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Back in July of last year AMD wowed us all with the release of its HD 4870 graphics card. While it wasn't outright faster than nVidia's GTX 280, it was a huge improvement over AMD's previous generation cards and was far more sensibly priced. Since then both AMD and nVidia have released refresh versions of these cards in the form of the HD 4890 and GTX 285, as well as dual chip versions, the HD 4870 X2 and GTX 295. These all pushed performance forward but, as always, it's with a brand new chip that things get really exciting.

Today, then, we're looking at the HIS HD 5870, a card based on AMD's new RV870 GPU (codenamed Cyprus). This new chip is only the second graphics chip (after the much more modest one that powered the HD 4770) to be manufactured on a 40nm process. It's also the first to support DirectX 11, the API that will be introduced with Windows 7 and will be powering the next generation of PC games.

This is particularly significant as it means AMD will be seeding developers with these cards to use for testing. With nVidia unlikely to have working DirectX 11 hardware of its own available for sometime this means AMD has a head start in getting games optimised to run on its hardware - a significant advantage nVidia had with the 8800 series when DirectX 10 was first appearing on the scene.

As with its recent previous generation cards, AMD hasn't gone for an all out powerhouse of a new chip that will take performance to the next level. Instead it has aimed at creating a more modest chip that it can produce in large volumes and price more sensibly. Now, obviously £300 is still quite a lot of money for a graphics card but, compared to the likes of the GTX 280 that cost well over £400 when it launched, it's reasonable.

To battle for the outright performance crown, AMD will mount two of these chips on a single board, in the same way that it did with the HD 4870 X2. So if you're after the next level in performance and money's no object then that's the card to look out for in the future, along with whatever nVidia has to offer when it eventually arrives.

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October 6, 2009, 4:25 am

I think it may be time to drop Counter-Strike from the games test list. Over 100FPS at 2560*1600 with 4x AA, even on last generation hardware, could be called excessive even for CS addicts ;)


October 6, 2009, 5:15 am

it would be nice if you stated quality settings on the benchmarks,you have the 5870 trouncing the gtx 295 in far cry 2,yet in all others reviews ive read the 295 scores higher.

Tommy K

October 6, 2009, 4:01 pm

surely ther overall should be 9 as if you add up the 3 columns you get an average of 9?

Luan Bach

October 6, 2009, 4:02 pm

The features table image has the Frame Buffer and Memory Bandwidth data transposed for the GTX285.


October 6, 2009, 7:10 pm

@ betelgeus: they do page 4


October 6, 2009, 7:24 pm

Why is the noise level of the cooling fans does not get a mention?

For me, the noise level is a major factor in choosing a new graphics card. I know this new generation card runs cooler than the previous generation due to the smaller and more efficient manufacturing process, but does this equal a quieter fan? Nothing worse than a card immitating a hair dryer.


October 7, 2009, 12:28 am

I dont understand why when the card consumes alot less power and runs alot cooler than previous high end cards is it so... massive.

I remember I got my 2900XT on release day ( /sigh at people who actually bet on the 8800GTX horse) i was amazed at how massive it was, but then you realized the heat it produced and understood why.

I have a fairly roomy case, but the biggest case in the world wouldnt stop this monstrosity from hitting my southbridge heatsink.

AMD looks like they have DX11 in the bag though. GT300 looks inefficient, late, and poor real world performance. I'll just wait a little though, something like a 5830 or 5770 for me with a smaller footprint.


October 7, 2009, 1:40 am

@ Malderon - The size of the card has nothing to do with the amount heat it produces; there's a lot more stuff they've got to fit on the PCB than just the GPU, it isn't just wasted space.

Also, where are you getting you information on GT300? AFAIK, nVidia are still at the testing stages with early production samples and haven't even decided on clock speeds yet, which is why they're so late and also why any reports on performance are most likely wrong. Besides, the talk coming out of nVidia is that Fermi will be faster than Cypress, which will almost certainly be the case in the GPGPU stakes, although for gaming that remains to be seen, not least because nVidia aren't talking about it to anyone. While this may just be marketing guff, it would be quite embarrassing for them if it turns out it's not true.

Oh, and I think you'll find that the 5850 is a good deal shorter than the last generation of high-end cards, and almost exactly the same length as your 'huge' 2900XT at ~9.5":


October 7, 2009, 5:54 am

@guy - agree about noise levels, though they've been mixed messages on this front for the 5870.

AnandTech said "At 64 dB it’s louder than everything other than the GTX 295 and a pair of 5870s. Hopefully this is something that the card manufacturers can improve on later on with custom coolers"

While The Tech Report said "The 5870 has best-in-class acoustics at idle and the second-lowest noise level under load."

So, I'd be interested in TR's take on this.


October 7, 2009, 12:34 pm

I basically ran out of time so haven't done noise level testing yet. I should have time this afternnon to take a look so I'll update the review if I get that done.


October 7, 2009, 9:55 pm

It scored 10, 9 and 8 = 27/3 = 9. Why 8 overall?????


October 7, 2009, 10:51 pm

@jm - because scores are not an average ;)

Don Kanonjii

October 8, 2009, 3:00 pm

I agree about changing the gaming benchmarks, especially with this new generation of hardware. Need to run stuff that is crippling not because it is poorly optimised but because of the level of detail etc. Crysis still fits this bill though.


October 8, 2009, 3:03 pm

For these high end cards, i totally agree, but I keep running CSS becuase it's a popular game and becuase it's still a challenge for low end cards. I also find it an interesting reference point as only running the latest games gives a skewed impression of overall perforamnce.


October 24, 2009, 5:13 pm

Please note, I've now added sound level results to this review.

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