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

  • silverblue - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    nVidia shouldn't "get out of the game" at all. True, ATI may just have 3 or 4 months of technical superiority, but nVidia's next cards may be superior as well as offering plenty of revolutionary features.

    nVidia can also chop prices for their current lineup but not too much, otherwise they may undercut their new cards.

    I'm impressed by the 5850's frugal (as compared to the 5870) power requirements. Coupled with a relatively low price, it should sell very nicely indeed (and spawn some overclocked versions very quickly).
  • SJD - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Did you have the August DirectX Redist installed on your test system? I think I've read somewhere that this is the update that brings 'full' DirectX11 functionality to Windows 7, and perhaps this is the reason you didn't see the results you were expecting.

    Otherwise, awesome card!
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Based on AMD's internal data I suspect it's just the fact that we have everything cranked up. We're taking a look at it ASAP. Reply
  • Totally - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Ryan, could you retest the 5870 again but this time with a piece of tape running across the two 'vents' on the back of the card. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I'm curious what makes you think that will have any impact. Reply
  • Totally - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    well, since it's a centrifugal fan, it sucks air through the center and exhausts it in a radial direction, being the shroud's job to redirect the air afterwards. now looking at how restricted the openings appear on the 5850 and the cooling performance. I'm curious if there is connection, say fresh air may be escaping through those openings and back into the case instead of passing through the heatsink and out the back of the case. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I don't have a good front-shot, but it's a sealed shroud. There's no air escaping. Reply
  • toast70 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    With 5870 being basically a doubled up 4870 architecture and (still SIMD), i am interested to see how Nvidia's new MIMD architecture will compete, especially with the ridiculous memory bandwidth it will have with GDDR5 and a 512 bit bus.(if the 512 bus isnt just a rumor and hopefully they are not plagued by driver issues) I am glad AMD/ATI is doing better the competition is great, but i feel the new NV cards are going to be good (least if any of the rumors are true). I am still trying to find a reason to replace my 9800GTX SLI, they burn thru about any game as long as you stay away from over 4X AA due to the 512 MB frame buffer.

    BTW, Not a NV fanboi here, hope i dont sound like one, its late and i just dropped my friend off at the ER, brain is tired. the fiancee's PC has a ATI card and its great, no complaints other than a few driver issues, but nothing i could complain about really. HD4850 512MB

    keep up the competition, we have AMD to thank for under 400 fast cards
  • poohbear - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    very well done review and the conclusion was spot on! gonna get one of these this fall, Nvidia better hurry up b4 shiat really hits the fan.:0 Reply
  • Roland00 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I wonder how close the 5850 will be to the 5870 once they have similar memory speeds and thus bandiwidth. Are those extra shaders/core frequency wasted due to the limited memory bandiwidth. Reply

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