Radeon HD 5850 - Serious Bite For $259

ATI Radeon HD 5870 Video Card Front

Last week AMD launched of a pair of the first DirectX 11 graphics cards, the ATI Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850! We wrote up a full review on the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card at that time, but the Radeon HD 5850 was not exactly shipping yet.  It appears that AMD has started volume shipping of the Radeon HD 5870 and that the first shipments of the Radeon HD 5850 have finally made it from the factory to retailers around the world. At $379 the AMD Radeon HD 5870 might be the fastest single graphics card that we have ever tested, but it does cost more than what most consumers are willing to spend.

ATI Radeon HD 5870 Video Card Front

The Radeon HD 5850 looks very similar to the Radeon HD 5870 as both cards use basically the same core logic, but they differ in the fact that the Radeon HD 5850 costs just $259. Not a bad price considering the Radeon HD 5850 has a compute power rating of 2.09 TFLOPS, a frame buffer of 1GB and supports up to three monitors at a resolution of 2560 x 1600!

ATI Radeon HD 5870 Video Card Front

So, what will $259 buy you? Well for starters you will have $120 more in your pocket. Other than that you will have a Radeon HD 5800 series graphics card that has just 18 SIMD engines (2 fewer than the Radeon HD 5870) that operate at lower clock frequencies. The 1440 stream processors on the Radeon HD 5850 operate at a core clock frequency of 725MHz. The 1GB of GDDR5 memory is operating at 1000MHz rather than 1200MHz, so the memory bandwidth is lower. Sure the card is less powerful, but that means it will have lower load temperatures as well as 37 Watts lower power consumption at load.  Since both the Radeon HD 5850 and the Radeon HD 5870 have the same numbers of transistors and are based off the same GPU core architecture the idle board power and temperatures should remain the same. 

The Radeon HD 5850

ATI Radeon HD 5870 Video Card Front

The card that we will be showing you today is the reference Radeon HD 5850, which is a dual-slot graphics card that measures in at 9.5" in length.

ATI Radeon HD 5870 Video Card Back

The back of the Radeon HD 5850 is pretty bare and boring as you can see from the image above.

ATI Radeon HD 5870 Video Card

The Radeon HD 5850 does look good and has what looks to be the same factory cooling solution on it that he Radeon HD 5870 has as well.  It will be interesting to test and see how well it really does cool.

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card

The Radeon HD 5850 supports ATI CrossFire technology thanks to the interconnects located on the top of the card. On the right motherboard you will be able to run up to four of these graphics cards from CrossFire X. This review will show the performance of a single and dual-GPU setup as we have two reference cards.

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card

The Radeon HD 5850 video card has a pair of dual-link DVI outputs along with DisplayPort and HDMI outputs. All of the hot air from the cooling fan exhausts out the small vent hole on the back of the card and the little slots just in front of the CrossFire interconnects.

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card 6-pin PCIe Power Connectors

The ATI Radeon HD 5850 has two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors on it and both are required for operation. A 500W or larger power supply is recommended by AMD and a list of suggested power supply units can be found here. The air intakes on the end of the card don't do too much from what we have been told by the AMD engineers (less than 10% of the air intake), but they do add some flare to the card. 

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card 6-pin PCIe Power Connectors

The ATI Radeon HD 5870 measures over 11 inches in length, which makes it one of the largest graphics cards that we have ever reviewed.  The Radeon HD 5850 PCB measures 9.5" and is obviously the smaller of the two Radeon 5800 series cards in the image above.

The Test System

All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit with all the latest updates installed. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. The Corsair DOMINATOR memory modules were run in triple-channel mode at 1866MHz with 8-8-8-24 timings. The NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards were benchmarked with Forceware 191.03 drivers; the ATI Radeon HD graphics cards were tested with 9.9 CATALYST drivers. The ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 motherboard was run using BIOS 0610 with the processor running stock settings.

