When AMD release the 5800 series they rocked the PC gaming world with the first DX11 part and took a commanding performance lead over their competition. The 5870 was the top end product with unmatched performance and the 5850 was the sweet spot hit with super performance and a lower price. However lower price was relative, relative that is to your wallet with the 5850s goring for around $300.
Since for the most of us, ie the mainstream, that was priced a bit high ATI later introduced the 5700 series. Again the price was higher at the start with 5770s being close to $200 but they offered great performance at 1680×1050 resolutions. The 5750 also offered great performance and dipped the price a little lower.
The result of the second release was that AMD was able to grab a big chunk of the mainstream and the high end market. Prices though where high because there was no competition at the time.
Looking at the various models AMD realized there was a performance hole between the 5770 and the 5850 and so the 5830 was born. The idea was to place a card squarely into the upper end of the mainstream price market. Looking at todays prices they succeeded, the 5830 goes for around $200 with the 5770 about $50 below and the 5850 about $50 above. With this position in mind we received a 5830 from Powercolor for testing.
Since the 5830 is priced at the mainstream top end it makes sense to define that segment first. This is the mainstream of gamers we are discussing. They want great gaming performance within reasonable prices. When it comes to resolutions the two most commonly used by this segment are 1680×1050 and 1920×1080. These represent 22” and 24” monitors for the most part and allow for the purchase of nice quality monitors for under $200.
For the sake of this review I did all my testing on the 1920×1080 resolution. If it can deliver there we know it can deliver at lower resolutions. For hardware I tested the card using a Phenom II 965 and a Phenom II 1055T, I also tested on an Intel platform using an i7 930.
Firing up all three systems I began my testing with an MMO. Why an MMO, well two reasons. The first is that my current favorite game is an MMO and hence it is installed on all my systems. The second reason is that a study I have been running for a few weeks now has shown that among mainstream gamers the MMO game style accounts for about 65% of the market. I am polling right now at the enthusiast level. Star Trek Online is one of the more demanding MMOs when it comes to video cards so it is a great place for this testing. With the detail slider at high, which sets 4xAA and 16xAF in game I fired up STO to see what would happen.
The results where right where they should have been with respect to the processors the differences that where shown on testing with the 5870 where within the same range so the various processors are ruled out of this with my testing instead taking the average of all three processors as they actual performance rate.
When compared to the 5770 the 5830 showed some improvement in performance. The 5770 averages about 69 FPS during our testing. The game was smooth and lag free even under heavy action. The 5830 took that number up to 75 FPS and also delivered a perfect gaming experience.
I fired up a few more games; Batman AA, Dragon Age and Dirt 2. All of them saw the same results. The 5770 delivered solid game play and the 5830 matched the game play and upped the frame rate. But just how much did it up the rate? Well according to my testing the 5830 comes in at about 9% better on average than a 5770.
To be honest this number was a bit of a disappointment to me. The price difference of the cards is around 20% to 25% which is not reflective of the performance difference. Additionally the general rule of thumb is anything under 10% in performance difference is impossible for a person to typically notice and my testing bore that out. At mainstream resolutions the two cards where identical in the gaming experience they presented.
When it came time to build this card AMD basically had two ways to go. They could take the 5700 series and turbo charge it or they could take the 5800 series and throttle it. Sadly the second method, throttling a higher end card seems to be the standard used by companies any more.
The 5830 is basically a 5800 series chips with features turned off. To compensate for all the features lost AMD upped the core speed above that of the 5850. The result is a solid video card for the money but it generates more heat and needs more power than a typical 5850 and only delivers a little more horsepower than a 5770.
As for the card itself it is large. Easily as big as a full sized 5830 and requires 2x 6 Pin PCIE connectors on the back to keep the card running. Powercolor has done a good job with the cooler as this card stayed cool even under heavy load and was quiet. They have used an interesting connection configuration with a single DVI, HDMI and Displayport connector. Overall Powercolor has made a solid card, unfortunately at the time this is being published I could not find this particular card in any stores for pricing.
Now this review might be coming off as a negative and I want to counter that opinion. The 5830 delivers great performance for the $200 price point and provides a wonderful gaming experience for the money. If you are a serious gamer and want to get the most horsepower you can at the lowest price then the 5830 is a great buy. However for general mainstream play I am torn. The 5770 delivers a great gaming experience, equal in all our testing to the 5830 and does so for less money, less power and less heat.
If you want the most force you can get from the AMD lineup at the $200 price point the 5830 is the card for you. However if you want great gaming with the best return for cost the 5830 falls short and the 5770 still holds that crown.
