Meet the 5870

The card we’re looking at today is the Radeon HD 5870, based on the Cypress core.

Compared to the Radeon HD 4870, the 5870 has seen some changes to the board design. AMD has now moved to using a full sheath on their cards (including a backplate), very much like the ones that NVIDIA has been using since the 9800GTX. The card measures 10.5” long, an inch longer than the 4890 or the same as the 4870x2 and the NVIDIA GTX lineup.

The change in length means that AMD has moved the PCIe power connectors to the top of the card facing upwards, as there’s no longer enough room in the rear. Facing upwards is also a change from the 4870x2, which had them facing the front of the card. This, in our opinion, makes it easier to plug and unplug the PCIe power connectors, since it’s now possible to see what you’re doing.

Since the card has a TDP of 188W, AMD can still get away with using two 6-pin connectors. This is going to be good news for those of you with older power supplies that don’t feature 8-pin connectors, as previously the fastest cards without 8-pin connectors were the 4890 and GTX 285.

Briefly, the 5850 that we are not testing today will be slightly smaller than the 5870, coming in at 9.5”. It keeps the same cooler design, however the PCIe power connectors are back on the rear of the card.

With the 5800 series, DisplayPort is getting a much-needed kick in the pants. DisplayPort (full size) is standard on all 5800 series cards – prior to this it has been rather absent on reference cards. Along with a DisplayPort, the 5870 reference card contains a dedicated HDMI port, and a pair of DVI ports.

Making 4 ports fit on a card isn’t a trivial task, and AMD has taken an interesting direction in making it happen. Rather than putting every port on the same slot of the bracket as the card itself, one of the DVI ports is raised on to the other bracket. ATI could have just as easily only equipped these cards with 1 DVI port, and used an HDMI-to-DVI adapter for the second port. The advantage of going this direction is that the 5800 series can still drive two VGA monitors when using DVI-to-VGA adapters, and at the same time having an HDMI port built in means that no special adapters are necessary to get an HDMI port with audio capabilities. The only catch to this specific port layout is that the card still only has enough TMDS transmitters for two ports. So you can use 2x DVI or 1x DVI + HDMI, but not 2x DVI + HDMI. For 3 DVI-derived ports, you will need an active DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter.

With the configuration AMD is using, fitting that second DVI port also means that the exhaust vent of the 5800 series cards is not the full length of the card as is usually common, rather it’s a hair over half the length. The smaller size had us concerned about the 5870’s cooling capabilities, but as you’ll see with our temperature data, even with the smaller exhaust vent the load temperatures are no different than the 4870 or 4850, at 89C. And this is in spite of the fact that the 5870 is rated 28W more than the 4870.

With all of these changes also comes some changes to the loudness of the 5870 as compared to the 4870. The 27W idle power load means that AMD can reduce the speed of the fan some, and they say that the fan they’re using now is less noticeable (but not necessarily quieter) than what was on the 4870. In our objective testing the 5870 was no quieter than any of the 4800 series cards when it comes to idling at 46.6dB, and indeed it’s louder than any of those cards at 64dB at load. But in our subjective testing it has less of a whine. If you go by the objective data, this is a push at idle and louder at load.

Speaking of whining, we’re glad to report that the samples we received do not have the characteristic VRM whine/singing that has plagued many last-generation video cards. Most of our GTX cards and roughly half of our 4800 series cards generated this noise under certain circumstances, but the 5870 does not.

Finally, let’s talk about memory. Despite of doubling just about everything compared to RV770, Cypress and the 5800 series cards did not double their memory bandwidth. Moving from the 4870 and it’s 900MHz base memory clock, the 5870 only jumps up by 33% to 1.2Ghz, in effect increasing the ratio of GPU compute elements to memory bandwidth.

When looking back at the RV770, AMD believes that they were not bandwidth starved on the cards that used GDDR5. And since they had more bandwidth than they needed, it was not necessary to go for significantly more bandwidth for Cypress. This isn’t something we can easily test, but in our benchmarks the 5870 never doubles the performance of the 4870, in spite of being nearly twice the card. Graphics processing is embarrassingly parallel, but that doesn’t mean it perfectly scales. The different may be a product of that or a product of the lack of scaling in memory bandwidth, we can’t tell. What’s for certain however is that we don’t have any hard-capped memory bandwidth limited situations, the 5870 always outscores the 4870 by a great deal more than 33%.

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  • silverblue - Saturday, September 26, 2009 - link

    I think you may have been much happier with a 512-bit interface which would result in nearly 2.5x the bandwidth of the 4890, however it remains to be seen whether it'd be a waste or not. Having said that, it could mean for slower GDDR5 thus reducing costs, but wouldn't it be far more problematic to incorporate the wider bus anyway?

    If ATI throw out such a card with a single GPU on it, a direct comparison with the 5870 (and nVidia's top cards at the time) will be inevitable. The extra bandwidth may be rather under-utilised for anything less than Eyefinity gaming or Crysis at max details ;)

    Now all we need is AMD to come back at Intel with a domestic release of its Thuban die (or hurry up with Bulldozer, sheesh) and it'll be a very, very exciting time for people to upgrade.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    I want to know how the pinout compares on the 5870 gpu to the 4870/90.
    Have they doubled the data pins, or is the data jamming in and jamming out, even at 4800mhz ?
    Maybe that's why 512bit would help.
    Perhaps faster data rate ram, needs also a wider data path, more pins, more paths in and out of the gpu.
    I will check the overclock sites that have already posted on this matter.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    I would assume that the pin count on 5870 isn't radically different from 4870. Granted, we know what assuming can get you, but with the same interface width there's not much reason for it to get substantially more pins. A few changes for power leads to deal with having more transistors, and other minor tweaks are likely, but my bet would be it's within 10% of the pin count of 4870. Reply
  • PorscheRacer - Monday, September 28, 2009 - link

    For all those people clamoring on about why ATI didn't go with a 512-bit memory controller I'm going to chime in here with some ATI 512-bit experience. If you're a sharp one reading this, you have already guessed that means I'm going to talk about the R600. Now you can hate the card all you want, but I quite enjoyed this card. First of all, in the R600 it was the last ring-bus. It was a true 512-bit, and large memory controller. I'm not certain on the amount, but I believe it owned about a quarter of the realstate on the die. That's a lot. It also was some of the cause for the chip running hot and why UVD was scrapped from that chip to save room.

    Now, to keep that 512-bit ring-bus fed, you needed to push large amounts of data to it. The more you increased system bandwidth, the faster the card would be in any task. I've run hundreds of benchmarks over the years and I'm pretty sure Jared and Anand can attest to this. Same goes for overclocking the card. Raising the core didn't do much, but cranking up the VRAM to feed that hungry ring-bus sure did. Prices anyone? I believe $450 and up depending on where you were located. It was on heck of a pricey chip for ATI to make. Enter the die shrunk 3000 series with the 256-bit memory controller and voila. A cheaper chip to make. It never came close to the theoretical performance of the 2900XT, but the 3870 was about 90% of the performance for a lot cheaper. Yeas I know the cores were tweaked and so on in the 3000 series, but they are very similar.

    If ATI ever went to a 512-bit bus, which means more PCB layers, higher cost in manufacturing and a larger die, I'd think they'd do it on something like Juniper or wait till 32nm. It's not feasible right now. They technically could go the MCM route with Juniper and get a mashed up version of a 512-bit bus, but I don't think the chips have been designed with that in mind.

    Anyways, most computers out there are starved to feed something like the 5870 and higher cards with a 512-bit bus. I just replaced my R600 with an RV740 (hah, went from 80nm to 40nm) and now I don't need to OC the heck out of my bus to keep the card fed. I'm running an old FX-60 setup due to a glowing review on here back in early 2006. Am I the norm? NO, I'm waiting to upgrade. Is the Core i7 9xx the norm? No. You have to build a card to a certain set of people. I'm building my pal a new computer and he's happy with the 5850. The 5870 is overkill for him. It's 80% of the 5870 but a hundred bucks cheaper. Now, I'm sure ATI looked at the 512-bit bus in much the same way. "Wow, that 512-bit bus sure flies, look at those numbers! Oh, it's going to cost us this much die space and more manufacturing costs.... Well, those 256-bit bus numbers are still pretty imperssive and within 80% of the gaming benchmark scores, so we'll go that way"

    Or something along those lines....I'm sure that's why nVIDIA's GTX300 is delayed. It's a massive chip, 512-bit bus and so on. Great, they'll take the performance crown again. Will they take my money? If they have something in the $200-$300 range, they have a fighting chance, just like ATI does, or soon to be Intel. Best price for performance will win me over there. I don't care what the bus size is, or how the card could have been better, just as long as I'm happy with the performance for my money. In which case, I'll be here looking forward to a GPU roundoup in the best bang for buck in that price range. Of course it will have DX11, or else there's no point in me upgrading again.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    The GT200 is a 512 bit bus.
    All the whining and complaining about difficulty means NOTHING.
    ati goes the cheapskate sloppy lame route, cooks their cores, has 90C heat, few extra features, and a red raging fanbase filled with repeated tantric lies.
    I even posted their own forum here with their 4850 90C+ whines, after some rooster told me his worst fan in the world on his 4850 kept it in the cool 60's like the several Nvidia cards, of course.
    The 512bit HD2900 XTX was and is a great card, and even the 256 version still holds it's own. It was well over 500 bucks, was limited production, sold out quickly, and there was HD2900 512bit lesser version that could be flashed to full XTX with a bios upgrade, and it disappeared after it went well over $500.
    That HD2900XTX has 115GB bandwidth.
    It was REAL competition for the 8800GTX.
    --
    Of course ati cheaped out on producing any decent quantity, has been losing money, overcharged for it (and got it - but apparently like RUIZ, the "leadership" qualifies for "MORONS!"
    ---
    Now, we'll hear endless crying about expense, about 512bit, and endless crying about core size (nvidia's giant monster), then we'll hear how ati just kicks butt because more dies to a wafer, and they can make a profit, and they can then wipe out nvidia and make them lose money....
    BUT JUST THE OPPOSITE HAS BEEN GOING ON FOR SOME NUMBER OF YEARS IN A ROW.
    If ati is so pathetic it can't handle making 512bit and selling 512bit, well then , they're PATHETIC.
    And, yes, it seems they are PATHETIC.
    Someone ought to let ati know there's "competition" and the "competition" pumps out 512bit buses all the time.
    I guess when ati "finally catches up to the modern world" they can put out a 512bit again.
    In the mean time, they can stick with their cheap pcb with less layers, their cooking hot crammed full electromigration core, and have a bunch of looners that for the very first time in their lives, actually believe that the ghetto is better than Beverly Hills, because they goin fps shootin', man.
    Oh, it's so very nice so many gamers have as advice and worry ati's imbalanced sheet and how they can maintain it at a higher level. Such a concern on their minds, a great excuse for why ati cheaps out. I've never seen so many gaming enthusiasts with so much whoring for a company's bottom line. At the same time, nvidia is seen as an evil profit center that throws money around influencing the game production industry. LOL
    Yes, it's evil for big green to make money, employ reps, toss millions into game channels, be extremely flexible and pump out 20 differing flavors of cards, so it's not so boring, work so games run well on their product - yes what evil , evil ****rds.
    ...
    Perhaps the little red brokers could cheer some more when they feel ati "has improved it bottom line" by producing a cheap, knocked down, thinner, smaller, hotter, less featured, more negative driver issues, red card, because gamers are so concerned with economics, that they love the billions dollar losers plotted and carried out plans, and hate the company rolling in dollars and helping pump out games and a huge variety of gaming cards...
    LOL
    Yeah, the last red card that really was worth something, the HD2900512XTX.
    That's the other thing that is so funny from these little broker economy whizzes. After they start yakkin about ati's dirt cheap product scheme, it really burns em up that the real cadillac of videocards commands a higher price.
    Well, there's a reason a better made, more expensive process, more featured, wider supported in games videocard, is higher priced.
    "the great economists" then suddenly turn into raging little angry reds, screeching scalping and unfair and greedy... LOL
    Oh it's a hoot.
    Reply
  • Zak - Monday, October 05, 2009 - link

    I like Nvidia cards too, but if I was a moderator here you'd be banned by now. Relax. Take a pill. No one takes you seriously any more.