Windows 7 Drivers Used:
Intel Chipset Inf Update Program V9.1.1.1014
SoundMAX 2000B Audio Driver V6.10.2.6585 for Windows 64bit Windows 7.(WHQL)
Marvell Yukon Gigabit Ethernet Driver V11.10.5.3 for 32/64bit Windows 7.(WHQL)

The Test System

Here is the Intel LGA 1366 Test platform:

Intel Test Platform






Live Pricing



Intel Core i7 975



ASUS P6T Deluxe V2



6GB Corsair DDR3 1866MHz


Video Card


See Below


Hard Drive


Western Digital VelociRaptor




Intel Reference


Power Supply


Cooler Master 1000W




None (Open Bench)


Operating System


Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit

GPU-Z 0.3.5 Details:

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Reference Card:

ATI Radeon HD 5850 GPU-Z


Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an action-adventure stealth video game based on DC Comics' Batman for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. It was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Eidos Interactive in conjunction with Warner Bros.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

For our testing we set everything as high as it would go, except for Physx and NVIDIA Multi Sample Anti-Aliasing.

Batman: Arkham Asylum Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The Radeon HD 5850 is ~19% slower than the Radeon HD 5870, but still dominates the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 in this benchmark. With the Radeon HD 5850 running in CrossFire mode it was able to beat out a pair of GeForce GTX 275 graphics cards and a GeForce GTX 295. It should be noted that even with PhyX turned OFF in Batman: Arkham Asylum a performance loss is seen on the NVIDIA SLI enabled cards.  We disabled PhysX in the NVIDIA Control Panel before entering the game and the performance nearly doubled in this benchmark. We ran the SLI enabled NVIDIA cards with PhysX enabled and disabled in the control panel to show you the performance gap, but keep in mind that PhysX was always disabled during game testing Batman: Arkham Asylum in order for the benchmark numbers to be more apple to apple.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Call of Juarez 2: Bound in Blood

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is a Western themed first-person shooter video game. Developed by Techland and published by Ubisoft, it is a prequel to Call of Juarez that debuted in 2006 on PC.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

All of the in game settings were set to their highest possible settings.

Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Benchmark Results: Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood is an interesting game; AMD cards usually run fastest on it when it is just one GPU, but we saw some issue with CrossFire not scaling. Regardless, the Radeon HD 5850 is measurably faster than the GeForce GTX 285, though both are easily powerful enough to run this game well over what would be considered unplayable.

Need For Speed: Shift‎

Need for Speed: Shift

Need for Speed: Shift is the 13th installment of the long-running racing video game franchise Need for Speed published by Electronic Arts. The game features 72 fully-licensed cars, ranging from classic cars to modern sport cars. The game was in development for two years before it was released and the graphics look great.

Need for Speed: Shift

All in game settings were set to their maximum. We used 8xAA for all of our performance tests in Need for Speed: Shift.

Need for Speed: Shift Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 didn't do too hot on Need For Speed: Shift, so we didn't bother to include the other SLI or CrossFire configurations as they weren't scaling correctly. The game is very new, so it is likely that some driver improvements need to be made to these multi-GPU graphics cards.  The ATI Radeon HD 5850 is just behind the Radeon HD 5870 in terms of performance and about 10FPS ahead of the GeForce GTX 285.

Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. Resident Evil 5 features similar gameplay to Resident Evil 4, with context-sensitive controls and dynamic cut scenes also making a return. The player can control Chris Redfield or Sheva Alomar in a similar fashion to Leon S. Kennedy in Resident Evil 4, with the same over-the-shoulder perspective.

Resident Evil 5

All in game settings were set to their maximum. We used 8xAA for all of our performance tests in Resident Evil 5.

Resident Evil 5 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: It's pretty obvious that Resident Evil 5 loves dual GPU's. Both the GeForce GTX 295 and Radeon HD 4870X2 are able to outperform a single Radeon HD 5870. A pair of 5870's and 5850's in CrossFire blaze through this game; when compared to the next closest competitor at 1920x1200, the GeForce GTX 295, they easily pull ahead. The ATI Radeon HD 5850 was trading blows with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285, but keep in mind that is a $269.99 video card as well.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. (High Altitude Warfare eXperimental squadron) is an aerial warfare video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows. It was released in United States on March 6, 2009 and features Microsoft DirectX 10.1 game play.

Tom Clancy HAWX

I used this benchmark back in April 2009 in my original coverage of the GeForce 275 versus the Radeon HD 4890, but some new patches have come out that have greatly impacted performance. I also didn't show the differences between DX9, DX10 and DX10.1 the first time around, but this time I will.

