PowerColor HD 5870 on top of a 300mm wafer containing one 55nm chip from ATI. Can you guess which one?
Also, this picture gives you a good look at the top exhaust on both the red and black part of the heatsink .
Following the installation of the board in our test configuration, we were greeted by a loud sound of fan spinning up, lasting for a few seconds. The sound was on the level of 4870X2, but that was a dual-GPU card and we certainly didn't want to hear that sound while playing games. But interestingly though, we only heard that fan spinning at 100% while running BOINC/Milkyway@home in the Cooler Master Cosmos S and SilverStone SG01-Evolution case. Regardless to what we've threw at 5870; fan never reached 100% on our open testbed and inside SilverStone's Raven RV01 case. In fact, 5870 was one of more pleasant boards to work with, since the fan didn't spin past the 60% regardless of what we threw at it.
Booting into windows for the first time saw fan continuing to spin at 100%, disappearing after we installed latest Catalyst drives. There isn't anything special to report about - we opened Catalyst Control Center, set Anti-Aliasing to 8X and Anisotropic Filtering to 16x and then fired up around 20 games installed on the hard drive. CCC allows Anti-Aliasing up to 12x "normally", after which you can use various filters to enhance the filtering quality: narrow-box, wide-box and Edge Detect are the offered options. Out of this extreme settings, we mostly preferred using "Edge Detect" as it offered a good trade-off between performance and image quality. For non-graphic demanding titles such as World of Warcraft, you can lose your head and use 12x Custom Filter AA [24xAA] and still achieve 60 fps Vsync for non-tearing experience. Gaming Performance
As you have read already, I own a Dell 2408WFP, thus all the games are played in 1920x1200, unless I am using 46" Panasonic Viera 100Hz plasma TV. In that case, 1920x1080 is used. For a high end card such as 5870, we expect that these resolutions "learn to fly" in every title imaginable. We tried the following titles:
- Driving: DiRT 2, GTR: Evolution, Need For Speed: SHIFT, RACE 07, Race Driver: GRID
- First Person Shooter: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Crysis, And Crysis: Warhead, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Shattered Horizon, Unreal Tournament III
- Action: Batman: Arkham Asylum, BattleForge, BioShock, Mass Effect
- MMORPG: Aion, World of Warcraft
Probably the most expected game to play was Colin McRae's DiRT 2. If there wasn't for BattleForge and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Prypat, this would be the first DirectX 11 game on the market. We ran the game at 1920x1200 with 8xAA and 16xAF and checked the highest framerate. In a session lasting for several hours, we passed several races in both DirectX 9 and DirectX 11 mode.
The difference between DX9 and DX11 lies in utilizing Ambient Occlusion [DirectCompute], High Dynamic Range [HDR] completely based on floating point, post processing and of course, hardware-accelerated Tessellation. This naturally resulted in framerate taking a hit in the tune of around 25-35%. However, playing the game with all the bells and whistles with an average framerate of 54 fps in DirectX 11 mode certainly brought a smile to my face. No more new features in the game slowing down to a crawl [Far Cry, HDR set at 7 and GeForce 6800GT are the first thing that comes to my mind].
Next up, we tried RACE 07 and GTR Evolution. Even though they're based on an old engine, they're still brilliant racing simulations, unlike the arcade-style DiRT 2. Both games ran flawlessly even with 12x AA, and you can turn Vsync and enjoy a playback that refuses to dip below 60 frames per second, even for a moment. Lastly, we checked GRID and Need for Speed: Shift. While GRID only reminded us what was the best racing game to come out in 2008, Need For Speed: Shift was a painful reminder that AMD still lags behind nVidia in terms of developer support. The game was badly stuttering regardless of the options we used. Luckily, we were provided with a 1.2 beta patch [the patch is now public] that rose performance to highly playable experience. NFS: SHIFT is an arcade title as much as DiRT 2 is, so it comes as an excellent frustration-relief. However, EA is no Codemasters - personally, I felt that SHIFT is too limited when it comes to selection of tracks, while Codemasters showed us the way with DiRT 2 and GRID. Still, even after applying the 1.2 patch, we would rather play the game on GTX 285 [smoother gameplay].
