Not a bad card, in fact quite a decent mid ranger, but the pricing strategy is totally bananas
Can be picked up reasonably cheaply
Showing its age now
Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
Have a scoot around the online retailers for the Radeon HD 5850, and you're not so much opening a can of worms as stripping naked, upending the can on your head, and running off down the streets with a hoot and a gibber, twig and berries flapping in the breeze.
Ranging from £150 to £250 for identical cards, the pricing is nothing short of crackers. Which speaks volumes about the unfortunate state of affairs for AMD's first-gen DX11 mid ranger. Nobody knows what it's really worth any more, and to be quite frank, that's nobody's fault but AMD's.
After all, AMD had to go and launch the HD 6850, which strode in, cape flung aside, at a cavalier and almost attractive price-point. Retailers who bought heavily into the 5850 must be in turmoil. How are they going to shift that stock now?
But it's your welfare we care about round here, so let's have a look at the benchmarks and work out whether the HD 5850 still has a place in your PC.
An interesting state of affairs: the HD 5850 is pretty close to the HD 6850 in performance terms. It pips it in our DX10 tests, though the tables are turned in DX11, which is where the 6850 pulls ahead. But the HD 5850's real competitor is none other than the GTX 460 1GB.
For slightly less than the asking price of the cheapest HD 5850, you can bag yourself a GTX 460 1GB, which outperforms it in DX10 and DX11 games alike... but only by a hair's breadth.
The model we tested, made by AMD board partner HIS, still retails for around £200, which is incredibly hard to recommend in the current climate, and with such alternatives on offer.
None of which means the HD 5850 is a bad card; far from it. This is an incredibly competent mid-ranger. Let's face it, who can argue with 70fps in Far Cry 2, at 1,680 x 1,050, with x4 AA applied, and 65fps at 1,920 x 1,080? A pedant, that's who. And nobody likes a pedant.
The problem is the recommended retail price. It's like some retailers have realised they need to shift the stock for a card that has, apparently if not accurately, gone out of date very quickly... and others haven't. I mean, who on earth's going to fork out £250 for one of these, when you can purchase a GTX 470 for a measly £175?
Great DX10 performance and competent DX11 abilities make this an attractive card whichever way you slice it, but the old adage of 'buyer beware' has never been more appropriate. Shop around, folks, and look for the etailers who are driving prices down to shift their stock.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview
Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.