Tom Clancy HAWX

For this game VSync was turned off, but Antialiasing was turned on and set to 8x for better image quality.

Tom Clancy HAWX

All of the DirectX 10 options were set to high including Ambient occlusion (SSAO) on both the NVIDIA and ATI graphics cards.  The game was patched with update v1.2, which was the most current patch.

Tom Clancy HAWX Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: HAWX is another game that shines with more than two GPU's in the system. At 1920x1200, the single Radeon HD 5870 is behind the GeForce GTX 295 by less than 5% and Radeon HD 4870X2 by about 10%. 5870 CrossFire on the other hand is nearly 35% faster than the 4870X2 and 41% faster than GTX 295! The Radeon HD 5850 was significantly faster than the Radeon HD 4890 and GeForce GTX 285 video cards.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

3DMark Vantage

The Extreme settings were used for testing, so a resolution of 1920x1200 was used.

3DMark Vantage Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: In 3D Mark Vantage we see the dual GPU's of the GeForce GTX 295 and the Radeon HD 4870X2 pull out a narrow victory over the single Radeon HD 5850. With an overall score of X6657 the Radeon HD 5850 does very well in this benchmark. In CrossFire mode the Radeon HD 5850 turns into a monster and was even able to beat out a pair of GeForce GTX 275 cards in SLI.

FurMark 1.7.0

FurMark is a very intensive OpenGL benchmark that uses fur rendering algorithms to measure the performance of the graphics card. Fur rendering is especially adapted to overheat the GPU and that's why FurMark is also a perfect stability and stress test tool (also called GPU burner) for the graphics card.

FurMark 1.7.0

The benchmark was rendered in fullscreen mode with no AA enabled on both video cards.

Furmark Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: FurMark gives us some interesting results. Neither CrossFire nor SLI systems scale, so this benchmark is really only good for looking at the single GPU cards. The ATI Radeon HD 5850 was ~22% slower than the Radeon HD 5870 as seen in this benchmark.

Temperature Testing

Since video card temperatures and the heat generated by next-generation cards have become an area of concern among enthusiasts and gamers, we want to take a closer look at how the Radeon HD 5800 series does at idle and under a full load.

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Idle Temperature:

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Idle Temperature Testing Results

At idle the Radeon HD 5850 had an idle temperature of 38C, which is identical to the Radeon HD 5870's observed idle of 38C.  When we first looked at the Radeon HD 4870 in June 2008 we found that it had an idle temperature of 74C.  As you can see from the screen shot above, the idle state of the Radeon HD 5850 drops the GPU frequency down to just 157 MHz and the memory down to 300 MHz to help conserve power and lower temperatures. The idle states appear to be the same between the two cards, so the slight temperature difference is likely due to one GPU being less 'leaky' than another. AMD has nailed idle temperatures on this series from the looks of it.

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Load Temperature:

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Load Temperature Testing Results

We fired up FurMark and ran the stability at 1280x1024, which was enough to put the GPU at 100% load in order to get the highest load temperature possible. This application also charted the temperature results so you can see how the temperature rises and levels off, which is very nice. The ATI Radeon HD 5850 maxed out at 75C, but fluctuated between 73C-75C once it leveled out. The fan on the ATI Radeon HD 5850 video card was left on auto during temperature testing. The fan never got over 35% during testing, so manually increasing the fan speed in CATALYST Control Center would help lower the temperature some more if you don't mind the extra noise. Our testing shows that the max load temperature on the Radeon HD 5850 was 10C cooler than that of the Radeon HD 5870!

Power Consumption

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Seasonic Power Angel. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.7.0 at 1920x1200 resolution.

Total System Power Consumption Results

Power Consumption Results: In the last few years, power consumption is something that has become an important part of the overall package of a graphics card. AMD and NVIDIA have both taken steps to improve idle power consumption to keep power bills low since that's where most graphics cards spend their time. It's also important to remember that less power means less heat. AMD has hit a home run here with the Radeon HD 5870/5850; coming in with the lowest idle consumption of all the cards that we tested. What's more is the idle power of 5870/5850 in CrossFire, drawing less power than a single HD 4890 and just 18-20W more than a single GeForce GTX 285. In CrossFire, the Radeon HD 5850 system approaches 500W under full load, which is 100W less than the Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire setup. Keep in mind that the less GPU bottlenecked that the system is, the harder the CPU will work, thus increasing power consumption by the CPU. In simple terms, not all of the additional consumed power is going to the graphics card.


ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card Overclocking

To overclock the ATI Radeon HD 5850 graphics card, we used the ATI Overdrive utility that is part of the CATALYST Control Center. When you 'unlock' the ATI Overdrive, you can manually set the clock and memory settings or let the 'auto-tune' utility set the frequencies for you.

ATI Radeon HD 5870 OC Video Card Overclocking

Just for fun, we tried out the auto-tune feature to see if it could really find a stable clock configuration, and it worked in just a few minutes and did not lock up the system. This utility determines the highest core and memory clock frequency that is stable and shows you what the GPU temperature is and how much load the GPU is under during testing. We started out at the default settings of 725MHz on the core and 1000MHz on the memory, but was able to reach 775MHz on the core and 1125MHz on the GDDR5 memory. This is a 50MHz overclock on the core and a 125MHz boost on the GDDR5 memory ICs.

To test out the overclock we fired up 3DMark Vantage and manually set the fans at 100% just to be sure heat wasn't an issue when benchmarking at this overclock. 

The ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card Stock 725MHz/1000MHz:

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card Overclocking

The ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card Overclocked 775MHz/1125MHz:

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card Overclocking

Running 3DMark Vantage with the Extreme preset we got a score of X6657.  The score went up X7110 3DMarks when overclocked, which was an improvement of 453 3DMarks or 6.8% with this mild overclock.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card 6-pin PCIe Power Connectors

In our previous review on the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card we showed you that the Radeon HD 5800 series appears to live up to the hype and is the real deal when it comes to performance on DirectX 9/10/10.1 game titles. We can only hope that it also performs just as well on DirectX 11 game titles as the Radeon 5800 series is something that anyone upgrading to Windows 7 should be looking into.

The ATI Radeon HD 5850 that we highlighted here today might be smaller and cost less than the Radeon HD 5870, but that doesn't mean that it isn't still a great gaming graphics card. The 1440 stream processors operating at a core clock frequency of 725MHz are still more than enough horse power to play all the latest game titles.  The Radeon HD 5850 will be the DirectX 11 card to have for overclockers looking for the biggest bang for the buck. 

Since the Radeon HD 5850 PCB is only 9.5" in length and the load temperatures have gone down, the Radeon HD 5850 is something that would work great in a mid-tower system as it should fit and not cook everything else inside the chassis. Far too often people try stuffing massive amounts of hardware into smaller cases only to find out that heat and noise becomes an issue. From just a size perspective alone you can tell that this card is aimed at the mainstream market.

When it comes to the performance of the Radeon HD 5850 we found it to be 15-25% slower than the Radeon HD 5870 in the vast majority of the benchmarks. It was also faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 graphics card, which is currently NVIDIA's flagship single GPU video card!  If we had to suggest a screen resolution size to go with the Radeon HD 5850 it would have to be 1680 x 1050 and under if you like to turn all the eye candy on. Sure, the majority of the benchmarks that we ran here today showed that the Radeon HD 5850 was able to run above 60FPS at 1920 x 1200 with 8xAA enabled, but we would like to plan for the future. With DirectX 11 game titles coming out soon a Radeon HD 5870 would be the better choice for gamers with monitors greater than 24" and screen resolutions in the 1920 x 1200 and beyond range.

The Radeon HD 5800 series has proved to be one for the record books and they haven't even been out for two weeks yet! Both cards support Microsoft DirectX 11, ATI Eyefinity & Stream Technologies and are basically the same GPU core. The ATI Radeon HD 5850 will cost $259.99, which is $120 less than the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card. AMD told Legit Reviews that we can expect the first volume shipments of the Radeon HD 5850 on September 28th, so by the time you are reading this you should be able to purchase the cards!

Legit Reviews Value Award

Legit Bottom Line: The ATI Radeon HD 5850 is 15-25% slower than the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card, but it also is priced 32% less right off the bat.  That, my friends, makes it a price versus performance winner!