Size, noise and heat generation
The 5850 looks a lot like the 5870, but it's a little shorter - 24.2 cm (9.5") as opposed to 28 cm (11") for the 5850. The ventilation system is also a double-decker, and we were fairly impressed with it.
At idle, the card doesn't really get hot, with the graphics chip staying in the neighborhood of 40°C. The fan is at low speed and we measured noise at 40.9 dB(A). The sound generated by the movement of the blades is not inaudible. You do hear a whoosh, but it's at an acceptable level and won't be a problem if your casing has any sound insulation at all.
In load, the card held up well, with the chip maxing at 87°C and fan noise at 54 dB(A). So while the card is audible, it's not loud enough to disturb other people in the room.
ATI has studied power management carefully on the Radeon 5000 series. In 2D - in other words, at idle -, our configuration drew less than 84 W! Under load, the results were just as good, with only 266 W. Despite the low numbers, the card does need two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors.
This card is bound to make owners of high-definition monitors (1920 x 1200 pixels) happy. If you own such a monitor you can play games with the texture filters and all options enabled. Only a few extremely power-hungry titles will challenge the card, but there really aren't many. Generally speaking, the 5850's performance puts it somewhere between a GeForce GTX 285 and the HD 5870.
Click on the image to see all our readings
and compare this model with other cards
We start the comparison with BattleForge, the first DirectX 11-compatible game. At 1920 x 1200 with the filters enabled, the 5850's average framerate was 30 fps. The GTX 285 uses DirectX 10 and scored an average of 22 fps. The 5870 clocked as high as 36 fps.
The second game was Crysis Warhead, but at 1680 x 1050 and without the filters. The Radeon HD 5850 scored an average of 34 fps, while the GTX 285 hit 31 fps and the 5870 41 fps. Finally, ArmA 2, at 1920 x 1200 without filters - an average of 52 fps for the 5850, 35 fps pour the 275, and 62 fps for the 5870.