iMac: ATI 4850 vs ATI 5850

Paulyboy

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jan 26, 2007
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I'm thinking about snagging one of the I7 refurbs that are now occasionally popping up in the Apple Online Store. I currently have a late 2006 24" iMac with the 7300GT 128mb and 2mb of RAM. I can't say I'm in desperation mode yet but the I7 would definitely make any nagging, but mainly minor, issues I'm having go away. I would also definitely love the extra real estate the beautiful 27" display provides.

I would say I'm more or less an average user although I do occasionally do projects in iMovie and encode them to DVD for family and friends. I also rip all my DVD purchases to a Plex library for my HTC.

I do play games although I can't say I'm a hardcore gamer. For the most part I don't play 3D shooter-type games. Perhaps the most demanding game I'll be playing this year is Dragon Age: Origins and its expansion (I actually just purchased it from Direct2Drive's 50% off sale and stuck it on an external HD until I decide to upgrade this year).

So clearly going from what I have now to an I7 would be major overkill. However, I promised myself that as long as I have the money I won't be cheap with the next iMac I get. Last time I went with the 7300GT instead of the 7600GT, which saved me around $300. I actually don't really regret that decision because I've managed to last almost 3.5 years without making many compromises. But I'd like my next iMac to last even longer and perhaps even have better resale value.

So with that all said I will have enough money in April. I've already settled the I5 vs I7 debate (I7, especially at the price the refurb store offers). The only thing left that gives me pause is the 4850 GPU. It's a decent GPU, and obviously would be a huge leap for me, but I can't help but wonder about the new ATI 5xxx GPUs (specifically the 5850 mobile) that would seem likely destined for the next iMac refresh.

I've done some Googling but I'm curious what people on these forums think about the differences between the 4850 and 5850? Obviously the 5850 is going to be better but how much better? Enough to wait it out?

And for the record SSD, USB 3, and Blue-ray have no relevance in my decision. :)

Thanks for any advice. :)

-PN
 

Rodus

macrumors 6502a
Oct 25, 2008
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Midlands, UK
Apple always lag behind with GPU's so IMO we won't see the high end 5xxx series in the iMac any time soon. The 5850 is better then the 4850 to be sure but frankly if it's just gaming you're looking at then it'd make more sense to buy a console or a dedicated gaming rig (PC). Anyway, the 4850 is still a very decent card so if you have your heart set on an i7 then probably better to buy now then wait for an unsure amount of time for an upgrade that may or may not appear (plus the i7's will have great resale price if you decided to go for a spec bumped one 6 mths down the line). BTW you can happily overclock the mobile 4850 to higher levels then the standard speed desktop 4850.

edited to add: Hellhammers link shows the 5850 has 128 bit memory bandwidth vs the 256 bit in 4850, this could make a fair bit of difference,
 

Hellhammer

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Dec 10, 2008
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Benchmarks shows that 5850 is actually slower than 4850 though we don't know what drivers etc the 5850 had.

While Mobile 4850 is just underclocked desktop 4850 with about the same performance as desktop 4830, Mobile 5850 is underclocked desktop 5770 but it's slower than desktop 5750.

In summary, mobile 5850 won't be much faster (if any) than mobile 4850 because 4850 is based on high-end desktop chip while 5850 is based on mid-level desktop chip. Real world differences we don't know before 5xxx iMac is released (if it ever will) because it depends on what GPU  uses and how much memory and what are the clock speeds.
 

Paulyboy

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jan 26, 2007
352
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Apple always lag behind with GPU's so IMO we won't see the high end 5xxx series in the iMac any time soon. The 5850 is better then the 4850 to be sure but frankly if it's just gaming you're looking at then it'd make more sense to buy a console or a dedicated gaming rig (PC). Anyway, the 4850 is still a very decent card so if you have your heart set on an i7 then probably better to buy now then wait for an unsure amount of time for an upgrade that may or may not appear (plus the i7's will have great resale price if you decided to go for a spec bumped one 6 mths down the line). BTW you can happily overclock the mobile 4850 to higher levels then the standard speed desktop 4850.

edited to add: Hellhammers link shows the 5850 has 128 bit memory bandwidth vs the 256 bit in 4850, this could make a fair bit of difference,
Thanks for the response.

Gaming is only one of many things I use my Mac for so I have no interest in a "gaming PC". As I stated I'm not really a hardcore gamer. I don't even use Bootcamp. I don't play 3D Shooters for the most part and I don't really care if I can get 60fps at 1900x1080 on everything I get my hands on (not that the type of games I typically play would push the limits anyways).

