XFX HD 5870 ReviewRHKCommander959 - October 7, 2009
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XFX's HD 5870 is their newest video card released to date, and so is the RV870 GPU from AMD. The GPU has been built on a smaller fabrication - 40nm, and packs in double the amount of total stream processors, as well as the amount of texture and render units to 1600, 80, and 32 respectively. Although this GPU is produced on a smaller fabrication than its predecessors, the overall core size has increased due to the increase in transistor count to over 2 billion - making this core approximately 25% larger than the RV770/790XT. The 256bit memory bus and 1GB memory size of GDDR5 memory is the same although memory speed has been increased to 1200MHz to give another performance boost on the memory side. The stock cooling design has changed - the top is now sloping with its highest point at the center ridge highlighted by the red piece - the shape reminds me of the shape of a recurve bow and the back red vents are angled similarly. This design should help the fan breathe when next to the back side of another card in CrossFireX. The cover design is mostly red and black with gray-ish things in the back that have the shape of X's. The back side has a large back plate covering all of the card except the heat sink retention mechanism and surrounding PCB that lies underneath the GPU core. The back plate is nicely decorated with an imprinted ATI logo, the back plate should keep the PCB flattened out and stiff - allowing the components on the other side good contact all throughout.
The side sports two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors and a vent at the end since the expansion slot vents cannot be expanded the full width of the card due to the stacked DVI ports. The red ATI Radeon side looks pretty nice and hides the vents by the two CrossFireX connectors. Near the X16 PCI Express slot are many of the bar codes, numbers, and ratings that are found on the back of the PCB - but because of the back plate they were moved to the inner side of the video card. Once the card is installed these are unable to be seen, which is nice because they can be ugly and this method allows more information to be crammed in as well. There are two smaller ones on the back corner of the back plate nonetheless. The stacked DVI ports are partially visible near the slot piece.
The end of the card sports ventilation, two DVI ports, a HDMI port, and a DisplayPort. A few screws are in place for stability - the two black ones hold the expansion slot plate to the heat sink better while the small silver one holds the HDMI port in place better when plugging in cables, similar to the function of the hexagonal threaded bolts for the pair of DVI's. The back of the card has two unique red vents for airflow - using basic logic for the cage fan would suggest that the vents would exhaust air out if no special work was done inside, but special work was done inside that will be shown later, effectively one vent does nothing and the other serves as another intake with the top. This combined with the curvy top is especially handy for when two graphics cards are placed side by side in CrossFireX configuration as the older designs allowed the back of one card to starve out the fan on another.
The card features two ports for CrossFireX with up to three additional 5870's. Some companies protect these and the PCI Express port with rubber slips although XFX has not. These appear to be gold or gold based and so oxidation is not really an issue to be worried about so coverings aren't really needed anyway. The metal back plate is stamped to read ATI Radeon Premium Graphics, something to look at when the card is installed in a traditional case with a window. The back of the card has two 6-pin PCI Express power connections which were traditionally on the backend of the card. Moving these to the side-end of the card makes it easier to plug in the power cables in a cramped case, and generally makes it easier to unplug or plug in power connectors anyway.
Much of the back plate does not come in contact with the video card, although it does help keep the PCB straight. and there is some plastic insulation around the socket to keep from shorting out with the circuitry. There are some ridges along the back plate - I assume it helps keep the back plate stiffer/firmer. Inside of the covering we can observe how the airflow was guided from the fan. Air is brought in through the top of the fan and the back of the card and exhausted out the case through the vents in the expansion slots as well as circulated through the case by another vents which are located in the red side near where the CrossFireX slots are, adjacent to the expansion slot vents.
The heat sink uses four heat pipes that are soldered to the fins, all of which is attached to another plate that sits atop the video card. Part of the plate is formed to go around the 6-pin PCI Express power connections and another reaches out to the front of the card. The fan is attached to the plate with three screws and sits in a groove that fits its shape. A few holes are bored through the plate to give space for some capacitors and a buzzer - the spaces will allow some air to be pulled through. There is a small flattened heat pipe that hides under the fan to help cool the power circuitry. The plate has thermal tape for the memory and circuits that get hot and thermal paste for the GPU core. There is a plastic film for insulation along the rest of the plate to insulate the plate from other electronic components that do not need heat dissipated.
The blower fan is a dull/matte red, and the design is pretty standard for blowers. The bottom has some holes in it which would allow it to pull some air through the holes for the capacitors on the heat sink assembly. The fan uses four pins, and is attached with three screws to the plate that the heat sink is attached to. heat shrink keeps the cables in order. The fan is produced by NTK Limited and is model FD9238H12S - 92mm diameter by 38mm tall. At full speed this thing is loud, resembling a vacuum cleaner inside the case. At full power this thing draws 12V and 0.8A.
There are eight GDDR5 memory IC's from Samsung on the HD 5870. The GPU core size has increased from R700 but is still quite a bit smaller than the R600 GPU core. The card has two DVI outputs, an HDMI, and a DisplayPort for most setups. Users using component video do not have a port however. Along the card there are many holes that could be easily used for a 3rd party heat sink. Towards the back of the video card is a buzzer - likely for audible error codes, it sits next to the four-pin plug for the blower motor. The two 6-pin PCI Express parts have been moved from the back to the side of the card, similar to what Nvidia did. The back of the card is less interesting, most of the main circuitry is on the other side of the card. Plenty of resistors around though.
Here is a shot of the GPU core exposed and cleaned up a bit. Protecting it is a shim - a piece of metal that is slightly shorter than the core and is used to help keep the core from being damaged when the heat sink is being installed. The core is etched with the ATI logo and is made in Taiwan. The GDDR5 Samsung is labeled K4G10325FE-HC04 and translates into: GDDR5, 1G 8K/32ms, x32 organization, pod_15 VDD 1.5v VDDQ 1.5v, 6th generation, 170 FBGA halogen/lead free, commercial normal power and temperature, and 0.40ns (5.0Gbps) speed.
Time to take a look at the drivers!