PowerColor Radeon HD 5850: Worth the Wait

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TEST RESULTS

BASELINE, with Integrated Graphics: First, here are the results of our baseline results of the system with just its integrated graphics, without a discrete video card. We'll also need the power consumption reading during CPUBurn to estimate the actual power draw of discrete card later.

VGA Test Bed: Baseline Results
(no discrete graphics card installed)
System
State
System Power
AC
DC (Est.)
Idle
75W
Unknown
CPUBurn
151W
121W
Ambient temperature: 22°C

PowerColor Radeon HD 5850 1GB:

VGA Test Bed: PowerColor Radeon HD 5850 1GB
System
State
Fan Speed
SPL
@1m
Temps
System Power
GPU
VRM
AC
DC
Idle
1160 rpm
18 dBA
40°C
36°C
99W
77W
CPUBurn
44°C
38°C
175W
142W
CPUBurn + ATITool
1570 rpm
19 dBA
67°C
53°C
243W
199W
CPUBurn + FurMark
2120 rpm
24 dBA
83°C
82°C
309W
253W
Ambient temperature: 22°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
System noise level: 12 dBA

The reference cooler kept the graphics card very well cooled by modern standards, with the GPU and VRM temperatures well below 50°C when idle and only slightly above 80°C at full load.

Noise

The GPU exhibited some of the screeching associated with coil whine particularly during ATITool's 3DView, but it was not as sharp as the HD 4000 series.

The noise generated by the fan when idle was measured at 18 dBA, low enough for most users. Still, it's a lot more tolerable placed under a desk rather than atop it — we'd recommend an aftermarket cooler for the latter scenario. The fan had some tonal properties, audible in the form of a low-pitched hum, but it was well muffled by our case's side panel. When placed on load, the fan's higher speed generated enough turbulence to mask the hum, blending the overall noise into smoother broadband profile.


Our VGA test system idle with the PowerColor Radeon HD 5850 installed. Note the sharp tonal peak between at ~240Hz.


At load.


Noise & Cooling Comparison
Card
Idle
Load
SPL @1m
GPU Temp
SPL @1m
GPU Temp
ATI HD 4870
13 dBA
82°C
20 dBA
91°C
HIS HD 4890 Turbo
15 dBA
66°C
26 dBA
80°C
PowerColor HD 5850
18 dBA
40°C
24 dBA
83°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
System noise level: 12 dBA

When we compare the SPL and GPU temperature measurements with that of the HD 4870 and HD 4890, it seems that the HD 5850's fan is much more aggressive when idle. In most systems the GPU is dormant during the majority of operation so a reduction in idle noise would be welcome. The HD 5850 certainly has plenty of headroom as 40°C is extremely low for a high-end graphics card. We would gladly sacrifice 20°C or more in exchange for a reduction in fan speed. On load, the fan behavior is more sensible, producing 2 dBA less than the HD 4890 while keeping the GPU temperature within a few degrees, which is surprising, given the smaller exhaust vent compared to the 4800 series cards. Perhaps those small vents on the top help out after all.



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