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


View All Comments

  • Mills - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    AMD's graphics forums and the number of bugfixes and known issues posted for each driver release say otherwise.

    NVIDIA is not doing so well lately with their drivers either though, especially where Vista/7 is concerned.

    Both companies can't seem to get proper fixed aspect ratio GPU scaling working in Vista/7. This has been broken since Forceware 169.04, and my friend tells me broken in a recent Catalyst release. What the hell is going on?
  • michal1980 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I remeber a few years back when Green was on top and Red was dieing. Looks like tables have turned.

    For the gamer/consumer, IMHO its a win-win.

    My new PC next year, just might have an AMD card. I could care less about brand loyality. I buy what ever gives me the most bang for buck at the time I build.
  • Lavacon - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I would love to see this card added to the X58 vs P55 GPU article from yesterday. Although I suspect the results would be much the same. Reply
  • vailr - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Please consider adding a Radeon 4770 card to your comparison chart. I believe it's also "TSMC 40nm". Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Instead of just marginally reducing performance by dropping clockspeeds and available bandwidth, they artificially neutered their parts by cutting out a few SIMD clusters similar to Nvidia's MO of cutting TPC units.

    Your conclusion doesn't seem to draw this parallel, that the cut SIMD probably don't factor much into the overall performance because 1580 or whatever is left is enough and the full 1600 aren't being fully utilized in most games today. So instead the 5850 scales more closely to the 15% decrease in clockspeeds compared to the combined 23% for clockspeeds and SIMD units.

    The 5870 soft launch followed by today's 5850 paper launch also says quite a bit about 40nm yields in light of their artificial die neutering approach. Reports of AMD shipping *FOUR* 5870 for every *ONE* 5850 for a 4:1 ratio indicates 40nm yields are quite good. Given the high demand and apparently inadquate supply, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for AMD to ship these perfectly capable die for a $100 discount when they can sell them for that much more on the 5870.
  • chrone - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    with beta driver, it can beat nvidia fastest single gpu single card, this card would be an awesome at some moment in the future without breaking the bank for its cost and power consumption.

    i'm falling in love with this new babe already. :D

  • Razer2911 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I think the current beta drivers are holding the performance of these cards and it can improve by another 10-15%. Maybe ATI is holding it back just in case nVidia brings in some surprise (really doubt it).
    Strangely the temps mentioned for both the cards are inconsistent with other reviews on the web with Anandtech's being the lowest. Maybe it would be better to post ambient-to-idle/load temps in all your reviews.
  • LeadSled - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Nvidia's tech is soon to be so out dated that they will not be a deal at any price. They cannot even do all DX10 spec let alone any DX11 which I do believe ATI has been able to do some DX11 functions since the X1900. I hope Nvidia gets their act together and survives but unlike when 3D was new and Nvidia pushed new tech envolpe they are have been holding progress to a stand still. Nvidia should put up and play the game or get out of the game and make PhysX cards.

    I do hope they create a 5850X2. These new RV870 gpu's look like they will work well in a 2GB version. Ive heard the 5870X2 will be a 4GB card, lets just hope. I know I would pay $600-$700 for that baby without a thought.
  • TA152H - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I am with you, I think NVIDIA needs to go out of business. I think they will.

    They are at a huge disadvantage without a CPU. Intel is moving CPU/GPU soon, and AMD had this planned for a long time. With Intel already precluding NVIDIA from making chipsets for Nehalem based computers, and ATI making far better GPUs, NVIDIA is running on momentum now, and that runs out over time.

    NVIDIA might shirk Intel and make a chipset for Nehalem. While most us wouldn't even consider a crappy NVIDIA chipset, the general market has no idea how problematic they are. They buy from HP and Dell, and they use NVIDIA. I am surprised at how many of these that I see, so it's a good business for NVIDIA.

    Right now, the Lynnfield is essentially irrelevant, and the Bloomfield is a niche product. Neither are particularly important products as far as the market is concerned, so NVIDIA isn't really paying a price. Core 2 is still the most attractive platform for mainstream America, or an AMD platform. Clarkdale, with all its flaws, should sell especially well, and even if NVIDIA does decide they want to make a chipset, it won't sell. No one who knows much about computers will buy an NVIDIA chipset, so they sell mainly through HP and Dell, or similar companies. HP and Dell are not going to want to pay extra for an NVIDIA GPU, since the processor comes with one, and really it's only the southbridge that's up for grabs now. This would make a much smaller contribution to their bottom line. It's all bad for them.

    Yes, they can sell into the Bloomfield space, if they come up with a good discrete card. But, how big is this market? Lynnfield should be even smaller, being brain-damaged and second-best, but, not particularly cheap like the Clarksdale. Also, it's unlikely someone will want a high priced video card, or two, and pair it with anything but the best platform.

    So, where does NVIDIA sell into? Core 2 will go away, Bloomfield and Lynnfield will have relatively small market shares, and Clarksdale should sell especially well in the markets where NVIDIA chipsets sell well now.

    Anand said the Clarksdale was the replacement for the Conroe, which caught a lot of FlAK, because he worded it poorly. But, in a way, he's right with respect to the Clarksdale replacing the Core 2 as the platform for the mainstream market. In this respect, the Clarksdale is better in almost all respects. It's dual core, but runs four threads. Sure, they put the MMU in the wrong place, but it's still better than being outside the processor, and the GPU is better than the G45. On top of this, it should be cheaper. Core 2 duals, with Pentiums, etc..., sell the best, still. Clarksdale is better, and should be cheaper, so it's going to dominate the market in the same way. Bloomfield is king of performance, and will have a place. It's not a big one though. Lynnfield is a good combination of power and decent performance. It's also not a big space, although the i5 750 might do well and shouldn't be discounted. The big space will be the Clarksdale. NVIDIA is going to be hurt by it. Hopefully, fatally.
  • Pastuch - Monday, October 5, 2009 - link

    I disagree with you on ALL points. I buy 2 videocards per year and I own an almost equal number of ATI/Nvidia cards. I just bought a 4890 and next will be a 5850.

    Nvidia should definitely NOT go out of business. Competition drives creativity and reduces prices for consumers. I would hardly say Nvidia is doing badly at the moment. The bulk of aftermarket videocards still come from Nvidia. They are still ahead of ATI in marketshare. They are also a marketing juggernaught; "The Way its Meant to be Played" is a very powerful marketing tool. That being said I expect a firm advantage for ATI over the next six months.

    I have owned several Nvidia chipset motherboards and they have all been exceptionally reliable and great overclockers. I've never had driver issues with them. I find Clarksdale underwhelming. G45 didn't live up to all its promises (Bitstreaming) and I seriously doubt that it's successor will either. G45 has the least features and customizability of any onboard solution I have used yet. Intel has a long way to go on integrated video if they ever want to capture the enthusiast market.

    ATI has been doing a stellar job lately. The 5850 is every hometheater guys dream. Inexpensive, Bitstreaming HD content and it will fit in most HTPC cases. The latest GTX cards and the 5870 are too long. Videocards should be less than 10 inches long!

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