XFX 5870 + 5850 CrossFire Review

RHKCommander959 - 2009-10-27 10:45:38 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: November 25, 2009
Price: HD 5850 $309, HD 5870 $399

Introduction:

After having tested and reviewing both the XFX HD 5850 and XFX HD 5870, it came time to make a review of the two in CrossFire. The amounts of shader processors are different between the two cards, as is the clock speeds between the two. With the XFX HD 5870 there are 1600 shader processors running at 850 MHz core speed and 1200 MHz memory speed. The XFX HD 5850 runs with 1440 shader processors with a 725 MHz core speed and 1000 MHz memory speed – both run 1GB of GDDR5. In the past mixed shader processor cards couldn’t be run in CrossFireX but with the 5-series things have changed somewhat – 5800 cards can be ran in CrossFire together but not in CrossFire with 5700’s. Continuing on with the similarities, both look the same except that in length the 5850’s are shorter with the power ports moved to the rear. Both also support DirectX 11 and software voltage modification for increasingly easy Overclocking capabilities.

Running these in CrossFire mode will give performance that will be limited by the weaker 5850, but it will be interesting to see how well they scale together. Both will be overclocked in the end and tested again with a faster CPU overclock than normal to help shed some light on the true capabilities of the cards together.

Closer Look:

Both of the video cards look virtually identical from the top except that the length was scaled down,  the artwork and shape is similar but the XFX HD 5850 is approximately an inch shorter. The blower motors look the same, but at higher speeds sound a bit different, possibly affected by the different overall design of the cards or different blower motors were used. Each card is labeled by the given video card name. Rotating around shows an immediate difference between the two video card designs. The 5870 has a back plate that is stamped ATI Radeon Premium Graphics, while the back is exposed on the 5850. The rear bolt patterns share a resemblance but since the PCB board is shorter. The XFX HD 5870 has some identification stickers located on the side of the video card near the PCI-Express slot while the XFX HD 5850 has most of them on the backside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The expansion slots are exactly identical to each other, with the half-length vents and stacked DVI ports. The backsides are a stark contrast to each other but otherwise these two cards are very similar. Both cards have a retention mechanism to mount the heat sink firmly to the GPU core, and both have screws to hold various parts of the circuit board firmly in place. The side view shows a few more differences. After the CrossFire ports and vents the designs differ a bit, The ATI Radeon logos are in different positions and depths, and the XFX HD 5870 has two 6-pin PCI-Express connectors on the side while the 5850 has them in the rear vent.

 

 

The boxes that both cards came in are similar in dimensions except for height. The XFX HD 5870 is about twice as tall. The box art designs are very similar as well. Pardon the cable mess, both of the video cards are installed into the system with room to spare before the hard drive bay. There are two slot spaces between the cards on the MSI Platinum X58 motherboard but both CrossFire dongles reach fine. An extra fan was added to the chipset for stability when running far overclocked as the stock cooling on the chipset is inadequate at moderate overclock speeds when passively cooled.

 

 

With the XFX HD 5850 and 5870 installed, it's time to get the drivers up and running!

Closer Look:

This time around we will just be focusing on the ATI Catalyst Control Center features, which has options for overclocking the video card and adjusting fan speed through the ATI Overdrive tab, as well as options for adjusting desktop and monitor controls for the perfect setup. Users can also adjust game, video, and photo qualities by either forcing certain features or by letting the application use its own settings. To install the drivers, I suggest using the express option – it installs to the default location quickly and easily. Users will be prompted to install extras at their will, such as the Folding@Home client. Overclockers Club has its own folding team where anyone is welcome to join; our team number is #12772. When overclocking with the ATI Overdrive feature, users are likely to hit a brick wall. The new drivers allow for manual fan speed control, but otherwise the only other capabilities of the program are running a rudimentary stability test, basic monitoring, and using sliders with limited ranges to adjust speed. Once the drivers are installed, a quick system restart will get things on the right path and allow the Advanced ATI Catalyst Control Center to be used. The first page to open with ATI Catalyst Control Center is the Welcome page, which has quick hyperlinks to check for driver updates, get in contact with customer care, to give feedback, visit the AMD website, or to join the Folding@Home cause. The next page is the Information Center; the Information center is split into two tabs, one for Graphics Software information and the other for Graphics Hardware information. These two tabs can be very handy for troubleshooting any problems a person may run into.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Graphics Hardware tab of the Information center contains information about the video card including BIOS version and date, chipset, memory, vendor code, and so on. Most people shouldn’t need the Graphics Hardware and Software information, but it definitely handy when a problem may occur. The next page is the Desktops & Displays page. This page is for the basic settings of the monitor(s) and desktop. Users can figure out which monitor is which and rotate the outputted image. Clicking the properties or moving along brings us to the Desktop Properties page.

