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

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

    An excellent question! This isn't something we had a chance to put in the article, but I'm working on something else for later this week to take a look at exactly that. The 5850 gives us more of an ability to test that, since Overdrive isn't capped as low on a percentage basis. Reply
  • Zool - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    You could make some raw shader tests that doesnt depend on memory bandwith to see if the gpu internal bandwith is somehow limited or the external bandwith. And maybe try out some older games(quake3 or 3dmark2001).
    In DX11 games will use more shader power for other things which hawe litle impact on bandwith. Maybe they tested those heawy dx11 scenarios and ended with much less costly 256bit interface as a compromis.
  • Dante80 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Up to 80watts lower consumption in load
    120$ less
    Performance hit around 10-15% against 5870 (that means far better perf/watt and perf/$)
    ~12% More performance than GT285
    Overclocks to 5870 perf easily

    Ok, this is an absolute killer for the lower performance market segment. Its 4870vs4850 all over again. Only this time, they get the performance crown for single cards too.

    Another thing to remember, is that nvidia does not currently have a countermeasure for this card. The GT380 will be priced for the enthusiast segment, and we can only hope for the architecture to be flexible enough to provide a 360 for the upper performance segment without killing profits due to diesize constraints. Things will get even more messy as soon as Juniper lands, the greens have to act now (thats our interest as consumers too)! And I don't think that GT200 respins will cut it.
  • the zorro - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    maybe if intel heavily overclocks a gma 4500 can can compete with amd? Reply
  • haplo602 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    hmm ... my next system shoudl feature a GTS 250. Unless ATI releases a 5670 and finaly hits opengl 3.2 and opencl support in their linux drivers.

    anyway the 5850 will kill lot of Nvidia cards.
  • san1s - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    interesting results, can't wait to see how gt300 will compare Reply
  • palladium - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    "interesting results, can't wait to see how gt300 will compare "

    SiliconDoc: WTF?! 5870< GTX295, top end GT300>>295 because it has 384bit GDDR5 ( 5870 only 256 bit), so naturally GT300 will KICK RV8xx's A**!!!!

    That's my prediction anyway (hopefully he decides not to troll here)
  • Dobs - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    My guess is - GT300 wont compare to 5850 or 5870.
    It will compare with the 5870X2 and be in the price bracket. (Too much for most of us.)

    When the GT300 eventually gets released that is.... Then a few months later again nvidia will bring out the scaled down versions in the same price brackets as the 5850/5870 that will probably compete pretty well.

    Only question is - can you wait?
    You could wait for the 6870 as well:P

  • Vinas - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    No, I don't have to wait because I have a 5870 :-) Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I really think enthusiast that spends hundreds on the MB alone isn't the regular enthusiast. So price wouldn't be an issue. I love building PCs and testing them but I'm not going to spend $200+ of a MB knowing that I will be building another system in few months with better performance parts and pricing. Unless I'm really keeping the system for a long time then I'll pour my hard earn money into the high end parts. But then if you're doing this I don't think you're really an enthusiast as it's really a one shot deal? Reply

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