Whenever AMD or Nvidia releases a new graphics architecture, there’s a tendency never to look back – the new is always better. That may be so, but in doing so you’d overlook some excellent cards that people raved about when they first appeared. Sapphire latest cards hark back a generation to the 5000 series of GPUs, the HD5850 Xtreme (our review model) and HD5830 Xtreme.
Back to the future
Why, you might ask, would you want a 5850 now that the 6 series of cards are well established? Well, one good reason is the bang-for-your-buck you now get with the re-launched 5850 Xtreme. When the 5850 first appeared it cost a cool £250. Now Sapphire is selling the Xtreme for a frankly ridiculous £108 inc. VAT. Sticking two together in a CrossFireX setup will, for just over £200, give you a GTX580 beater – a card that costs almost twice as much.
Sitting beneath the Sapphire-designed cooler, on a custom-built Sapphire PCB, is a standard-clocked Cypress core running at a stock 725MHz. It’s backed by 1GB of GDDR5 clocked at 1,000MHz (4GHz effective). The dual-heatpiped cooler is very similar in design to the ones Sapphire is using on some of its 6 series cards, and it’s very quiet even when pushed quite hard. The back bracket holds a full-sized DVI dual-link port, HDMI and DisplayPort connectors – so most of the bases are covered when it comes to hooking up a monitor.
Sapphire’s 5850 Xtreme comes with standard clock speeds, so its performance is the same as before. That means you get 42fps in Crysis Warhead, with all in-game details set to their highest at a resolution of 1,680×1,050. Using Just Cause 2′s built-in Dark Tower benchmark map at the same resolution yielded 40fps. Those scores aren’t state-of-the-art, but the card’s price reduction puts it down into the lower mainstream end of the market, making it a very attractive proposition second time around.
- Brilliant performance for the price.
- None. Quite frankly, at this price it's all good news.
If you're on a tight budget but still want a good, rich gaming experience then this is the card for you. If the Sapphire HD5850 Xtreme is still a little rich for you budget, then there's always the HD5830 Xtreme, another capable card but this time around it carries a price tag of just £83.99 (inc VAT) instead of the original £200.