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HIS Radeon HD 5870 - HIS Radeon HD 5870

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


Now, we called the Cyprus chip modest but once you start looking at its stats you realise that word does it rather a disservice. Thanks to its 40nm manufacturing process, AMD has managed to pack 2.15billion transistors into a piece of silicon that's just 334mm^2. In contrast, the previous top dog, the GT200b that powered the GTX285 had 1.4billion transistors packed into a 490mm^2 die.

Now, if you're unfamiliar with the inner workings of AMD's latest cards then you might like to read our review of the HD 4870 to catch up with the core features then come back and join us for this review.

With the RV870, AMD has essentially taken the basic inner workings of RV770 (HD 4870) and doubled a load of it up. Most notably the number of SIMDs has been doubled from 10 to 20. This in turn doubles the number of stream processors from 800 to 1,600 and the texture units from 40 to 80. Meanwhile the number of ROPs has also doubled from 16 to 32. All this lot will be running at 850MHz - the same as the HD 4890.

What hasn't changed is the amount of memory each card will use and the interface that the chip uses to talk to it, namely you'll get 1GB of GDDR5 memory running at 4.8GHz communicating over a 256-bit interface making for a total bandwidth of 154.6GB/s.

There will also be an HD 4850 card based on the RV870 chip. However, this will have two of the SIMDs disabled and will run at lower clock speeds. This will result in it having 1,440 stream processors, 72 texture units, a core clock speed of 725MHz, and memory running at 4GHz. The number of ROPs, amount of memory, and the memory bus width remain the same though.

While there aren't a huge number of feature changes in this card that are relevant to the scope of this review there are, well, a few. The first is the reintroduction of supersampling anti-aliasing (AA) support. This is a brute force alternative to the much more common place multi-sampling AA. It results in much better image quality but has a massive impact on performance, thus it having fallen out of favour.

Another image quality improvement with the HD 5870 is better anisotropic-filtering, which is now completely angle independent. This means that no matter what angle you're looking at a surface in a 3D scene you'll get the same level of image quality improvements.

The final under-the-skin change to the HD 5870 is support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio bit-streaming through the card's DVI and HDMI video outputs. As with previous cards, the HD 5870 enables you to use a single cable from your computer to pass video and audio through an HDMI cable (using a DVI-to-HDMI adapter in the case of the DVI outputs) to your TV. However, whereas previous cards didn't support all possible streams, with the addition of these formats, this card now supports all major digital audio streams used in DVDs and Blu-rays.


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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