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


View All Comments

  • erple2 - Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - link

    What the heck are you talking about? Are you saying that electricity consumed by a device divided by the "volume" of the device is the only way to measure the heat output of the device? Every single Engineering class I took tells me that's wrong, and I'm right. I think you need to take some basic courses in Electrical Engineering and/or Thermodynamics.

    power consumed = work + waste

    You're looking for the waste heat generated by the device. If something can completely covert every watt of electricity that passes through it to do some type of work (light a light bulb, turn a motor, make some calculation on a GPU etc), then it's not going to heat up. As a result, you HAVE to take into consideration how inefficient the particular device is before you can make any claim about how much the device heats up.

    I'll bet that if you put a Liquid Nitrogen cooler on every ATI card, and used the standard air coolers on every NVidia card, that the ATI cards are going to run crazy cooler than the NVidia cards.

    Ultimately the temperature of the GPU's depends a significant amount on the efficiency of the cooler, and how much heat the GPU is generating as waste. My point is that we don't have enough data to determine whether the ATI die runs hot because the coolers are less than ideal, Nvidia ones are closer to ideal, the die is smaller, or whatever you have. You have to look at a combination of the efficiency of the die (how well it converts input power to "work done"), the efficiency of the cooler (how well it removes heat from it's heat source), and the combination of the two.

    I'd posit that the ATI card is more efficient than the NVidia card (at least in WoW, the only thing we have actual numbers of the "work done" and "input power consumed").

    Now, if you look at the measured temperature of the core as a means of comparing the worthiness of one GPU over another, I think you're making just as meaningful a comparison as comparing the worthiness of the GPU based on the size of the retail box that it comes in.
  • SiliconDoc - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    You simply repeated my claim about watts, and replaced core size, with fps, and created a framerate per watt chart, that has near nothing to do with actual heat inside the die, since the SIZE of the die, vs the power traversing through it is the determining factor, affected by fan quality (ram size as well).
    Your argument is "framerate power efficiency", as in watts per framerate, and has nothing to do with core temperature (modified by fan cooling of course to some degree), that the article indeed posts except for the two failed ati cards.
    The problem with your flawwed "science" that turns it into hokum, is that no matter what outputs on the screen, the HEAT generated by the power consumption of the card itself, remains in the card, and is not "pumped through the videoport to the screen".
    If you'd like to claim "wattage vs framerate" efficency for 5870, fine I've got no problem, but claiming that proves core temps are not dependent on power consumption vs die size ( modified by the rest of the card *mem size/power useage/ and the fan heatsink* ) is RIDICULOUS.
    The cards are generally equivalent manufacturing and component additions, so you take the wattage consumed (by the core) and divide by core size, for heat density.
    Hence, ATI cards, smaller cores and similar power consumption, wind up hotter.
    That's what the charts show, that's what should be stated, that is the rule, and that's the way it plays in the real world, too.
    The only modification to that is heatsink fan efficiency, and I don't find you fellas claiming stock NVIDIA fans and heatsinks are way better than the ATI versions, hence 66C for NVIDIA, 75C, 85C, etc, and only higher for ATI, in all their cards listed.
    Would you like to try that one on for size ? Should I just make it known that NVIDIA fans and heatsinks are superior to ATI ?
    What is true is a lager surface area (die side squared) dissipates the same amount of heat easier, and that of course is what is going on.
    ATI dies are smaller ( by a marked surface area as has so foten been pointed out), and have similar power consumption, and a higher DENSITY of heat generation, and therefore run hotter.
  • erple2 - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    Oops, "milliwatt" should be "kilowatt". I got the decimal place mixed up - I used kilowatt since I thought it was easier to see than 0.247, 0.140, 0.137, 0.181... Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    Let's take that LOAD TEMP chart and the article's comments. Right above it, it is stated a good cooler includes the 4850 that ILDE TEMPs in at around 40C (it's actually 42C the highest of those mentioned).
    "The floor for a good cooler looks to be about 40C, with the GTS 250(39C), 3870(41C), and 4850 all turning in temperatures around here"
    OK, so the 4850 has a good cooler, as well as the 3870... then right below is the LOAD TEMP.. and the 4850 is @ 90C -OBVIOUSLY that good cooler isn't up to keeping that tiny hammered core cool...

