you €35 all the way up to the currently priciest HD 5970, for the price of which you can get as many as fifteen HD 5450 cards. But, XFX is mainly known for their overclocking business, and they’re always among the first to jump aboard the overclocking train. XFX took only the creme of the crop Cypress LE chips and created its HD 5850 Black Edition series of cards. Of course, Black Edition naming scheme says that the card comes overclocked.
The HD 5850 Black Edition’s core is up from reference 725MHz to 765MHz, and the memory up from 1000MHz (effective 4000MHz) to 1125MHz (effective 4500MHz). So the card's GPU is some 5.5% faster than reference, whereas the memory is 12.5% faster than reference.
The HD 5850 is based on AMD's Cypress LE GPU running at 725MHz and has 1440 stream processors as opposed to 1600 stream processors on the Cypress XT GPU (HD 5870). Two of Cypress' SIMD engines are disabled, turning off 160 of its stream processors (or thread processors as AMD tends to call it), and eight of its texture units. The HD 5850's GPU sports 72 texture units but just like the HD 5870, it features 32 ROPs. Unlike the 5700 generation cards, which are powered via one 6-pin connector, the HD 5870 and HD 5850 require two 6-pin connectors. The HD 5850 use GDDR5 memory and has a 256-bit memory interface.
HD 5850 is positioned below the HD 5870 but promises to deliver a much better bang per buck as it is priced lower without sacrificing performance too much.
Each card form XFX gets XFX's 5-star support and the HD 5850 Black Edition puts an emphasis on the Assasin's Creed game. We told you here that XFX bundles Alien vs Predator with selected 5770, 5850 and 5870 cards but they will be available only through selected etailers across Europe.
The packaging is similar to the rest of XFX’s HD 5800 offer – small and sturdy. The box features an almost invisible Black Edition sign, which clearly show that the package holds one mean gaming machine.
You’ll notice a small Assassin’s creed picture on the front, meaning that XFX has got you covered for instant out-of-the-box gaming.
The back of the box shows XFX HD 5850 Black Edition basic features and lists other specs such as 1GB of GDDR5, HDMI and DisplayPort outs, ATI Eyefinity multi-monitor support, DirectX 11, ATI Stream technology, PCI Express 2.0, CrossfireX support, etc.
HD 5850 765M 1GB DDR5 DP HDMI DUAL DVI PCI-E, which is the card’s full name, comes in sturdy dual packaging. The smaller top package holds Assassin’s Creed game, driver CD, installation guide, quick installation guide, multi-language user guide, DVI-to-VGA adapter, 2x molex-to-6-pin cable adapter and a CrossFire bridge, XFX's "Don't Disturb I'm Gaming" door sign, and a neat XFX Black Edition metal badge. You can see what the package holds on the following picture.
Specifications and Features
Model Number HD-585A-ZNBA
Product Name XFX RADEON HD 5850 1GB DDR5 DISPLAYPORT PCI-E 2.0
*Chipset ATI Radeon HD 5850
*GPU Radeon HD 5850
*Bus Type PCI-E 2.0
*GPU Clock 765 MHz
*Stream Processing Units 1440
*Memory Bus 256-bits
*Memory Type DDR5
*Memory Size 1.0 GB
*Memory Speed 4.5 GHz
*Thermal Solution FANSINK
*Minimum Power Supply Requirement 500 Watt
*External Power Requirement two 6-pin power connectors
*TV Out NO
*Dual-Link Support YES
*Display Port 1
*Max Supported Resolution (DIGITAL) 2560 x 1600
*Max Supported Resolution (ANALOG) 2048 x 1536
*HDMI Ready YES
*HDCP Ready YES
*ATI CrossFireX Ready YES
*ATI Hypermemory NO
*ATI Eyefinity Technology YES
*Microsoft® DirectX® 11
*ATI Stream Technology YES
*ATI PowerPlay Technology YES
*ATI Hybrid Grahpics Technology NO
*Accelerated Physics Processing YES
*Accelerated Video Transcoding YES
*ATI Avivo HD YES
*Low Profile Compatible NO
*Double Profile YES
XFX's HD 5850 Black Edition card uses reference design, meaning it comes with dual slot cooling and XFX sticker on it. As we said before the card comes with overclocked GPU and memory. The GPU runs at 765MHz and the 1024MB of GDDR5 runs at 1125MHz.
The cooling is dual-slot and does a great job without making too much noise, as temperatures rarely exceed 82 degrees Celsius. The highest temperature we measured on the HD 5850 was 85 degrees Celsius, but those were measured in the most intensive tests.
Radeon HD 5850’s length is 9.5” or 24.1cm, which is significantly shorter than Radeon HD 5870 with its 11” or 28cm length.
The shorter PCB on the HD 5850 made it possible to place two six-pin power connectors at the end of the card whereas the HD 5870 has two top-mounted six-pin power connectors.
The card uses GDDR5 memory and we're talking about Samsung's K4G10325FE-HC04 memory rated at 0.40ns (5.0Gbps).
All the memory is located on the GPU side of the PCB, and unlike the pricier HD 5870, there's no backplate.
Appart from the option to chain up to three monitors on one card, the HD 5850 allows for using them as one monitor with a higher resolution spread across three monitors. The card comes with two dual-link DVI outs, one HDMI and one DisplayPort and they can be mixed for any combination of three digital outputs as long as one of the three outputs is DisplayPort. Otherwise you are limited to two DVI outputs or to one HDMI plus DVI output.
