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Sapphire HD 5850 1GB & Sapphire HD 5770 1GB Review

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SKYMTL

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Sapphire HD 5850 1GB & Sapphire HD 5770 1GB Review







Welcome to a brave new world. A world in which ATI’s DX11 cards have finally started showing up at retailers in sufficient quantities to satisfy backorders while those annoying “In Stock Soon” tags have finally been replaced by “In Stock” monikers. This means that you can actually buy a HD 5850 or HD 5870 right now and expect near-immediate reception without having to wait for weeks or even months for one to ship. Is every last product from all of the board partners in stock? Not yet. The simple fact is that ATI still has some production issues but they are being gradually ironed out. All in all, Team Red now still has sole ownership of the DX11 marketplace and they are finally in a position to sit back and watch their products sell at breakneck speed.

The HD 5700-series on the other hand doesn’t seem to have had any of the shortages seen with the HD 5800-series but according to our retailer contacts this is due to two factors: one being that these lower-end cards are readily available from their distributors. The other reason for nearly uninterrupted stock of the HD 5750 and HD 5770 is the fact that they are simply not as popular as their higher-end brethren with two of our contacts actually stating the HD 5850 was selling more units than the two lower end cards combined. This is definitely a head-scratcher considering the amazing value the HD 5700 series represents but it does shine a positive light on people’s expectations and confidence in the PC as a viable gaming platform.

Sales figures aside, we have been putting this review off for some time due to the fact that one of the cards –the Sapphire HD 5850- was next to impossible to find and the few stores that had it available were simply fleecing customers with ultra high pricing. Now that we can actually go out and buy this card, the decision was made to put this review live and add in a Sapphire HD 5770 for good measure. While both of these cards obviously come from different ends of the price spectrum, they offer up some great performance for your hard earned dollars.

The most interesting aspect of this review will be the fact that over $100 separates one from the other which is quite significant in terms of graphics card pricing. With ATI planning on releasing a card which bridges the gap between the current HD 5800 series and HD 5700 series in a few weeks, this things could get even more interesting. We should also put all our cards on the table and state that we are in the process of switching to a new and updated testing suite so we will be using the 9.11 drivers for this review.

It should go without saying that $100 is a significant amount of money. Does this monetary difference equate a massive gap in performance between the HD 5850 and HD 5770? Let’s find out.

 

SKYMTL

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A Look at the ATI 5000-series

A Look at the ATI 5000-series



As you can probably tell by the chart above, all of the HD 5000-series fit perfectly into ATI’s current lineup. At the top of the heap we have the ultra high performance dual GPU HD 5970 which carries most of the same specifications as a pair of HD 5870s. There are however some sacrifices that had that had to be made in the clock speed department in order to keep power consumption within reasonable levels. So, while this card has the same number of texture units and stream processors as the HD 5870, its core and memory run at speeds identical to the HD 5850.

Judging from paper specifications alone, the HD 5870 is a technological marvel considering it packs all of the rendering potential of ATI’s past flagship card and then some while not being saddled by an inefficient dual processor design. The fact that this new card could trump the performance of a HD 4890 just a few months after that card’s release is nothing short of stunning.


The HD 5850 on the other hand looks to be the purebred price / performance leader of the new ATI lineup. Barring slightly lower clock speeds for both the core and memory along with eight disabled texture units (totalling 160 stream processors), it is basically a clone of the HD 5870. This is the card ATI hopes will compete directly with the GTX 285 for the near future and then come into its own when DX11 games make their way into the market. We believe this card will appeal to the majority of early adopters since it allows them to buy class-leading DX9 and DX10 performance now without gambling $400 on unproven DX11 potential.

We can also see that ATI did some careful price cutting prior to launch since even though the HD 4890 looks to offer significantly less performance than a HD 5850, it is actually priced accordingly. As such, this previously high end card will stick around for the next few months in the $200 price bracket but that isn’t to say that it will stay there indefinitely...


Meanwhile, we now have the HD 5700-series of code-named Juniper cards as well with the HD 5770 and HD 5750. The HD 5770 1GB is one of the first sub-$200 cards which will come stock with a 1GB framebuffer and along with the GDDR5 memory, comes with some hefty clock speeds as well. However, even though upon first glance the HD 5770 looks like it can compete with the HD 4890, this isn’t the case. According to ATI, the 128-bit memory interface will limit this card’s performance so it lies right within its stated price range. We should also mention that ATI won’t be replacing the HD 4890 until at least the first quarter of 2010 even though the HD 5770 is looking to take over from the HD 4850.