Heading into the world of shooters, we were intrigued by Call of Duty Series - PowerColor 5870 enhanced our gaming experience with our default settings and didn't show one glitch. That was one smooth ride, even though the number of killed enemies begs to differ. Given the unfortunate fact that you can pass whole Modern Warfare 2 campaign in roughly five hours, we turned framerate recording on, and went on to pass the whole game. We did pause benchmarking while the levels were loading, but this experiment ended with success - for the whole Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, this 5870 marked the lowest framerate of 18.7 fps, high was 107.8 and average was 74.5 fps. Long story short: for single player campaign turn on Vertical Synchronization and enjoy near-perfect movie-like 60 fps.
Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2 are simply… even though Silent Hill and Resident Evil offer quite a good scare and level of playability, Valve is king of gameplay in the world of survival horror: L4D2 is simply awesome and Radeon 5870 enabled us to play with 12xAA and 16xAF with Vsync turned on for smooth gameplay. In our default 1920x1200 at 8xAA/16xAF, Average frame rate was in the high 110s, so in4xAA/16xAF, you could turn Vsync on if you had a 120Hz screen. Going to 12xAA dipped the framerate to 94 frames a second. Even in scenes with gazillion zombies, the board refused to choke and we can say that 5870 significantly enhances the zombie-killing experience.
The game we have the most fun with recently is no other than Shattered Horizon. This small project by Futuremark Games Studio is nothing else but sheer fun and if you're a 3D aficionado, you should not miss it. PowerColor's' 5870 ran the game with flying colors, and the only time we experienced a visible drop in framerate was when ISS mission would load for the first time, and we would be hurled towards the former ISS at a very high speed. When you die and respawn flying to the ISS, the framerate would drop to 20-30. But overall, we had a memorable gaming experience, and died one too many times at the hand of "FM" players.
Shattered Horizon was also the title when we summed up Eyefinity vs. 46" or even bigger TV. If you want to have a comparable experience, you would have to heavily invest in three 30" displays and while the resolution would be higher, we're just not certain would it be worth it. I've tried ATI Eyefinity even on six 30" Dell displays and while the experience is magnificent, for everyday gaming I would still opt to invest 1000-2000 bucks into a really good plasma or LCD TV. Given that some 52" LCD TV's go for as low as $999 and they are compatible with Blu-ray 3D, we would have to wager that in this test, a massive display was just a better option - we could run 12x AA in most titles and it looked awesome on a screen of that magnitude.
We did noticed that performance in games that aren't AMD's focus suffered. Two games with abysmal framerates were Need for Speed: SHIFT and Batman: Arkham Asylum [only when Anti-aliasing was enabled]. While Batmangate
addressed the issue with nVidia's antics, but Need for Speed seriously aggravated yours truly. Framerate ran in 40s to low 20s with occasional stuttering - unacceptable for a high-end product. Luckily for AMD, the success of the game resulted in EA releasing a 1.02 patch that significantly improved the situation and if you buy 5870 today, you will enjoy in experience comparable to GTX295, rather than a GeForce 9600GT.
Since Batman is still essentially broken when it comes to Anti-aliasing and AMD hardware - if this is the only game you want to play over holidays, you should go with the green side. But seriously, if that's the only game you want to play over the holidays, perhaps you're playing a wrong character - Joker would suit you better. ;)
Truth to be told, we're quite positive that only two gaming titles showed performance issues and with only one of them going unfixed - shows great progress from ATI. Back at the time of Radeon 9700 launch, there were numerous issues with various hit games; Radeon X1800 had issues too. Radeon 2900XT had a set of issues all on its own, but with Radeon 3000 and 4000 series, AMD did fair better. With Radeon 5000 series, AMD encountered performance issues with Batman: Arkham Asylum and that's about that. Now that the company no longer needs to bleed millions and millions of dollars to lawyers, perhaps Richard Huddy and the DevRel team can finally get some of those resources redirected and start supporting developers much better than they were allowed to in the past. Video Performance
This was that one segment we were really interested in. Ever since HDMI started to appear on discrete graphics cards, we were promised superior image quality and what nots. Reality check with this 5870 reveals that ATI indeed does support HDMI 1.3 and is able to provide a billion colors [10-bit output] to our reference 10-bit panel. Picture quality was superb and there was almost no need to go and tweak up Catalyst Control Center [or ffdshow, in case you're watching MKV files].