The XFX HD 5850 Black Edition requires two 6-pin power connectors. AMD uses power-saving tweaks that help the HD 5850 to draw only 27W in idle (just like the HD 5870) and up to 151W during more intensive 3D work (the HD 5870 needs up to 188W in 3D – because 3D clocks are higher and it has 160 stream processors more).
Motherboard: Elitegroup X58B-A (provided by Elitegroup);
Processor: Intel Core i7 Extreme 965 (provided by Intel);
Memory: 6GB Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24 (provided by Corsair);
HDD: WD VelociRaptor 300G 10,000RPM (provided by SmoothCreation);
Power Supply: CoolerMaster Ultimete 1100W (provided by Cooler Master);
Case: Obsidian 800D (provided by Corsair);
Fan Controler: Kaze Master Ace 5.25" (provided by Scythe);
Operating System: Win7 64-bit;
Driver: Catalyst 10.2 ; Forceware 196.34;
Futuremark shows that XFX’s HD 5850 Black Edition shows its real advantage over the reference card only in the most demanding tests. Standard Performance settings caused Black Edition to outrun the HD 5850 by only 3%; High settings increased the gap to 4% whereas Xtreme settings pushed it to 5%.
World in Conflict
World in Conflict sees the XFX HD 5850 Black Edition card outpacing the reference card by up to 6%, but the difference is again most evident when the GPU is working hard. It’s worth noting that XFX HD 5850 allows for pleasant World in Conflict gaming at all resolutions, including our highest tested resolution 2560x1600.
Dirt 2 is a DirectX 11 game and it’s one mean looking game, especially if you use Eyefinity, i.e. gaming on three monitors. Unfortunately, we don’t have three monitors to try out all that XFX HD 5850 Black Edition has to offer, but we can confirm that 2560x1600 will allow for pleasant gaming as the HD 5850 Black Edition scores almost 50 fps in such scenarios. Compared to the reference HD 5850, XFX Black Edition scores 6% better.
Just like in the rest of the games, Crysis reports the XFX HD 5850 Black Edition to be about 6% faster.
Far Cry 2
HD 5850 Black Edition proves that it packs a nice punch and runs only about 9% slower than the HD 5870 in Far Cry 2. Strapped with 1GB of fast GDDR5 memory, XFX HD 5850 Black Edition has no trouble dealing with high resolutions.
HAWX shows that the difference between XFX HD 5850 Black Edition and the reference HD 5850 is more evident in tests with antialiasing turned on. Like in the rest of the games, XFX HD 5850 Black Edition scores about 6% better than the reference HD 5850.
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead flies on HD 5800 generation cards and XFX HD 5850 Black Edition is no exception – it scores over 100 fps at 2560x1600.
XFX HD 5850 Black Edition comes pre-overclocked and as such will provide about 6% better gaming results than reference HD 5850 cards. If that isn’t enough for you, you can easily push the GPU up to 930MHz, which is maximum possible without voltage changes. Note that maximum possible overclock may vary from card to card.
XFX HD 5850 Black Edition card comes with overclocked GPU and memory. The GPU runs at 765MHz and the 1024MB of GDDR5 runs at 1125MHz.
We presumed that the HD 5850 Black Edition’s GPU is capable of breaking 1GHz and so we used MSI’s Afterburner to push GPU voltages to 1.225V. This allowed 1000MHz clock but the card didn’t run stable. We didn’t go much into making it run stable as 1GHz isn’t recommended for HD 5850 cards with air-cooling.
At 930MHz GPU and 1180MHz memory (4720MHz effectively), the card ran stable at default voltage and auto fan regulation. We managed to score about 12% better on top of already 6% higher results the HD 5850 Black Edition scored versus the reference HD 5850.
XFX HD 5850 Black Edition’s fan was pretty quiet in 2D, and while it got louder in 3D, it’s still not unbearable. We measured about 40°C in idle mode and about 82°C in 3D. After overclocking to 930MHz, the fan didn’t run louder but temperatures climbed up to 89°C.
The HD 5850 Black Edition consumes up to 24W more than reference when in 3D, but it’s as expected since both the GPU and memory come overclocked.
XFX HD 5850 Black Edition is a great DirectX 11 gaming card that comes factory overclocked and runs about 6% better than reference HD 5850 cards. With the card you’ll get a free Assassin’s Creed game, which although not the latest game to hit the market, should still prove to be a treat.
Although the card is overclocked, XFX decided against changing reference cooling. This was probably a wise move as thermals are very good and comparable to those on the reference card. The fan runs a bit louder in 3D than on the reference card, but it’s far from being too loud, and runs pretty quiet in 2D. Our Black Edition card consumed up to 24W more in 3D, but that’s to be expected from an overclocked card. The card’s GPU comes overclocked by 40MHz and the memory by 125MHz, but that wasn’t the maximum as we managed to push the GPU up to 930MHz without changing voltage or meddling with fan rpm.
For about €260, here, you’ll be treating yourself to the XFX HD 5850 Black Edition DirectX 11-ready gaming card with all the bells and whistles AMD’s techs bring. Nvidia is almost ready with its DirectX 11 hardware, which theoretically could affect HD 5800 pricing, but until we see fixed pricing this is just speculation. Either way, if you’re looking to buy yourself a gaming card, you can’t go wrong with XFX HD 5850 Black Edition card.