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 - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    LOL - you won't find me arguing, but that performance per dollar here is absolutely FAMOUS for guess whom, ati !
    Congratulations, for the first time someone other than myself conplained about it, of course, only when ATI has been implicated as a disaster in it.
    PS - I think what the chart is saying is, use some common sense, not go for 9500, but in your range you hope to purchase, the chart can be handy for picking between several.
    Also, the chart tells us, the 5870 is not bang for the buck.
    So, so sorry, it upset you so badly, the tips above for proper useage should be fine.
  • KaarlisK - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    Actually, far more developers care about the next version of DirectX (pc-industry-wide vendor-independent development platform) than about PhysX (single vendor, low uptake currently). Not that PhysX would be unimportant.
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    Not quite time yet, you can "pre-order" one of 3 versions at tiger..LOL
    This is not a "hard launch", this is a red RUSE !
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    Ok, hurry, the paper launch finally "cracked" a bit and there's one card of 4 5870's on newwegg that is suposedly "available for purchase".">
    It's 1:33pm on the 23rd, so no guarantees there's more than 0 for actual sale....
    Good luck on getting something other than paper. :-)
  • jabroni619 - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    I'd better not get paper... I was able to place an order at newegg at midnight when they were available and 18 hours later it's showing a status of shipped. ;)
  • SiliconDoc - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - link

    7:08PM CST Wed. Sept 23rd, 2009 -
    Out of the 9 "reviews" by "customers" on newegg for the 5870 card, only ONE of them has the revealing:
    " This user purchased this item from Newegg " in blue by their name on the customer reviews tab.
    So it looks like 8 posers and you. Hope you enjoy the XFX 5870,
  • WoostaR - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    Thanks man, I actually went with 2 5870's. I know it's bit of overkill, yet future proof is better =)

    anyways, I have gotten over 17000 of 3dMark06. That's with Cpu.

    I am running Core i7 @ 4 ghz
    6GB of Gskill ram
    Dual 5870 @ CF
    750W Corsair.
    EVGA 3x SLI
  • jabroni619 - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    Oh, and I didn't get the XFX, I got HIS. XFX wasn't even showing up when I placed my order. Only Sapphire, ASUS and HIS were, both the Sapphire and ASUS were OOS.
  • jabroni619 - Thursday, September 24, 2009 - link

    I haven't written a review yet as I haven't gotten the card. (hate it when people do that) I was a little worried up until just a few minutes ago when my UPS tracking# actually had some data. Estimated Delivery of 9/24/09. Hopefully it's waiting at the front door when I get home from work. I just spend the last 2 hours moving all the guts of my PC into a larger case to accommodate the card.
  • SiliconDoc - Friday, September 25, 2009 - link

    Apparently your luck is immaculate.">
    " We talked to partners and some of them might have a few cards next week and October is the month when things should get better.

    The big guys such as Newegg and Tigerdirect don’t have them, and in EU, a hundred plus cards are listed here, but none of them are available.

    A launch partner in the UK got 20 cards ...
    We hope that Radeon 5870 is not what AMD management calls a hard launch "
    ROFL - At least one place doesn't have to censor itself

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