Wednesday, September 23, 2009

AMD/ATI: Radeon 5850 and 5870 released today

After a long summer of anticipation, the next generation of graphics cards has finally arrived. AMD today released the first two models in the Evergreen family, the Radeon HD 5870 and HD 5850.

The Radeon HD 5870 [left] and HD 5850 [right] reference designs
AMD/ATI Radeon HD 5870 reference designAMD/ATI Radeon HD 5850 reference design

The HD 5870 has been spotted throughout the day at various retailers, better availability of the HD 5850 is likely to follow next week.

The two cards are differentiated in performance by stream processor count (1600 vs 1440), core clock speed (850MHz vs 725MHz), and memory speed (1200MHz vs 1000MHz - before being quad-pumped).

A quick round-up of improvements over the 48xx series that AMD have implemented in these cards:

- Stream processor counts greatly increased to 1600 for HD 5870, 1440 for HD 5850. This is up from 800 on the previous RV770 core HD 48xx flagship designs.

- Texture units doubled from 40 to 80 in the HD 5870, and increase to 72 in the HD 5850.

- ROPs (Render Output Units) doubled from 16 to 32.

- DirectX 11 support.

- Lower idle power consumption. Better core underclocking plus an improved GDDR5 memory controller that can put the memory into power saving mode. The 5870 idles at just 27W!

- GPGPU: OpenCL and DirectCompute 5.0 support.

- Automatic data correction on memory bus errors

- Intelligent VRM throttling during peak loads

- Super-sample anti-aliasing returns. Currently DirectX 9 and below only supported.

- Angle-independent anisotropic filtering implemented perfectly.

- Connectivity: DisplayPort, HDMI, dual DVI.

The new cards are manufactured on TSMC's 40nm node, as was the difficult to find HD 4770 - which almost acted as a way for AMD to test the water on the 40nm node and help TSMC refine the yields for today's launch.

As we predicted in our preview article, Eyefinity will work with 3 displays on the standard 5850 and 5870 cards via DVI+HDMI+DisplayPort. Using readily available adapters this should be enough for anyone wanting to configure 3 monitors.

It's hardly surprising that not all games appear to be happy with the ultrawide resolutions that can be presented with Eyefinity. For example 3x 1080p screens side by side would give 5760x1080, an aspect ratio of 16:3. This will improve for future game releases as multi-monitor setups becomes more common and AMD's Catalyst drivers improve. As mentioned previously the 3 monitor tilted setup seems the best configuration to us in the meantime.

 AnandTech demoing Resident Evil 5 at 3600x1920 with 3 tilted displays


[image source AnandTech.com]

The first batches of cards are all using the standard AMD reference design and come with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. 2GB versions and custom cooling such as Sapphire's Vapor-X or Arctic Cooling designs are sure to follow.

All cards should come with a voucher to get a copy of Colin McRae's Dirt 2 - one of the first games to take advantage of DirectX 11. This should be available towards the end of November.

In around 1 month a 5870 X2 card implementing two 5870 GPUs on a single card should be released, followed shortly after by the 57xx series, with which AMD will address the mainstream end of the market.

Performance of a single card has increased greatly over the 48xx series, and the HD 5870 is easily the fastest single die design on the planet, with roughly equal performance to nVidia's GeForce GTX 295 doubled-up design. This bodes very well for AMD's doubled-up design, the HD 5870X2.

An evolution of AMD's GPU design rather than a revolution, the 58xx series does not disappoint. The performance and stability improvements along with idle power reduction should put a smile on the faces of both extreme and green gamers everywhere.

With peak compute power of 2.72 TFLOPS on the 5870 we're sure many scientists will be rubbing their hands together in glee also.

Further reading
- AnandTech: AMD's Radeon HD 5870: Bringing About the Next Generation of GPUs
- XbitLabs: DirectX 11 in the Open: ATI Radeon HD 5870 Review

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