Last week we looked at AMD's brand new top-end graphics card the ATI HD 5870 and found it to be a seriously impressive piece of hardware. It doubled the performance of previous generation hardware (on a chip by chip basis) and came in at a reasonable price. However, knowing that the card I'm looking at today theoretically has 80 per cent of the performance but costs a third less, a full-on recommended for the HD5870 seemed a little over zealous. Well, now we're actually looking at said card so let's see if our presumptions were correct.
Well, we were right-on with the price. Even after being on the shelves for a couple of weeks, prices for the HD 5870 and HD 5850 are still hovering around £300 and £200, respectively. The particular card we're looking at today is made by HIS but it conforms exactly to the reference design provided by AMD. It actually demands a little more than its brethren - in the shops we could find it in - for no apparent reason.
The card is very similar in design to the HD 5870. Indeed the whole 5000 series (including the new mid-range HD 5770 - review coming soon) is sporting the same black and red livery. At 242mm, the HD 5850 is a little (40mm) shorter than the HD 5870, though. This crucially means it isn't longer than a motherboard is wide, so should fit in any ATX form factor case. We're not sure the HIS sticker adds much to proceedings, though.
AMD's new Eyefinity technology has been carried over from the HD 5870 so you still get a choice of four digital outputs; 2 x DVI, 1 x DisplayPort, and 1 x HDMI. As with the HD 5870, though, you can only use three outputs at once and at least one of these must be the DisplayPort. This still gives you the ability to run three 30in monitors at once, though. VGA analogue output can be obtained by using a DVI-to-VGA converter, one of which is provided in the box with this HIS card. You can also output digital audio through the HDMI connections and through the DVI ports, by using special DVI-to-HDMI adapters, giving you a single-cable connection to your AV receiver or TV. These latest cards add support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio bit-streaming so they now support all major DVD and Blu-ray audio streams.