AMD ATI Radeon HD 5870: Unquestionably Number One - HotHardware

AMD ATI Radeon HD 5870: Unquestionably Number One

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There are a multitude of new features and capabilities being ushered in by DirectX 11, but there are a certain few that have significant importance as they relate to the new Radeon HD 5800 series. Tessellation and multi-threading support, and DirectCompute 11, Shader Model 5, and Texture Compression in particular...

Tessellation is something we have written about in the past. In fact, Tessellation has been available in Radeon GPU's dating back to the R600 GPU found on the Radeon HD 2900 XT.


Tessellation Off


Tessellation On

Tessellation works by taking a basic polygon mesh and recursively applying a subdivision rule to create a more complex mesh on the fly. It's best used for amplification of animation data, morph targets, or deformation models. And it gives developers the ability to provide data to the GPU at a coarser resolution. This saves artists the time it would normally take to create more complex polygonal meshes and reduces the data's memory footprint. The Tessellation support built into the Radeon HD 5800 series, however, is different than what was offered in previous Radeon GPUs, and now programmable via two newDX11 features dubbed domain and hull shaders.

The images above give an example of how Tessellation works. As the images show, the simpler polygon meshes are increasingly subdivided, which in turn increases the level of detail. While Tessellation is not a new technology, the implementation in the Radeon HD 5800 series is, and now that it is part of the DirectX specifications and not a proprietary mechanism, we expect it to be more widely supported in the future.

We also reference multi-threading above. With DirectX 11's multi-threading capabilities applications--i.e. games, the DirectX runtime, and DirectX drivers can each run in separate threads to potentially increase performance. Tasks like loading a texture or compiling a shader, for example, can execute in parallel with the main rendering thread.

In addition to multi-threading support, DX11's DirectCompute 11 capabilities will also enable heterogeneous computing, that leverages the power of the CPU and GPU in tandem. So what, you say. That' s been happening with NVIDIA's CUDA and ATI's Stream for quite a while. The difference is, DirectCompute 11 is part of a cross platform, industry standard, so developers won't have to use proprietary tools or program for only a particular GPU type.


Order Independent Transparency

A couple of other interesting featured offered by the Radeon HD 5800 series are Order Independent Transparency and High-Definition Ambient Occlusion.

Order Independent Transparency, or OIT, enhances the quality of images rendered with overlapping transparent objects. Rendering transparent objects correctly requires sorting and blending is an order dependent operation. DirectCompute 11 enables OIT by making it possible to sort transparent pixels in one pass through the shaders. The image above gives an example of how OIT can enhance an image. Without it, parts of the robot appear to be floating inside its body, but with OIT, each parts appears to be in the correct position.


HD Ambient Occlusion

High-Definition Ambient Occlusion is a means to render more realistic shadows on objects. Objects that are in the path of a light source will cast shadows, which affects the lighting of other objects in the scene. HDAO improves the quality of the cast shadows by accounting for the dimming caused by objects that block out ambient light. The effect of HDAO is subtle, but does enhance the realism of a scene. The image above is of an AMD-created demo of HDAO in action. The left portion of the image is the HDAO buffer, which shows the parts of the scene being affected by ambient lighting that blocked by parts of the model.

There are dozens of other features offered by DirectX and DirectCompute 11 and the Radeon HD 5800 series by extension, that we won't be covering here. Above is a list of just few of them and how they differ from their DX10 counterparts.

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Now this is what I'm talking about. That Spanish review on Tom's Hardware was a little difficult to understand, lol.

One of the things that struck right off the bat was the idle power usage, much lower than any of the other cards tested. The 5870 delivers the best bang per watt and is the best performing single GPU solution on the market. And the price point of $379 is brilliant move by ATI (some sub-$300 should be had this holiday season).

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If I can get one of these mommas for under $300, I'll do it, even though I don't have a system to put it in.

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Are you sure this is a GPU? I don't see any pictures of Batman characters on it.

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That thing is a hoss of a card. And not bad on the numbers even slightly behind the gtx 295 and that is a dual gpu card set.

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One unexpected thing that really stuck me as impressive was the power consumption.  Right around 4890 or 285 level... nice.

Of course the performance is the main thing.  Freaking incredible for single GPU and it spanks the crap out of the GTX 285 despite only costing around $30-$55 more.  And why pay $80+ more for the GTX 295 when it's barely faster (or in many cases not faster)?  ATi is back on top and without price gouging like some other companies have been known to do ($650 video card in June 2008, anyone?).

With the system requirements of most PC games only very gradually improving, one of these would be all someone needs for quite a bit - though people demanding Crysis perfection will want to pick up 2.

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The GTX was in many cases faster than the ATI 5870. But at the same time it had much higher power requirments and costs more. Remember, we'll be seeing 5870 X2's soon as well. Nate's review over at legit reviews shows the 5870's potention in crossfire config. It looked pretty damned impressive.

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The GTX 296 doesn't support DX11 either.

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I think that the ATI Radeon HD 5870 Is a better deal than the tested Nvidia Card, especially when you take into consideration the amount of performance for the price.

NVIDIA will probably lower prices to counter this situation, but then ATI will follow suit.

I know that every time that I've bought a graphics card within the past two years, ATI offered the best bang for the buck at that time.

I appreciate that,...Big Smile

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The reviewers at AnanTech were disappointed that the 5870 didn't outperform the GTX 295. And even moreso that doubling the hardware power from the 4870 didn't translate into the double the performance.

ATI made such a large leap from the 3870 to the 4870, and I think we didn't witness the same with the 5870. However, it's still the best single GPU card on the market, and barring two GTX 295x in SLI (though there are problems associated with quad GPU configs and the enormous power requirements), two 5870's in Crossfire will give gamers the most stable, powerful video gaming power available.

A 5870 x2 poses problems for ATI, especially in terms of power. Right now we're seeing a lot of great news on the 5870, but Nvidia can really beat ATI into the ground with something that's revolutionary rather than evolutionary.

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That's a very good looking card, however regardless of the performance, I'm still loyal 100% to nvidia.  I always have driver issues with ati.  Driver issues outweigh the performance in my opinion.

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