Evergreen makes its second appearance

Last week we saw the introduction of AMD’s new Evergreen architecture with the release of the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card and we follow that up today with the lower cost variant, the Radeon HD 5850. This card still has 1GB of memory and requires a pair of 6-pin power connectors, but for the money, it looks like the card to beat.
Just last week AMD first introduced the Evergreen product family to the world with the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card.  The new GPU from AMD’s GPU division is a completely new design from the Radeon HD 4000-series of parts with some noticeable improvements in the world performance, efficiency and features. 

Raw performance is boosted by increased shader processor efficiency and of course that little matter of doubling the number of shaders from 800 (on RV770) to 1600 on the 5870 while the HD 5850 we are reviewing today still sees a dramatic boost up to 1440 shader units.  Texture processing gets a boost by moving from a 40 count on the HD 4870 to 72 on the HD 5850 and 80 on the HD 5870.  The GDDR5 memory clock also rises from 900 MHz on the HD 4870 to 1000 MHz on the HD 5850 while core clock rates are about the same between the two.

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From a power efficiency point of view, the Evergreen line of GPUs has vastly improved idle power consumption estimated at just under 30 watts while maximum board power is still at a solid 160+ watts for the Radeon HD 5850 and 188 watts on the HD 5870.  This indicates that performance per watt is vastly improved since our testing shows much better gameplay results with minimal power draw increases. 

Finally, from a features perspective, the most exciting addition was the inclusion of Eyefinity technology that allows for HD 5800-series users to run as many as three monitors and span nearly any game across them for a truly unique and engrossing gaming experience.  I walked our readers through the configuration of the Eyefinity software and experience on the first day of the HD 5870’s launch – so be sure to check out all of our videos on that

Of course we can’t forget that the Radeon HD 5850 (along with the HD 5870) are the first graphics card out the door to support DirectX 11 – the latest Microsoft API released with Windows 7 and coming soon to Windows Vista.  BattleForge, a card-based strategy game, already officially supports DX11 though at this point I think the benefits of that port are a bit one sided.  More DX11 titles should be available this year giving the Radeon HD 5000-series a competitive advantage.

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In reality, there is a LOT more that has gone on behind the scenes on the new Radeon 5800-series of graphics cards and I would highly recommend that you catch up on the new GPU technology first by reading my launch article for the Radeon HD 5870 where it is all laid out in great detail.  In it you’ll read about the architectural changes at foot in the GPU, AMD’s future plans for dual-GPU cards, new AA and AF methods and more.

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