However, since I'm going to be spending 2k on an iMac this year sometime I'd like to make sure I get the most out of it and it lasts a long time. I don't care about Blue-ray, SSD is too expensive presently, and it will be awhile before USB 3 becomes standard (it's highly unlikely it will be in the next iMac anyways). But the GPU could be upgraded. I may not be a very hardcore gamer but I also don't necessarily need to upgrade immediately. It would obviously be nice, and I'll have the money to do so next month, but I'm willing to wait if these 5xxx GPUs, which *might* be in the next revision, are really that much better.

So I'm just trying to gather all the information possible. :)

-PN
 

definitive

macrumors 68000
Aug 4, 2008
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if you want to get the most out of your money, then i suggest you wait until the next refresh with a better graphics card. a 4850 isn't much for a 2560x1440 resolution that the 27" imac has. it would have been a more suitable card for the top-end 21.5" instead, and 4670 should have been the base card instead of the 9400m which in my opinion is a joke for the price that you pay on their cheapest system.
 

dh2005

macrumors 6502a
Jan 25, 2010
907
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The 9400M was the component about which I had the greatest reservations before buying a Mini. I seriously considered waiting for the next generation before investing.

But, in practice, it's not bad. It's surpassed my expectations, in fact. I figured it'd be some lame piece of crap that could just about run Doom 3 if I asked it nicely. But I can run Doom 3 on maximum settings, and get more than 30 frames per second out of it.

Sure, Doom 3's an older game, but it still looks terrific when run on maximum settings. And if performance gaming is your plan, the Mini shouldn't even enter your thinking. Suffice it to say that the 9400M makes a decent account of itself in the Mini - it's a better match than I expected.
 

Bryan Bowler

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Sep 27, 2008
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OP, this is a good thread and a great question to ask. I'm in the same boat as you. I'm going to buy an i7, but I can easily wait up until August before I really need it...so I'm holding out for the next update too. Throughout this time, I was wondering what the ATI 5850 will bring to the table, if in fact it is included in the next update. (purely speculation of course)

From the answers we have so far, it looks like there is no way of really telling until it actually gets here and some benchmarks are made.

Bryan
 

Rodus

macrumors 6502a
Oct 25, 2008
679
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Midlands, UK
Another good chart here.
The 5850 mobility barely beats the 4670 let alone the 4850. Looks like ATI cut it down too much.

its 128-bit memory bus, which differs it from the good old Mobility Radeon HD4850’s with its 256-bit memory, won’t allow it to shine even when it gets better drivers
We just don’t have a clue why ATI released a card that will potentially run slower than its predecessor.
 

Hellhammer

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Dec 10, 2008
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Another good chart here.
The 5850 mobility barely beats the 4670 let alone the 4850. Looks like ATI cut it down too much.
They didn't cut 5850 too much. The difference is that mobile 4850 is actually the same chip as desktop 4850 but just underclocked. Mobile 5850 is based on desktop 5770 which is about as fast as desktop 4850 so that's why there is no big difference!

There is no Cypress (desktop 5850) based mobile GPU yet, just Juniper (desktop 5770) based ones. I don't know will there ever be a mobile Cypress GPU, maybe Cypress is just too hot and expensive to be used in laptops yet.

But still barley beating 4850, it is rather underwhelming. So when is the 6xxx series coming out? :) I have high hopes for that one in the iMac.

j/k
Northern Islands (successor of Evergreen, 5xxx series) are expected to be released as early as Q3 2010 but it can also be early 2011. Mobile variants will come few months after desktop ones though
 

Paulyboy

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Jan 26, 2007
352
11
OP, this is a good thread and a great question to ask. I'm in the same boat as you. I'm going to buy an i7, but I can easily wait up until August before I really need it...so I'm holding out for the next update too. Throughout this time, I was wondering what the ATI 5850 will bring to the table, if in fact it is included in the next update. (purely speculation of course)

From the answers we have so far, it looks like there is no way of really telling until it actually gets here and some benchmarks are made.

Bryan
Yeah we both sound like we're in very similar situations. I was hoping to get something out of this thread that would push me one way or another but I didn't expect anything. I've been around Macs a long time and have been a regular reader of this forum for awhile so I pretty much know what to expect. And so far this thread, while very interesting, has yielded pretty much what I expected - not enough to push me one way or another.

