ASUS Radeon HD 5850 1GB DirectCu TOP Review
Let’s talk about ATI’s cards for a second before we get into the subject of this article. It used to be that lead times between video card generations –or at least the revision thereof- were measured in months and yet here we are nearly a year after the release of the first HD 5000-series and the cards still haven’t been replaced. This is not only due to a distinct lack of competition until a few months ago but also a testament to just how good these cards really are. As evidenced by the strong sales of $200 and higher GPUs, consumer hunger for high performance video cards is still there even though it is quite obvious we don’t really need loads of rendering power for today’s games.
While the HD 5000 series has continued to mature like fine wine, ATI’s board partners have helped it along by releasing a successive string of pre-overclocked, custom cooled products onto the market. In our opinion, ASUS has been leading the charge with stunning cards like the ARES and their eye-opening Matrix series. Unfortunately, the HD 5850 didn’t get a Matrix makeover but a bone has still been thrown to those of you who wanted a higher performing sub-$350 card. The famous TOP branding has now made its way to the HD 5850 and the result is a card that is sure to appeal to a wide swath of the market.
Priced at around $330, this new HD 5850 is not only overclocked but also carries a custom heatsink that ASUS dubs their “DirectCu”. This does however put it slightly above the cost of many GTX 470 cards which have seen a drastic price cut in the past few weeks. In addition, a nearly $40 price premium over a reference card wouldn’t be much if we were talking about a high-end product but when you get below the $400 mark, ever dollar counts.
There isn’t any doubt in our minds that ASUS will be able to put on a show with the HD 5850 TOP CuCore. After out disappointing outing with the Gigabyte HD 5770 “Super Overclock”, we’re due for a reminder of how an overclocked card should perform.
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