Sapphire HD5850 1GB Video Card Review :: Introduction

10-09-2009 · Category: Hardware - Video Cards

By Benjamin Sun

ATI and NVIDIA have been in a constant battle over which company has the best price/performance/features on their video cards for the last few years. One constant is the inflection points that they have to hit in order to come to market with timely video cards with superior features and performance to the previous generation of cards.

NVIDIA was the first to market with DirectX 8 with their GeForce 3 series of cards. These were the first video cards on the market to fully support Programmable Pixel Shaders. ATI’s response in the form of the Radeon 8500 was curious in that the card did not offer more performance than the competition but offered more features in the form of Shader Model 1.1.

ATI fought back with a vengeance with their next card, the Radeon 9700 Pro in 2002. This card was the first card to clearly outperform the last generation by double the performance of the previous cards and had the distinction of being the first DirectX 9.0 compliant card, supporting Shader Model 2.0. This gave developers more freedom with longer pixel shader programs.

Part of DirectX 9.0 was the inclusion of Shader Model 3. This further advanced the capabilities of video cards and the first card to support these new features was the NVIDIA GeForce 6800. These cards were faster than the competition and had support for SM 3.0 which the ATI cards did not have. NVIDIA cards and ATI cards in the form of the X19xx series supported these features until the release of DirectX 10 and Windows Vista.

When Vista was ultimately released in 2006, NVIDIA’s GeForce 8800GTX was already released to support DX 10. DirectX 10 brought features like Geometry Shaders, support for Unified Shader Models and much more. Games like Crysis, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, and many of the games released today support DirectX 10 features. Microsoft included an incremental update to DirectX with Vista, called DirectX 10.1. Today virtually every ATI card and a few NVIDIA cards supports this API which is subset of DirectX 11.

On September 22nd 2009 ATI announced the first video cards to support Microsoft’s next API, DirectX 11 which will be released with Windows 7, their next Operating System. On that day ATI announced their HD 5870 video cards which were immediately available and announced the smaller brother to that card, the HD 5850. Today I am reviewing the Sapphire HD5850 1GB GDDR5 PCIE Dual DVI-I/HDMI/DP card which is the second card based on the HD5850 I have reviewed. It should be an interesting review.