Review of Asus Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5 graphics card

A while ago, AMD released their last generation of graphics cards, the 5800 series. Asus is one of the top assemblers of AMD Radeon equipped cards so it’s a pleasure to review the Asus EAH5850 1GB DDR5 which promises to be a good alternative for overclockers.


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INTRODUCTION

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.


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The release of the HD 5800 series brought a couple of new technology innovations with it. The “ATI Eyefinity” is a technology which enables one single card to support up to 6 monitors. “ATI Stream” enables GPU accelerated calculations, OpenCL gives us parallel GPU-CPU processing. However, the most important update is the support for DirectX 11 which in itself incorporates full support of Windows 7. This time around, Microsoft promises that the update of the DirectX API means a direct increase of the ratio between the graphical quality and the use of system resources.


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AMD says their new GPU can achieve 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 mean less power consumption and heat development.



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Talking about the power consumption, AMD now promises that the max consumption will not exceed 190W in full load and in idle mode the card will not surpass 27W. If this is correct it would be a big improvement compared to their previous 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

ROPs

32

GPU speed

725MHz

Memory

1GB GDDR5

Memory speed

1000MHz (4Gbps)

Bus

256bits

Memory bandwidth

128GB/s

Cooling system

Reference, double slot

Video exits

D-Sub (adapter included)
2 DVI-I
HDMI
DisplayPort

Compatible with HDCP

Yes

Compatibility with CrossFireX

Yes

External power

2 x 6 pin PCIe

Maximum consumption

170W

Supported technologies

DirectX 11, DirectX 10.1, Shader Model 4.1, UVD 2, ATI Stream, ATI PowerPlay, ATI Eyefinity, ASUS Splendid, ASUS Gamer OSD, ASUS Smart Doctor, Voltage Tweak



Asus hasn’t added 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 potential 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 core.




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.


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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.


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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 power adapter (2 molex to 1 x 6 pin PCIe), a DVI-VGA adapter and a CrossFireX bridge.


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ASUS EAH5850 IN DETAIL

My first impression was that it really looks powerful with its red and black finish.


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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.


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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.


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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.



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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 components I used for this test:


Test equipment

Processor

AMD Phenom II x2 550@3.9GHz

Cooler

Zalman CNPS9900A LED

Motherboard

ASUS Crosshair III Formulates

Graphics card

ASUS EAH5850

Sound card

Integrated

Memory

Kingston HyperX DDR3 1333 2x2GB (7-7-7-21)

Hard disk

Samsung SP2504C (SATA II, 7200rmp, 8MB)

Power supply

Zalman ZM660-XT

Box

Cooler Master 690 cm PURE


Operating system and software

Operating system

Windows 7 64bits

System drivers

BIOS 0805
Catalyst 9.10
DirectX August 2009

Benchmarks

3D Mark 06
3D Mark Vantage
Furmark 1.7
Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Games

The Last Remnant
Tom Clancy´s Hawx
Street Fighter IV
They reside Evil V
Weak May Cry 4
Stalker Clear Sky
WEAPON 2
Officers’ Club of Revolutionary Armed Forces Cry 2
Crysis Warhead

Other software

CPU-Z 1.52
GPU-Z 0.4.5
OCCT 3.1



And here’s the screenshots of my configuration:


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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.




BENCHMARKING RESULTS

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I will not compare these results to the result I have received in previous 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 actually lower with DirectX 11 than with DirectX 10.



GAMING TESTS I


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It is interesting to note that the performance remains high even when adding filters. This is something that AMD has corrected from their previous series which really suffered when filters were added. Otherwise, same here; the performance is very good but I will not make any direct comparisons to previous reviews.



GAMING TESTS II


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The second batch of games includes more demanding games as usual. This test clearly shows that the EAH5850 has a lot of power under the hood and it was only in two games where the FPS rate didn’t hold 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 core and memories.


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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.



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The cooling system of the card is very effective. The fan is noisy at full power but mostly it didn’t bother me too much.


I measured the total power consumption of my system in idle mode and in full load, here are the results:



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Clearly the difference is enormous and it should be since AMD’s PowerPlay technology has drastically diminished the power consumption in 2D.



OVERCLOCKING RESULTS

OK, so here are the results from the overclocking tests:


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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 as well.




CONCLUSIONS

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 added 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.


Pros:

  • Bundle
  • General quality
  • Supported technologies
  • Adequate cooling solution
  • Overclocking abilities
  • Price


Cons:

  • None



ASUS EAH5850 (Radeon HD 5850)

Packaging and accessories

1.5/1.5

Quality and finished

1.5/1.5

Performance

2.75/3

Cooling and noise

2/2

Overclocking

1/1

Price

1/1

Total

9.75/10


The final score is 97.5 out of 100 owls, and we give the “Asus EAH5850 1GB GDDR5″ our Editor’s Choice Award.

 



TestSeek Labs Editor's Choice 2009 Award

 

 

Thanks goes out to Asus for letting me review this card.

 

Check out alternatives of the Radeon 5800 series at testseek.com

 


Author: Manuel González Fernández

Translator: Vince Emiloz Sanderson


  1. Mr Oent
    December 10th, 2009 at 03:43 | #1

    That good,.. My ques tion why you wont try to unlock your 550 BE. it will increase all perfomance slightly.

    Ihave my 550 BE see link below…
    http://valid.canardpc.com/show_oc.php?id=874941

    by the way I use my old 7900GS due waiting my 5850.

  2. Davy
    December 10th, 2009 at 11:10 | #2

    Wow!

    Nice review!

    Thank you very much!

    A+

  3. Manuel González
    December 23rd, 2009 at 07:09 | #3

    Mr Oent :
    That good,.. My ques tion why you wont try to unlock your 550 BE. it will increase all perfomance slightly.
    Ihave my 550 BE see link below…
    http://valid.canardpc.com/show_oc.php?id=874941
    by the way I use my old 7900GS due waiting my 5850.

    Hi guys!

    The problem it´s that we can´t unlock our CPU (I´ve tried with 4 boards), but we can get near 4GHz, so, it´s not bad at all.

    Bye!

  4. spacebulate03
    January 7th, 2010 at 14:50 | #4

    the results in warhead are better at stock settings than when overclocked

  5. Mats Vidar
    January 19th, 2010 at 14:14 | #5

    Please reply to my Email: sirjohnsen@live.com

    Question:
    Is this a good card for these days gaming?
    And i am also looking to edit HD clips. I know it takes more from the prossesor and ram.
    Just to be on the safe side. I can allways update later.
    Just wondering if this will do good at World Of Warcraft/ CS / CSS / GTA IV/
    And these days games :)

  6. james
    January 31st, 2010 at 02:33 | #6

    Packaging and accessories
    u give it 1.5 out of 1.5 yet u said u wernt happy with what u got ?
    i will have card deliverd on tuesday hook it up to my maximus mb q9650 cpu have rog overclocking station set-up to see how fast i can get my system running..ty for review

  7. Manuel González
    February 6th, 2010 at 14:07 | #7

    @Mats Vidar

    Yes Mats, this is an excellent card for gaming. It will bring you an excellent gaming experience in all the new games.

    Bye

  8. Enza
    March 2nd, 2010 at 00:33 | #8

    does this card(ASUS EAH5850 (Radeon HD 5850)) have water coolant suppor with the stock heat sink…have been trying to find a high end GPU with water support…hope you guys could help…

  9. Goh
    March 12th, 2010 at 18:33 | #9

    is this card better or a sapphire 5850 is better?
    thanks in advance.

  1. June 29th, 2011 at 04:07 | #1
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