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AMD Graphics: Doubling Down On DX11

CES 2010, Day 1: AMD CPUs, DX11 Goes Mobile, Fermi Spotted

AMD currently has the three most powerful graphics cards on the market, plus several highly-competitive offerings in its mid-range lineup; all are DirectX 11-capable. Now, the company is upping the ante against arch-rival Nvidia with its announcement of mobile DirectX 11 GPUs. Let’s take a quick look at the speeds and feeds.

Mobility Radeon HD 5800-Series
Mobility Radeon HD 5700-Series
Mobility Radeon HD 5400-Series
Transistor Count
1.04 billion
626 million
242 million
Stream Processors
Video Memory
1GB GDDR5/3 (or DDR3)
512MB / 1GB GDDR5/3 (or DDR3)
256MB/512MB/1GB GDDR5/3 (or DDR3/2)

The overall thermal envelopes and actual clock rates will vary, depending on model number. In other words, a Mobility Radeon HD 5870 will have the same base feature set as a Mobility Radeon HD 5850, but with different core and memory clocks.

The first two things you might notice are the shader units and transistor counts. As with earlier AMD mobile GPUs (and Nvidia's lineup as well), AMD’s product numbering scheme leaves something to be desired. The company feels that the “5800” moniker means it’s the fastest in its class. So, the fact that a Mobility Radeon HD 5870 will have half the shader units of a desktop-class Radeon HD 5870 isn’t relevant, according to the company's marketing department. I’ve personally heard different from users who are confused by the product numbering scheme, expecting similar feature sets for similar product numbers (Ed.: and the rest of us here at Tom's Hardware are also fairly frustrated with both vendors' mobile naming). A good rule of thumb: “Mobility” means “desktop minus one.” So, the feature set of the Mobility Radeon 5870 is roughly on par with the desktop Radeon HD 5770.

Product numbering aside, it’s likely that AMD’s GPUs will mop the floor with current Nvidia offerings. The company has already roared back in market share, surpassing 50% in the discrete GPU segment over the past few months. Its DirectX 11 lineup will likely widen the lead. In fact, AMD and Nvidia are practically neighbors on the show floor; AMD has the bigger booth.

AMD's representatives talked up a lot of other graphics-oriented topics, including some upcoming developments in desktop GPUs, new driver features, and the future of CrossFire. But they weren’t quite ready to go public yet on those items.

AMD And 3D

I noted in our CES 2010, Day 0 coverage that 3D video is being pushed hard by most of the HDTV manufacturers. On the gaming side, Nvidia has been pushing its GeForce 3D Vision stereoscopic product, based on LCD shutter glasses, for some time now.

“3D” in this context means stereoscopic 3D, which should not be confused with 3D graphics, which are typically output to 2D displays. All 3D stereoscopic solutions require users to wear some form of glasses, whether they're LCD shutters or polarized shades.

AMD is diving into the 3D trend feet-first by supporting existing middleware vendors rather than trying to promote any single standard. It’s very likely that any HDTV 3D stereoscopic technology will not use shutter glasses, but avoiding a bet on a technology winner in content encoding at this point is probably a good idea. AMD will be having demos of 3D on large panel displays on the CES show floor.

Chris: You might remember last year that ATI was talking about this same phenomenon and working with a company called iZ3D. It's worth noting that, in the last year, we haven't heard anything from either company with regard to forward progress in stereoscopic gaming. Maybe this year will be different!

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  • -9 Hide
    alterecho , January 7, 2010 8:07 AM
    i just lost some respect for ati. I really appreciated their 4000 series
    mobility parts since they were truthful unlike nvidia.

    It looks like AMD cpu division - so so engineering, good marketing.
    AMD graphics divisions - superb engineering, really bad marketing at least
    on the mobility front. Hope they don't turn into a nvidia any further.
  • -1 Hide
    WINTERLORD , January 7, 2010 8:07 AM
    alswome hope its out soon
  • -1 Hide
    jenesuispasbavard , January 7, 2010 8:41 AM
    I agree with alterecho, even the Mobility Radeon 4850 has 800 stream processors, and now the Mobility Radeon 5870 has the same? At least it's GDDR5...
  • 0 Hide
    soark , January 7, 2010 9:39 AM
    What is the motherboard used in the Fermi preview? The motherboard orientation is up, is that any good?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 7, 2010 10:31 AM
    The case looks awesome, 6 internal hd's good layout.. whats the model!?
  • 1 Hide
    cobular , January 7, 2010 11:28 AM
    paradoksThe case looks awesome, 6 internal hd's good layout.. whats the model!?

