ATI 5000 Series Specifications

With our introduction out of the way, let's take a look at ATI's new mobile parts. The big news of course is that these are the first DirectX 11 mobile graphics chips, just as the desktop counterparts were the first DirectX 11 GPUs. Despite the similarity in naming, all of the mobile parts are essentially one step back from the desktop parts, not just in clock speeds but also in stream processors. Here's the quick rundown of specifications and features, with the NVIDIA's GTX 280M tossed in for comparison.

Click for large image

Overall, the new 5000 models should boost performance by around 30% relative to the last generation ATI mGPUs, at least in theory. They have more stream processors, and higher clock speeds in most cases, plus other enhancements. One of the enhancements is something that's going to be up to individual manufacturers to utilize: GDDR5. GDDR5 sends four bits of data per clock cycle compared to two bits for GDDR3/2/1, and it also runs at lower voltages. The problem is GDDR5 costs more, and with support for GDDR3 it's likely that many manufacturers will stick with GDDR3 in order to save money in the short-term. Towards the end of the year, ATI informed us that they expect pricing to become more or less equal, at which point we should see a strong move towards GDDR5. Without the newer memory, the performance gains in some titles are going to be lower due to memory bottlenecks.

Also worth pointing out is the HD 4860, a product we can find on AMD's website complete with specifications, and a product that was announced back in March 2009. What makes the HD 4860 "interesting"? To our knowledge, it never shipped in any laptops, and with the 5000 series it probably never will. The reason we point this out is that today's announcement does not necessarily guarantee hardware anytime soon. Hopefully we will see laptops with the new graphics chips appear in the next few weeks, but particularly on the high-end GPUs it can take months before anyone picks them up. As another example, the mobile HD 4870 only appeared in a couple laptops: the ASUS W90 and the Alienware M17x. And now it's apparently EOL. So we have to raise the question of how long it will take before we start seeing laptops with 5000 series parts (particularly the 5800 series), and only time will give us an answer.

ATI touts several features as being noteworthy, including GDDR5 and DirectX 11. One feature seems rather out of place, however: Eyefinity. While it can be pretty cool to run multiple monitors on a desktop system, we really have our doubts that many people will use up to six displays with any laptop. Nevertheless, that's exactly what the 5800 and 5700/5600 series support (in theory). Naturally, it would be up to the laptop manufacturer to provide six display outputs, which seems highly unlikely. (Three digital outputs is more than sufficient, we think.) That's still leaves GDDR5, which we've discussed, and DirectX 11. We'll talk more about DX11 on the next page, but there's one other item to mention: power saving features.

TDP for the various products hasn't really changed, but that doesn't mean power characteristics are the same as the 4000 series. In the above chart, we've listed the maximum TDP of the CPU followed by the TDP of the entire GPU subsystem (i.e. with RAM and voltage regulators). ATI informed us that they improved engine and memory clock scaling as well as clock gating, bringing about significant improvements in power requirements. At full load, these improvements aren't going to be as noticeable, but idle power draw should be significantly lower than on previous discrete mGPUs. ATI claims a 4X performance per Watt improvement when comparing the HD 5750 to the HD 3650. One word of caution however is that optimal idle power requirements apparently need GDDR5, which allows better control over changing the memory clocks. As mentioned above, many of the midrange parts are likely to stick with GDDR3 until later this year.

ATI also let us know that they have worked on IGP to discrete GPU switching times, which should be 30~40% faster (depending on manufacturer implementation). Ever since we first saw a hybrid GPU solution in the ASUS N10JC, we have hailed the technology as a feature that every gaming laptop needs to have. We also discussed the feature on the Alienware m15x, and it helped make the ASUS UL80Vt our favorite current laptop. So far, uptake has been slow, but things appear to be improving with the launch of Windows 7. Lenovo, Sony, and others are pursuing hybrid solutions, and with Win7 supporting multiple GPU drivers (Vista and XP could only enable one display driver at a time) the way is paved for the future. We still haven't tested an ATI-based laptop with hybrid graphics, however; so far the only hybrid solutions we've tested use NVIDIA GPUs, but maybe the 5000 series can change that.