 

 

The Desktop Properties page has much more control over the desktop with settings such as desktop area, color quality, refresh rate, and again rotation. The next tab in the Desktop Properties page adjusts the color, contrast, brightness, and gamma output. This can be handy on monitors that need some help putting out the appropriate colors. Back when I used a CRT, a long time ago, it helped keep the colors closer to true when the monitor would get a gray or yellowish tint.

 

 

The Display Options page is very short and is used just for one option – Display Detection Option. The options are automatic or manual detection of displays. The 3D page has several tabs that allow users the ability to define a custom scheme for their games. There are previews for the effects or users can power through all of the settings on the 'All' tab at the end.

 

 

The Avivo Video page has five tabs dedicated to performance and quality adjustments for video output. A preview is included of a woman with flowers and fruit. Again, just as with the 3D page, there is an 'All' tab that can adjust all of the settings for the Avivo Video at once.

 

 

The last page on the graphics menu is the ATI Overdrive. To first use this feature, users must click the lock to ‘unlock’ the program, after agreeing to some terms. The software is capable of automatically overclocking the video card through Auto-Tune, but I prefer using the manual settings. Users can test their settings using the Test Custom Clocks button. Fan speed control is relatively new to ATI Overdrive and allows users to define what speed the fan or blower runs at. Underneath and to the right of this are gauges and readouts of some of the more important data for this card, temperature, usage activity, fan speed, GPU clock speed, and memory clock speed. The test feature brings up a full screen image that is pretty basic – greenish reddish with an AMD logo in the bottom left.

 

 

The new additional menu is the HydraVision menu. The first page is the HydraGrid page, which allows users to define a grid-like component to lock applications to a certain chunk of desktop real estate. Options such as showing the grids when moving a window and showing an icon in the tray are settable at the bottom, while adjusting the grid is near the top. The grid can be previewed, as the default layout is seen with white bars representing the grids. Users can customize the grid layout to whatever they desire, the keyboard shortcuts are listed out in the image while the red bar means it is the selected grid component to be adjusted.

 

 

The next page is the Desktop Manager, which does exactly what the name implies. It manages the desktop. The desktop manager can keep track of application position and size, and allow spanning across multiple displays. The last page is the Multi Desktop. This name is also suggestive to its use, This program allows users to have multiple desktops ranging from two up to nine. Users can rotate between desktops with the scroll wheel, preserve display settings, and enable another tray icon. This can be useful for those who have a ton of desktop icons as a means to separate them out – one could, for instance, even make a desktop for each category of their own choosing even – gaming, work, school, and whatever else.

 

 

Now we can go test out the new 5800-series graphics cards in CrossFire!

Specifications:

