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Sapphire Radeon 5830 and 5850 Xtreme

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Posted April 12, 2011 by Jake in Video Cards

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by Jake
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Summary

When Sapphire approached us about a new card launch so close after the release of the 6790, we were a bit surprised, as we hadn’t heard of any upcoming AMD cards in the pipe. And when Sapphire said there were two card models, not just one, we were even more surprised. But when we were told the cards were a 5830 and 5850, we almost fell over. We actually thought it was a typo until Sapphire confirmed the "new re-release". We shook our heads, wondering what was Sapphire thinking? As it turns out, it looks like Sapphire has actually made a very shrewd move here on several fronts.

Here’s why: Nvidia’s lineup has quite a large performance gap between their GTX 560 Ti and 550 Ti cards. In fact, filling that gap is one of their previous-gen cards, the GTX 460. So why shouldn’t Sapphire re-release a previous-gen card as well, not only competing in that gap against Nvidia’s lineup, but also doing it at cheaper prices? And therein lies the bold move by Sapphire: set to retail for $150, he 5850 Xtreme is cheaper than the GTX 460 by about $20 but handily beats the Nvidia card in performance overall. And the 5830 Xtreme will cost $130, about $5 cheaper than the GTX 550 Ti, but also handily wins in terms of performance against that Nvidia card too. So Sapphire’s "new re-release" Xtreme cards can beat their respective Nvidia competition, while costing less.

In addition, these Xtreme cards also run cooler temperatures and more power frugal than the Nvidia competition. That’s a winning combination, and when viewed in context, the "new" re-release of these cards by Sapphire is indeed a shrewd move.

So are there any downsides here? Well, just a couple. These Sapphire cards struggle a bit in game titles that feature heavy tessellation, which is where the 5800 architecture starts to show its age a bit. For the price though, the tradeoff is you get some very respectable gaming performance on the cheap. Second, and to a lesser degree, is that Eyefinity gaming isn’t really possible with these Xtreme cards, as they simply don’t have the horsepower to push playable framerates. However, that’s not unexpected for their respective prices.

What’s really interesting though, is that the Radeon 6790 costs the same as the 5850 Xtreme, but can’t measure up in terms of gaming performance; the 5850 beats it at every turn. It looks like Sapphire may have poached AMD’s lineup and effectively rendered the 6790 obsolete here. We’ll have to see if the 6790’s price drop in response, though we doubt that’ll happen because we suspect AMD won’t allow one partner to cut the rate and squeeze the other board partners’ sales unfairly.

In any event, the 5830 is still a bit of an oddball, same as its original launch, with a longer PCB and framerates that start to struggle at higher resolutions. But it is a good value card. However, the 5850 Xtreme is much better, and of the two Xtreme cards, the 5850 is the card to get, hands down. For only $20 more than the 5830, you get considerable gaming power that rivals a Radeon 6870, but comes with a smaller card design, impressively low temperatures, and far better pricing.

The Pure Point: Sapphire pulls off a shocker with re-designed 5830 and 5850 Xtreme cards that offer excellent gaming value.

Sapphire 5830 Xtreme

Sapphire 5850 Xtreme

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