Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Cypress Measures Up

ATI Radeon HD 5870: DirectX 11, Eyefinity, And Serious Speed
By , Fedy Abi-Chahla

ATI is really proud of its “Sweet Spot” strategy. First implemented last year, Sweet Spot mandates that ATI design a GPU capable of addressing the performance segment. The company is then able to leverage that GPU into a dual-processor solution, used to snag the performance crown. Then, it applies the same general design principles and spins off mainstream variants able to tackle sub-$100 price points.

Sweet Spot has worked out very well for ATI, and the company knew it as far back as its RV770 launch. Of course, history tells the complete tale: Radeon HD 4870 proved to be a great value, Radeon HD 4870 X2 was indeed top dog through the holiday season of '08, and the Radeon HD 4600- and 4500-series chips caught ATI up to Nvidia’s more mainstream offerings, which had previously been more attractive than the older Radeon HD 3800-series stuff.

This approach, of course, runs counter to Nvidia’s as-of-yet unnamed approach, which might as well be called the “Go Big Or Go Home” strategy. As we already know, GT200 was a 1.4 billion transistor, 576 square millimeter monster at 65nm. Nvidia didn’t seem particularly keen to talk dimensions when it made the jump to 55nm with GT200b. However, we’ve unofficially seen 490 square millimeters tossed around. Even at 40nm, the company’s next-generation part will likely be larger than today’s 55nm flagship, which means the thing will still be mighty substantial.

Ain’t It Sweet?

Gotta love the sweet spot...Gotta love the sweet spot...

The slide illustrating ATI’s approach with its Evergreen GPUs looks almost identical to the one used last year.

Code-named Cypress, the first (and most complex) Evergreen chip hugs the $310-$410 range. ATI plans to use a pair of the GPUs in its Hemlock design later this year. And while we've heard that power limitations will force lower clocks on the Hemlock part, ATI says it'll be defining everything from bill of materials to the BIOS on that card right up until launch. Juniper will also emerge in Q4, breaking under the $199 price point, while Redwood and Cedar follow up next year, introducing us to DirectX 11 support for less than $100.

ATI first tested TSMC’s manufacturing capabilities back in April with the Radeon HD 4770. At the time, we paired two of the cards up in a CrossFire configuration and found them unbeatable for $220. Unfortunately, the company cheesed off a number of prospective customers when it launched the card without enough supply in the channel. The problem? Reportedly, high-leakage parts from TSMC resulting in poor yields. Not much ATI could do, but we can’t imagine the etailers who slashed the prices on Radeon HD 4850s to stay competitive were very happy.

With five months passed, those teething issues have purportedly been worked out, as Cypress centers on the same manufacturing node. It’s a good thing too, as 40nm photolithography is a virtual necessity given a massive 2.15 billion transistor count. Equally amazing is that Cypress’ complexity is packed on a die measuring 334 square millimeters. Though quite a bit larger than RV770’s 263 square millimeter die, ATI’s most modern creation is still significantly smaller than GT200b at 55nm. Therein lays the advantage of more advanced manufacturing. ATI now has the most complex GPU in the world at 2.1 billion transistors, and it’s smaller than its principal competition at 1.4 billion.

Cypress sports more than two times the number of transistors found in its predecessor, which boasts 956 million. What on earth did ATI add to make its latest generation so much more complex?

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 214 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 26 Hide
    hispeed120 , September 23, 2009 4:13 AM
    I'm. So. Excited.
  • 23 Hide
    cangelini , September 23, 2009 4:43 AM
    viper666why didn't they thest it against a GTX 295 rather than 280??? its far superior...


    Ran it against a GTX 295 and a 285 and 285s in SLI :) 
  • 22 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 23, 2009 4:48 AM
    O M F G!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just wish the darn thing wasn't so big, but man, what a card! Now I'm thinking about a bigger case :D 
Other Comments
  • 26 Hide
    hispeed120 , September 23, 2009 4:13 AM
    I'm. So. Excited.
  • 9 Hide
    Anonymous , September 23, 2009 4:15 AM
    Can't wait
  • 21 Hide
    crosko42 , September 23, 2009 4:21 AM
    So it looks like 1 is enough for me.. Dont plan on getting a 30 inch monitor any time soon.
  • 20 Hide
    jezza333 , September 23, 2009 4:29 AM
    Looks like the NDA lifted at 11:00PM, as there's a load of reviews now just out. Once again it shows that AMD can produce a seriously killer card...

    Crysis 2 on an x2 of this is exactly what I'm waiting for.
  • 8 Hide
    woostar88 , September 23, 2009 4:38 AM
    This is incredible at the price point.
  • 20 Hide
    tipmen , September 23, 2009 4:40 AM
    wait, wait, before I look can it play cry... HOLY SHIT?!
  • 23 Hide
    cangelini , September 23, 2009 4:43 AM
    viper666why didn't they thest it against a GTX 295 rather than 280??? its far superior...


    Ran it against a GTX 295 and a 285 and 285s in SLI :) 
  • 2 Hide
    Annisman , September 23, 2009 4:44 AM
    I refuse to buy until the 2GB versions come out, not to mention newegg letting you buy more than 1 at a time, paper launch ftl.
  • 15 Hide
    jasperjones , September 23, 2009 4:44 AM
    Thanks for the timely review. I have to say though, some of the technical details are beyond me. It'd be useful if you explained terms such as "VLIW architecture" or "tessellation engine"
  • 22 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 23, 2009 4:48 AM
    O M F G!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just wish the darn thing wasn't so big, but man, what a card! Now I'm thinking about a bigger case :D 
  • 17 Hide
    Annisman , September 23, 2009 4:49 AM
    Oops, who am I kidding ? I just ordered 2 5870's. One Sapphire, and one HIS, seeing as how they limit you to one per customer.
  • 18 Hide
    falchard , September 23, 2009 4:54 AM
    I think most of this review has to do with how many games are optimized for nVidia. The Crytek Engine 2.0 and Source Engine are well known for heavily favoring nVidia architecture yet compose the bulk of the benchmarks. I think the fact ATI can do best in these engines when they have a detect ATI instant nerf its performance speaks measures for the actual card.
  • 14 Hide
    tipmen , September 23, 2009 4:56 AM
    Another thing is that the 5800x2 isn't out yet, now think of two of those bad boys in Crossfire.
  • 6 Hide
    blackbyron , September 23, 2009 4:59 AM
    Not bad for Crysis benchmark. I really want 5870 for my christmas present, but damn I also need to buy a new PSU.
  • 12 Hide
    blackbyron , September 23, 2009 5:02 AM
    In addition, I am impressed that the 5870 has a better power consumption and better gaming performance compare to DX10 cards. If the card is affordable I'd definite buy one.
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , September 23, 2009 5:10 AM
    jasperjonesThanks for the timely review. I have to say though, some of the technical details are beyond me. It'd be useful if you explained terms such as "VLIW architecture" or "tessellation engine"


    Jasper,
    TBH, the architectural details are secondary to how the card performs. However, if you'd like a better idea of what tessellation can do for you, check out the picture of the Alien on page six!
Display more comments