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PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 Review

Date: 2009-9-24

   The Road to EvergreenThe ATI Radeon HD 4000 series made its debut with the Radeon HD 4870 and HD 4850 in June last year. Little did we know that these were the cards that heralded the comeback ...

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The Game Changer

As the benchmark results clearly showed, the Radeon HD 5870 is outstanding. By packing double the stream processors, ATI has quite simply created a monster of a GPU. It easily outperformed the GeForce GTX 285, and was more than a match for the GeForce GTX 295. We cannot imagine how fast the upcoming Radeon HD 5870 X2 (aka Hemlock) would perform.

Performance aside, ATI has also done exceedingly well in terms of improving the power efficiency. Idle power draw is the lowest we've seen yet, and its rated TDP is amazing considering the performance it offers. Right now, the Radeon HD 5870 is easily the best performance per watt ratio GPU in the market. What's disappointing however, is that ATI couldn't bring operating temperatures down. Despite the new cooler, the HD 5870 remains quite the heat producer like its predecessors, and that's a bit of a downer since heat is one key consideration when pondering a CrossFireX multi-GPU setup. This is one area that ATI could certainly improve on.

When it comes to pricing, ATI is banking on its sweet spot strategy, which is to offer the best performance at each price point. At US$379, the Radeon HD 5870 is certainly not what you would call an affordable card, but it seems that ATI has chosen a very good price point. At that price, the new Radeon card costs only slightly more than a GeForce GTX 285, while remaining much less expensive than the costly GeForce GTX 295. Therefore, US$379 is a very reasonable asking price, since the 5870 more often than not, matches the GTX 295, while it easily outperforms the GTX 285.

As it is, the Radeon HD 5870 is a very quick card, but if it's too much firepower (or cost) for you to handle, the US$259 Radeon HD 5850 (which we hope to cover soon in an upcoming review) is a viable option. It packs lesser stream processors than the HD 5870, but should still be a really fast card. Looking ahead, the dual-GPU monster Radeon HD 5870 X2 is in the works, and mainstream variants of the Radeon HD 5870, codenamed Juniper, Cedar and Redwood, should become available early next year.

PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 Review
An outstanding card at a reasonable price, NVIDIA needs something really special to beat this.

During a Radeon HD 5800 series launch event recently, ATI told the press they wanted to change the game. Well, it seems that they have done it. The new Radeon HD 5870 is nothing short of spectacular, as it provides great performance and class-leading power efficiency. The next six months will be interesting as they'll be expanding the Radeon 5000 series. Meanwhile, the green camp has remained suspiciously quiet, and not much, if anything at all, has been heard of the upcoming GT300 series.

To conclude, it is without a shadow of a doubt that the Radeon HD 5870 is the new GPU kingpin. ATI has drew first blood, now it's time to see how NVIDIA will retaliate.

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