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We expected the Radeon HD 5850 to be at least 20% slower than the HD 5870 based on the specifications that were given to us just a few weeks ago. However, in reality the card works out to be just 10-15% slower while costing a little over 30% less. You could say the Radeon HD 5850 offers the best value proposition of the two, while the Radeon HD 5870 certainly remains the best performer.
The more affordable HD 5850 also offers a few other advantages, including lower power consumption, reduced heat output and quieter operation; not to mention its size allows it to fit in any standard computer case.
There is a long list of cases out there that cannot fit a full size graphics card, like the Radeon HD 4870 X2 or any of the GeForce GTX series boards. This gives AMD a tangible advantage as the Radeon HD 5850 is far from being your run of the mill mainstream graphics card.
The real kicker here is that the Radeon HD 5850 currently sells for considerably less than any GTX 285 card. Even if Nvidia decided to cut prices in the near future, as we imagine they will, when you add the fact that the Radeon HD 5850 supports DirectX 11 and consumes considerably less power, the GeForce GTX 285 starts to become irrelevant.
Nvidia would have to drop the GTX 285 to a price point of ~$220 to become a viable option once again, which means slashing current pricing by around 45%, while adjusting pricing for the GTX 275 and 260 in the process.
It's an interesting scenario that AMD had been unable to create for a while. We cannot wait to see how Nvidia reacts. The company’s next generation GeForce series is at best a few months away. With the holiday season upon ourselves, AMD has a great opportunity to capitalize on its first-to-market status and proven performance -- if only they can sort out their short supply issues in time.
Furthermore, with limited availability, manufacturers like HIS will be unable to release their more desirable “upgraded” versions featuring improved cooling and PCB designs. That said, if you're able to get your hands on the standard HIS Radeon HD 5850 right now, you'd still be buying the best value graphics card available today.
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