Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Graphics Card

The new 5800s are beginning to show up and we have a look at the HD 5870 from , is it something special? Has AMD been able to swim or have they sunk.

Manufacturer: SapphireTech
15 minutes & 9 seconds read time


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For a while we saw a flurry of new NVIDIA cards while ATI kind of sat stagnant. That's stopped now with the release of the new HD 5800 series from the red team. Over the next few months we're going to see plenty of the HD 5870 we have with us today, along with the lower HD 5850 and the higher HD 5870 X2.

Not only that, though, we're going to see companies like Sapphire, HIS, GIGABYTE, ASUS and more put their own spin on it, be it an Atomic or Toxic model or Turbo and TOP ones. What we think the HD 5800 series is capable of today is going to be proven wrong with companies giving us even more performance than the stock clocked model we'll be looking at here first up.

The first HD 5870 out of the TweakTown gates comes from Sapphire, one of only a few AMD-only partners. It's more important for companies who rely on AMD producing a good core so they can continue to stay afloat by making profits from their own versions of the card.

Today will be no different than any other review when it comes to the overall layout. First we'll have a look at the box and what's inside before having a closer look at the card and the specifications. Being a new card, we'll pay a bit more attention to the specifications in this case and move away from just looking at the core and memory clocks. If you manage to read all that then you'll be greeted with our benchmark line-up. There we'll see how the card performs compared to others from both the red and green team. Once everything is said and done we'll wrap it all up with our final thoughts, so with that said let's get stuck into the package and see what Sapphire are offering us today.

The Package

Having a look at the package, there isn't much as far as differences go when it comes to overall design. Across the top we have the Sapphire logo on one side while on the other side we see mention that the card comes with 1GB of GDDR5. Next to this we also see another sticker that shows us Dirt 2 and below that we have the model, in this case the very important HD 5870.

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Below the model we have another game logo, in this case BattleStations Pacific. Moving below that, we see some of the main features which include onboard HDMI and DisplayPort, CrossFire X and more. Across the very bottom we see mention of DirectX 11 and a few other features.

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Turning over, we can see a bit of a blurb on the product while below that we have just a few of the 1600 awards that Sapphire has won over the years. On the right side we have a bit of a run down on some of the main features that the HD 5870 offers.

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Looking at the paperwork now, we've got a user manual and next to that we have another piece of paper which gives you the ability to get Dirt 2 when it's released in December. We've also got another game. This one's ready to go and is called BattleStations Pacific. Also included is the standard driver CD which we're used to seeing in our bundles.

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The cable department is actually pretty light. We've got two molex to 6-Pin PCI Express connectors, a DVI to VGA connector and a CrossFire connector which we unfortunately won't be making use of just yet.

Video Card

While the HD 4890 cooler took up the majority of the card, the HD 5870 cooler takes up the entire card in kind of a shroud, much like the GTX 200 series from NVIDIA. We see there's a fan on the far right which pushes cool air directly across the top of the GPU.

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In typical fashion we see Sapphire have mixed up the overall design of the cooler by adding their own sticker to the unit which lets us know the brand and the model.

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Moving around to the back of the card, we can see two little holes; these help the fan draw the cool air in that is used to keep our GPU temperatures down and also just give a bit more room for the heat to vent out of. This is a slightly new design as typically the air just comes in where the fan is. Of course, if you're running two cards next to each other all it's doing is drawing the hot air that's generated off the back of the second card.

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Continuing to have a look around the card, there isn't anything that we haven't really seen before. Moving to the back of the card, the HD 5870 requires two 6-Pin PCI Express power connectors to get up and running.

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Staying across the top but moving closer to the front, we can see our two Crossfire connectors that give us the ability to run up to three of these cards together. While we won't be making use of them today, we intend to in the immediate future.

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Finally, we leave with a quick look at the I/O ports. Here we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors along with a native HDMI port and Display Port. The card is able to handle a maximum of six display port connectors which in turn gives us the ability to run up to six monitors. In this setup we're able to run three monitors, one of each of the Dual-Link DVI connectors and a third of the display port. This new multi monitor technology is called Eyefinity; we won't really be going into it today, but it's something that we'll be diving into further in the future.


This is really what it all comes down to, the specifications. The main thing we want to know is how the HD 5870 has been improved against the HD 4890. First things first, the new HD 5870 is based on 40nm technology which should give us the ability to achieve higher clocks while running cooler than the HD 4890s 55nm core.

Another one of the big features is the Stream Processing Units. The HD 4890 had a huge 800 of them, but the HD 5870 has really gone to town on this number and doubled that to a whopping 1600.

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Looking at the clocks, it's interesting to see that the core has remained at the same 850MHz. Considering the move to a 40nm core, we thought this is one of the first pieces of spec to start heading north. What has moved, however, is the memory clock. While we're still sporting 1GB of GDDR5, the clocks move from 970MHz (3900MHz QDR) to a fairly impressive 1200MHz (4800MHz QDR). The GDDR5 does still run on the same 256-bit bus.

Other key changes to the HD 5870 when compared to the HD 4890 (in brackets) include 2.15 billion transistors (965 million), Direct X 11 support (DX 10.1), Shader Model 5.0 (SM 4.1), 27.2 Gigapixel / sec pixel fill rate (13.6 GPixel/s) and 32 ROPs (16 ROPs).

What all these should result in is a fairly impressive increase in performance. The two areas that should help the most is the doubling in stream processors and the big jump in memory clock speed.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 9.8, ATI Catalyst Cypress Driver, ForceWare 190.62,

Today we'll be having a look at how the HD 5870 compares against its main competitors. With NVIDIA still a bit away from releasing new models, the main cards that the HD 5870 is going to be competing against is the single GPU GTX 285. The HD 5870 X2 which is supposed to be showing up soon will be competing against the dual GPU GTX 295 from NVIDIA which we've chosen to also include in our benchmark results today.

