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ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB Review

ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB

Manufacturer: ATI
UK Price (as reviewed): £309.35 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): TBA

Since super hero movies are now churned out faster than Call of Duty games, the comic book genre has become quite the trend. One department that we never expected to see super heroes make their way into though is graphics cards. However, ATI has surpassed our hopes and dreams by modelling its new Radeon HD 5870 graphics card on the original Batmobile. The black exterior with red trim, and in particular, the two vent-like cut-outs at the back resemble the awesome vehicle from the old-school ‘60s TV show.

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As much as we’d love to sit here and tuck into the nostalgia-cake, we should probably delve into some hardware chat. For full details, Tim as has already written up the detailed specifics in his usual brand of immeasurable technical breakdown, which can be found here.

We will proceed with more academic matters: we're cracking out the screwdriver set and going under the bonnet of the ATI Batmobile.

ATI Radeon HD 5870 1GB

This card is built on ATI’s 40nm Cypress GPU, the successor to its RV770; the chip at the heart of the legendary Radeon HD 4870. The HD 5870 boasts a whopping 1,600 stream processors, twice as many as RV770 cards. Like the HD 4870, the stream processors and the GPU core share the same clock speed, but unlike the HD 4870 however, the HD's core and stream processors are clocked at 825MHz as oppose to the older card's 725MHz. This is still short of the clock of the revamped RV770: the HD 4890, which usually sold at 850MHz (although a few scaled to 1GHz), but with a much more massive transistor budget the clock speed for the new GPU is a trade off.

The HD 5870's 1GB of quad-pumped GDDR5 memory is clocked at 1.2GHz (4.8GHz effective). This memory speed along with the 256-bit memory interface accumulate to a memory bandwidth of 153.6GB/sec. Another increase is seen in the amount of ROPs, with ATI’s new beast featuring 32: twice as many as the HD 4870.

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The HD 5870 is a good deal longer than its predecessor, standing a full 11 inches, or 28cm in length, and will take up a nominal two PCI expansion slots on your motherboard. on the back of the card there are both HDMI and DisplayPort connectors, in addition to a pair of DVI connectors. Perhaps more interesting than the full selection of digital ports though, is the way they’re arranged.

Display connectors are usually on the bottom half of a graphics card so as to allow holes to be cut in the other half of the back-plate and allow air to be exhausted out the back of the case. However on the HD 5870, the duo of DVI connectors are to one side with the HDMI connector on the other, leaving little room along a small gap for hot air to be pushed out the back. This design difference hints towards the HD 5870 generating less heat than previous generation cards, and therefore requiring less exhaust space.

Being the first DirectX 11 card, one of the main benefits of the HD 5870 is going to be enjoying such future content, which something you can read more about here (Ed: coming soon). However, at the time of writing we were unable to include any DirectX 11 games in our benchmarks because despite the fact Battleforge has received a last minute patch, Windows 7 is still a month away for everyone to buy.

What’s important though is that we’re comparing the HD 5870 to a bunch of graphics cards that people are likely to have in their gaming rigs right now, and a bunch of games that run on DirectX 9 or DirectX 10, which is what the market currently consists of: out the box today, this is what you get. The question is then; is it worth Alfred readying the Batmobile so you can burn down to the store and grab one these red striped bad boys right away?