AMD's ATI Radeon HD 5870 Video Card Review

AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 5800 series debuts today and the new ATI Radeon HD 5870 is now available. We will give you all the gritty details of the HD 5800 Series, and show you just how well the new flagship ATI Radeon HD 5870 accelerates games. Can you say, “I like twice as much performance in the same power envelope.”


ATI Radeon HD 5800 Specifications

The ATI Radeon HD 5870 is AMD’s flagship video card as of writing this. This is the video card that will provide the best gameplay experience currently from its 5800 series GPU. It is a single-GPU dual-slot video card. The Radeon HD 5850 would be the equivalent of a Radeon HD 4850 compared to the 4870. The 5850 comes at a lower price, but still packs a solid punch. In fact, it supports higher specifications than we guessed. It is also a single-GPU dual-slot video card.

Below are the specifications of the Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850 compared to a Radeon HD 4870. You will note both GPUs are based on 2nd generation 40nm technology and each contain 2.15 Billion Transistors.

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ATI Radeon HD 5870

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The Radeon HD 5870 has 1600 stream processing units, 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs, finally. One of the often criticized decisions on the Radeon HD 4800 series was the low ROP and texture unit count. AMD has "doubled everything." The streaming processor units and ROPs are all clocked at 850MHz, which is the same frequency as an HD 4890, but of course twice as much "muscle." Memory is achieved using AMD’s 4th generation 1GB GDDR5 technology on a 256-bit bus clocked at 4.8GHz. This gives the Radeon HD 5870 a memory bandwidth of 153.6GB/sec. The most amazing feat of all is the power envelope this video card operates inside of; 27W at idle and 188W maximum board power. Idle board power on the Radeon HD 4870 is rated at a high 90W, and the maximum board power is only 28W higher than the Radeon HD 4870. Worthy of noting here is that the 27W number is idle with the video card pushing one display. When two controllers are leveraged, the power profile of the GPU kicks up into a "medium" power state and will idle at approximately 60W.

Just glancing at these specifications you may think that the Radeon HD 5870 is nothing more than a Radeon HD 4870 X2 in a single GPU package. While it is true the streaming processor units, texture units and ROPs are simply "doubled," there are other features that have been added and improved upon in the architecture itself, not to mention the addition of all DX11 features. AMD claims that a single Radeon HD 5870 GPU will perform better than a dual-GPU Radeon HD 4870 X2 video card. We will be testing that in a follow-up article to see how the HD 5870 exactly compares to a HD 4870 X2.

US e-tail pricing will be at $379 on HD 5870.

ATI Radeon HD 5850

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The Radeon HD 5850 is also amazing in many ways in comparison to the previous generation. What surprised us initially was that the Radeon HD 5850 is going to come with a full 1GB of GDDR5 memory. When the Radeon HD 4850 was launched it only came with 512MB and never did officially get upgraded, probably since the performance wasn’t there to demand a 1GB framebuffer on a single video card. However, the Radeon HD 5850 may have enough performance to warrant the need for 1GB of RAM now. We may find that it really can utilize it, especially in CrossFireX. Therefore, this is a welcome specification and we are glad AMD is pushing for higher memory capacities on this generation.

The Radeon HD 5850 comes with 1440 streaming processor units, 72 texture units and 32 ROPs. Therefore, it has less streaming processor units than the 5870, but only slightly less texture units and even better still the SAME amount of ROPs. This is an interesting combination, but it means the HD 5850 may be a powerhouse at AA and Postprocessing effects for the price. The core is clocked at 725MHz and it produces 2.09 TFLOPs of compute performance.

Memory, as we said, is handled by 1GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit bus. The memory is clocked at 4GHz and has available 128GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The power is once again at a favorable rating, 27W at idle and 170W maximum board power which is 10W higher than the Radeon HD 4870. Also remember that if using two or more displays, the idle power nearly doubles.

US e-tail pricing will be at $259 on HD 5850.

Power Savings

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The power savings on the Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850 could be considered a feature in of itself. ATI has gone to great lengths to keep these two video cards in a power envelope comparable to the previous generation, while at the same time doubling performance. Our power tests at the end of this article will show that they have succeeded in this goal. The 5800 series GPU utilizes lower clocked core and memory frequencies plus voltage switching and lower GDDR5 memory power to keep the power in check, and it works.

As mentioned above, the Idle Wattage of 27W is with one display attached to the video card. We have learned that if you have more than one display hooked up the idle power will be higher than 27W, possibly up to 60W; which is still around 30W lower than the Radeon HD 4870 at idle.