The HD 5750 on the other hand is simply a cut down HD 5770 with lower clocks, less SPs and a cut down number of Texture Units. It is this card that ATI sees going head to head with the NVIDIA GTS 250 and 9800 GT. It uses GDDR5 memory but there will be both 512MB and 1GB versions released to cater to the $100 market along with those looking for a little jump in performance.

Now we have the HD 5600 series added into the mix as well which is basically a further cut-down card featuring roughly half the number of SPs seen on the HD 5700 series. These new “Redwood” products still come equipped with fast GDDR5 memory operating across a 128-bit bus and will be offered in both 512MB and 1GB configurations. This should make the 5600 series perfect competition of NVIDIA’s GT 240 cards in their 512MB and 1GB guises.

So there you have it. In the high stakes game of poker that is the GPU industry, ATI has shown its hand. All that is left is for the competition to respond.
 

SKYMTL

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A Focus on DX11

A Focus on DX11


It has been a hair under three years since the release of Windows Vista and with it the DirectX 10 API. In that amount of time, a mere 33 DX10 games were released. That isn’t exactly a resounding success considering the hundreds of titles released in that same time. Let’s hope DX11 does a bit better than that.


DX11 is focused on taking the lessons learned from the somewhat inefficient DX10 and shaping them into a much more efficient API which will demand less system resources while being easier to develop for. In addition to the usual 3D acceleration, it will also be used to speed up other applications which in the past have not been associated with the DirectX runtime. This may be a tall order but with the features we will be discussing here, developers have already started using DX11 to expand the PC gaming experience. It is an integral component in Windows 7 and according to Microsoft, will also be adopted into Windows Vista through a software update.

Let’s scratch the surface of what DX11 can bring to the table.


Unlike past DirectX versions, DX11 endeavours to move past the purely graphics-based uses of the API and push it towards being the lynchpin of an entire processing ecosystem. This all begins with the power which DirectX Compute will bring into the fold. Not only can it increase the efficiency of physics processing and in-game NPC intelligence within games by transferring those operations to the GPU but it can also be used to accelerate non-3D applications.




Through the use of Compute Shader programs in Shader Model 5.0, developers are able to use additional graphical features such as order independent transparency, ray tracing, and advanced post-processing effects. This should add a new depth of realism to tomorrow’s games and as mentioned before, also allow for programs requiring parallel processing to be accelerated on the GPU.


For the majority of you reading this review, it is the advances in graphics processing and quality that will interest you the most. As games move slowly towards photo-realistic rendering quality, new technologies must be developed in order to improve efficiency while adding new effects.


Some of the technologies that ATI is championing are DX11’s new Depth of Field, OIT (or Order Independent Transparency) and Detail Tessellation. While the pictures above do a good job of showing you how each of these works, it is tessellation which ATI seems most excited about. They have been including hardware tessellation units in their GPUs for years now and finally with the dawn of DX11 will these units be finally put to their full use. OIT on the other hand allows for true transparency to be added to an object in a way that will be more efficient resource-wise than the standard alpha blending method currently used.


Let’s talk about DX11 games. As you would expect, due to the ease of programming for this new API and the advanced tools it gives developers, many studios have been quite vocal in their support. Even though some of the titles listed above may not be high on your list of must have games, A-list titles like the upcoming Aliens vs. Predator from Rebellion and DiRT 2 are sure to get people interested.

Another exciting addition to the list is EA DICE’s FrostBite 2 Engine which will power upcoming Battlefield games. Considering the popularity of this series, the inclusion of DX11 should open up this API to a huge market.

 

SKYMTL

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OpenCL: The Next Big Thing?

OpenCL: The Next Big Thing?



As consumers, we have all heard of the inroads GPUs have been making towards offering stunning performance in compute-intensive applications. There have been attempts to harness this power by engines such as NVIDIA’s Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) and ATI’s Stream SDK (which in v2.0 supports OpenCL).