Antec has recently put forward it new line of gamer cases, the Dark Fleet. When I first saw pictures of this case I became excited about seeing it in person. My gut reaction to the early pictures was that this line was in essence an evolution of the 900/1200 series of cases. Antec has told me that this is not so but anyone seeing both cases together would know better. The question is can the Dark Fleet DF 85, the full tower of the Dark Fleet line, meet the standards set by the Twelve Hundred?
At first glance from the front this case gives a clear indication of it’s roots in the Twelve Hundred design. Three 120mm fans provide air intake and cover three areas for putting in HDs. Unlike the Twelve Hundred the bays cannot be moved however so the base layout is static.
The fan areas open to allow easy access to inserting HDs as well as easy access to the fans filters. The basic filter design is the same as was seen in the Twelve Hundred case but the access has been vastly improved.
As you can see each section opens to reveal the fan and the filter can then be pulled from the top for cleaning. This is a much easier design than the original since it does not require removing the HD drive bay or even opening the case.
As for the three 5.25” bays at the top Antec evidently thought a door was needed and actually made an innovative system to give a door and not a door at the same time.
The three covers at the top are each an independent door that must be opened to allow access to the optical drive. This allows the case to have a door and at the same time not have a door as it where. The look is a bit more aggressive than a simple door design helping this fit the overall look of the case. Each of these doors can be easily removed if you do not want it in the way.
The DF 85 comes with a side window as is expected in cases for enthusiast builds. The window is nearly identical to the window that appears on the side panel of the Twelve Hundred with the except of the rear segment. This time instead of using the grilled area to match the case Antec went with a simpler design right into the window.
Lacking on the DF 85 is the dust filter that we see on the Twelve Hundred and this is a shame. I know that even without a fan installed that filter blocks a lot of dust, the absence will be noticed.
Opening the case we see a roomy interior with a large CPU back plate cutout, this should work with any motherboard. The drive bays for the HDs are inline meaning the air intake has no obstructions and you get full effect of the three 120mm fans.
You will notice two mounts at the back of the HD bays. This are rapid connects for 3.5” HDs that make installation of new HDs very simple. The concept is nice but fails to take into account SSDs.
As a concession to SSDs there are four holes drilled in the bottom of the case and silicon grommets to mount the SSD to the cases floor.
While the inside of the case is roomy, Antec dropped the rear half od the case lower than the front and put the dual 140mm fans very close to the rear exhaust fans. So close in fact that the top rear exhaust fan is limited and could not be used for a cooling kit like an H50 or ECO.
That brings me to the top of the case. In the Twelve Hundred line we had a large 250mm fan for exhaust, this has been replaced in the DF 85 design with dual 140mm fans. The spec on the two fans combined actually produce less airflow and more noise than the single 250mm fan.
Finally we come to the part of this case that has gotten a lot of attention. The top holds a quick mount 2.5” HD bay to allow you to hot swap SSDs.
This feature for some reason seems to be the focus of Antec ad campaign for the Dark Fleet as well. The mount has a clear top to allow you to see the SSD mount in action. Underneath this is the front panel with USB 2 as well as a USB 3 connector and mic/headphone connections.
The Antec Twelve Hundred is still to this day considered an outstanding full tower case at a reasonable price. Looking at the DF 85 there is no way Antec cannot say that this case is anything but a direct descendent of that case.
Some of the changes made are outstanding. First I love the new fan/filter doors, these are a ton nicer than the old design and no more dealing with 4000 thumbscrews to do anything. Also the fans are changed from blue to red, bravo Antec. Don’t get me wrong the blue case lights look nice but is a great to see some variety.
Inside the case Antec has kept their tradition of high quality and it shows. The case is strong and well built. The large back plate cutout is nice, easily big enough to make access on most motherboards easy. The behind the tray area is roomy enough for good cable management and I love cases that use inline HD bays to ensure full air intake.
However all is not well with this design for me. The quick mounts for the HDs seems like a good idea but they seem more in the way than useful. Personally I took them out first thing. The close mounting of the fans on the inside to me is not a good idea as it makes mounting options limited to alternative forms of cooling.
This brings me finally to the part Antec seems most proud of, the Hot Swap for SSD. I guess Antec is targeting this case for people I have never met, folks with enough money to have multi SSDs for for swapping. The concept of it sounds great but in the real world this is going to be seldom used.
In the Twelve Hundred that same area was used to make a tray for holding cell phones, USB keys or other items. This little tray may not have seemed like much but it was a VERY useful feature that would get a LOT MORE USE than the hot swap bay.
