Having just recently reviewed the ATI Radeon HD 5870 and bearing witness to its power, we were keen to get our hands on the cheaper, cut-down version known as the Radeon HD 5850. Though both cards were announced last September 23rd, AMD waited an extra week until the Radeon HD 5850 could be showcased. And now - admittedly a bit late - we have finally dug up a production model from HIS to put to the test.

The more affordable HD 5850 shares the same technological advances as its higher-end sibling. That includes support for DirectX 11, HDMI bitstreaming, Eyefinity, angle-independent anisotropic filtering, and supersample anti-aliasing. A slightly toned down configuration, however, allows it to sell for just $260.

At this price the Radeon HD 5850 is not much more expensive than the HD 4890 or Nvidia's GeForce GTX 275, and it is considerably cheaper than the GeForce GTX 285. It's also about $120 more affordable than the Radeon HD 5870, which currently holds the fastest single-GPU graphics card crown.

On the power consumption front, the Radeon HD 5850 is rated at 151w for its load consumption level. This compares favorably against the HD 5870 rated at 188w, for a healthy 20% power savings. Meanwhile, those with smaller mid-sized computer cases will be pleased to know that the 5850 measures just 24cm long, making it much shorter than the Radeon HD 5870 and other high-end graphics cards.

There is just one problem with the new Radeon HD 5800 (Cypress) series and it is not performance, nor value or efficiency. Ironically the problem is availability -- AMD is really shooting itself in the foot here.

In the past AMD has been forced to drastically cut the price of their latest GPUs and sacrifice its margins in order to remain competitive with Nvidia. That was the case with both the Radeon HD 3870 and Radeon HD 4870. Today the new Radeons are facing virtually no competition, at least for now, and yet AMD has seemed unable to fully capitalize on such advantageous head start.

A limited number of consumers have been able to get their hands on the new Radeon HD 5870 and stock appears to be almost non-existent for the 5850 roughly a week and a half after release. This is unfortunate because at around 32% less than the Radeon HD 5870, we are expecting Radeon HD 5850 cards to sell like hot cakes.

Read on as we throw our HIS Radeon HD 5850 sample through a barrage of tests, only to get you craving for a little graphics monster that is currently hard to get, at least for the time being.