The $250 price point is where the hardcore and the serious gamer part ways. It’s not that hardcore gamers aren’t serious—it’s that they sometimes lose perspective, willing to throw vast, silly sums of money at shiny high-end GPUs. Serious gamers know that a good $250 graphics card will buy you high frame rates on standard, 1080p displays without requiring a second mortgage.
AMD’s original MSRP for the Radeon HD 7850 was $250, and you can find a few cards based on the reference design at that price. However, the XFX Radeon HD 7850 Black Edition version of the card, which pushes the default 860MHz to a factory-overclocked 975MHz, will set you back a little more. For an extra $20, you get a whopping 13.4 percent overclock for the core frequency, though memory is still clocked at the reference 1,200MHz. But the card ships with a sizeable 2GB of 1,200MHz GDDR5, so it’s enough to run games like Shogun 2 with all the detail levels maxed out at 1920x1200 and 4x AA—not possible with the measly 1GB frame buffer on a reference 7850.
XFX’s “Ghost” fan shrouds are easy on the eyes, but they don’t vary much from card to card
The HD 7850 is built on a 28nm process, with 2.8 billion transistors packing 1,024 stream processors and two geometry engines. The reference board requires only one 6-pin power connector, but the XFX board adds a second—that 13 percent overclock doesn’t come free.
We compared the Radeon HD 7850 Black Edition’s performance with three other factory-overclocked boards: the MSI Radeon HD 6950, EVGA’s GTX 560 Ti 448, and the Asus GTX 560 Ti DirectCU II. The EVGA GTX 560 Ti 448 SC card wins most of the benchmarks—but it’s $20 more than the 7850 Black Edition, bumping up close to the $300 mark and requiring an 8-pin and 6-pin power plug. The XFX Radeon HD 7850 pretty much wipes the floor with the Asus GTX 560 Ti and the older, more expensive HD 6950. Also, the XFX board is more power efficient, though a tad noisier, than the other boards—but that noise level isn’t particularly noticeable in a closed PC chassis.
If XFX could have shaved another $20 off the price of this card, it would have a serious winner on its hands. As it stands, the 7850 Black Edition is a very good card, offering good performance, efficiency, and five display outputs—single- and dual-link DVI, HDMI, and two DisplayPorts. Even a budget gamer might be willing to toss in another $20 for this level of performance.
XFX Radeon HD 7850 Black Edition
Solid performance; good efficiency.
Batman and Robin
Hard to find; if it were just $20 less….
XFX Radeon HD 7850
Asus GTX 570 DirectCU II
MSI Radeon HD 6950 Twin Frozr III
XFX Radeon HD 6870
3DMark 11 Perf
3DMark Vantage Perf
Unigine Heaven 2.5 (fps)
Shogun 2 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)
Just Cause 2 (fps)
Batman: Arkham City (fps)
Metro 2033 (fps)
Dirt 3 (fps)
Core / Memory Clocks
975 / 1,200
850 / 1,300
797 / 975
900 / 1,050
System Power @ idle (W)
System Power @ full throttle (W)
Best scores bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Corei7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 and an AX1200 Corsair PSU. The OS is a 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA except for the 3DMark tests and Shotgun 2, which was run at 1920x1080, very high, no AA