“Build it and the will come” says the old mantra but industry adoption of CUDA and Stream was anything but quick since there were two standards being pushed for the same market. CUDA in particular is having a hard time of it since it is vendor-specific without hardware support from any other vendor. The industry needed a language that was universal and available across multiple platforms. That’s were OpenCL (Open Computing Language) along with DirectX Compute come into play. It is completely open-source and managed by a non-profit organization called the Khronos Group which also has control over OpenGL and OpenAL


At its most basic level, OpenCL is able to be executed across multiple mediums such as GPUs, CPUs and other types of processors. This makes it possible to prioritize workloads to the processor that will handle them most efficiently. For example, a GPU is extremely good at crunching through data-heavy parallel workloads while an x86 CPU is much more efficient at serial and task-specific This also allows developers to write their programs for heterogeneous platforms instead of making them specific to one type of processor.


So what does this mean for gamers? First of all, AMD has teamed up with Bullet and PixeLux in order to achieve more realistic environments for players. The Bullet Physics is an open-source physics engine which has an ever-expanding library for soft body, 3D collision detection and other calculations. Meanwhile, PixeLux uses their DMM (Digital Molecular Matter) engine which uses the Finite Element Analysis Method of calculating physics within a game. In past applications, it has been used to calculate actions which have an impact on the game’s environment such as tumbling rubble or debris movement.


With Stream moving to OpenCL, ATI is truly moving towards an open platform for developers which they are hoping will lead to broader developer and market adoption than the competition’s solutions. At this point it looks like we will soon see ATI’s GPUs accelerating engines from Havok, PixeLux and Bullet through the use of OpenCL. Considering these are three of the most popular physics engines on the market, ATI is well placed to make PhysX a thing of the past.
 

SKYMTL

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ATI’s Eyefinity Technology

ATI’s Eyefinity Technology



The term Surround Gaming may not mean much to many of you who are reading this article but with the advent of ATI’s new Eyefinity technology, now is a good time to educate yourself. Basically, Eyefinity will give users the ability to use multiple monitors all running from the same graphics card. In the past, simple dual monitor setups have been used by many graphics, CAD or other industry professionals in order to increase their productivity but gaming on more than one monitor was always a bit of a clunky affair. Granted, some products like Matrox’s TripleHead2Go were able to move multi monitor setups into the public’s perception but there were always limitations (resolution and otherwise) associated with them. ATI is aiming to make the implementation of two or even more monitors as seamless as possible within games and productivity environments while offering the ability to use extreme resolutions.


While the price of two or even three new monitors may be a bit daunting at first for many of you, but good 20” and even 22” LCDs have come down in price to the point where some are retailing below the $200 mark. ATI figures that less than $600 for three monitors will allow plenty of people to make the jump into a true surround gaming setup. Indeed, with three or even six monitors, the level of immersion could be out of this world.


The reason that main in the professional field are familiar with multi monitor setups is for one simple matter: they increase productivity exponentially. Imagine watching a dozen stocks without having to minimize windows all the time or using Photoshop on one screen while watching a sports broadcast on another and using the third screen for Photoshop’s tooltips. The possibilities are virtually limitless if it is implemented properly.


When it comes to a purely gaming perspective, the thought of a massive view of the battlefield or the ability to see additional enemies in your peripheral vision is enough to make most gamers go weak in the knees. Unfortunately, the additional monitors will naturally mean decreased performance considering the massive amount of real-estate that would need rendering. This will mean tradeoffs may have to be made in terms of image quality if you want to use Eyefinity.


According to ATI, all of the new HD 5800-series graphics cards will have the ability to run up to three monitors simultaneously. This is done by having a pair of DVI connectors as well as a DisplayPort and HDMI connector located on the back of the card. It should be noted that ATI will be releasing a special Eyefinity version of the HD 5870 in the coming months which features six DisplayPort connectors for those of you who want to drive six monitors from a single card.


This technology is all made possible through the use of DisplayPort connectors but this also provides a bit of a limitation as well. Above we can see that a number of 3-screen output combinations which the current HD5800-series support and one thing is constant: you will need at least one monitor which supports DisplayPort. Unfortunately, at this time DP-supporting monitors tend to carry a price premium over standard screens which will increase the overall cost of an Eyefinity setup. Luckily the other two monitors can either use DVI or a combination of DVI and HDMI for connectivity.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5770 1GB

A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5770 1GB


Product Number: 21163-00-20R
Manufacturer’s Product Page Click Here
Warranty: 2-years
Price: Click here to compare prices



The box for Sapphire’s stock HD 5770 isn’t much different from others we have seen in the past with a stylized representation of ATI’s Ruby mascot being front and center. As usual, Sapphire’s packaging remains perfectly compact which should cut down on shipping costs.