    Pretty sure its the new silverstone raven (think thats the name) case the rotated 90 degrees motherboard is pretty unique.
  • 1 Hide
    Ryun , January 7, 2010 11:49 AM
    zipzoomflyhighIt's good that a company proven to lie, cheat, steal and bribe is going to make the money back it payed as punishment? Really?I know TH are total Intel fanboys, but man, Loyd Case, you take the cake.

    He meant it's good for AMD; you really just took what he said out of context. Regardless of whether he's a fanboy or not the fact is AMD doesn't really have anything new for us on the CPU front. While the X4 Athlon IIs are pretty competitive with the i3s they're certainly in for a rough year. It'll help thing they've got a good thing going with the 5-series radeons, though.
  • -6 Hide
    linaaslt , January 7, 2010 11:51 AM
    As i'v read you'll need to get a new case for Fermi, the case that you can see in picture, and that's sad news for some of us... :/ 
  • 0 Hide
    leon2006 , January 7, 2010 11:59 AM
    I'm waiting for detailed HDTV 3D specs/standards definition. I'm in a market for another HDTV and I'm reconsidering it pending the definition of the new standard. Its pretty clear that we need to purchase new TV set to avail of 3D movies/shows at home.
  • 1 Hide
    brisingamen , January 7, 2010 12:01 PM
    um i gotta say the nvidia fermi display looked nice and weak, judging by the lack of fanfare it makes me think that it could be a 5850 re-cased for all we know running that benchmark haha,
  • 3 Hide
    ewood , January 7, 2010 12:24 PM
    linaasltAs i'v read you'll need to get a new case for Fermi, the case that you can see in picture, and that's sad news for some of us...

    really? I would love to know where you read that.
  • 7 Hide
    frederico , January 7, 2010 12:51 PM

    Fermi - with every major graphics card release.. the 8800 series, the 5800 from ATI, etc, etc.. there have been solid facts that have slipped out, leaked out, etc.. nothing has come out about Fermi, just dodgy pictures it seems, which is an essential marketing tool to keep potential customers 'holding on' obviously, but its just disappointing. The longer it is left, the stronger Fermi has to be.
  • -5 Hide
    KidHorn , January 7, 2010 12:51 PM
    What was the fermi setup running? Was it a movie? a still picture? a game? or?

    AMD has always had issues with their CPU business. They're CPUs deliver more bang for the buck than Intel, but they don't make money for AMD. So what's the point in making them? I never thought AMD would depend on ATI to be profitable. Not that they're actually profitable. I suppose with the money from Intel, they'll show a 4Q2009 profit, but I'm not convinced they'll show any profit in any quarter in 2010.
  • -1 Hide
    zachatfield , January 7, 2010 1:31 PM
    They're so depressed about Fermi (sounds an awful lot like Fergi) they have to drink to forget!
  • 0 Hide
    zachatfield , January 7, 2010 1:32 PM
    zachatfieldThey're so depressed about Fermi (sounds an awful lot like Fergi) they have to drink to forget!

    Looks like lord of the rings to me LOL
  • 7 Hide
    razorblaze42 , January 7, 2010 1:37 PM
    Weak display. The launch of ATI 5000 series on the U.S. Hornet was much more impressive. PR guy says it’s "already better than AMD’s fastest GPU." Really, then where’s the specs already dude? Since the chip is rumored to be 40% larger than ATI 5000, it should be 40% faster right? lol...and use 40% more power, and cost 40% more, hell I heard the damn think can cook bacon. In fact it’s now dubbed the "baconator." True story, I can't credit for coming up with "baconator" though.
  • 5 Hide
    mindless728 , January 7, 2010 1:38 PM
    he insisted that the results are better than the ati cards, if he had the benchmark running, why didn't he show you
  • 0 Hide
    jedluna , January 7, 2010 1:39 PM
    cobularPretty sure its the new silverstone raven (think thats the name) case the rotated 90 degrees motherboard is pretty unique.

    that motherboard is an ASUS RAMPAGE II EXTREME
  • -2 Hide
    Anonymous , January 7, 2010 1:48 PM
    the pc is from maingear - a silk
  • -2 Hide
    memeroot , January 7, 2010 1:52 PM
    the case is a maingear silk
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