Reinventing The ATI 5870

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The 5800 series GPUs have been out for a while. Manufacturers are now coming out with variations on the originals, but I thought it might be fun to take a step back and do a quick run-through of this generation of AMD/ATI’s top graphics cards.

In the Beginning…

…were the default clocked, reference cards. AMD says this series contains “The most technologically advanced and feature rich GPUs AMD has ever created.” They are based on AMD’s 40nm process and have 2.15 billion (yes, billion) transistors on the GPU.

The TeraScale 2 Unified Processing Architecture has

  • 1600 Stream Processing Units
  • 80 Texture Units
  • 128 Z/Stencil ROP Units
  • 32 Color ROP Units

At stock, reference 5870 GPUs clocked in at 850MHz

Not only is it one of the most powerful GPUs on the planet, it comes with some of the fastest memory on the planet. The “GDDR5 interface [has] 153.6GB/s of memory bandwidth.” Memory speed on reference cards is 1200MHz.

So what does all of that mean? Well, it basically means you have one extremely powerful GPU. Rather than regurgitate information that has already been out for a while, feel free to have a look at a very detailed explanation in this excellent Anandtech article starting on page 4.

Stock 5870 - Photo Courtesy AMD

Stock 5870 - Photo Courtesy AMD

You can get a stock 5870 (850 MHz GPU / 1200 MHz RAM) for around $380$390 at Newegg.

Middle of the Road

Of course, people are never satisfied with top of the line for too long, so manufacturers began taking stock cards and overclocking them from the factory. These cards typically come with mild-to-moderate overclocks, like this offering from XFX (875 / 1250) and this one from Sapphire (870 / 1250). They are at a little bit of a price premium over a stock 5870 and are based off the reference PCB layout.

Perhaps they’re binned a little better to ensure stability at the increased clocks, but that’s just a guess and may not even be accurate. Those aren’t difficult overclocks to obtain and the premium may or may not be worth it, depending on how much you like the upgraded cooler.

XFX 5870 XXX - Photo courtesy XFX

XFX 5870 XXX - Photo Courtesy XFX

The cards mentioned above will run you $430 and $480, respectively.

Where Are They Now?

Now that manufacturers have pushed the stock PCB about as far as reasonable, it’s time for the redesigns.  For instance, this one from MSI (900 GPU / 1200 Memory) has not only an upgraded cooler, but they’ve redesigned the PCB as well. MSI isn’t alone either. ASUS has an aftermarket PCB offering (900/1225) and Gigabyte does too, coming in at one of the fastest on the market (950 / 1250).

MSI 5870 Lightening - Photo Courtesy MSI

MSI 5870 Lightening - Photo Courtesy MSI

Being new and stronger, these cards command the greatest premium, running $480, $520 & $499, respectively.

What Will They Do?

Well, that’s what we’re here to find out. I’m happy to say we have a Gigabyte Super Overclock (SOC) GV-R587SO-1GD (Newegg link) clocked at 950 /1250  in testing literally as I type this, courtesy of AMD.

Gigabyte 5870 SOC

Gigabyte 5870 SOC

Look for the review two Mondays from now. See you then!

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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Discussion
  1. Thanks much!

    On-topic, still haven't gotten anything on my voltage problem. Will update as I know more.

    The Matrix is definitely high dollar in this range. The ROG series as a whole seems to be though. Hopefully they'll drop it to be in line with the rest at some point. :)
    Hopefully that ASUS ROG Matrix will drop a bit in price by the time the 6000 series is released. :D

    Oh and by the way hokie, grats on turning green!!! :clap:
    FYI, this article referenced the review coming two Monday's from its publish date, which is this coming Monday. Unfortunately there are some issues that are causing a delay (inability to adjust GPU voltage). I'm working with ATI / Gigabyte, but it won't make next Monday.
    Another thing, I have two of the Asus RoG Matrix 5870s and the Memory isn't actually at 4900 (1225), but rather at the stock 1200.

    I think that these cards are binned higher than most 5870s because I have yet to see a review of one of these RoG cards that has a GPU core that can't reach 1030+ Mhz. Both of mine reach 1080 @ 1.3v, and 5250 @ 1.675v.

    They've also started to include their own special software and features, too. iTracker2, ProbeIt volt-meter voltage monitoring, and the ability to tweak the GDDR5 memory timings for example! That's only with the amazing RoG 5870, though :p
    The biggest thing I notice about the 3 cards listed at the bottom, MSI Lightning, ASUS ROG Matrix, and the Gigabyte SOC.. the ASUS ROG is 2GB not 1GB!! For only $20 more than either of the other 2, I would pick the ASUS for it's extra power support, extra RAM, and voltage tweaked options. :D Wish I could afford it or I'd buy it right now, knowing that it's available.