This HD 5770 1GB comes with a remarkably well-rounded list of accessories which includes a long Molex to PCI-E adaptor, a Crossfire bridge and a DVI to VGA dongle. Sapphire also includes a free download of the DiRT 2 racing game but you should be aware that many of ATI’s board partners are predicting that by March 2010, less and less cards will include this voucher.


As you can probably see, since this is a reference-based card Sapphire has stuck to ATI’s norms when specifying a heatsink and PCB. All in all, this HD 5770 is about 8 ¾” long even though its PCB is actually 8 ¼” long. This excess length is due the ¾” projection of the heatsink shroud over the edge of the PCB into which this card’s single PCI-E power connector is recessed.

We should also mention that this is perhaps (in our opinion) one of the best looking cards on the market right now but several manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to dumb things down so to speak. Many have realized that the full length heatsink used on the reference HD 5770 1GB is not only expensive but also excessive when it comes to cooling off the relatively efficient core. So, they have ported over the lower-end heatsink from the HD 5750 which allows for cost savings but results in a much less stunning design.


The back of the card shows us the usual clean ATI PCB layout done in a stunning black and a quartet of GDDR5 memory modules. Meanwhile, the backplate is custom made for Eyefinity setups with a pair of DVI connectors in addition to lone connectors for HDMI and DisplayPort.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5850 1GB

A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5850 1GB


Product Number: 21162-00-50R
Manufacturer’s Product Page Click Here
Warranty: 2-years
Price: Click here to compare prices



Yes, we are going to sound like broken records here talking about the box and the packaging so let’s avoid that and say Sapphire uses the same size box for their HD 5850 as they do for the HD 5770. However, this one has a distinct purple hue to it.

Accessories-wise there is the usual DVI to VGA dongle and Crossfire bridge along with two very long Molex to 6-Pin adaptors and that’s about it. For whatever reason, our sample didn’t come with a voucher for DiRT 2 but according to every retailer we spoke to, these cards are still shipping with the voucher included.


At around 9.5” in length, the HD 5850 1GB is anything but compact but for the rendering power it provides it is well within the limits set by other high end cards. It carries the same black and red color scheme seen on the HD 5770, HD 5870 and HD 5970 while Sapphire has kept with that scheme but added a few more muted colours to the palette. Other than the HD 5750, all of ATI’s cards are designed around the same basic heatsink shroud design which gives a nice flow to their current lineup.


The underside of this card doesn’t really have anything special to look at since the HD 5850 traditionally avoids the full-length backplate of the HD 5870 and HD 5970. We do however get a good look at that sexy black PCB.


At the back of the Sapphire HD 5850 1GB, we have a pair of PCI-E power connectors which peak out from within one of the red-fringed vent holes. Remember, with the inclusion of the power cables, this card will take up around 10 ½” within your case so make sure you have the room needed before buying.

Finally we come to the backplate which like all of ATI’s 5000-series has a pair of DVI connectors as well as outputs for HDMI and DisplayPort.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

Sapphire HD 5870 1GB (Reference)
Sapphire HD 5850 1GB (Reference)
Sapphire HD 4890 1GB (Reference)
Sapphire HD 5770 1GB (REference)
XFX HD 5750 1GB (Reference)
NVIDIA GTX 285 (Reference)
NVIDIA GTX 275 (Reference)
EVGA GTX 260 216 (Reference)
Gigabyte GTS 250 512MB (Reference)


Drivers:

ATI 9.11
NVIDIA 195.62 WHQL


Applications Used:

Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
Crysis: Warhead
Dawn of War II
Fallout 3
Far Cry 2
Left 4 Dead
Tom Clancy’s HawX


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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12,857
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Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty: World at War



To benchmark this game, we played through 10 minutes of the third mission (Hard Landing) starting from when the player first enters the swamp, through the first bunker until the final push onto the airfield. This was benchmarked using FRAPS.


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

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12,857
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Call of Juarez II: Bound in Blood

Call of Juarez II: Bound in Blood



CoJ is a bit of an oddity without any in-game AA options but nonetheless, it looks incredible. For this benchmark we used a 10 minute gameplay sequence which included panoramic views of a town and gun battles. FRAPS was used to record the framerates.

1680 x 1050



1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600

 
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