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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  • SiliconDoc - Monday, September 28, 2009 - link

    When the GTX295 still beats the latest ati card, your wish probably won't come true. Not only that, ati's own 4870x2 just recently here promoted as the best value, is a slap in it's face.
    It's rather difficult to believe all those crossfire promoting red ravers suddenly getting a different religion...
    Then we have the no DX11 released yet, and the big, big problem...
    NO 5870'S IN THE CHANNELS, reports are it's runs hot and the drivers are beta problematic.
    So, celebrating a red revolution of market share - is only your smart aleck fantasy for now.
    LOL - Awwww...

  • silverblue - Monday, September 28, 2009 - link

    It's nearly as fast as a dual GPU solution. I'd say that was impressive.

    DirectX 11 comes out in less than a month... hardly a wait. It's not as if the card won't do DX9/10.

    Hot card? Designed to be that way. If it was a real issue they'd have made the exhaust larger.

    Beta problematic drivers? Most ATI launches seem to go that way. They'll be fixed soon enough.
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, September 28, 2009 - link

    Gee, I thought the red rooster said nvidia sales will be low for a while, and I pointed out why they won't be, and you, well you just couldn'r handle that.
    I'd say a 60.96% increase in a nex gen gpu is "impressive", and that's what Nvidia did just this last time with GT200.">
    BTW - the 4870 to 4890 move had an additional 3M core transistors, and we were told by you and yours that was not a "rebrand".

    BUT - the G80 move to G92 added 73M core transistors, and you couldn't stop shrieking "rebrand".
    nearly as fast= second best
    DX11 in a month = not now and too early
    Now, you can tell smart aleck this is a paper launch like the 4870, the 4770, and now this 5870 and no 5850, becuase....
    (thanks for the composition Jared, it looks just as good here as when you add it to my posts, for "convenience" of course)
  • ClownPuncher - Monday, September 28, 2009 - link

    It would be awesome if you were to stop posting altogether.
  • SiliconDoc - Monday, September 28, 2009 - link

    It would be awesome if this 5870 was 60.96% better than the last ati card, but it isn't.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, September 28, 2009 - link

    But the 5870 *is* up to 65% faster than the 4890 in the tested games. If you were to compare the GTX 280 to the 9800 GX2, it also wasn't 60% faster. In fact, 9800 GX2 beat the GTX 280 in four out of seven tested games, tied it in one, and only trailed in two games: Enemy Territory (by 13%) and Oblivion (by 3%), making ETQW the only substantial win for the GT200.

    So we're biased while you're the beacon of impartiality, I suppose, since you didn't intentionally make a comparison similar to comparing apples with cantaloupes. Comparing ATI's new card to their last dual-GPU solution is the way to go, but NVIDIA gets special treatment and we only compare it with their single GPU solution.

    If you want the full numbers:

    1) On average, the 5870 is 30% faster than the 4890 at 1680x1050, 35% faster at 1920x1200, and 45% faster at 2560x1600.

    2) Note that the margin goes *up* as resolution increases, indicating the major bottleneck is not memory bandwidth at anything but 2560x1600 on the 5870.

    3) Based on the old article you linked, GTX 280 was on average 5% slower than 9800X2 and 59% faster than the 9800 GTX - the 9800X2 was 6.4% faster than the GTX 280 in the tested titles.

    4) Making the same comparisons, 5870 is only 3.4% faster than the 4870X2 in the tested games and 45% faster than the 4890HD.

    Now, the games used for testing are completely different, so we have to throw that out. DoW2 is a huge bonus in favor of the 5870 and it scales relatively poorly with CF, hurting the X2. But you're still trying to paint a picture of the 5870 as a terrible disappointment when in fact we could say it essentially equals what NVIDIA did with the GTX 280.

    On average, at 2560x1600, if NVIDIA's GT300 were to come out and be 60% faster than the GTX 285, it will beat ATI's 5870 by about 15%. If it's the same price, it's the clear choice... if you're willing to wait a month or two. That's several "ifs" for what amounts to splitting hairs. There is no current game that won't run well on the HD 5870 at 2560x1600, and I suspect that will hold true of the GT300 as well.

    (FWIW, Crysis: Warhead is as bad as it gets, and dropping 4xAA will boost performance by at least 25%. It's an outlier, just like Crysis, since the higher settings are too much for anything but the fastest hardware. "High" settings are more than sufficient.)
  • SiliconDoc - Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - link

    In other words, even with your best fudging and whining about games and all the rest, you can't even bring it with all the lies from the 15-30 percent people are claiming up to 60.96%
    Yes, as I thought.
  • zshift - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    My thoughts exactly ;)

    I knew the 5870 was gonna be great based on the design philosophy that AMD/ATi had with the 4870, but I never thought I'd see anything this impressive. LESS power, with MORE power! (pun intended), and DOUBLE the speed, at that!

    Funny thing is, I was actually considering an Nvidia gpu when I saw how impressive PhysX was on Batman AA. But I think I would rather have near double the frame rates compared to seeing extra paper fluffing around here and there (though the scenes with the scarecrow are downright amazing). I'll just have to wait and see how the GT300 series does, seeing as I can't afford any of this right now (but boy, oh boy, is that upgrade bug itching like it never has before).
  • SiliconDoc - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    Fine, but performance per dollar is on the very low end, often the lowest of all the cards. That's why it was omitted here.">
    THE LOWEST overall, or darn near it.
  • erple2 - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    So what you're saying then is that everyone should buy the 9500 GT and ignore everything else? If that's the most important thing to you, then clearly, that's what you mean.

    I think that the performance per dollar metrics that are shown are misleading at best and terrible at worst. It does not take into account that any frame rates significantly above your monitor refresh are for all intents and purposes wasted, and any frame rates significantly below 30 should by heavily weighted negatively. I haven't seen how techpowerup does their "performance per dollar" or how (if at all) they weight the FPS numbers in the dollar category.

    SLI/Crossfire has always been a lose-lose in the "performance per dollar" category. Curiously, I don't see any of the nvidia SLI cards listed (other than the 295).

    That sounds like biased "reporting" on your part.

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