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Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Table of Contents: Page Index
Sapphire ATI Radeon HD 5850 Video Card 21162-00-50R
Radeon HD 5850 Features
Sapphire 5850 Closer Look
Video Card Testing Methodology
ATI Eyefinity Multi-Monitors
3DMark Vantage GPU Tests
BattleForge Performance
Crysis Warhead Tests
Devil May Cry 4 Benchmark
Far Cry 2 Benchmark
Resident Evil 5 Tests
SPECviewperf 10 - Pro/E
Radeon HD 5850 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
Radeon 5000-Series Final Thoughts
Radeon HD 5850 Conclusion

Radeon 5000-Series Final Thoughts

Reading the editorial articles surrounding the launch of ATI's Radeon 5800-series video cards has become entertainment in and of itself. Websites loyal to NVIDIA assert that the Cypress GPU is nothing more than an overpowered product trying to push DirectX 11 onto unwilling consumers, or that NVIDIA is doing more for gamers than ATI because they offer The Way It's Meant to be Played, GeForce 3D Vision, PhysX, and CUDA. Some sites have even taken the time to research the amount of progress AMD has had with their Stream technology, and then complain that ATI isn't doing enough to compete with NVIDIA in regard to GPGPU. All of this rhetoric amounts to a desperate attempt at hiding some very frightening facts.

NVIDIA was extremely vocal when Windows Vista launched with DirectX 10, and they couldn't emphasize enough how important Vista/DirectX 10 was going to be to gamers and that enthusiast should upgrade to their DirectX 10-compliant video card. Oddly enough gamers didn't take to Windows Vista like NVIDIA had hoped, and even now as Windows 7 launches there is a 52.6% market share still using Windows XP compared to 36.4% using Vista (with 10% of the market already uses a beta version of Windows 7). The DirectX 11 Direct3D API is native to the Windows 7 Operating System, a product Microsoft is releasing, not AMD. ATI has simply prepared for the inevitable launch of Windows 7 better than NVIDIA, and now the green machine claims nobody will buy a video card for DirectX 11.


From these developments ATI has distanced themselves ahead of NVIDIA by placing gamers first in their consideration, and have positioned the ATI 5000-series to introduce enthusiasts to a new world of DirectX 11 video games on the Microsoft Windows 7 Operating System. While most hardware enthusiasts are familiar with the back-and-forth competition between these two leading GPU chip makers, it might come as a surprise that NVIDIA actually states that DirectX 11 video games won't fuel video card sales, and have instead decided to revolutionize the military with CUDA technology. Perhaps we're seeing the evolution of two companies: NVIDIA transitions to the industrial sector and departs the enthusiast gaming space, and ATI successfully answers retail consumer demand.

AMD has launched the Radeon 5870 as their first assault on their multi-monitor ATI Eyefinity Technology feature, using native HDMI 1.3 output paired with DisplayPort connectivity. The new Cypress GPU features the latest ATI Stream Technology, which is designed to utilize DirectCompute 5.0 and OpenCL code. These new features improve all graphical aspects of the end-user experience, such as faster multimedia transcode times and better GPGPU compute performance. AMD has already introduced a DirectCompute partnership with CyberLink, and the recent Open Physics Initiative with Pixelux promises to offer physics middleware built around OpenCL and Bullet Physics. This looks like ATI's recipe for success, since NVIDIA does not have a GPU to compete against the Radeon 5800 series or support DirectX 11. It doesn't help matters any that NVIDIA GPUs do not support OpenCL and DirectCompute 11 environments, leaving them out in the cold for the coming winter months.


Any GeForce DirectX 11 graphics solution is still many months away for NVIDIA and not expected until 2010, which leaves very few options in the fiercely competitive discrete graphics market. So far NVIDIA's only counter-attack on ATI's new 5000-series product line has been the ultra low-end GeForce 200 (no letter designation) and GeForce GT 220 series meant to one-up integrated graphics. Integrated graphics? You read that correctly, NVIDIA launched a product so feeble that it competes with older Integrated graphics. Outstanding. Maybe you can enable triple-SLI and get GeForce GTS 250 performance out of them for a good game of Solitaire.

So what can NVIDIA do to compete with ATI? Since DirectX 11 is dominated by ATI for the near future, it would seem that price reductions should be in order. Just not yet, apparently. It's not clear what NVIDIA is waiting for, but the price of their current GeForce family hasn't changed much since the ATI Radeon 5870/5850 launch. Perhaps NVIDIA could help develop video games that punish gamers by excluding non-GeForce products from using post-processing effects. While ATI was busy building a better video card, NVIDIA teamed up with Eidos to produce Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game looks great when you use maximum "NVIDIA Anti-Aliasing" (later renamed to Anti-Aliasing with the version 1.1 patch that added PhysX support), but products like the ATI Radeon must enable full-time AA in the control panel and suffer a performance hit when it's not needed by the game.

ATI Eyefinity Technology is a tough nut to crack for NVIDIA, since their DirectX 10 products only offer dual-DVI output. As an alternative, NVIDIA GeForce owners can use the $300 Matrox TripleHead2Go add-on peripheral to spread the picture across up to three screens. Make sure you're using a GeForce GTX 275 of higher, since the added resolution is more than the video card was designed to accommodate.


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