PROS / Modern graphics card with the latest technologies.
CONS / It's the middleman of the 5800 series.
VERDICT / A capable graphics card for those that don't want to pay for the very elite.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from viewing as part of this site because it has been replaced by a new generation of graphics card. You can still read our original review below, but TopTenREVIEWS is no longer updating this product’s information.
There are always those that think they have to have the best of the best graphics cards and on top of that, they're overclocking and more. That's just for bragging rights. This is especially true when it comes to gaming. The reason is that game developers don’t want to limit their potential audience to only those with the top-of-the-line systems. Game developers try to hit in the middle so that mid- to high-end systems can run their games on the higher settings while older systems can still play on the lower graphics settings.
The ATI Radeon HD 5850 is still a high-end card but on the mid to lower end of that range. It should still be able to play most games at the high settings but before too long that may not be the case. If you are more concerned about API than brute-strength computing power, this is definitely a good consideration.
The main competition for this AMD card is probably Nvidia's mid range GTX 200 series. But for the GPU, it isn't really even a fight. The HD 5850 takes it in every way. It dominates in stream processors, transistors, TDP (max power) and GFLOP computing performance, but only wins by a small margin when it comes to core clock speed and fill rate.
The Radeon HD 5850 has over three times as many stream processors as the GTX 285. It has nearly double the transistors. That many transistors on a smaller Fab (fabrication process) add up to be a very significant difference. Tacking on an extra thousand GFLOPs to the computing performance, along with a lower energy consumption rate, you end up with the better deal.
To counter act the superior GPU performance, the GTX 285 comes back with an easy win in the video memory side of graphics cards. The HD 5850 does have GDDR5 going for it, but beyond that, it's out-performed in this area. The GeForce card has a slightly higher clock speed and wins by double when it comes to bus width. The AMD Radeon card has the same amount of memory but is also out-done in bandwidth. The video memory performance holds this card back from beating the GTX 285.
The 5800 series by AMD has one of the most versatile sets of ports for connecting your monitor(s). It has 2 dual-link DVI outputs that'll give you a 2560 x 1600 resolution. It also has a DisplayPort and HDMI output that will give you the same resolution. Many times, graphics cards will only have one or two of these three main outputs but these cards give you all three so that you theoretically don't have to worry about adapters to convert the outputs to what you need. The only time you should have to convert one is if you're running multiple HDMI or DisplayPort monitors. Also if you plan on using an older monitor that is still uses VGA (video graphics array) connections.
This graphics card has all the latest support for APIs, including DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4. As more content becomes available that utilizes these advanced APIs, this card will be a nice less expensive solution to getting one of the top-of-the-line expensive cards. It also comes with all of AMD's technologies like Stream, Avivo HD and Eyefinity. Although it is over-looked now due to all the talk about the higher end cards, the ATI Radeon HD 5850 will most likely become one of the most popular upgrades for the average gamers and video transcoders.