XFX Radeon HD 5850 XFX Radeon HD 5870
Bus Type
PCI-E 2.0
Performance
Standard 
GPU Clock MHz
725 MHz
Stream Processors
1440
Memory Interface Bus (bit)
256
Memory Type
DDR5 
Memory Size (MB)
1024 MB
Memory Clock (MHz)
4000 MHz
Microsoft® DirectX® Support
11
Shader Model Support
5.0
Open GL Optimization and Support
3.2
Minimum Power Requirement (Watt)
500W with two 6-pin power cable 
Cooling Fansink
Yes
ROHS
Yes
Profile
Double
ATI Radeon CrossFireX™ Technology
Yes
ATI Radeon PowerPlay™
Yes
ATI Radeon Stream Technology
Yes
Dimensions (Metric)
24.1 X 11 X 3.8
Max Resolution Analog
2048 x 1536 (Pixels)
Max Resolution Digital
2560 x 1600 (Pixels)
ATI Eyefinity Technology
Yes
DisplayPort
1
Bus Type
PCI-E 2.0
Performance
Standard 
GPU Clock MHz
850 MHz
Stream Processors
1600
Memory Interface Bus (bit)
256
Memory Type
DDR5 
Memory Size (MB)
1024 MB
Memory Clock (MHz)
4800 MHz
Microsoft® DirectX® Support
11
Shader Model Support
5.0
Open GL Optimization and Support
3.2
Minimum Power Requirement (Watt)
500W with two 6-pin power cable 
Cooling Fansink
Yes
ROHS
Yes
Profile
Double
ATI Radeon CrossFireX™ Technology
Yes
ATI Radeon PowerPlay™
Yes
ATI Radeon Stream Technology
Yes
Dimensions (Metric)
27.9 X 11 X 3.8
Max Resolution Analog
2048 x 1536 (Pixels)
Max Resolution Digital
2560 x 1600 (Pixels)
ATI Eyefinity Technology
Yes
DisplayPort
1

 

Features:

 

 

 

 

All Information courtesy of XFX @ http://www.xfxforce.com/en-us/products/graphiccards/HD%205000series/5850.aspx  and  http://www.xfxforce.com/en-us/products/graphiccards/HD%205000series/5870.aspx

Testing:

To test the XFX HD 5850 and 5870 in CrossFire, the cards will be used in a range of games and benchmarks to see how well it performs against other competitive products. The games consist of Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead, Darkest of Days, Call of Duty World at War, Warhammer 40,000 DOW II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Resident Evil 5, Left 4 Dead, and the benchmarks are 3DMark 06 and 3DMark Vantage. After running the card normally through the testing phase, the video card will then be overclocked and then retested. The results of the overclocked will be saved for the end while the stock speed performance can be compared to other cards. All of the system settings remain the same from card to card and test to test, with the exception of disabling PhysX for Nvidia cards on 3DMark Vantage and in this special case the CPU speed will be further increased with the overclocked video card speeds for a better representation.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking the cards in CrossFire was very easy. Voltage control was the same between the two XFX HD cards, the highest overclock I tried for was 1GHz on the GPU core and 1200 MHz on the GDDR5 memory. AMD GPU Tool did have some options for voltage, but just what was in the BIOS and not any over-voltage options. The cards easily exceeded the ATI Catalyst Control Centers capabilites for both the GPU core and memory speeds, so, AMD GPU Tool and MSI Afterburner were used in conjunction - GPU Tool for overclocking and MSI Afterburner for fan speed control and voltage control. GPU-Z was also useful for temperature and speed statistics, the average idle temperature was around the mid-thirties Celcius, load overclocked temperatures reached low and mid 60's per both cards. GPU-Z 0.3.6 supports the both new cards.

 

 

  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. Darkest of Days
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Warhammer 40,000 DOW II
  6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  7. Resident Evil 5
  8. Left 4 Dead
  9. 3DMark 06 Professional
  10. 3DMark Vantage

 

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Cry 2 shows that the combination of the XFX HD 5870 and 5850 provide high levels of performance! All four resolutions show that there is no competition.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scaling in Crysis Warhead isn't as good as with Far Cry 2, at least with these drivers. Nonetheless, the pair wins at every resolution, only the GTX 295 comes close to catching up.

Testing:

What would testing be if you did not show both sides of the fence? In this test, PhysX was set to low, while leaving the remaining settings intact. You have seen time and again where the ATI cards suffer when PhysX is enabled. Mirror's Edge and Cryostasis are two prime examples. Darkest of Days is no different. What happens in this test shows that, although the game can be played by cards from the red team, the video effects and quality are diminished.

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

With Darkest of Days, no improvement was visible and it looks like CrossFire may have hurt performance some, as the 5870 from Sapphire came in faster than the XFX cards.

Testing:

Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought CoD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a high resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare the performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call of Duty World at War brings the performance to the frontlines again; at the resolution of 1280x1024 the 4870x2 rallies close behind the other top video cards, however, as resolutions change to the larger ones, the GTX295 is the only card standing anywhere nearby.

