Sometimes a surprise is nice. Other times it’s nice for things to go as planned for once.

Compared to the HD 4800 series launch, AMD’s launch of the HD 5800 series today is going to fall into the latter category. There are no last-minute announcements or pricing games, or NDAs that get rolled back unexpectedly. Today’s launch is about as normal as a new GPU launch can get.

However with the lack of last-minute surprises, it becomes harder to keep things under wraps. When details of a product launch are announced well ahead of time, inevitably someone on the inside can’t help but leak the details of what’s going on. The result is that what we have to discuss today isn’t going to come as a great surprise for some of you.

As early as a week ago the top thread on our video forums had the complete and correct specifications for the HD 5800 series. So if you’ve been peaking at what’s coming down the pipe (naughty naughty) then much of this is going to be a confirmation of what you already know.

Today’s Launch

3 months ago AMD announced the Evergreen family of GPUs, AMD’s new line of DirectX11 based GPUs. 2 weeks ago we got our first briefing on the members of the Evergreen family, and AMD publically announced their Eyefinity technology running on the then-unnamed Radeon HD 5870. Today finally marks the start of the Evergreen launch, with cards based on the first chip, codename Cypress, being released. Out of Cypress comes two cards: The Radeon HD 5870, and the Radeon HD 5850.

  ATI Radeon HD 5870 ATI Radeon HD 5850 ATI Radeon HD 4890 ATI Radeon HD 4870
Stream Processors 1600 1440 800 800
Texture Units 80 72 40 40
ROPs 32 32 16 16
Core Clock 850MHz 725MHz 850MHz 750MHz
Memory Clock 1.2GHz (4.8GHz data rate) GDDR5 1GHz (4GHz data rate) GDDR5 975MHz (3900MHz data rate) GDDR5 900MHz (3600MHz data rate) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
Transistor Count 2.15B 2.15B 959M 956M
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point $379 $259 ~$180 ~$160

So what’s Cypress in a nutshell? It’s a RV790 (Radeon HD 4890) with virtually everything doubled, given the additional hardware needed to meet the DirectX 11 specifications, with new features such as Eyefinity  and angle independent anisotropic filtering packed in, lower idle power usage, and fabricated on TSMC’s 40nm process. Beyond that Cypress is a direct evolution/refinement of the RV7xx, and closely resembles its ancestor in design and internal workings.

The leader of the Evergreen family is the Radeon HD 5870, which will be AMD’s new powerhouse card. The 5870 features 1600 stream processors divided among 20 SIMDs, 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs, with 1GB of GDDR5 on-board connected to a 256bit memory bus. The 5870 is clocked at 850MHz for the core clock, and 1.2GHz (4.8GHz effective) for the memory, giving it a maximum compute performance of 2.72 teraflops. Load power is 188W, and idle power is a tiny 27W. It is launching at a MSRP of $379.

Below that we have the 5850 (which we will not be reviewing today), which is a slightly cut-down version of the 5870. Here we have 1440 stream processors divided among 18 SIMDs, 72 texture units, and the same 32 ROPs, with the same 256bit memory bus. The 5850 is clocked at 725Mhz for the core, and 1Ghz for the memory, giving it a maximum compute performance of 2.09 TFLOPS. With the disabled units, load power is slightly reduced to 170W, and it has the same 27W idle power. AMD expects the 5850 to perform at approximately 80% the performance level of the 5870, and is pricing it at $259.

Availability is going to be an issue, so we may as well get the subject out of the way. While today is a hard launch, it’s not quite as hard of a launch as we would like to see. AMD is launching the 5800 series with Dell, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if Dell has cards when e-tailers don't.

The situation with general availability is murky at best. The first thing we heard was that there may be a week of lag, but as of today AMD is telling us that they expect e-tailers to have 5870 cards on the 23rd, and 5850 cards next week. In any case whatever cards do make it in the channel are going to be in short supply, which matches the overall vibe we’re getting from AMD that supplies are going to be tight initially compared to the demand. So even after the first few days it may be hard to get a card. Given a tight supply we’ll be surprised if prices stick to the MSRP, and we’re likely to see e-tailers charge a price premium in the first days. Depending on just how high the demand is, this may mean it’ll take a while for prices to fall down to their MSRPs and for AMD to completely clear the backlog of demand for these cards.

Update: As of 5am EDT, we have seen the availability of 5870s come and go. Newegg had some in stock, but they have since sold out. So indeed AMD did make the hard launch (which we're always glad to see), but it looks like our concerns about a limited supply are proving to be true.

Finally, we asked AMD about the current TSMC 40nm situation, and they have told us that they are happy with it. Our concern was that problems at TSMC (specifically: yield) would be a holdup in getting more cards out there, but this does not look to be the case. However given the low supply of the cards compared to where AMD expects the supply to be, TSMC’s total 40nm capacity may not be to AMD’s liking.

Meet the 5870
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  • Zool - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    The speed of the on chip cache just shows that the external memory bandwith in curent gpus is only to get the data to gpu or recieve the final data from gpu. The raw processing hapenns on chip with those 10 times faster sram cache or else the raw teraflops would vanish. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    If SD had any reading comprehension or understanding of tech, he would realize that what I am saying is:

    1) Memory bandwidth didn't double - it went up by just 23%
    2) Look at the results and performance increased by far more than 23%
    3) Ergo, the 4890 is not bandwidth limited in most cases, and there was no need to double the bandwidth.

