Sibling Rivalry - ATI Radeon HD 5850


Sibling Rivalry

Weaker, but Cheaper

The graphics war is looking more and more one-sided these days as ATI continues to pour out its latest Evergreen (Radeon 5000) series of cards. Just weeks after the range-topping Radeon HD 5870 and HD 5850, the dudes in red followed up with their mainstream offerings, the HD 5770 and HD 5750. NVIDIA, on the other hand, has only the scrawny budget-class GeForce GT 220 to show for in recent months and its next-generation Fermi (GT300) cards are still nowhere to be seen.

Today, we are going to take a look at the Radeon HD 5850, what should be ATI's second-fastest GPU ever. Launched alongside the stunningly quick Radeon HD 5870, the Radeon HD 5850 hasn't quite received the attention bestowed on its more powerful sibling has. Living in the shadows of the HD 5870, the HD 5850 is a diluted version of the range-topping HD 5870. It sports fewer stream processors and lower clock speeds, but at US$259, it also means that it's considerably cheaper.

In terms of specifications, while the HD 5870 has 1600 stream processors, 80 texture mapping units, the less powerful HD 5850 has to make do with 1440 stream processors, 72 texture mapping units. The HD 5850 also gets bumped down clock speeds, 725MHz at the core and 4000MHz DDR at the memory, compared to the HD 5870's 750MHz and 4800MHz DDR. Happily, raster operating units stays the same at 32, and the HD 5850 also gets the same 256-bit wide memory bus width, so that should compensate, if only somewhat, for the fewer stream processors and lower clock speeds.

Despite being a weaker variant of the Radeon HD 5870, the specifications of Radeon HD 5850 is still leaps and bounds ahead of ATI's last generation flagship, the Radeon HD 4890, and it should be interesting to see what kind of performance it'll give. Here's a quick look at how the HD 5850 stacks up against competitive SKUs.

The ATI Radeon HD 5850 Compared
Model ATI Radeon HD 5850 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB ATI Radeon HD 4890 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275 896MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260+ 896MB
Core Code Cypress Pro Cypress XT R700 RV790 GT200 GT200 GT200
Transistor Count 2150 million 2150 million 1912 million 965 million 1400 million 1400 million 1400 million
Manufacturing Process 40nm 40nm 55nm 55nm 55nm 55nm 65nm
Core Clock 725MHz 850MHz 750MHz 850MHz 648MHz 633MHz 576MHz
Stream Processors 1440 Stream Processing Units 1600 Stream Processing Units 1600 Stream Processing Units 800 Stream Processing Units 240 Stream Processors 240 Stream Processors 216 Stream Processors
Stream Processor Clock 725MHz 850MHz 750MHz 850MHz 1476MHz 1404MHz 1242MHz
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units 72 80 80 40 80 80 72
Raster Operator units (ROP) 32 32 32 16 32 28 28
Memory Clock 4000MHz GDDR5 4800MHz GDDR5 3600MHz GDDR5 3900MHz GDDR5 2484MHz GDDR3 2268MHz GDDR3 1998MHz GDDR3
DDR Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 512-bit 448-bit 448-bit
Memory Bandwidth 128GB/s 153.6GB/s 230GB/s 124.8GB/s 159GB/s 130.4GB/s 111.9GB/s
PCI Express Interface PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16
Molex Power Connectors 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin
Multi GPU Technology CrossFireX CrossFireX CrossFireX CrossFireX SLI SLI SLI
DVI Output Support 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link
HDCP Output Support Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Street Price Launch price: US$259 Launch price: US$379 ~US$360 ~US$200 ~US$350 ~US$230 ~US$200