Although a couple of years old at this point in time it wasn't that long ago when ATI/AMD's Radeon 5850 was the second most advanced card on the market, behind the Radeon 5870. With both AMD and nVidia having launched higher specification cards for the highly competitive PC graphics market, one could be fooled into believing that the 5850 no longer has anything to offer but they would be wrong.
With the price having dropped significantly from when it was first released, as AMD look to push their more advanced 6000-series line, this has now become an affordable option for those who want good gaming performance on even the most modern titles.
Out of the box, the factory default memory and core speed settings are more than adequate to run the majority of games on maximum settings without framerate issues. Games such as Bioshock 2 , F.E.A.R. 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2/3 and Company of Heroes all run perfectly on maximum settings with framerates holding steady at a more than comfortable 35+ and although Crysis and Grand Theft Auto IV cannot reach their full potential on this card, the results are still good, with a solid 30+ FPS on medium to high settings for both games.
The 5850 supports AMD's "Eyefinity" technology, allowing a single application to be spread across multiple monitors for an even wider "widescreen" appearance, although anybody limited on desk space wouldn't be considering this. Regular multiple-monitor use is also supported.
The card can become hot and adequate cooling is essential. The fan can also become somewhat noisy during graphically intense games and overclocking the core and memory speeds is only recommended with an aftermarket cooler setup and, of course, only recommended for those who are confident in their abilities. Software is included that allows the card to be overclocked from the factory default settings, as well as alter the fan speeds.
For those who have space considerations inside their case, the card is approximately 10.5" in length, which means that it will require a relatively large case. Mine sits in a Coolermaster CM690 with just enough room for connecting the cables and leaving the card secure. It should be fine for most full tower cases but those running small form factor cases may wish to measure the available space before they consider purchasing the card.
The main consideration is that this card is now a couple of years old and the market will only get more advanced from here. Although the slow turnaround towards the next generation of consoles has also slowed the PC gaming market in graphical terms due to developers not wanting to create too many games that the decade-old technology in consoles cannot run, it is worth bearing in mind that rumours of a next-generation Xbox in 2012/13 are around and as a long-term purchase, the Radeon 5850 will show its age sooner rather than later if these rumours are true. If you're looking for a long term investment you will be better served looking towards a 6000 series Radeon but if you're looking for a relatively cheap card for the next year to eighteen months then the 5850 should serve you well.
This AMD graphics card was released in September of 2009, and as of currently is only a few months old, which although seems like a relatively short period, graphics chips can take large leaps in terms of processing speed and power in that time. Luckily, the Radeon HD 5850 manages to keep up.
The card runs on a main processor carrying a hefty 725MhZ processor, which although not being the fastest out there, still provides some pretty fast gaming capabilities. The chips substantial one gigabyte video memory is handled by a separate processor running at an even faster 1Ghz, or 1000MhZ. This means that in-game textures should load fast and be consistent, keeping glitches to a very, very rare minimum.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 lives up to its name, providing both HD rendering capabilities, and also two different HD-out ports. (HDMI and DVI.) The card also supports DirectX 11, the next incarnation of microsofts DirectX technology.
Requiring 500W of power to keep the card running, overall this chip provides decent processing power and speed, but the price tag does seem overly high, and you cannot help thinking that you can get comparable nVidia chips for almost half the price.
This is the card I upgraded to when i got shot of my Nvidia 9600GT 1GB and what can I say - its fantastic, if you want the spec im sure you can search Google, what Im here to give you is my opinion, but its changed my world of Gaming into a whole new experience. Also knowing I have Crossfire technology at my hands means I can buy another one at anytime and increasing gaming potential.
Here are a couple of downsides:
The card although only slots into one PCI slot, it will render two of them as unuseable because of how chunky the card is and of its ports.
It is also a very large card so if you have a small or micro case, forget about it, I have a Large case and there's not much room to spare with this thing in it, however the Radeon HD 5870 card i believe is bigger.
The card has two DVI ports, one HDMI and one HDCP which all to do with HD compatibility I think, but this is another research point I have to do.
The card produces amazing framerates, my PC scored a whopping 14075 on the 3DMark Vantage test from futuremark which comes up near the higher end of the performance list. It currently comes second fastest on the list of video card benchmarks 1st place going to the HD5870 (Which by the way is over £100 more expensive) this card cost me £275 installed on my PC. The only things running faster are the SLI and Crossifire with people running 2, 3 and even 4 graphics cards on one PC.
Also a bonus is that you can run up to 3 Monitors from this card making for a massive display.
I love this video card and Im considering buying a second!