    Would more bandwidth help performance? Almost certainly, as the 5870 is such a high performance part that unlike the 4890 it could use more. Similarly, the 4870X2 has 50% more bandwidth than the 5870, but it's never 50% faster in our tests, so again it's obviously not bandwidth limited.

    Was it that hard to understand? Nope, unless you are trying to pretend I put an ATI bias on everything I say. You're trying to start arguments again where there was none.
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    The 4800 data rate ram is faster vs former 3600 - hence bus width is running FASTER - so your simple conclusions are wrong.
    When we overlcock the 5870's ram, we get framerate increase - it increases the bandwidth, and up go the numbers.
    ---
    Not like there isn't an argument, because you don't understand tech.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    The bus is indeed faster -- 4800 effective vs. 3900 on the 4890 or 3600 on the 4870. What's "wrong about my simple conclusions"? You're not wrong, but you're not 100% right if you suggest bandwidth is the only bottleneck.

    Naturally, as most games are at least partially bandwidth limited, if you overclock 10% you increase performance. The question is, does it increase linearly by 10%? Rarely, just as if you overclock the core 10% you usually don't get 10% boost. If you do get a 1-for-1 increase with overclocking, it indicates you are solely bottlenecked by that aspect of performance.

    So my conclusions still stand: the 5870 is more bandwidth limited than 4890, but it is not completely bandwidth limited. Improving the caches will also help the GPU deal with less bandwidth, just as it does on CPUs. As fast as Bloomfield may be with triple-channel DDR3-1066 (25.6GB/s), the CPU can process far more data than RAM could hope to provide. Would a wider/faster bus help the 5870? Yup. Would it be a win-win scenario in terms of cost vs. performance? Apparently ATI didn't think so, and given how quickly sales numbers taper off above $300 for GPUs, I'm inclined to agree.

    I'd also wager we're a lot more CPU limited on 5870 than many other GPUs, particularly with CrossFire setups. I wouldn't even look at 5870 CrossFire unless you're running a high-end/overclocked Core i7 or Phenom II (i.e. over ~3.4GHz).

    And FWIW: Does any of this mean NVIDIA can't go a different route? Nope. GT300 can use 512-bit interfaces with GDDR5, and they can be faster than 5870. They'll probably cost more if that's the case, but then it's still up to the consumers to decide how much they're willing to spend.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Saturday, September 26, 2009 - link

    I suppose if we end up seeing a 512-bit card then it'll make for a very interesting comparison with the 5870. With equal clocks during testing, we'd have a far better idea, though I'd expect to see far more RAM on a 512-bit card which may serve to skew the figures and muddy the waters, so to speak. Reply
  • Voo - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    Hey Jarred I know that's neither the right place nor the right person to ask, but do we get some kind of "Ignore this person" button with the site revamp Anand talked about some months ago?

    I think I'd prefer this feature about almost everything - even an edit button ;)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    I'll ask and find out. I know that the comments are supposed to receive a nice overhaul, but more than that...? Of course, if you ignore his posts on this (and the responses), you'd only have about five comments! ;-) Reply
  • Voo - Saturday, September 26, 2009 - link

    Great!

    Yep it'd be rather short, but I'd rather have 10 interesting comments than 1000 COMMENTS WRITTEN IN CAPS!!11 with dubious content ;)
    Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I put it in caps so you could easily avoid them, I was thinking of you and your "problems".
    I guess since you "knew this wasn't the right time or place" but went ahead anyway, you've got "lot's of problems".
    Let me know when you have posted an "interesting comment" with no "dubios nature" to it.
    I suspect I'll be waiting years.
    Reply
  • MODEL3 - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    Hi Ryan,

    Nice new info in your review.

    The day you posted your review, i wrote in the forums that according to my perception there are other reasons except bandwidth limitations and driver maturity, that the 850MHz 5870 hasn't doubled its performance in relation with a 850MHz 4890.

    Usually when a GPU has 2X the specs of another GPU the performance gain is 2X (of cource i am not talking about games with engines that are CPU limited or engines that seems to scale badly or are poor coded for example)
    There are many examples in the past that we had 2X performance gain with 2X the specs. (not in all the games, but in many games)

    From the tests that i saw in your review and from my understanding of the AMD slides, i think there are 2 more reasons that 5870 performs like that.

    The day of your review i wrote to the forums the additional reasons that i think the 5870 performs like that, but nobody replied me.

    I wrote that probably 5870 has:

    1.Geometry/vertex performance issues (in the sense that it cannot generate 2X geometry in relation with 4890) (my main assumption)

    or/and

    2.Geometry/vertex shading performance issues (in the sense that the geometry shader [GS] cannot shade vertex with 2X speed in relation with 4890)(another possible assumption)

    I guess there are synthetic benchmarks that have tests like that (pure geometry speed, and pure geometry/vertex shader speed, in addition with the classic pixel shader speed tests) so someone can see if my assumption is true.

    If you have the time and you think that this is possible and you feel like it is worth your time, can you check my hypothesis please?

    Thanks very much,

    MODel3
    Reply

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