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ATI Radeon HD 5870 Reviews, Benchmarks Sum Up

After months of speculation, ATI’s HD 5800 series is finally upon us. Leading to the build-up, nearly all details have been leaked, so there are no major surprises. The NDA deadline has now passed, and several reviews are now available around the internet.

More details next page.

The reviews flooding the web mostly concentrate on the HD 5870, there are a few of the HD 5850. One of the figures that were speculated right till the end were the prices. As a matter of fact, different sources are still reporting different prices, so there is still some confusion. The most common figures are – $379 for the HD 5870, $259 for the HD 5850. The widely rumoured price points of $399/$299 are still widely quoted. We will have to wait and see how they appear on e-tail.

Several performance benchmarks had been leaked beforehand. However, a general observation is that the HD 5800 products shine at high resolution and AA, maximum visual settings. The HD 5870, for example, generally ends up right below the 4870 X2 and the GTX 295 at lower resolutions, whereas extreme visual settings really breathe life into the 5870 – ending up faster than the GTX 295 more often than not. The HD 5850 offers solid performance as well – beating the more expensive and power hungry GTX 285 at nearly every step. In short, the 5870 gets you last-gen dual-GPU performance without its disadvantages. The 5850 ends up faster than any previous single-GPU product. All this with new features, lower prices and significantly better power efficiency. Worth noting that all tests were performed on a beta driver, compared to mature, generation-old drivers for the competitors.

Strong performance apart, the HD 5800 series brings several new features/enhancements, most of which have been discussed before. DirectX11, Eyefinity, AA/AF and other IQ enhancements, 8-channel LPCM audio, complete OpenCL support, being some of them. The HD 5870 runs adequately cool and quiet, and boasts incredible idle power usage of less than 30W. While the TDP is set at 188W, the HD 5870 ends up using less power in most realistic gaming benchmarks. Importantly, it is far more power efficient than both it’s dual-GPU rivals, as well as the GTX 285.

However, it is not all glorious. While monster frame rates would bring a smile to every hardware enthusiast, it leaves me bittersweet. With most game developers using the severely underpowered consoles as their lead platforms, do we really need such powerful graphics cards? No, not really. It may seem like the HD 5870 is too much of a good thing. Playing at common resolutions of 1680×1050 or even 1920×1200, the HD 5870 easily aces 60+ fps in most games. As do previous generation HD 4800 and GTX 200 products. There’s no doubt that at lower resolutions, the 5870 is simply underutilized. Not that it matters when it is churning out in excess of 100 frames per second, anyway. Put two HD 5870s in Crossfire, and we see instances even the world’s fastest CPU, Core i7 975, overclocked to 4 GHz bottlenecking at high resolutions. Unless you are interested in Eyefinity/other features and/or unsatisfied with performance of your current graphics card, you don’t really have to upgrade right away. The 5870 may be a great product, but it just isn’t as practical as it should be, thanks to the current environment of the gaming industry. The other important question is – should you wait for Nvidia’s GT300? If you are in the market for a graphics card right now, no, we don’t see any good reason in waiting for what is an uncertain product without a firm release date. However, if you are reasonably satisfied with your current card (let’s say a HD 4800/GTX 200 card on a common resolution monitor) and don’t really need to upgrade – might as well wait for some more information on GT300.

One of the major problems for the HD 5800 series is going to be availability. There have been several reports of unprecedented demand – at levels AMD and it’s partners did not expect and were unprepared for. Massive shortages in supply are expected – recalling the release of Nvidia’s 8800 GT in 2007. However, ATI deny a HD 4770, claiming yields are good for the Evergreen range. The HD 5850 will only start shipping next week, and is expected to be sold out within days. Even if you really want a HD 5800 card, you will have to be very lucky to get your hands on one this month. Sadly, such short supply also means spiraling prices. The $379/$259 points may be impossible to hold, and $399/$299 may end up being realistic street prices for the time being (5870s are listed at Newegg for $379, for now). Once the supply problems are fixed, prices are expected to stabilize at more reasonable $349/$249 points, though this wouldn’t be any time soon.

Looking forward, ATI have the dual-5870 Hemlock releasing in late-October/early-November, with the mainstream Juniper in the same time-frame. Nvidia’s plans are rather obscure, though we hope Nvidia will announce/demonstrate its own next-gen GT300 products soon, instead of rebrands or PhysX/CUDA/DX11-irrelevance marketing. Price cuts for the GTX 285 and GTX 295 (EVGA is already at $439, but it isn’t enough) should be expected soon.

Check out the Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 reviews roundup complied by our forum member adrianlee.

Related: AMD Press Release

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