I know I'd be immensely happy with the current I7 and it would probably be the biggest jump in capability between Macs I've ever experienced in my 25 years (and 7 Macs) of involvement with Apple. However, I'm also in a position where I could easily wait 3-6 more months if I had to.

So for now I'll wait until about mid-April, when I'll have the money, and see if anything more is reported by then. I don't expect we'll know anything more by then but we'll see.

On a related note, did anyone notice how in Valve's stunning Steam for the Mac announcement they said they worked closely with Apple and GPU manufacturers to ensure the best possible experience? Could this mean Apple might actually take GPUs in future iMacs more seriously?

-PN
 

Hellhammer

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Dec 10, 2008
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But the 4850 can't play Crysis at 1080P, very high with 8x AA, yet the 5850 can...
I think you mean the desktop version, right? As I've said it twice, there is no desktop 5850 based mobile GPU because mobile 5850 is based on desktop 5770, not 5850. Mobile 4850 is based on desktop 4850 though
 

Transporteur

macrumors 68030
Nov 30, 2008
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_bGHsrqxj8

Probably only at around 20-30 FPS, but can the 4850 do that?
The description says 32fps+. Impressive, really. I reckon my 4870 doesn't even make the half of that.

Eh, I'm sure Apple will put something better in. Why can't they have desktop GPU's in the higher end iMac.
Heat. To keep the iMac silent, they have to put in a mobile chip.
Apple computers still are not supposed to do gaming. They can, true, but a decent PC can and will do much better!
 

Sambo110

macrumors 68000
Mar 12, 2007
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But with Steam coming out, I think Apple might focus on gaming more. And they could make the higher end iMac a bit thicker, I wouldn't care, and most people buying it wouldn't. As long as it's silent while you're not gaming I would be happy with it. They could have 3/4 models thin and using laptop parts like now, but the fourth one should have either an amazingly good mobility GPU, or a desktop one.
 

Hellhammer

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Dec 10, 2008
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Eh, I'm sure Apple will put something better in. Why can't they have desktop GPU's in the higher end iMac.
Heat and space. Look at Pic1 Pic2, there is no space for desktop GPU really, unless Apple makes iMac a lot thicker so the GPU would fit there horizontally. Desktop 5850 consumes as much as 151W while mobile 5850 tops out at 39W and mobile 4850 tops out at 45-65W (couldn't find more precise data) so that would mean a +400W PSU in iMac (=even more heat + less "greener"). Even though I would love to have a desktop GPU in iMac, it feels impossible without massive redesign
 

coolmacguy

macrumors regular
Dec 6, 2002
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I was kind of in this line of thinking but decided to buy now because after further research, as several people have pointed out in this thread, the 4850 is really about the best we can hope for for the near future. Any options Apple has now that are better are really just minor improvements.

The iMac will never be able to run the top end cards because of it's design.
 

peakchua

macrumors regular
Apr 12, 2010
184
0
the 5850 seriously loses but only wins in the 3dmark benchmarks probably because of the advanced features. APPLE would be stupid to include this in the new imac and should include the 5870 with GDDR5 memory. and stop lying apple, the whole world knows its mobility so just admit it.!!!
 

peakchua

macrumors regular
Apr 12, 2010
184
0
Benchmarks shows that 5850 is actually slower than 4850 though we don't know what drivers etc the 5850 had.

While Mobile 4850 is just underclocked desktop 4850 with about the same performance as desktop 4830, Mobile 5850 is underclocked desktop 5770 but it's slower than desktop 5750.

In summary, mobile 5850 won't be much faster (if any) than mobile 4850 because 4850 is based on high-end desktop chip while 5850 is based on mid-level desktop chip. Real world differences we don't know before 5xxx iMac is released (if it ever will) because it depends on what GPU  uses and how much memory and what are the clock speeds.


they average it out.. the one with lowrr frps has a kinda low processor. the other one had a processor not even close to the quadcore i5 i7 used in imac so the 5850 should perform siginificantly better
 

Hellhammer

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they average it out.. the one with lowrr frps has a kinda low processor. the other one had a processor not even close to the quadcore i5 i7 used in imac so the 5850 should perform siginificantly better
Most what I've looked where pretty same. i5 @2.3GHz vs 2.9GHz C2D, not huge difference between them, i5 can even be faster. 4850 beat it anyway. See e.g. Fear 2 and Crysis