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XFX's Radeon HD 5870: ATI is Back on Top for Now
George Ross, October 9, 2009


After the glory days of the 9800 Pro for the ATI camp NVIDIA turned up the heat on ATI forcing them to fight an uphill battle ever since. Riding on the recent success of the HD 4800 series ATI has released the first GPU supporting DX11 in the form of the Radeon HD 5870. The HD 5870 also puts ATI back in the race for the single GPU performance crown. Let's take a look at a reference designed HD 5870 put out by XFX and see how much of a performance increase you get over a HD 4890 and an overclocked GTX 275.

Packaging and Contents

XFX puts there HD 5870 in a large box loaded with foam. The card is protected all the way around. The accessories are hidden under the bright green folded cardboard. I really like how this card was packaged.

This card comes with everything you need to set it up plus a voucher for the up coming release of Dirt 2 and a do not disturb door knob sign that guarantees that you will not be getting layed if or when you actually use it.

The Card

The first thing you may notice about this card is its length. It is as long as a GTX 275. Something else that will catch your eye right off the bat is the card's back side is covered with a metal plate. The cooler looks to be a little beefed up over the reference HD 4890 cooler and allowing for the fan to take in air from the rear. What's more is that for a reference fan it is quiet.

ATI has gone the extra mile and given you the full gambit of modern display connectors dual link DVI, HDMI, and even the brand new DisplayPort. Leaving you with only one surviving analog display port the D-Sub and that is only because XFX gives you the appropriate adapter. With all of these connectors something had to be sacrificed and that was the cooler exhaust. This surprisingly enough doesn't seem to hamper the thermal characteristics of this card. If you have the money this card will also spread one desktop across up to three 2500x1600 displays (It would be nice to have one 2500x1600 display). Thanks to what ATI is calling its Eyefinity technology.

Test Hardware
Let's see how well the HD 5870 runs on a 3.6GHz Q6700 based setup. Here is the rest of the information on the test system.

Processor Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700 @ 3.6GHz
Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-EP45C-DS3R
Memory OCZ 4GB DDR3 1600 (PC2 12800) @ 720 MHz (DDR 1440) 7-7-7-28 Dual Channel Mode
Hard Drive Seagate Barracuda ES.2 ST3250310NS 250GB 7200 RPM 32MB cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
Video Cards XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 @ 850MHz core 1,200MHz (4800Gb/s) memory
Included Cypress 8.651 driver
ATI Radeon HD 4890 @ 880MHz core 999MHz (3600Gb/s) memory
Catalyst 9.9
EVGA GeForce GTX 275 @ 713MHz core 1,512MHz shaders 1,260MHz (2520 DDR) memory
190.62 driver
Optical Disk Drive Pioneer DVR-112DBK
Power Supply FSP Blue Storm II 500W
Operating System Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1

Gaming Benchmarks

In 3D Mark 06 the HD 5870 outpaces the HD 4890 by 15% and the overclocked GTX 275 by 9%.

The HD 5870 makes less of an impact with Unreal Tournament III as it only bests the overclocked GTX 275 by 1% and the HD 4890 by 7% in overall average frames per second.

Crysis has long been the game brings a fast gaming rig to its knees since its release in late 2007. This is where the HD 5870 shines managing to beat out the overclocked GTX 275 by 33% and the HD 4890 by 18% in overall average frames per second.

Again in World in Conflict the HD 5870 blows away the competition by a margin of 15% for the overclcoked GTX 275 and 12% for the HD 4890 in overall average frames per second.

Devil May Cry 4 responds well to any graphics improvement you give it and this holds true for the HD 5870 which leads the HD 4890 by 36% and the overclocked GTX 275 by 2% in overall average frames per second.

Things get a little hairy when looking at the Resident Evil 5 numbers as the HD 5870 manages to beat the overclocked GTX 275 by 9% and the loose out to the HD 4890 by 1% in overall average frames per second. This is most likely a driver issue and should be corrected with the next Catalyst release we are hoping.

Taking all the gaming benchmarks into consideration the HD 5870 outperforms the overclocked GTX 275 by 13% and the HD 4890 by 20% in overall average frames per second. This does translate into higher resolutions and quality settings when playing the games that were tested.

Power Consumption
The HD 5870 manages to outperform both the HD 4890 and the overclocked GTX 275 while using less power than both. While in the idle state the HD 5870 runs the GPU at 157MHz and the memory at 300MHz and GPU voltage drops below 1V.

Kudos to ATI for managed to double the stream processor, texture units, ROPs, and transistor counts while keeping the power envelope lower than the previous HD 4890. The move to the 40nm process has paid off for ATI.

GPU Temperature
All tests were done with an ambient temperature of 23 degrees Celsius.

While DX11 titles are still a ways into the future and Windows 7 isn't do out until the 22nd DX 11 is a bit of a mute point at this stage in the game. However if you are looking to get more frames out of your gaming rig now you have a choice that is future proof. The HD 5870 is a wonderful video card and as it stands now is the king of the hill for single GPU based video cards and is reasonably priced at around $390, and XFX makes there case for buying your HD 5870 from them by offering a lifetime warranty and a free DX11 game.

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