Because we don't yet have our hands on a production version of the Radeon HD 5830, and because our testing time was limited, we've truncated the last few bits of our usual test suite. We've deferred GPU temperature and graphics card noise measurements until we have a production card, and I chose to draw on the results from our Radeon HD 5700 series review to give you a sense of the 5830's relative power consumption. Although we used older drivers for most of the cards in that review, we don't expect that to affect power consumption dramatically. Only the results from the 5830 are new here, and yes, we popped out three of the DIMMs so our test rig's RAM config matched the one from our 5700 review.
We measured total system power consumption at the wall socket using an Extech power analyzer model 380803. The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet, so its power draw was not part of our measurement. The cards were plugged into a motherboard on an open test bench.
The idle measurements were taken at the Windows desktop with the Aero theme enabled. The cards were tested under load running Left 4 Dead at a 2560x1600 resolution.
These results largely fit our expectations for a Cypress-based graphics card. Either a modification to the 5830 reference card or some change to our graphics test config (such as newer drivers) has allowed the 5830-based system to shed six watts at idle versus the Radeon HD 5870. I'm not at all surprised to see the 5830 drawing a little more power under load than the 5850. Although the 5830 has more units disabled, its higher clock speed probably requires higher voltage flowing to the chip, and voltage is the single biggest determinant of power draw. Regardless, the 5830's power consumption is quite reasonable and manageable.
The value proposition
Before we conclude, we can take a quick analytical look at the Radeon HD 5830's value proposition. We'll be taking the same basic approach we have in our past looks at GPU value, but we'll be basing our results on current pricing and performance.
Per our custom, we've averaged pricing for the graphics cards from Newegg, paying careful attention to the higher prices often associated with higher-clocked variants of specific cards, like our GeForce GTX 260. We did our best to sample prices appropriate to the cards as tested. The exception, of course, is the Radeon HD 5830, where we've used AMD's suggested e-tail price.
For performance, we used the average of the frame rates across the four games we tested. In cases where we tested at multiple resolutions, we focused on the highest resolution, since that's where performance is most strictly GPU-constrained. For the math geeks among us, we considered using a harmonic mean of the frame rates, but we decided against it. We're aware of the conventional wisdom on this point and are considering how to treat this issue in these little value exercises going forward.
Mashing up price and performance together allows us to produce a simple scatter plot where the best values will tend to be closer to the top left corner of the plot area.
The Radeon HD 5830's combination of a $240 price tag and performance that's not much better than a Radeon HD 4870 doesn't add up to a tremendous GPU-buying value, from a sheer price-performance perspective. If you're not concerned about power consumption and a DirectX 11 feature set, you're easily better off with a GeForce GTX 260.
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