Testing:

Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a Real Time Strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can play either as a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There looks to be another performance hit in Dawn of War II. The frame rate is still respectable, but this game doesn't look like it likes the pairing at all. The GTX 295 and 5-Series cards fight for first place.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, The Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum Gothams home for the Criminally insane. You task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to ply your trade.

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batman Arkham Asylum has better performance in CrossFire than Dawn of War II. Although at 1280x1024 the score is the same as with the 5870,  the GTX 295 leads throughout until the largest resolution, where the 5800 pair almost break 100 FPS.

Testing:

Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield a survivor of the events at Raccoon City who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and a Co-Op gaming style.

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resident Evil 5 made good use of the extra power, gaining a large amount of frames from the pairing. At 1280x1024, they saw nearly a 50 FPS boost over a single 5870. All other cards were left in the dust.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!

Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until the resolution was increased, the performance looked the same as a single 5870. At the two larger resolutions however, performance started showing with the pair beating the GTX 295 and putting out a fair amount more than the 5870 from Sapphire.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

3DMark06 has the XFX combination winning in every resolution. The first three have the pair breaking 20,000. The worst card in 3DMark06 was the GTX 260 from Asus.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Entry testing the GTX 295 performed the best and the mixed CrossFire group scored between a 5850 and 5870. However, on every other setting, the pair dominated all of the competition.

Testing:

All of the test results here are with the CPU running at 3.7 GHz and both the XFX HD 5870 and 5850 running at 1000 MHz core speed, 1,200 MHz memory speed. These tests - Crysis Warhead, Resident Evil 5, 3DMark06, and 3DMark Vantage were to show some of the possibilities of these cards since the normal method of testing cards overclocked left a huge CPU bottleneck. Each test was ran at 1280x1024 and again at 2560x1600 to show the overall performance increase.

Crysis Warhead

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resident Evil 5

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark06

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark Vantage

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally overclocked - with both cards at a matching 1,000 MHz core and 1,200 MHz memory speeds along with the CPU lightly boosted to 3.7 GHz - the pair builds on their past success with Crysis and push for more: at 1280x1024 they gain an additional 8 FPS. Resident Evil 5 shows a similar trend gaining 28 and 20 FPS, respectively, and still leading the pack. 3DMark06 gains nearly 4,000 points at default resolution, and a little over 500 with the resolution maximized. Nothing came close at the default resolution with these cards overclocked. 3DMark Vantage gains almost 2,500 points in Entry - beating out the 5870 and coming closer to the GTX 295. Extreme results are themselves extreme! Nothing comes close, the best Nvidia card the GTX 295 as the pair performed over 60% faster in the Extreme test.

Conclusion:

Both the XFX HD 5870 and XFX HD 5850 are powerful cards and both earned good marks here at OCC, but when paired in CrossFire the performance boost gained was enormous for some of the test programs. Both video cards operated happily at 1000 MHz core speed with software that could adjust the core voltage easily. The memory overclock was hindered by the 5850 which couldn't go as far, but could at least match the 5870. Each card ran smoothly and with automatic fan speed they also ran, not silent, but definitely quiet enough to blend in with the other case fans. Both also came with a voucher for Dirt 2, and having two copies one can be sold or gifted since the holidays are coming around. Each comes with plenty of accessories, and when paired together brought some of the highest benchmark results around - very good for mixed CrossFire.

At a high fan speed, the fans were extremely loud and both emitted a different tone - possibly from the different lengths or perhaps a different blower motor was used. 100% fan speed with both made the test rig sound more like a vacuum - the Delta TFB1212GHE would pair well with these loud blower motors. Although to give kudos where they are due, default fan speeds are very quiet and kept both cards chugging along at very decent temperatures - the point is when set manually they can get very loud. Another con would be that performance didn't scale evenly and in some games a performance hit occurred.

With the XFX HD 5870 and 5850 paired together in CrossFire, the performance was great in the programs that supported it, and the games that didn't still did reasonably well. This combination is great for those who can't afford a second 5870 but want more power.

 

Pros:

Cons: