ATI Radeon HD 5870: DirectX 11, Eyefinity, And Serious Speed

DirectCompute

Of course, the big-daddy feature of DirectX 11 is DirectCompute, an API that facilitates more general purpose GPU computing across the latest DX11 cards, in addition to DX10 and DX10.1 boards. As you ascend the DirectX hierarchy, you get more and more features enabled through DirectCompute. Applications of DirectCompute include image/post-processing, physics, ray-tracing, AI, order-independent transparency, and shadow rendering—in addition to the video transcoding stuff we’ve already seen from Stream and CUDA.

DirectX 11 pipeline, from Allison Klein's Gamefest 2008 presentation.DirectX 11 pipeline, from Allison Klein's Gamefest 2008 presentation.

This is interesting, since most of the examples of GPGPU computing have centered on video transcoding and post-processing through titles like CyberLink MediaShow Espresso and ArcSoft’s SimHD. Now we’re seeing the technology folded into gaming. Indeed, this is a result of game developers getting access to ATI’s Stream technology through a standardized interface, which we’ve long-maintained would be a requisite for widespread adoption.

Take order-independent transparency, for example. In the past, rendering multiple overlapping alpha-blended objects involved heavy sorting, from back to front, of each object. Pre-DX11, this would have involved a lot of host processor computation, and even then you won’t necessarily get a visually-accurate result. In DirectX 11, transparent pixels are sorted using atomic operations and append buffers in just one pass. Check out the screenshots from the demo below.

Simple alpha-blendingSimple alpha-blendingOrder-Independent Transparency via DX11Order-Independent Transparency via DX11

There’s plenty more that can be done with DirectCompute, from high definition ambient occlusion to contact-hardened shadows and depth of field post-processing. ATI even showed off a demo of drag-and-drop transcoding through Windows 7. But when we asked ATI about tests we could use to put DirectCompute to the test, it responded that there’s nothing available yet. So, we’ll wait for third-party ISVs to utilize DirectCompute before going into more depth on it. On tap: Aliens Vs. Predator, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat, and Colin McRae: Dirt 2—all to be enabled with DirectCompute functionality in the next few months.

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    Top Comments
  • hispeed120
    I'm. So. Excited.
    26
  • cangelini
    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 :)
    23
  • megamanx00
    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
    22
  • Other Comments
  • hispeed120
    I'm. So. Excited.
    26
  • Anonymous
    Can't wait
    9
  • crosko42
    So it looks like 1 is enough for me.. Dont plan on getting a 30 inch monitor any time soon.
    21
  • jezza333
    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.
    20
  • woostar88
    This is incredible at the price point.
    8
  • LORD_ORION
    Err... I thought I was going to see more for the price. Regardless, I think ATI missed the mark here. I am interested in playing games on my HDTV since me and my monitor don't care about these higher resolutions. Fail cakes... Nivida is undoubtedly going to rape ATI in performance with the 300 series. This is good news for mainstream prices however.... you can ptobably upgrade to a current DX10 board soon for a very good price, and then buy a 5850 for $100 in a year from now. Result? Don't but a 5000 series card yet until the price comes down? Heh, I bet the cards will be $100 less in December if the 300 series launches.

    This is not to say I am an Nvidia fan, just undoubtedly you would do well for yourself to hold off for a bit if you want to buy a 5000 series... as the price will come down for a good price/performance ratio soon enough.
    -41
  • tipmen
    wait, wait, before I look can it play cry... HOLY SHIT?!
    20
  • viper666
    why didn't they thest it against a GTX 295 rather than 280??? its far superior...
    -35
  • cangelini
    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 :)
    23
  • Annisman
    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.
    2
  • jasperjones
    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"
    15
  • viper666
    oh my bad... didn't see the rest of the pages :)
    -14
  • megamanx00
    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
    22
  • Annisman
    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.
    17
  • falchard
    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.
    18
  • charlesxuma
    I WANT MY MOOOMMYYYYYY !!!!!!!
    -10
  • tipmen
    Another thing is that the 5800x2 isn't out yet, now think of two of those bad boys in Crossfire.
    14
  • blackbyron
    Not bad for Crysis benchmark. I really want 5870 for my christmas present, but damn I also need to buy a new PSU.
    6
  • blackbyron
    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.
    12
  • cangelini
    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!
    3