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

  • chizow - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Ya it already sounds like the 5870X2 and 5850X2 are being positioned in the media to compete with just a single GT300 with rumors of $500 price points. I think the combination of poor scaling compared to RV770/RV790 in addition to some of the 5850/5870 CF scaling problems seen in today's review are major contributing factors. Really makes you wonder how much of these scaling issues are driver problems, CPU/platform limitations, or RV870 design limitiations.

    My best guess for GT300 pricing will be:

    $500-$550 for a GTX 380 (full GT300 die) including OC variants
    $380-$420 for a GTX 360 (cut down GT300) including OC variants
    $250 and lower GTX 285 followed by GT210 40nm GT200 refresh with DX10.1

    So you'd have the 5870X2 competing with GTX 380 in the $500-600 range. Maybe the 5850X2 in the $400-$500 range competing with the GTX 360. 5870 already looks poised for a price cut given X2 price leaks, maybe they introduce a 2GB part and keep it at the $380 range and drop the 1GB part. Then at some point I'd expect Nvidia to roll out their GT300 GX2 part as needed somewhere in the $650-700+ range.....
  • yacoub - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    Nah. They won't get enough sales at those prices. They need to slot in under $399 and $299 unless they put out 50% more performance than the 5870 and 5850 respectively.

    Or the heck with them, I'll just wait six months for the refresh on a smaller die, better board layout with better cooling, lower power, and a better price tag.

    It's not like i NEED DX11 now, and i certainly don't need more GPU performance than I already have.
  • chizow - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    How would it need to be 50% faster? It'd only need to be ~33% faster when comparing the GTX 380 to the 5870 or GTX 360 to the 5850. That would put the 5870 and 360 in direct competition in both price and performance, which is right on and similar to past market segments. The 380 would then be competing with the 5870X2 at the high-end, which would be just about right if the 5870X2 scales to ~30% over the 5870 similar to 5870CF performance in reviews. Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    "It's not like i NEED DX11 now, and i certainly don't need more GPU performance than I already have. "

    As of today I am limping along on a GTX275 (LOL) and I really cannot tell any differences between the cards at 1920x1080. Considering the majority of PC games coming for the next year are console ports with a few DX10/11 highlights thrown in for marketing purposes, I am really wondering what is going to happen to the high-end GPU market. That said, I bought a 5850 anyway. ;)
  • chizow - Thursday, October 1, 2009 - link

    I'm running GTX 280 SLI right now and have found most modern games run extremely well with at least 4xTrMSAA enabled. But that's starting to change somewhat, especially once you throw in peripheral features like Ambient Occlusion, PhysX, Eyefinity, 3D Vision, 120Hz monitors or whatever else is next on the checkbox horizon.

    While some people may think these features are useless, it only really takes 1 killer app to make what you thought was plenty good enough completely insufficient. For me right now, its Batman Arkham Asylum with PhysX. Parts of the game still crawl with AA + PhysX enabled.

    Same for anyone looking at Eyefinity as a viable gaming option. Increasing GPU load three-fold is going to quickly eat into the 5850/5870's increase over last-gen parts to the point a single card isn't suitable.

    And with Win7's launch and the rollout of DX11 and DirectCompute, we may finally start to see developers embrace GPU accelerated physics, which will again, raise the bar in terms of performance requirements.

    There's no doubt the IHVs are looking at peripheral features to justify additional hardware costs, but I think the high-end GPU market will be safe at least through this round even without them. Maybe next round as some of these features take hold, they'll help justify the next round of high-end GPU.
  • chrnochime - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    With PC gaming seemingly going towards MMO like WoW/Aion/Warhammer (and later on Diablo 3) and far less emphasis on other genre(besides FPS, which is more or less the same every year), and as you said most new games being console ports, I really doubt we'll need anything more powerful than the 4890, let alone a 5850 or 5870 for the coming couple of years. Maybe we've enter the era where PC games will forever be just console ports + MMO, or just MMO, and there'd be little incentive to buy any card that cost 100+.

    Just my take of course.
  • C'DaleRider - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    I was told by a Microcenter employee the current pre-order retail price for the top end GT300 card was $579, an EVGA card, btw. And reportedly the next model down is the GT350. Dunno if this is fact or not, but he didn't have any reason to lie. Reply
  • Zool - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    The GT300 will need 512bit gddr5 to make memory faster than GT200 and it will hawe even more masive GPGPU bloat than last gen. So in folding it will be surely much faster but in graphic it will cost much more for the same(at least for nvidia depending how close they want to bring it to radeon 5k). And of course they can sell the same gt300 in tesla cards for several thousand(like they did with gt200).
    The 5850 price with disabled units is still win for ati or else they wouldnt sell the defect gpu at all.
  • Genx87 - Friday, October 2, 2009 - link

    GDDR5 provides double the bandwidth of CGDDR3. No need for 512bit memory bus. This was covered in another story on the front of this site. Reply
  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, September 30, 2009 - link

    As great as these cards are, my system only supports low-profile cards since it's a HTPC. Bring on the Radeon HD 5650 & 5670!!!! Reply

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