We of course couldn't forget about the HD 4890 which is the card the HD 5870 will be replacing as ATIs fastest single GPU graphics card. Since our card didn't come with a Windows XP driver, we're going to be testing only in Windows Vista today.

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Graphics Card 01

In our first test we can see the Sapphire HD 5870 is able to come out and perform strong with a win in both the P and X tests against all cards except the dual GPU GTX 295 from NVIDIA.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.

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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Graphics Card 03

A test that tends to favor NVIDIA shows the HD 5870 from Sapphire performing well. We can see at the highest resolution it's able to beat out the GTX 285 in the minimum department with no real drama.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).

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Recent drivers have seen the performance for ATI cards go way up under CINEBENCH. Performance here is no different with it smashing the NVIDIA offerings. Compared to the HD 4890, though, there isn't too much of a difference.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used:
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10).

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

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We again see the HD 5870 perform very strong. Compared to the GTX 285 which is its main competition we've got a win in all tests but one which is the 2560 x 1600 minimum. In this test, though, it's a tie and the number is above that important 30 FPS minimum we need to see.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.

It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.

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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Graphics Card 08

Warhead performance on a whole isn't great, but unlike the GTX 285 the HD 5870 is able to break that 30 FPS minimum at 1920 x 1200. The only other card breaking that minimum here is the duul GPU GTX 295.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
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The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Graphics Card 10

We see the HD 5870 again perform exceptionally well. We can see it's got a big jump on the GTX 285 at all resolutions and has no trouble getting that 30 FPS minimum we want at the ultra high 2560 x 1600 resolution.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Graphics Card 12

Clear Sky has always gone ATIs way and here's no different. We do see a good jump compared to the HD 4890, though, and not only does it break the 30 FPS minimum at 1680 x 1050 which no other card does, but it also manages to do it at 1920 x 1200.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
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Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.

Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.

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Left 4 Dead sees good numbers for the HD 5870, coming out ahead of the GTX 285 at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

Far Cry 2

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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Graphics Card 15

We can see good performance here when compared to the HD 4890, but performance in this high quality situation does give the GTX 285 one of its only wins here today.

World In Conflict

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Fortunately the HD 5870 doesn't struggle that much with AA. In this high quality setup we see that it breaks the 30 FPS minimum, giving us the same score as the GTX 285. Moving to the averages, we can see it manages to get almost 10% on the GTX 285.

Left 4 Dead

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Under L4D we see good gains again with the card performing very well, sitting not all that far behind the GTX 295.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature Tests

With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.

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The cooler seems to do an excellent job of keeping temperatures down with it being almost 10c less than the HD 4890 from HIS which was using aftermarket cooling.

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Noise levels from the cooler are in line with most of the other cards here. It's a fair bit behind the GTX 285, though, which is great considering this is the card's main competition.

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Moving to 40nm should bring some decent power figures. There isn't really any surprise here with it being a little higher than the HD 4890 and GTX 285. The idle number is way down which is nice.

Final Thoughts

So that's our first HD 5870 and to be honest the card is a whole lot better than I expected it to be. The HD 5870 really had to do one thing; that was beat the GTX 285. The thing about that, though, is it had to do that one thing well. The good news? It does; it manages to do it very well.

We see across the board in all games the HD 5870 put's out some fantastic numbers, be it in the synthetic 3DMark Vantage or the ultra intensive and ultra popular Far Cry 2. I expected the HD 5870 to perform well, mainly because it needed to, but I didn't expect it to perform this well.

What these numbers we see here today do is light a fire in the belly wondering what the HD 5870 X2 will offer along with what HD 5870 CrossFire and CrossFire X performance will be like. If scaling is good and we see big numbers at 2560 x 1600 this could be a very impressive setup. Knowing ATI as well, we should see some fairly good pricing. Gone are the days of $600 U.S. launch price tags.

Looking a bit more specific toward the Sapphire offering, this is absolutely awesome. At launch you can't expect too much from companies. There are of course the necessary cables; you also need a driver CD and most importantly the card itself. Sapphire have already built on that and include BattleStations Pacific. And just as you get sick of that, December rolls around and you can download Dirt 2 which is going to take advantage of the Direct X 11 features the card has to offer.

It would have been nice to use the Direct X 11 functionality at launch, but with Windows 7 still not out it's not the end of the world. The other great thing about the card is it's not one of those. It's good at DX 10 but when DX 11 comes out that's when you will really get to make use of it. It's great at DX 10; the numbers we see here today prove that. We don't doubt it's also going to be great at DX 11. Why you might ask? The answer is simple; it needs to be great at DX 11 so ATI can continue to have the one up on NVIDIA.

We're sure that NVIDIA have something special up their sleeves and we don't doubt they're benchmarking the HD 5870 in single, CrossFire and CrossFire X form so they have a better idea of what they're dealing with. NVIDIA do have a habit of having some fancy new drivers ready when ATI come out with a new card and we're sure there's something not far away.

Talking to a few people about the HD 5870, they're excited to see what it is offering already. We don't have to wait for the driver team to work a little harder on it for it to be a card we want to buy. We want to buy it now because the drivers are great. Sapphire has also put a great little spin on it. If you love those ATI cards, moving from a HD 4890 is going to be a great upgrade and moving from anything older is going to be simply fantastic.

Now it's just a matter of playing the waiting game for the other HD 5800 models to arrive and while CrossFire HD 5870s will give us a good idea on what the HD 5870 X2 will offer, we're very interested to find out what the HD 5850 is going to bring us which is going to be a one of the more important cards from the red team due to its aggressive pricing on offer.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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