Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Review

by Michael "SKYMTL" Hoenig     |     September 22, 2009

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Review

Let’s all take a journey back in time to November of 2006 where a card called the 8800 GTX was released. Not only was it’s G80 core the first DX10-capable graphics processor on the market but it also beat ATI’s own DX10 product –the R600- to market by a good six months. Fast forwarding back to the present time, the situation has now turned on its head. ATI, the perennial underdog has built on the success of their R700 series (or HD 4000 series as we have come to know it) to be the first to market with a number of next-generation DX11 compatible cards and Nvidia’s response is nowhere in sight.

So, here we are, potentially months ahead of Nvidia’s answering salvo and ATI is looking to be the first to market with not one but a pair of DX11 cards. The first of these will be the HD 5870 1GB that so many of you have already heard about through leaked slides and quick previews. This will be ATI’s flagship single chip card for the foreseeable future and is supposedly able to put the screws to Nvidia’s GTX 295 while retailing for about $100 less. It is billed as the fastest card on the market today and with its 1600 stream processors, the HD 5870 seems to be exactly that. Sure, these are lofty expectations, but anyone who doubts the veracity of ATI’s claims should take a back seat right now.

The card that hasn’t been talked about much is the one that is being launched right alongside ATI’s flagship: the HD 5850. While not as drool-worthy as its big brother, it is aimed directly at the GTX 285 with a price of about $300USD but sporting some impressive claims of high performance. With GDDR5 memory, 1440 stream processors and based on the same architecture as the HD 5870, it is this card that the majority of people will be taking a very close look at.

All in all, this looks like a win / win situation for ATI’s new cards. They are effectively first to market with a whole series of working DX11 cards and the competition doesn’t have anything they can respond with in a timely manner. However, being the first to market can turn out to be a double edged sword as evidenced by Nvidia’s second generation DX10 architecture which found itself in a dog fight against ATI’s 4-series. At the time, Nvidia was forced to make some drastic price cuts to remain competitive. Will the situation now reverse itself at the onset of the DX11 generation? We will have to see.

We all have to remember that within the last few years, graphics cards have become much more than just rendering machines. There are a whole slew of other applications –from video decoding to protein crunching- they can be used for and the upcoming release of Windows 7 will expand that repertoire by leaps and bounds. As such, we will be focusing on everything from DirectCompute performance to Folding as the release of Windows 7 approaches.

But for now, let’s get on with this review.


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