Index Mobile DirectX 11 Arrives… Where Are the Games?


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  • Voo - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    "The problem is not the laptop! Yeah sure you can't do that, but I don't need that, so nobody needs it!"

    Great logic and it's always nice when someone tells other people what to do, because clearly he has to be right and it could not be that he just can't handle the added complexity of more monitors :p
  • drunkenmaster - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    I really would rarely sign up to a site just to post a comment, but seriously, this article felt biased from the first paragraph.

    Firstly as someone stated, OEM's want strict control over their laptops and want AMD to hand over drivers and let them deal with it.

    Secondly you seem intent on giving the impression AMD is trying to tell us their market share is a lie, just look at the breakdown of what they sell. But you didn't highlight the fact that Nvidia's breakdown of gpu sales in the mobile area would look VERY similar, as both companies breakdowns would look in the desktop area. The biggest sales for both companies, is low end, then mid end, and high end is realistically a very small portion of their total sales. But its the way its worded, and not including Nvidia numbers, to try to intimate they haven't really been competing in high end gaming at all. Then you go on to say "but don't try to convince us that low-end discrete graphics (HD 4330 and GeForce 9300M/G110M, we're looking at you!) are anywhere near being good gaming solutions" , yes you mention an Nvidia solution but you also claimed further up that Nvidia has clearly dominated high end mobile gaming.

    Hmm strange, further down the page you say high end mobile graphics are only 5% of the market, 5% of AMD's sales are high end, so logic would dictate in those magical Nvidia breakdowns you left out, that their share is only going to be 6-7% high end graphics. So wheres this domination exactly?

    You also mention the reasons for this supposed, theoretical, unproven domination in the high end, the ease of changing from one core to the next, the 8800, 9800, 260/280.... you didn't seem to mention that they are all, essentially, the same core though. If AMD made a 3870, and kept making it but called it a 4870, and 5870, and 9870, it would be a pretty easy slot in upgrade also.

    I just didn't like the whole feel of the article, you seem to suggest that AMD are trying to pull the wool over our eyes, AMD own 60% of the mobile market, so what, only 5% of that is gaming, Nvidia (without stating numbers) dominates here, and thats all that matters. Well, its not, 60% of the market is 60% of the market, thats kind of how life works. They sell more gpu's, infact their 5% high end sales could well be making them more profit(with smaller cores) than Nvidia's 6-7% sales in the high end, the rest of the range is almost certainly making them more profit, because they are selling more of them.

    You also brought up the theoretical floppage ability of both cards, while the information isn't completely unaccurate or wrong, it just, with the tone of the rest of the piece had the same feeling, we're belittling AMD and trying to not focus on the fact that, in reality, their mobile parts are faster.

    Likewise the drivers, you say you have no problem, but crossfire is iffy, well Nvidia have had two big releases, Borderlands(an Nvidia title) and Dirt 2(amd title) ship without SLI support, as did, Crysis, and several others, yes AMD have crossfire support issues, so do Nvidia. Likewise the crossfire/sli segment of high end gaming is tiny, if both companies had high end mobile cards sales of 5%, crossfire/sli would be 0.0005%. But rather than wait and see if they improve drivers which you admit work for all but a handful of crossfire uses, are there any crossfire laptops? I've not seen one, nor looked for one, I guess Alienware and a few others do, but then they probably do update their drivers, sure a company that only sells intergrated might not update drivers every 3 months, do they need to, are those guys gaming? Anyway rather than wait to see if it improves its just jumping on them.

    You focus on the tiny portion you CLAIM dont' have support, but thats the general trend of the article. Dissappointed to say the least as with Anandtech I always hoped to read articles without bias, with clear facts shown from which the conclusions are drawn and well, no thats it.

