What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Review

Status
Not open for further replies.

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal


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.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
A Look at the ATI 5000-series

A Look at the ATI 5000-series



As you can probably tell by the chart above, both the HD 5870 and the HD 5850 fit perfectly into ATI’s current lineup. In essence, The HD 5870 takes the place of the expensive-to-produce and comparably inefficient dual GPU HD 4870X2 as the top dog for the time being. 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 effectively double 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 about half the HD 5870’s performance, 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...


In short order, ATI will have a full range of DX11 cards on the market; all of which have been talked about in rumours over the last quarter. To begin with we will see the two “Cypress” series cards which are the HD 5870 and HD 5850 followed before the new year by the dual GPU Hemlock card which will make use of two Cypress processors. The Hemlock sticks to ATI’s mantra of never releasing a card that retails for above $500 but it will nonetheless take over the premier position of this DX11 lineup.

The $199 Juniper card will rear its head right before the year is up and should take the place of the HD 4890 and will give consumers a perfectly affordable card to put on their parents’ Christmas shopping list. Finally, the first months of 2010 will herald the Redwood and Cedar mainstream cards.

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

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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. What we like see is at least three DX11 games being available before the Christmas buying season even though BattleForge is already available and will have DX11 support added through a patch.

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

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The box this card comes in sticks to the usual color and layout scheme from past Sapphire products but somehow Sapphire’s mascot has grown a few dreadlocks with the move to the 5000-series. The back of the box shows a list of features and the usual marketing mumbo jumbo that is present on every card from the lowliest $35 product to the best of the best.


Sapphire does well when it comes to protecting their cards from life’s bumps and bruises. The HD 5870 is packaged first in a cardboard box and then additionally wrapped in a form-fitting anti static bubble wrap bag. While you can't see them in these pictures, the accessories are in their own box located below the cardboard holder for the HD 5870.


Since this is the retail version of Sapphire’s card (note the “R” in the product number), the accessory and software package is more than complete. Connector-wise, you get a pair of Molex to 6-pin adaptors, a DVI to VGA dongle and a single Crossfire bridge.

Where Sapphire breaks from the pack is with the inclusion of not one but two games. BattleStations Pacific is a pretty fun game with a blend of tactics and hands-on fighting and its inclusion should keep you distracted for a few hours at least. Meanwhile a voucher for the presently unreleased DiRT 2 is also included and once it becomes available it will be possible to download the full game directly to your hard drive.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Looking at ATI’s Eyefinity Technology

Looking at 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.
 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5870 1GB

A Closer Look at the Sapphire HD 5870 1GB



Here it is…and it’s beautiful, isn’t it? Decked out in a mostly-black heatsink shroud and PCB, the HD 5870 cuts an imposing figure. Unlike past xx70-series cards however, this one is a full 11” in length which makes it equal to the GTX 200-series of cards. This is quite long but it shouldn’t cause any major issues in any modern PC cases.


Sapphire has branded this card quite well without venturing too far into the tacky end of things with subdued colors and their usual impression of ATI’s Ruby mascot. There is also a red line straight down the center of the card which ties the fan in with the rest of the card. All in all, this is a simple yet unique take on the somewhat boring heatsink shrouds we have been seeing over the past few years.


The rear of the card has a pair of small openings in order to keep the VRM area ventilated so no overheating takes place. Both of these vents use a red border that work perfectly design-wise with the color scheme on the rest of the card and are independent from the main cooling fan.


As has been the case with past ATI cards, the side not facing the motherboard is where the power and Crossfire connectors are located. Interestingly, even though this is billed as an ultra high performance card, it only uses a pair of 6-pin PCI-E connectors. This is due to the fact that the maximum board power is “only” 188W or roughly 5W more than a stock GTX 285.

Along the outside edge of the HD 5870 are additional exhaust vents which take any excess heat and dump it into your case. These have been added since as you will see, the rear exhaust vent is woefully small when compared to other cards.


This is actually the first ATI card we have seen other that the X2 cards which features a full-coverage backplate. Not only does it look great but it also helps with heat dissipation.


The connector layout on the backplate is totally different than what we are used to seeing. Gone is the archaic “HDTV Out” port and in its place are connectors for HDMI and DisplayPort. The usual pair of DVI connectors is still there as well and while this layout may seem perfect for outputs, it seems to limit the size of the exhaust grille. We really have to wonder if this stunted area for hot air to be exhausted will prove to be a bottleneck when it comes to proper cooling.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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 (Stock)
Palit HD 4870X2
Gigabyte GTX 260 216 Super Overclock
EVGA GTX 285 (Stock)
GTX 275 896MB (Stock)
GTX 295 (Stock)
EVGA GTX 260 216 (Stock)


Drivers:

ATI 8.66 RC6 Beta (HD 5870)
ATI 9.9 WHQL
Nvidia 190.62 WHQL (w/ SLI V2 Patch)


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
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
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





Unfortunately, CoH: WaW performance tends to run into a massive CPU bottleneck for the high-performance cards. That being said, the HD 5870 shows some incredible performance numbers and in many cases comes close to matching the HD 4870X2. Considering the new card’s specifications however, we would have expected it to at least equal the performance of the last generation flagship.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood

Call of Juarez: 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



Here is one game that has yet to see properly implemented SLI or Crossfire profiles even though the Nvidia SLI patch and ATI’s 9.9 driver promised improvements. As such, the HD 5870 is able to completely run away with the game by posting dominating results.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top