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REVIEW / AMD Radeon HD 7850 2 GB

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Régis Jehl Published on March 15, 2012
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  • Chip Pitcairn
  • GPU frequency 860 MHz
  • Memory quantity 2 GB
  • Memory type GDDR5
  • Memory frequency 1200 MHz
  • Cooler Double-decker
The AMD Radeon HD 7850 (expected to sell for around £200) is a bit more affordable than the Radeon HD 7870 but still offers a very decent level of performance. So much the better for AMD, as the high mid-range or low high-end (depending on how you look at it) graphics card market counts for a high volume of sales.

Size, Noise and Heat

The card we were sent to test looks identical in every way to the Radeon HD 7870. The fan is still a radial blower type, which has the advantage of sending hot air out of the casing. The fan doesn't, however, seem to be as well calibrated as on the Radeon HD 7870, making more noise here.

At idle first of all, the fins can be clearly heard when rotating. As always when it comes to computer hardware, not everyone is affected by noise in the same way—some users will find it more annoying than others. The reading was nevertheless 3 dB(A) higher than with the Radeon HD 7970. This is equivalent to a doubling in volume.

In games, the noise level does, of course, go up, but is acceptable for the level of performance you get in return (see below).

Power Use

Power consumption is a real strength of the AMD Radeon 7000 series and the HD 7850 is no exception. Both in 2D and in games, it's at a similar level to its predecessor, the Radeon HD 6850, with 89 watts at idle and 296 watts in games. Given that the card's performance is also a good bit up on the HD 6850 (see below), this power consumption reading is a good result, offering an improved trade-off between power use and performance.

Better still, the excellent ZeroCore Power feature gives a 16% reduction in energy consumption at idle and allows you to turn the card's fan off. For this, the computer has to be configured so that it switches the screen off after a given period of time. As soon as the screen goes on standby, the card is almost entirely switched off and only consumes 3 watts of power, bringing the overall consumption of our test computer down to 74 watts. This feature will delight those who constantly leave their computer on.

Gaming Performance

From a technical point of view, the Radeon HD 7850 is a slightly bridled HD 7870. The number of processing units—which can, to simplify things, be compared to the cores on a CPU—is down from 1280 to 1024 and the GPU clock is down from 1 GHz to 860 MHz. The 2 GB of GDDR5 memory is still clocked at 1200 MHz, however, and it still has a 256-bit bus.

Tt hd 7850
Average general performances
Click on the image to see all our readings
and compare graphics cards in the Face-Off

In practice, this translates to a 12% performance drop on the Radeon HD 7870. In comparison to the old generation of cards, the 7850 is on a par with the Radeon HD 6970 and therefore a good way ahead of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 560 Ti.

Once again, AMD has done very well, increasing performance by 44% on the old generation (Radeon HD 6850) while simultaneously maintaining the same level of power use. The only drawback here is the fan on the generic model, which could be a bit quieter at idle.

See the Graphics Card Performance Index Table
The test card, extra features
AMD sent us a standard a reference model to test.Connections cover most of the bases, with HDMI 1.4, DVI and two mini-Display Port 1.2 sockets. You'll need a 6-pin power supply cable for this card.

Eyefinity has been updated to version 2.0 and now allows you to pilot up to five screens with a single card. Bezel compensation is better handled and you can now use monitors of various sizes.

Eyefinity 2.0 also allows you to manage several audio outs (DDM) independently of each other (HDMI and Display Port sockets only). This means you can now watch a film on TV while playing on another screen. The film audio is then sent via the HDMI connection while the game uses the screen speakers. The audio outs on the sound card (jack, optical) are also accessible.

Stereoscopic 3D is obviously still part of the set up with the introduction of HD3D technology. This now allows you to output the image at 120 Hz, or 60 Hz per eye when using a screen with active technology (60 frames / second per eye).

As always with AMD, you have to get a special driver to enjoy stereoscopic 3D in games. AMD recommends the TriDef DDD solution which currently supports 600 titles (all current games are included). Nevertheless, more and more games now offer stereoscopic 3D natively (Battlefield 3, Deus Ex HR, Dirt 3) and you then don’t have to use the DDD application. Indeed some monitor manufacturers are starting to include the software in the bundle with their 3D screens (eg. ViewSonic V3D231).

Processing assisted by the graphics card has also been improved. You now get accelerated 3D Blu-ray decoding and DivX playback. Like Nvidia, AMD has also got together with various application developers so that their software benefits from hardware acceleration. Unfortunately, only paid-for applications (except Internet browsers) are included here, AMD not judging it worthwhile to help out free applications.


  • 44% faster than the previous generation (Radeon HD 6850)
  • ZeroCore Power function
  • Low power consumption


  • Fan can be heard working at idle in the generic reference model


This graphics card delivers a high level of performance while limiting power consumption. It's therefore clearly possible to increase performance from one generation to the next without upping power use too much.
3 AMD Radeon HD 7850 2 GB DigitalVersus 2012-03-15 18:46:00
Compare: AMD Radeon HD 7850 2 GB to its competitors
Store Available Price £
Viking-direct - 152.40 See offer  
Viking-direct - 296.40 See offer  
Viking-direct - 376.80 See offer  
Viking-direct - 500.40 See offer  
Viking-direct - 952.80 See offer  
Viking-direct - 1264.80 See offer  
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