    I honestly don't know, maybe AMD have a bunch of crossfire laptops, so point out that Manufacturer X makes model Y and crossfire support is terrible, their forums are full of unhappy users and they can't get new drivers.

    You've put together that some laptop makers don't update drivers very often, and that AMD doesn't directly support them(as you've been shown mostly at the request of the oem's), but you didn't link either of those directly to people with crossfire issues, you put one fact in a possible problem with no actual link and carried it through the article as fact.

    Like I said, I could be wrong, but its your job to show it, not hint at a problem early, and take that as fact later on.
  • erple2 - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    I'm not so sure that there's as much bias as you say. Granted this article is about a press release, not a review of hardware in and of itself. Which means a significant part of the article is going to have to be necessarily conjecture.

    I think it was also stated in the article that OEMs wanted control over drivers. Curiously, however (as pointed out in the article), NVidia doesn't really have the same restriction - they do release drivers fairly regularly that will work with most of their mobile GPUs, which may be much to OEMs frustration.

    While market share is market share, the fact is that all makers (well, the other one) makes the vast majority of their sales on the low end. In the high end, just simply looking at the design wins tells us more of the story. If AMD's high end accounts for 5% of their market share, that's 3% of the total mobile market share that's taken by AMD's high end solutions. I don't know what NVidia's share is, but if it's 4% or 5%, that's a significant increase in the "market share of high end products" owned by NVidia.

    BTW, if 6-7% of the total market share of all mobile products is high end NVidia solutions, and given that we _know_ that 3% of the high end mobile market share is AMD, then clearly, NVidia has 2x+ of the market share of AMD in the high end. I'd say that's domination.

    I think that _because_ the 8800, 9800, 260 and 280 are the same basic chip, OEM's have less work to do to incorporate those solutions in their products, and therefore use them more often. Since that solution is _still_ considered "high end", OEM's using those designs (as they have been for the last couple of years) have less qualification work to do, and therefore are more likely to choose those chips in their "high end" laptops. Your point, then, about if AMD simply re-packaged the 3870 into the 48xx, 58xx or "98xx" therefore solidifies the point that Jarred was making.

    Ultimately, the complaints of "lack of driver support" for AMD is, in fact, partially true - NVidia has gone ahead and started incorporating unified drivers for all mobility parts. AMD has not.

    As far as I can tell, there are 2 laptops available with Crossfire capability, and both of those were linked in the original article.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    To the OP, I understand what you're saying, but I was just trying to put everything in perspective. ATI *does* make some very good hardware, and the HD 4870 was competitive and even FASTER than GTX 280M... when it had properly working drivers. My experience in testing laptops during the past several years is that NVIDIA's current mobile driver program is far, far better than ATI's program. And you know what? NVIDIA had to deal with the same crap that ATI is dealing with, namely that big OEMs want control over their drivers.

    So NVIDIA started a team that makes sure each driver rollout for mobile contains all the necessary hooks for a bunch of different laptops (and granted, sometimes a driver still comes out that won't work with certain models for one reason or another). ATI is still shrugging and saying, "but this is what the OEMs want to do!" Well, screw the OEMs; what do the CUSTOMERS want ATI to do?

    I said several years ago that I couldn't in good conscience recommend an NVIDIA gaming laptop until they got a better driver release program. (I believe it was a review of the Dell XPS M1710 or something similar where several new titles had issues due to old drivers.) I'm saying the same thing now for ATI. If your drivers are broken or outdated on a gaming laptop, you have for all intents and purposes a broken gaming laptop. You can't push DX11 hardware and then tell me the drivers aren't going to be broken when DX11 games start coming out.

    So at the high-end, with their driver program, I'll take NVIDIA mobile GPUs in a heartbeat over ATI mobile GPUs. It's that simple. I've been burned too many times to feel otherwise. What's more, I've heard from READERS that feel exactly the same way (after buying an ATI gaming laptops). It was on the first page and I talked about it for a long time simply because it's important.

