Product: Sapphire Radeon HD 5850 Xtreme
Company: Sapphire
Authour: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: April 12th, 2011
Summary & Conclusions

Sapphire wins the $150 price point with the HD 5850 Xtreme - a great PCB design and effective cooler deliver a DirectX 11 card with stonking performance and features. AMD's recent driver updates have improved texture filtering, and included support for AMD's Morphological Anti-Aliasing, a welcome image quality option now available for the both HD 5000 and HD 6000 series video cards. The Sapphire HD 5850 Xtreme's performance is notably superior to other products at the same price point, even without overclocking - for the enthusiast who likes to crank things up, this is the card to get for the money.

The criticisms we leveled at Sapphire's HD 5850 Xtreme are minor. An HDMI to DVI adapter should be included in the box, to make multi-display configurations easier. The Sapphire TRIXX software really ought to be working for the launch, but even without it the performance for the money is exceptional, and Sapphire should be able to quickly remedy this by publishing a simple software revision - we are looking into this with Sapphire. The seemingly shared PCB design with the HD 6850 restricts Crossfire compared to the original design, which feature two golden-finger connector points for up to three cards, although if this is going to be your third card you could probably make it work.

The Sapphire HD 5850 Xtreme is really quite simple to evaluate and award, it makes shopping at the $150USD price point a no-brainer. What's puzzling is why this card is coming to market right now. It has been reported that AMD's next generation, tentatively codenamed Southern Islands and likely to be branded the HD 7000 series, is being prepped for market right now. While the timing is right for tape-outs for a possible fall launch, the status of TSMC's High Power High Performance process on 28nm remains unknown, but is rumored to be hitting mass production (very shortly. What is known is that AMD are using more of their 40nm capacity allocation at TSMC for Fusion APUs, which are ramping up to meet partner and consumer demands for Fusion-based products.

Given those variables it's hard to guess whether this is AMD and Sapphire getting shot of the last production of Cypress ASICs, or if this is to add another AMD option at the $150 price point to cover possible low supplies of Barts based GPUs, or both. With Sapphire also launching an HD 5830 Xtreme alongside the HD 5850 Xtreme, it appears to be a timely and comprehensive assault on the mainstream gamer and enthusiast gamer price points, and it'll get more AMD cards inside consumer boxes - increasing their DX11 marketshare lead. It's also a reminder of just how right AMD got their first generation of enthusiast graphics processors - nearly two years later, it remains perf/W competitive.

 Ultimately at this level $$/perf matters and the Sapphire HD 5850 Xtreme delivers. It's a quiet, cool-running and powerful card with more potential performance hopefully unlocked with Sapphire TRIXX. The opportunity for dual HD 5850 CrossfireX performance at ~$300 will be very tempting to some, as this will be a challenging level of performance to every single-GPU card under $500. Rage3D awards 5 stars and wishes we had two!

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