    3870 is at 89C, 4870 is at 88C, 5870 is at 89C ALL ati....
    but then, nvidia...
    250, 216, 285, 275 all come in much lower at 66C to 85C.... but "temps are all over the place".
    NOT only that crap, BUT the 4890 and 4870x2 are LISTED but with no temps - and take the "coolest position" on the chart!
    Well we KNOW they are in the 90C range or higher...
    So, you NEVER MENTION why 4870x2 and 4980 are "no load temp shown in the chart" - you give them the WINNING SPOTS anyway, you fail to mention the 260's 65C lowest LOAD WIN and instead mention GTX275 at 75C...LOL

    The bias is SO THICK it's difficult to imagine how anyone came up with that CRAP, frankly.
    So the superhot 4980 and 4870x2 are given #1 and #2 spots repsectively, a free ride, the other Nvidia cards KICK BUTT in lower load temps EXCEPT the 295, but it makes sure to mention the 8800GT while leaving the 4980 and 4870x2 LOAD TEMP spots blank ?
    What were you saying about "why" ? If why the 8800GT was included is TRUE, then comment on the gigantic LOAD TEMP bias... tell me WHY.
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    AND, you don't take temps from WOW to use for those two, which no doubt even though it is NOT gpu stressing much, will yeild the 90C for those two cards 4870x2 and 4980, anyway.
    So they FAIL the OCCT, but you have NOTHING on them, which would if listed put EVERY SINGLE ATI CARD @ near 90C LOAD, PERIOD...
    And we just CANNOT have that stark FACT revelaed, can we ? I mean I've seen this for well over a year here now.
    LOAD TEMPS ON THE ATI CARDS ARE ALL, EVERY SINGLE ONE NEAR 90c, much higher than almost ALL of the Nvidia cards.
  • pksta - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    I just want to know...With this much zeal about videocards and more specifically the bias that you see, doesn't it make you sound biased too? Can you say that you have owned the cards you are bashing and seen the differences firsthand? I can say I did. I had an 8800 GT and it was running in the upper 80s under load. I switched to my 4850 with the worst cooler I think I've ever seen mind you, and it stays in the mid to upper 60s under load. The cooler on the 8800 gt was the dual-slot design that was the original reference design. The 4850 had the most pathetic fan I've ever seen. It was similar to the fan and heatsink Intel used on the first Core2 stuff. It was the really cheap aluminum with a tiny copper circle that made contact with the die itself. Now, don't get me wrong I love ATI...But I also love nVidia...Anything that keeps games getting better and prices getting better. I honestly don't think, though, that the article is too biased. I think maybe a little for ATI but nothing to rage on and on about. Besides...Calm down. You know nVidia will have a response for this. Reply
  • SiliconDoc - Sunday, September 27, 2009 - link

    1. Who cares what you think about how you percieve me ? Unless you have a fact to refute, who cares ? What is biased ? There has been quite a DISSSS on PhysX for quite some time here, but the haters have no equal alternative - NOTHING that even comes close. Just ASK THEM. DEAD SILENCE. So, strangely, the very best there is, is BAD.

    Now ask yourself again who is biased, won't you? Ask yourself who is spewing out the endless strings... Do yourself a favor and figure it out. Most of them have NEVER tried PhysX ! They slip up and let it be known, when they are slamming away. Then out comes their PC hate the greedy green rage, and more, because they have to, to fit in the web PC code, instead of thinking for themselves.

    2. Yes, I own more cards currently than you will in your entire life. I started retail computer well over a decade ago.

    3. And now, the standard red rooster tale. It sounds like you were running in 2d clocks 100% of the time, probably on a brand board like a DELL. Happens a lot with red cards. Users have no idea.
    4850 with The worst fan in the World ! ( quick call Keith Olbermann) and it was ice cold, a degree colder than anything else in the review. ROFLMAO
    Once again, the red shorts pinnocchio tale. Forgive me while I laugh, again !
    Did you ever put your finger on the HS under load ? You should have. Did you check your 3D mhz..">
    Not like 90C is offbase, not like I made up that forum thread.

    4. I could care less if nvidia has a response or not. Point is, STOP LYING. Or don't. I certainly have noticed many of the lies I've complained about over a year or so have gone dead silent, they won't pull it anymore, and in at least one case, used in reverse for more red bias, unfortunately, before it became the accepted idea.

    So, I do a service, at the very least people are going to think, and be helped, even if they hate me.
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    Well of course that's the excuse, but I'll keep my conclusion considering how the last 15 reviews on the top videocards were done, along with the TEXT that is pathetically biased for ati, that I pointed out. (Even though Derek was often the author).
    You want ot tell me how it is that ONLY the GTX295 is near or at 90C, but ALL the ati cards ARE, and we're told "temperatures are all over the place" ?
    Can you really explain that, sir ?
  • 529th - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    holy shit, a full review is up already! Reply
  • bill3 - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    Does the article keep referring to Cypress as "too big"? If Cypress is too big, what the hell is GT200 at 480mm^2 or whatever it was? Are you guys serious with that crap?

    I've heard that the "sweet spot" talk from AMD was a bit of a misdirection from the start anyway. IMO if AMD is going to compete for the performance crown or come reasonably close (and frankly, performance is all video card buyers really care about, as we see with all the forum posts only mentioning that GT300 will supposedly be faster than 58XX and not anything else about it) then they're going to need slightly bigger dies. So Cypress being bigger is a great thing. If anything it's too small. Imagine the performance a 480mm^2 Cypress would have! Yes, Cypress is far too small, period.

    Personally it's wonderful to see AMD engineer two chips this time, a bigger performance one and smaller lower end one. This works out far better all around.

    The price is also great. People expecting 299 are on crack.

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