    What I want is for ATI to follow NVIDIA and launch a mobile driver program where publicly available drivers are released at least quarterly. I don't care if they don't support IGP designs and every single lower-end laptop (i.e. 5400, 4500, and 4300 hardware), but if someone has a laptop with a 4600, 4800, 5600, 5700, or 5800 GPU they need to know that they'll get new drivers on a regular basis.

    So tell me this: am I wrong to think that? Is it expecting too much, considering ATI's biggest competitor has done exactly that starting a couple years ago?

    If all ATI has to offer at the high-end right now is 25% better performance than GTX 280M, I'd either wait to hear about ATI's new mobile driver program, wait to see what NVIDIA's next hardware will be, or just get an NVIDIA solution.

    Bias? Perhaps, but it's exactly what I would recommend right now for gaming laptops. NVIDIA may not have functioning SLI support on every new game that ships, but at least you know there's a good chance they will have it within the next three months. Ask ASUS W90 owners how the CrossFire support is working if you want the other side of the story.

    Finally, I'm just going to throw this out there: hacking drivers to make them install was possible with NVIDIA as well as ATI solutions. The problem is, optimizations are not all present in many cases. Every time I've used hacked drivers, my performance has dropped in most titles. It might fix one broken game that's a recent release, but it usually comes with 5% to 15% (sometimes more) performance drops elsewhere. I don't want to have to swap drivers every time I play a different game, and I don't think anyone else does either. Just because it's possible doesn't mean it's ideal or without problems. When I get another ATI laptop, maybe I'll try it just to see how performance works... right now, the only ATI hardware I have is an HD 3200, so drivers aren't going to make a real difference.
  • rjc - Sunday, January 10, 2010 - link

    From here AMD Driver improvements coming over next few months:">
    - CrossFire X profiles per application will now be in a separate XML file that it will be possible to update independently of the driver itself
    - If laptop manufacturers allow it, possibility of installing the Catalysts on a laptop in Vista and 7

    Nvidia has the 3xx series of mobile parts but these are the same chips as previously sold under the 2xx banner maybe with a slightly increased clocks. Nvidia is working on Fermi derivative chips but they are not expected at best before the second half of the year

    Finally here is a pcper article on nvidia making drivers available for laptops:"> is dated Dec 18 2008, not nearly 2 years ago.

    Rereading the above I sound like an apologist for ATI :( If you want to criticise the company the 4550 and 4670 renamed as 5 series parts would be a better target. Perhaps also not giving you any notebooks to test for the article - that's not very professional.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 12, 2010 - link

    I suppose "discussed" and "launched" are the difference with NVIDIA. I first heard about the mobile driver program at the end of 2007, and I first talked about it">with the Gateway P-6831 FX. The first drivers to come out were round about the end of 2008, though, which makes me wonder how soon ATI can announce and then release drivers for their mobile driver program. Here's to hoping they do it faster/better than NVIDIA. Reply
  • Sbijman - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    "We have no concerns about ATI's ability to do so on the desktop, but right now they don't have any mobile driver plan as far as we can tell, referring you instead to your notebook manufacturer."

    There is a (not very official?) ATI mobile driver program, but it's OEMs that are messing it up. According to [url=">]Hardwareheaven[/url] they request ATI to not support the graphics boards in their laptops so they can manage their own drivers.
    There is a way around it, which is to hack the bit of the driver that identifies your hardware, and enable it to install even though it doesn't officially that specific laptop. Hardwarehaven has a tool for this.
  • Sbijman - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    Can't find the edit button :S

    The tool is available at">
  • Hauk - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    Man I just bought an i7/4670 laptop. Can these boards be had and swapped? Reply
  • SlyNine - Thursday, January 07, 2010 - link

    I have the same question, I wish they would do a review on the Dell 1645(XPS 16 studio which is what I'm guessing you got as well) w/ I7 and 4670 1 gig.

    I'd really like to know how that performs in comparison to other notebooks.

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