The XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB graphics card offers good performance and an efficient design.

The ATI Radeon HD 5870 board from ATI actually gave us our first glimpse of the Evergreen line-up that delivered DirectX 11 to the home market. ATI always intended to make a significant splash, unveiling a 2.15 billion transistor leviathan (even the former heavyweight the GeForce GTX 280 offered a comparatively meek 1.4 billion transistors) that delivered stunning amounts of power.

The XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB version of the board is relatively light on power given the high levels of performance – its stated maximum board power of 188 Watts is borne out in testing, and is very much below the 215 and 250 watts generated by the GTX 470 and GTX 480.

Almost a year after its launch, the XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB has actually gone up in price – due, in part, to a shortage of readily available chips. It now costs £330. The 5870 is a sizeable card, but should fit into most modern cases. Two 6-pin connectors are needed to supply additional power – this is more convenient and widely supported than the 6-pin/8-pin combo of the GTX 480. It’s also a noisy card, though without the loud churning of the higher end nVidia cards.

We weren’t completely blown away by the XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB’s figures on paper. However, compared to the apparently weaker 470 and 480, the 5870 begins to look pretty good. Its single gigabyte of GDDR5 RAM seems a little meagre – the 470 and 480 offer 1,280 and 1,536 megabytes respectively – although the memory clock speed of 1.2GHz (4.8GHz effective) is significantly superior. In fact the 5870 is marginally held back by its 256bit memory interface – a rather paltry ingredient in such a high end card – and the 470 and 480 offer 320bit and 384bit interfaces respectively. So despite those high clock speeds, the 5870 finds itself with a memory bandwidth that falls about halfway between the 470 and the 480. There are worse positions to be, though.

The XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB fares very well on both core clock speed (850MHz) and on stream processors. Its tally of 1600 is over three times that of even the GTX 480. This allows the 5870 to crush its rivals in terms of theoretical floating point performance – notching up 2.72 TFlops rather than the 1.35 of even the GTX 480. It also garners superior figures in its texel performance, thanks to its 80 texture units – the 470 and 480 have just 56 and 60 respectively. However, it falls behind slightly on raster operations.

But a lot of these seeming differences are down to the GTX 470 and 480 approaching specifications in a different way. The XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB is clearly the winner on paper, but in real life game testing, it falls a long way behind the GTX 480, sacrificing 6 to 16fps at Aliens vs Predators, and 25 to 27fps at Hawx. admittedly, this lead isn’t much given the high frame rates of the game. It’s closer in Heaven and Crysis, where we saw a difference of 7 to 9fps.

The GTX 470, costing £30 less, puts up a very good showing, finishing within 2 and 3fps of the XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB in most resolutions on Aliens vs Predator and Heaven. In BattleForge the difference is generally closer to 4fps, while in Crysis it varies from 2 to 4fps. DirectX 11 performance is good, and this is a card that should be able to handle future games with comfort.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB: Specs

  • ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics processor
  • 1GB GDDR5 installed RAM
  • 256bit memory clock interface
  • 1.2GHz memory clock, 4.8GHz DDR effective
  • 850MHz core clock
  • 1600 stream processors
  • 80 texture units
  • 32 ROP units
  • memory bandwidth: 153.6 GBytes/sec, fill rate: 68.0 GTexels/sec
  • 188W
  • 2 x 6pin
  • PCI Express
  • DirectX 11
  • DVI, HDMI, DP
  • ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics processor
  • 1GB GDDR5 installed RAM
  • 256bit memory clock interface
  • 1.2GHz memory clock, 4.8GHz DDR effective
  • 850MHz core clock
  • 1600 stream processors
  • 80 texture units
  • 32 ROP units
  • memory bandwidth: 153.6 GBytes/sec, fill rate: 68.0 GTexels/sec
  • 188W
  • 2 x 6pin
  • PCI Express
  • DirectX 11
  • DVI, HDMI, DP

OUR VERDICT

On paper, the XFX ATI Radeon HD 5870 1024MB is a better card than the latest nVidia offerings. But graphics cards aren’t run on paper, and the reality is that the 5870 can’t compete with the 480. Against the 470, it fares a lot better, although whether this lead is quite enough to justify the £30 price difference is debatable. The 5870 is now almost a year old, of course, and we shouldn’t rule out a price cut or a more finely honed replacement from ATI in the near future. In any case, the 5850 continues to provide the value.

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