We watched multiple movies and TV shows in SD, 720p and 1080p resolution. Even watching movies over YouTube HD or Hulu.com provide memorable experience and the colors are not as ordinary as regular 8-bit panels and 8-bit output graphics cards were.
We weren't certain where to put the video transcoding feature - video or GPGPU experience, so that part is explained at the end of video experience and just prior to GPGPU. With Windows 7, Microsoft bundled GPU-accelerated transcoder of video files. While it is true that the transcoder doesn't support specific file types without modification, we evaluated multiple video files, combining our own DVD rips with various combined content - video trailers were transcoding from QuickTime to a native format for the Windows Media Player compatible device. Unfortunately, our Blackberry 9000 Bold wasn't recognized as a WMP-compatible device, so video transcoding feature did not activate and there isn't exactly a way to activate it manually. Given the output provided by AMD's own transcoder didn't exactly yield pixel-perfect results, we took CyberLink's MediaShow Espresso
and it worked like a charm. In a nutshell, if you own an iPod/iPhone, Zune HD or similar iTunes/WMP-compatible device, you should have zero issues in getting GPGPU acceleration, at least in supported formats. GPGPU Experience
A lot was said about AMD and their GPGPU commitment. After AMD came clean and admitted that 2000, 3000 and 4000 series aren't up to par with nVidia's GPGPU offerings, we were very reserved about AMD's openness towards GPGPU and OpenCL. After all, we heard "2000/3000 have some limitations, 4000 series is good" stories, but this board presents a new page for AMD in GPGPU. Evergreen architecture finally addressed lacking features on previous generation parts, i.e. data sharing and data store among different shader cores. The inclusion of 8KB of L1 cache and 8KB of shared data cache in each of the 20 clusters [Every 5000 series chip is based upon a cluster consisted out of 16 Vec5D units]. But the number of units is not the number that will influence your GPGPU experience.
The key factor here is efficiency. Radeon HD 4870 i.e. RV770 GPU featured a maximum computing power of 1.25 TFLOPS [all units 100% load at all times] but in reality, it only produced around 300-700 GFLOPS, depending on the task ahead. By running BSN*s proprietary code, theoretical 2.72 TFLOPS of computing power turned into 1.27 TFLOPS in a real world test. If you feel disappointed by this result, bear in mind that in identical test, ATI Radeon HD 4870 scores 300 GFLOPS.
In layman's terms, real world results speak volumes - our 5870 was four times as fast as the old 4870 and that is massive! Given that AMD doubled the amount of cores, quadrupled computing power is nothing else but a testament of performance brought forth by AMD. And given that the 4K by 4K matrix that we tested the board with is roughly comparable with this article, that means that if Chinese deployed 2560 5870 boards instead of 4870X2s, they would still have doubled the computing power for their Tianhe supercomputer
, and they would get 2PFLOPS and saved millions of Yuans due to lower power consumption - PowerColor HD 5870 consumed 174 Watts in our testing, while ATI's reference 4870X2 ate well 257W in our testing.
Looking into GPGPU from everyday perspective, two things come to mind - distributed computing and video transcoding. The majority of people that know me know that there are several big passions in my life, with one of them being Distributed Computing, especially Folding@home project. When AMD announced its Evergreen family, I hoped that the amount of processing cores would finally get a decent boost and enable ATI to fight with nVidia.
Unfortunately, this just wasn't meant to happen with 2nd generation of GPU-accelerated F@H core. The only way to get Folding@home working [at the time of writing, December 18, 2009] is to run the code using the "-forcegpu ati_r700
" flag, forcing the 5870 board to work in 4800 Series mode. Performance is not exactly stellar - lowest score was 1857 PPD [Points Per Day], while the highest was 3240 ppd. If you compare that to 8000+ achieved by overclocked GeForce GTX 285 cards, it is pretty clear who the performance leader is. Long story short, if you're in Folding@home community and want to run a GPU version - for as long as Cauldron doesn't complete its work on next-gen version of Folding@home, you're outta luck.
Then again, BOINC applications such as Milkyway@home don't mind the compatibility flag and run the card in full speed; 5870 just eats up every card out there, including the non-modified 5970 [multi-GPU compatibility issues]. The performance in Milkyway@home is just mouthwatering.
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