AMD’s Radeon HD 5850: The Other Shoe Drops


For those of you looking for the above and a repeat of the RV770/GT200 launch where prices will go into a free fall, you’re going to come away disappointed. That task will fall upon the 5850, and we’re looking forward to reviewing it as soon as we can.”


-From our Radeon HD 5870 Review

Today the other shoe drops, with AMD launching the 5870’s companion card: the slightly pared down 5850. It’s the same Cypress core that we saw on the 5870 with the same features: DX11, Eyefinity, angle-independent anisotropic filtering, HDMI bitstreaming, and supersample anti-aliasing. The only difference between the two is performance and power – the 5850 is a bit slower, and a bit less power hungry. If by any chance you’ve missed our Radeon HD 5870 review, please check it out; it goes in to full detail on what AMD is bringing to the table with Cypress and the HD 5800 series.

  ATI Radeon HD 5870 ATI Radeon HD 5850 ATI Radeon HD 4890 ATI Radeon HD 4870
Stream Processors 1600 1440 800 800
Texture Units 80 72 40 40
ROPs 32 32 16 16
Core Clock 850MHz 725MHz 850MHz 750MHz
Memory Clock 1.2GHz (4.8GHz data rate) GDDR5 1GHz (4GHz data rate) GDDR5 975MHz (3900MHz data rate) GDDR5 900MHz (3600MHz data rate) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Transistor Count 2.15B 2.15B 959M 956M
TDP 188W 151W 190W 150W
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point $379 $259 ~$180 ~$160

AMD updated the specs on the 5850 at the last moment when it comes to power. Idle power usage hasn’t changed, but the final parts are now specified for 151W load power, versus the 160W originally given to us, and 188W on the 5870. So for the power-conscious out there, the 5850 offers a load power reduction in lockstep with its performance reduction.

As compared to the 5870, AMD has disabled two of the SIMDs and reduced the core clock from 850MHz to 725Mhz. This is roughly a 15% drop in clock speed and a 10% reduction in SIMD capacity, for a combined theoretical performance difference of 23%. Meanwhile the memory clock has been dropped from 1.2GHz to 1GHz, for a 17% overall reduction. Notably the ROP count has not been reduced, so the 5850 doesn’t lose as much rasterizing power as it does everything else, once again being 15% due to the drop in clock speed.

With the reduction in power usage, AMD was able to squeeze Cypress in to a slightly smaller package for the 5850. The 5850 lobs off an inch in length compared to the 5870, which will make it easier to fit in to cramped cases. However the power connectors have also been moved to the rear of the card, so in practice the space savings won’t be as great. Otherwise the 5850 is a slightly smaller 5870, using the same sheathed cooler design as the 5870, sans the backplate.

Port-side, the card is also unchanged from the 5870. 2 DVI ports, 1 HDMI port, and 1 DisplayPort adorn the card, giving the card the ability to drive 2 TMDS displays (HDMI/DVI), and a DisplayPort. As a reminder, the DisplayPort can be used to drive a 3rd TMDS display, but only with an active (powered) adapter, which right now still run at over $100.

AMD tells us that this is going to be a hard launch just like the 5870, with the 5850 showing up for $260. Given that the 5870 did in fact show up on-time and on-price, we expect the same for the 5850. However we don’t have any reason to believe 5850 supplies will be any more plentiful than 5870 supplies – never mind the fact that it’s in AMD’s interests to ship as many 5870s as they can right now given their higher price. So unless AMD has a lot of Cypress dice to harvest, we’re expecting the 5850 to be even harder to find.
Update: As of Wednesday afternoon we have seen some 5850s come in to stock, only to sell out again even sooner than the 5870s did. It looks like 5850s really are going to be harder to find.

Battleforge: The First DX11 Game


View All Comments

  • merin - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Thanks Pastuch :)

    I'm in the process of getting a new graphics card, and I'm trying to find the most silent one that doesn't nerf performance from the top cards that much. The 3 cards that I'm considering is:

    This 5850 from ATI (probably Sapphire or Asus)
    Sapphire HD4890 Vapor-X
    MSI N275GTX Twin Frozr OC

    Any advice?
  • Pastuch - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    I was looking at the the exact same cards. Both the Twin Forzr GTX275 and the Radeon 4890 vapor-x are VERY QUIET. I would pick based on which games you play. If you have a home theater and audio passthrough is a concern I would lean towards the ATI card. Both of them come pre-overclocked and both have stellar performance. The Twin Frozr is slightly longer in length; however it's power connectors face up (Not out the back of the card like usual). Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    Yes. That's the noise of our test rig that we measure at idle when using an entirely passive video card; we can get our rigs down to about 36dB, but that requires removing all the fans other than the CPU fan. Bear in mind that a dead quiet room is 30dB and that we're measuring roughly 6" away from the card, so our methodology may differ from how other people do it. Reply
  • merin - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Thank you Ryan!
    So what do you think is the most silent? This 5850 with a reference cooler or the 4890 vapor-x? I find them very hard to compare because of different methodology...

    Right now, they only thing in my case that is making noise is the fan on my old 8800GTS, and I'd like my new card to make it completely silent if possible.
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    Since we haven't tested the Vapor-X, I have no way of knowing. Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    260 core 216 is using more power yet running cooler with a quieter fan.. would love to see a 5850 with a more efficient cooler Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    DisplayPort 1.1 vs 1.2 is the difference between PCIe 1.0 vs 2.0. The bandwidth is doubled. Please start stating the version. Reply
  • coconutboy - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I didn't read all the comments yet so perhaps this has been mentioned, but where are all the 5850 Xfire results? Hopefully the Crossfire benches weren't done exclusively at 2560x1600? From some of Ryan's text in the article, it seems there were Crossfire results that are accidently missing or got pulled. Stuff like this quote from the Battleforge page 6 text:


    The 5850 Crossfire on the other hand loses once again to the GTX 285 SLI in spite of beating the GTX 285 in a single card matchup.

    Yet there are no Xfire results on any of the Battleforge graphs. Hopefully they'll be added later. In the meantime guru3d and HardOCP have Xfire results for those interested.
  • coconutboy - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    Had a chance to go through all the comments now, seems TheOne pointed out the same thing on page 6 of the comments and Ryan attempted to fix it. The fix still ain't showing up in my browser though. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    It's really fixed this time. I had two sets of graphs, one with the CF/SLI cards and one without. I put up the wrong one. Reply

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