Overall this is a good case and brings some great features to the table but it also brings some features that just make no sense to me. At the end of the day the DF 85 and the Twelve Hundred both sell for the same price right now on Newegg. Personally I would get the Twelve Hundred. That does not mean I think the DF 85 is a bad case, it just means that at the end of the day the Twelve Hundred will let me have cooling options the DF 85 doesn’t and has a useful feature that the DF 85 is lacking.
The Dark Fleet series is definitely a nice line of cases and while it has a strong feature set there are a few things that keep the fleet listing a bit to port and not quite on an even keel.
Well today is the last day of vacation in about 6 hours we will begin the long drive home. This has been a great week as we got to spend time with family, and I got some bonding time with my father in-law over some computer shopping. I actually come away this week with some thoughts I wish to pass along…
1) Silent computer sites are NUTS!
During this week I did a build for a gaming PC that was intended to be left up here. For this build I chose the Thermaltake Spedo I used for the original X-Ray build. A lot of review sites had commented on how this case was noisy. Well sitting here as I write this I am in the basement of a home that is literally in the middle of nowhere. There is no noise outside except perhaps birds singing but that is not making it through the walls. The inside temp is a cool 72 so there is no AC running. This basement is as close to a silent room as I think you can get in a living space. The only thing on in this space right now is the light sound of the fans on the Spedo case doing their job.
Now to listen to the complaints of noise when it comes to some cases including the Spedo you would think this room would be filled with a loud droning sound. The truth is that a box fan on low is LOUD compared to this case. I mean I can hear the can of Coke Zero in the desk flex when I pick it up over the case noise. I can easily hear anything at this point over the case noise.
Oh I am sure there are even quieter cases out there but is there a need? I mean we somewhere along the line lost a sense of perspective when it comes to stuff like this. Even my typing right now is deafening compared to the sound of the case. In any kind of normal world usage, i.e. with background noise at normal levels this case might be heard but it would not be close to so loud as to be distracting or even obstructive to the sound around it.
When it comes to finding a quiet PC we need to learn how to put things into perspective.
2) Cheap is JUNK!
For years now I have preached the mantra that cheap is the politically correct word for junk. Well this week I failed to practice what I preached and paid the price for it. You see this gaming PC build is one of the first I have done in a long time where it was 90% built with my money. Now in fairness I spent a bit more than I needed to but I was having fun and had the budget lined up for it. However as I got down to the PSU I realized my budget was getting tight. I wanted to be sure that I was getting enough power for the PC as well as some headroom so I was faced with the issue I would go over budget. Then I noticed a PSU that was within my power requirements, 80 Plus certified and it was cheap!
Well I am sure you all know where this is going. Got the system home and started having some minor glitches. I tested RAM and it was stable. I turned to GPU and fired the test up and my computer emitted the most awful whine. I thought at first it was the video card fan but was wrong. I did some searching and finally found the whine. It was in the PSU, not the fan for the PSU but IN the PSU.
Needless to say the PSU was promptly returned and a model from a trusted company was put into place. Sometimes I guess even I have to go back and get a refresher course in learning a lesson the hard way.
3) Never build what you want and then think you can leave it.
Finally I have learned never build something you really would want and then think you can leave it. Here I am building a system purely for fun for me and the plan was it would stay up here for the next visit. Well that plan has died as I will be packing up this machine for the return trip shortly after I post this blog.
If you are going to put a machine at the in-laws for when you visit the key is to not put your best but to put good enough. When I get home I will be taking my oldest machine offline and redoing it with a fresh HD as my away gaming machine. Oh sure it will be just a 19” monitor and a low end video card but it plays my games just fine and will be moved to make room for my newest build, the Mancave.
The good stuff should be where you can enjoy it everyday, not stuck in some basement room to only be enjoyed a few weeks a year. This was a crazy idea. It is like people that buy a 56 T-Bird and then let it sit in a garage to only drive it an hour or so each year. That car begs to be driven and this computer begs to be gamed with.
This has been a great vacation, I have been able to put the work mentality behind me a bit and get back in touch with the fun of computing. I have taken on some challenges of changing the way I look at some components and tried something different. Sometimes it was great other times not so much but still fun. Next week the show and the blog come back full tilt so be sure you tune in and see what will be happening.
I have gotten a few emails and calls asking about the August 1st show and it not being online yet. I wish to apologize. I have been busy this week getting all the work I can done before vacation next week and the show post slipped through the cracks. I have posted the material to Hi Tech Legion this morning and Paul should have it live on the site soon.
I will attempt to post this weeks show on Sunday if possible before leaving on vacation.