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Radeon HD 5850: Knocking Down GTX 295 In CrossFire

The Lynnfield Element

Alright, so the gamers shopping for $259 video cards probably aren’t buying $1,000 Core i7-975s (though I still maintain a $279 Core i7-920 overclocked to 4 GHz isn’t out of the question). If you want value-oriented performance from a more affordable Intel-based platform, that means a Core i5/P55 or Core i7/P55 combination.

That also means dividing 16 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 between a pair of cards if you’re running in CrossFire mode. So, our goal here is two-fold.

First, how much effect do those two x8 links have on the performance of a high-performance configuration?  We’ll try to answer that one by overclocking a Core i7-870 to 4 GHz and running all of our benchmarks at 1920x1200 with the most demanding settings tested throughout this story. Any significant drops in performance would be indicative of a limitation attributable to the Lynnfield design’s on-die PCI Express controller.

Then, we’ll drop the clock on our i7-870 to 2.93 GHz (with Turbo Boost technology enabled) in order to gauge how a stock-clocked processor would affect gaming performance with two Radeon HD 5850s in CrossFire. By comparing those numbers to the overclocked results, we’ll have a better idea if a CrossFire’d 5850 configuration is overkill for an upper-midrange gaming system, or if you really need a higher-end CPU in order to keep up.

We see some minor variations here, but no performance drops greater than five percent. Given these results, it’d be hard to recommend against a P55 platform simply because of its PCI Express configuration.

Certain games we know are fairly CPU-dependent, like Left 4 Dead and to a lesser extent World in Conflict. It also appears that Resident Evil 5 has a penchant for processing power as we step down from our 4 GHz Core i7-870 to a stock-clocked 2.93 GHz chip. In the situations where the lower-clocked CPU gives up performance, though, you have lots of frame rate already. The most demanding workloads where playability is debatable could still use more GPU muscle.

  • duckmanx88
    another great article. can you guy add these to your 2009 charts please. and the new i5 and i7 cpu's too please! =)
    Reply
  • jj463rd
    Quote "ATI has two cards that are faster than its competitor’s quickest single-GPU board. My, how times have changed." LoL

    Yep I was looking at the Radeon 5850 especially CF'd for a build.
    The Radeon 5870's seem a bit pricey to me so I'd prefer 2 5850's.
    I can wait till they become available.
    Thanks for the great review very impressive on those scores of the 5850.
    Reply
  • coonday
    Ball's in your court now Nvidia. Time to stop whining and bring some competition to the table.
    Reply
  • Annisman
    Hi, very very good article, It's nice to see my two 5870's at the top of every chart destroying every game out there!

    I hope you guys will go into more details about how you run your benchmarks for games. When I compare my own results, sometimes I wonder if you are using ingame FRAPS results, or a benchmark tool such as Crysis to get your results, this is very important for me to know. Please dedicated a small portion of reviews to let us know exactly what part of the game you benched, and in what fashion, it will be very helpful. Also, it would be great to see exactly what settings were used in games. For example you state that you set GTA4 to the 'highest' settings, however without 2GB of Vram, the texture settings can only be set on Med. unless you are compromising in the view distance category or somewhere else. So maybe a screenshot of the settings you used should be included, I would like to see this become regular in Tom's video card reviews. Great article, and please conisder by requests.
    Reply
  • Kl2amer
    Solid review. Now we just have to wait for aftermarket coolers/designs to get them a quiter and even cooler.
    Reply
  • megamanx00
    Glad that 5850 is shorter, but I'll probably wait till Sapphire or Asus put out cards with a cooler better than the reference. Damn I want one now though :D.
    Reply
  • So its a Little faster than my 4850 x2?
    Reply
  • JohnnyLucky
    Another interesting article. I'm almost tempted to get a 5850. I'm just wondering how power consumption during Furmark which is a rigorous stress test compares to power consumption during gaming. Am I correct in assuming power consumption during a typical gaming session would be less? If I'm not mistaken ATI is recommending a 600 watt power supply with 40 amps on the 12 volt rail(s) for a system with two 5850's in Crossfire mode.
    Reply
  • cangelini
    annismanHi, very very good article, It's nice to see my two 5870's at the top of every chart destroying every game out there!I hope you guys will go into more details about how you run your benchmarks for games. When I compare my own results, sometimes I wonder if you are using ingame FRAPS results, or a benchmark tool such as Crysis to get your results, this is very important for me to know. Please dedicated a small portion of reviews to let us know exactly what part of the game you benched, and in what fashion, it will be very helpful. Also, it would be great to see exactly what settings were used in games. For example you state that you set GTA4 to the 'highest' settings, however without 2GB of Vram, the texture settings can only be set on Med. unless you are compromising in the view distance category or somewhere else. So maybe a screenshot of the settings you used should be included, I would like to see this become regular in Tom's video card reviews. Great article, and please conisder by requests.
    Usually try to include them on a page in the review. Anything more detailed you'd like, feel free to let me know and I'm happy to oblige!
    Reply
  • SchizoFrog
    It does seem that the 5850 is a great £200 card and definately the option to go for if you are buying today. I pride myself on getting good performance from great value and the test of this is to try and get my GPU to last 2 years and still be playing high end games. My current O/C 9600GT 512MB which cost me a huge £95 18 months ago, is doing just that right now. So, for a £200 DX11 GPU the 5850 is on its own and a great buy by default. However, and this is a big however! While Windows 7 will support DX11 and a few upcoming games will use a few visual effects based on DX11, nothing else does and certainly there are no true DX11 games and won't be for some time as nearly all games released these days are developed with the console market in mind. So I for one will wait. I will wait for nVidia to decide it is time to launch their DX11 GPU's. Either their GPU's will push them firmly back to the top or at least drive ATi's prices down.
    Reply