It’s easy to be seduced by the latest and greatest graphics cards, but you can sometimes find excellent deals in older-generation cards that can still keep up with today’s shader-heavy PC games. Gigabyte’s 260 GTX SuperOC is a good example.
To make the cards, Gigabyte starts with cherry-picked 260 GTX chips from the factory. Then it clocks the GPUs at 680MHz, more than 100MHz faster than the standard 576MHz. Similarly, the SuperOC pushes the shader clock to 1,466MHz, instead of the stock 1,350MHz. Rounding off the performance push is 896MB of GDDR3 running at 1.25GHz instead of 1GHz. Gigabyte delivers these rarefied clock rates at slightly less than $200.
As with Sapphire’s Radeon HD 5870, the company’s HD 5850 card ships with coupons for two games: Dirt 2 and Battlestations: Pacific. Sapphire’s HD 5850 delivers a stock Radeon HD 5850, with its 1,440 stream processors, 72 texture units, and DirectX 11 support.
In our power-usage testing, Sapphire’s power draw was about average for an HD 5850. Our system power averaged 140W at idle, while pushing 260W at full throttle. Fan noise was fairly loud at full bore, but that was generally true of all the cards. At idle, overall noise levels were low enough to blend into the background of CPU, power supply, and case cooling.
We admit to mixed feelings about Diamond’s Radeon HD 5850. On one hand, it offers the same strong performance as other Radeon HD 5850 cards—second only to their big-brother HD 5870 cards. But unlike other manufacturers, you don’t get a coupon for Dirt 2 in the box. Instead, you need to register the card at Diamond’s website to get the perk. You also won’t get the two-year warranty unless you register the card.
All of the Radeon cards tested in our review round-up are based on AMD’s reference design, including this Asus card. However, Asus includes Smart Doctor software, which allows you to easily overclock its card.
You can use the app to auto-tune the clock speeds, though this typically gives you a conservative up-clock that results in a relatively modest performance gain. When we used the auto-overclock feature, we saw gains of 8 percent in 3DMark Vantage, and a couple of frames per second in STALKER and Far Cry 2. If you have the patience, you can tweak voltage settings, core clocks, and memory clocks manually, which could boost performance more substantially.
As with all Radeon HD 5870s, Sapphire’s version offers superlative performance, making it one of the fastest single-GPU cards available today. At its core is AMD’s 2.15 billion transistor Cypress chip, coupled with 1GB of 1,200MHz GDDR5 memory. Two DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort connection allow for flexible monitor attachment.
Sapphire is bundling two games with this card: Dirt 2 and Battlestations: Pacific. Dirt 2 is one of the first titles to support Microsoft’s DirectX 11 graphics API, so it should show off the visual chops of the new GPU. As with all HD 5870 cards, the Sapphire HD 5870 is just over 10.5 inches long, so be sure the card will fit in your case before buying.
HIS is based in Hong Kong, but its cards are readily available in U.S. outlets. They often cost slightly less than the competition, but that’s not the case with the company’s Radeon HD 5870, which is priced the same as its competitors. When we first unpacked the card, we thought it was the lesser HD 5850 model, due to its relatively compact packaging.
In our benchmarks, the HIS HD 5870 turned out excellent scores across the board, easily beating the fastest previous single-GPU champ, the EVGA 285 GTX SSC. It also pumped out the highest score in the 3DMark Vantage Performance test, although, again, margins were small.
All of the Radeon HD 5870s reviewed here are essentially identical—they’re the fastest single-GPU graphics cards you can buy currently. Out of the box, you get a typical one-year limited warranty. But if you register XFX’s product online within 30 days of purchase, the warranty lasts for “the duration of your life.” Not a bad deal, assuming the company is around that long.
It’s nice having a great warranty, but you want great performance for your $390. You’ll get that in spades. The XFX card burned through our performance tests, posting the highest scores in the 3DMark Vantage Extreme and Crysis benchmarks. The differences were minimal, though, and other 5870s won in other benchmarks.
Further proof that DDR2 is on its way out, several memory backend suppliers have been preparing for a major DDR3 push, news and rumor site DigiTimes reports.
Memory packaging and testing firms Powertech Technology, Formosa Advanced Technologies Company, and Walton Advanced Engineering all say that DRR3 will account for 90 percent of their DRAM shipments by the end of next year, up from 40 to 50 percent at the end of 2009. Walton estimates that some 90 percent of its overall DRAM revenue will come from DDR3 in 2010.
The writing has been on the wall for some time now. DDR2 pricing began rising months ago until DDR2 contract prices finally jumped ahead of DDR3 at the beginning of October.
Citing anonymous sources from notebook heavyweights, news and rumor site DigiTimes says we can expect Intel to launch four 32nm dual-core Arrandale CPUs (Calpella platform) by the second week of January 2010. These will include the Core i5 520M and 430M, and Core i3 350M and 330M.
Details weren't available on all four chips, but it looks like the Core i5 430M will come clocked at 2.26GHz and include Intel's Turbot Boost Technology, which could bump the clockspeed up to 2.53GHz for a single core. The Core i3 350M will also boast a 2.26GHz clockspeed, but no Turbo Boost.
The Core i5 will feature a graphics clock running at 500MHz and up to 766MHz with Turbo Boost, whereas the Core i3 will also run at 500MHz, but top out at 667MHz. All four chips will support DDR3 memory, come equipped with 3MB of L3 cache, and come rated with a TDP of 35W.
If the Mac Mini and a bag of Skittles were to share a night of unbridled love, we're pretty the love child of such an affair would look identical to the Zino HD, Dell's new line of colorful low-power home theater PCs.
Dell kicks off the HTPC line with several base configurations, each one built around an AMD processor. The least expensive Zino HD starts at just $230 and includes an AMD Athlon 2560e processor (1.6GHz, 512KB L2 cache), 2GB of DDR2-800 memory, 250GB hard drive spinning at 7200RPM, integrated ATI Radeon HD3200 graphics, 2.1 audio, an 8X DVD burner, and Windows Vista Home Basic. The OS is a bit of a surprise, considering each of the three other configurations come with Windows 7 Home Premium in 64-bit trim.
The highest priced model checks in at $650 and kicks the processor up to an AMD Athlon 2850e (1.8GHz, 512KB L2 cache), doubles up on memory (4GB), adds twice as much storage (500GB), tosses in an ATI Radeon HD 4330 videocard with a 512MB frame buffer, and includes a 20-inch Dell ST2010 widescreen monitor.
All of the models come with 4 USB ports (2 each on the front and back) and 2 eSATA ports.