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.