    Z.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Saturday, September 26, 2009 - link

    The core clock is not doubled, still 850.
    The memory data rate is not doubled 3600 to 4800.
    The bus width is not doubled still 256.
    The frame buffer is not doubled, still 1GB

    --- From Article Page 1 below ---
    " So what’s Cypress in a nutshell? It’s a RV790 (Radeon HD 4890) with virtually everything doubled,.."
    ---
    Ok, so pay attention to the word "virtually".
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 26, 2009 - link

    There's no need to double the bus... either double the RAM data rate or double the bus width and you accomplish the same thing. But in a nutshell, everything is doubled relative to HD 4890 except for bandwidth, which only improves by 23%. Similarly, everything is more than double the 4870X2, you don't even need to deal with CrossFire stuff, but the 4870X2 has 50% more total bandwidth.

    ATI almost certainly isn't completely bandwidth limited with 4890/4870X2, but I think 5870 might just be fast enough that it's running into bandwidth limitations. On the other hand, bandwidth limitations are largely dependent on the game and algorithm. For instance, the Quake/Quake World/Doom games have been extremely bandwidth intensive in the past, and some of the titles Anand tested fall into that category. However, I know of other games that appear to be far less dependent on bandwidth, and the more programmable stuff going on, the more important shader performance becomes.

    In the past, Oblivion was a great example of this. NVIDIA's 7800/7900 cards had a lot of bandwidth relative to shader performance, while ATI went the other route. Oblivion was really a strong ATI title (X1800/X1900 series) up until NVIDIA released 8800, which greatly improved NVIDIA's shader performance. Most modern titles tend to be a combination of things.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    Note: Edited for ease of response.

    Well noone makes double the ram data rate, there is NO SUCH DDR5. (No one ever said there was.)
    None of it runs at 7200 for videocards.
    NVIDIA is using the 512bit bus and 448bit+ on it's top cards, so what is ATI's problem, when that's the only thing available ? (They don't need it enough to increase the cost of the cards to get it.)
    Furthermore, the core is still 850, so have the data pins in and out of the core doubled ? I RATHER DOUBT IT. (Obviously it didn't - the specs say it's 256-bit. Did you not read the post?)
    So, concievably, we have twice the data to move, on the same core speed, with less than double the DATA PINS in and out. (No, we don't have twice the data to move, unless the 4890 totally maxed out what the RAM could provide. ATI doesn't think this happened, so they only marginally increased bandwidth.)
    If the bandwidth is NOT the problem, as you so claim, why then since everything ELSE you say has doubled, the conclusion we have is the ATI core is not up to the task. (If it truly had doubled in every area, and performance didn't double, we'd have a problem. The conclusion sane people will draw is that ATI looked at cost and benefit and decided a 256-bit bus was sufficient for the present. Otherwise they'd need a more complex circuit board, which would increase complexity and cost.)
    That's it, it's core tech is so much the same....
    LOL
    Just love those ATI arguments. (There was no argument, but I'm a troll so I created one!)
    When the CORE is overclocked, we will see a framerate increase.
    SOOOOO.....
    Tell me how the core handles TWICE THE DATA in and out - unless it's pinout count has doubled ? Is ther that much wasted time on the 4890 pins - on the current 5870 pins ? (No one said the core handles twice as much data; theoretically it can, but then deeper buffers would help.)
    It may handle double data or nearly internally, but that has to communicate with the ram- etc onboard.
    SORRY, once again, not agreeing. (Agreeing with what, that the bandwidth only increased by 23%? Wow, that's amazing. You'd disagree if someone said the sun rises in the east, wouldn't you? Try reading next time before responding instead of arguing for the sake of argument.)
    Reply
  • Zool - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    The meaning of cache on the gpu is so it doesnt need to read and write to dram memmory too often. The speed of texture cache on 5870 is 1 TB/sec and its sram. And thats just the texture chache. It just shows how much speed is needed to utilize that raw comuting power on the chip. They surely tested the chip with higher speed memory and ended with this bandwith compromis.
    Also u cant compare the bare peak bandwith. The type of memmory controler and the speed of the GPU(and also cache) should change the real world bandwith like we see with wideferent CPU models and speeds.
    When u read xxx GB/s bandwith it doesnt mean it always this fast (they name it peak bandwith always).
    Reply

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