AMD’s Radeon HD 5850: The Other Shoe Drops


For those of you looking for the above and a repeat of the RV770/GT200 launch where prices will go into a free fall, you’re going to come away disappointed. That task will fall upon the 5850, and we’re looking forward to reviewing it as soon as we can.”


-From our Radeon HD 5870 Review

Today the other shoe drops, with AMD launching the 5870’s companion card: the slightly pared down 5850. It’s the same Cypress core that we saw on the 5870 with the same features: DX11, Eyefinity, angle-independent anisotropic filtering, HDMI bitstreaming, and supersample anti-aliasing. The only difference between the two is performance and power – the 5850 is a bit slower, and a bit less power hungry. If by any chance you’ve missed our Radeon HD 5870 review, please check it out; it goes in to full detail on what AMD is bringing to the table with Cypress and the HD 5800 series.

  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
TDP 188W 151W 190W 150W
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 55nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point $379 $259 ~$180 ~$160

AMD updated the specs on the 5850 at the last moment when it comes to power. Idle power usage hasn’t changed, but the final parts are now specified for 151W load power, versus the 160W originally given to us, and 188W on the 5870. So for the power-conscious out there, the 5850 offers a load power reduction in lockstep with its performance reduction.

As compared to the 5870, AMD has disabled two of the SIMDs and reduced the core clock from 850MHz to 725Mhz. This is roughly a 15% drop in clock speed and a 10% reduction in SIMD capacity, for a combined theoretical performance difference of 23%. Meanwhile the memory clock has been dropped from 1.2GHz to 1GHz, for a 17% overall reduction. Notably the ROP count has not been reduced, so the 5850 doesn’t lose as much rasterizing power as it does everything else, once again being 15% due to the drop in clock speed.

With the reduction in power usage, AMD was able to squeeze Cypress in to a slightly smaller package for the 5850. The 5850 lobs off an inch in length compared to the 5870, which will make it easier to fit in to cramped cases. However the power connectors have also been moved to the rear of the card, so in practice the space savings won’t be as great. Otherwise the 5850 is a slightly smaller 5870, using the same sheathed cooler design as the 5870, sans the backplate.

Port-side, the card is also unchanged from the 5870. 2 DVI ports, 1 HDMI port, and 1 DisplayPort adorn the card, giving the card the ability to drive 2 TMDS displays (HDMI/DVI), and a DisplayPort. As a reminder, the DisplayPort can be used to drive a 3rd TMDS display, but only with an active (powered) adapter, which right now still run at over $100.

AMD tells us that this is going to be a hard launch just like the 5870, with the 5850 showing up for $260. Given that the 5870 did in fact show up on-time and on-price, we expect the same for the 5850. However we don’t have any reason to believe 5850 supplies will be any more plentiful than 5870 supplies – never mind the fact that it’s in AMD’s interests to ship as many 5870s as they can right now given their higher price. So unless AMD has a lot of Cypress dice to harvest, we’re expecting the 5850 to be even harder to find.
Update: As of Wednesday afternoon we have seen some 5850s come in to stock, only to sell out again even sooner than the 5870s did. It looks like 5850s really are going to be harder to find.

Battleforge: The First DX11 Game


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  • ThePooBurner - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    A good repeatable test would be to have a RAID group in an instance and have them all cast a set of spells at once. the instance server separates from the rest of the server load and allows for a bit better testing. While it's true that the game is generally more CPU/RAM limited than GPU limited, especially if you have a lot of add-ons doing post processing on all the information that is shooting around. However, having been in raids with and without add-ons and such, i can tell you that i can get 45-50fps when we are just standing there waiting to attack, and then as soon as the spell effects start going off my frame rate drops like a rock. The spell effects are particle effects that overlap and mix and are all transparent to one degree or another. All those effects going off on a single target creates a lot of overlap that the GPU has to sort out in order to render correctly.

    What you might try is to see if you can get Blizz to put a target dummy in an instance to isolate it from the rest of the masses, and allow for sustained testing with spell effects going off in a predictable manner. (not having every testing go balls to the wall, but simply repeat a set rotation in a timed manner so that you can get an accurate gauge.
  • Per Hansson - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I second your question
    And also just want to say that with a very heavily volt modded and overclocked 8800GTS 512MB the performance in WoW at maximum settings with 2xAA will totally kill my card
    For example in heavily populated areas it will use more than 512MB video ram (confirmed using rivatuner)

    And in heavily populated areas I get like 20FPS, for example in Dalaran at peak hours (like, when I play :P)

    The numbers you provide for WoW are welcome, very few sites do these tests
    But more realistic numbers would be nice, representing what a big guild would see in a 20 or 40 man RAID...

    Perhaps you could setup a more realistic test with private servers, or if you are unwilling to go that route ask Blizzard if they could setup a testserver for you to use so you can get reproducible tests?
  • biigfoot - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I can't wait till we find out if those extra SIMD engines can be unlocked like the good ol' ati2mtag softmod for the 9500 -> 9700 :) Even if not, this looks like the card for my new HTPC :) Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    The charts are a bit confusing. My main focus is at the 2560x1600 and the review references 5850 CF and 285 CF but they are not to be found in any of the charts. Same for 285 SLI

    "With and without ambient occlusion, the 5850 comes in right where we expect it. The 5850 Crossfire on the other hand loses once again to the GTX 285 SLI in spite of beating the GTX 285 in a single card matchup."

  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Whoops. The full 2560 w/o SSAO chart went AWOL. Fixed. Reply
  • giantpandaman2 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Should be heels, not heals. Unless you're referring to some MMORPG priest. :) Reply
  • KeithP - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I understand you want a consistent platform to test all the video cards, but is there any possibility of testing the 5850 on a more realistic platform?

    Maybe something like a dual core 2.8GHz machine? I have to think the bulk of the potential buyers for this card won't have a machine anywhere near as powerful as the one you are testing on.

  • v1001 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I wonder if we'll see a single slot card. I think this is the card for me to get. I need a lower watt single slot card to work in my tiny case. Reply
  • RDaneel - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Ryan, I know it's not the focus of this article, but it would be great to get a small paragraph (or a blog post or whatever) on what ATI has said in reference to the lower-spec 40nm DX11 parts. I simply don't need 4850 power in a SOHO-box, but the low 40nm idle power consumption and DX11 future-proofing are tempting me away from a 4870/90 card. What kind of prices and performance scaling are we likely to see before the end of 2009? Thanks for any info! Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    We covered this as much as we can in our 5870 article. If it's not there, it's either not something we know, or not something we can comment on.">

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