|ASUS Radeon EAH5870 V2 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Sunday, 13 June 2010|
Page 19 of 20
Radeon HD 5870 Final Thoughts
The ATI Radeon HD 5870 has been king of the single-GPU hill for 6 months now. Fermi finally launched early this month, and cards are now winding their way into the retail channels. With 50% more transistors and an architecture that is able to use the shader cores for computing tessellation, the GTX480 almost always pulls ahead of the 5870 in gaming benchmarks, particularly DX11 titles. Also, some of the games that feature "TWIMTBP" still radically favor the NVIDIA architecture, even though the GF100 design has evolved quite a bit from the GT200 blueprint from the last decade.
So, where does that leave the HD 5870 hardware? Last I heard, the word on everyone's lips was "Fermi = competition". Well, unfortunately, I don't see it happening any time soon. The GTX480 launched at $500, with 50% more transistors, about 25% better performance and a price that's 25% higher, give or take a few bucks. That's not competition for the HD 5870, that's a different price point. Tell me why ATI or their partners are going to lower their 5870 prices because the GTX480 costs more, does more and sucks electricity like it's free or something. In fact, pricing on the lowest priced 5870 cards is up since the Fermi launch, if anything. Maybe if NVIDIA launches a GTX475 we'll have a comparable card that will offer real competition. That also won't happen soon, because the Green Team needs to focus on filling out the lower price segments, where there's a much larger market to tap into. For now, the top two GTX cards neatly straddle the HD 5870, leaving it in a secure spot with no real competition.
By all accounts, it wasn't the drivers that delayed the release of Fermi, it was the hardware. The software developers actually had an extra couple of months to optimize the driver package before the products were released to the public. So I think you have to figure that ATI doesn't really have a 6-month lead on NVIDIA for their drivers. Still, beta testing is not the same thing as consumer usage, so from a "bug" standpoint there is probably still some work to be done on the NVIDIA side. There are also some features that they will want to expand upon and refine as time goes on. As far as graphics performance goes, both companies are probably on equal footing for now.
It seems like ATI and NVIDIA typically produce only one set of drivers in any given year that gets universal acclaim from the user community. The other ten times, there is always a small group who are dreadfully unhappy and a sizeable number who say, "That was OK, but what I really want is..." There are also a large number of people who are genuinely happy with that particular update because it fixes the one thing that they were having trouble with. Unfortunately, there is a vocal minority that insists every driver update should improve performance by 15-20% over the last update. I don't know why they get as much press as they do, since they only incite confusion and disappointment for those who have recently joined the gaming community.
So, at the end of its six month reign as champion, I still think you can call the HD 5870 a viable leader in its segment. It has no competition at its price point and it runs cooler with less power consumption than the GT200 or GF100 GPUs from NVIDIA. Essentially, the Fermi introduction had absolutely no effect on the 5870, and the GTX285 had already been blown into the weeds last September.