HIS Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 1
Introduction
 
HIS (Hightech Information System Limited) are a graphics card company - period. All too many manufacturers that started life as GPU manufacturers have now branched out into so many different avenues that there skills have been diluted somewhat. Established in 1987, HIS have been loyal to ATI(AMD) and are a top tier manufacturer for the red team. They have won countless awards over the years and are a favourite among critics and PC enthusiasts alike thanks to their customer service and product performance.
 
Today is the latest GPU to be rolled out of the HIS labs which has the pinnacle of graphics technology implanted by ATI, the HD5870 core. With 1GB of GDDR5 accompanying the silicon processor, a die shrink to 40nm and a redesigned cooler, enthusiasts forums have been buzzing with excitement. As per usual though, spoil sports break NDA's and sneak out details, some correct and incorrect. Lucky for us we got a very brief taster of what the card is capable of HERE.  Today we will be either confirming or denying those rumours as we put the HD5870 through some comprehensive testing.
 
AMD are claiming the 5000 series offers up to twice the speed of the previous 4000 range of cards, a bold claim indeed especially when you consider that the new range also natively support DX 11. While NVidia are rubbishing the DX 11 support, AMD will be hoping that it's sooner rather than later when DX11 games begin to hit the stores. As it's going to be a while before we see any next gen Nvidia cards, ATI are hoping to clinch the single GPU performance crown from the green team. Something they have failed to do for a long time, instead cutting the price of their cards to provide greater bang for buck instead of ultimate performance. This time around though AMD are claiming they do not need to market the card with a budget price tag as it outclasses the current undisputed performance king, the GTX295.
 
Before we begin to put the new GPU through it's paces though, let's hear what HIS had to say about their card:
 
Prepare to experience a riveting high-definition gaming experience with ATI RadeonTM HD 5800 Series graphics processors. Expand your visual real estate across up to three displays and get lost in the action with revolutionary ATI Eyefinity Technology. Using ATI Stream technology, accelerate even the most demanding applications and do more than ever with your PC.The first to deliver full support for Microsoft DirectX® 11, these GPUs enable rich, realistic visuals and explosive HD gaming performance so you can dominate the competition.
 
Specification
 
The following specification was taken directly from the HIS product page:
 
  HIS HD5870
Chipset Radeon HD 5870 series
ASIC RadeonTM HD 5870 GPU
Pixel Pipelines
1600 stream processing units* (Unified)
Vertex Engines
1600 stream processing units* (Unified)
Manufacturing process (micron)
40nm
Memory Size
1024 MB
Memory Type
GDDR5
RAMDAC
400MHz
Engine Clock
850MHz
Memory Clock
4.8Gbps
 
Memory Interface 256bit
Bus interface PCI Express x16 (2.0)
Cooler Dual Slot
Dimensions  
 
 As you can see, instead of matching the clockspeed of the 4870, the cards direct forbear, the 5870 matches the clockspeed of the faster 4890. The 'Cypress XT' core has taken advantage of 40nm technology making it extremely power efficient affording 14.47GFLOPS/W. The computational power has also been increased to a ridiculous 2.72 TFLOPS - not bad for a single core graphics card!
 
Let's move on to the details of the card itself...


HIS Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance
 
The HIS HD5870 arrived in a comparatively small package which was surprising for a flagship product. Featuring 'Excalibar', the mythical sword of king Arthur being ejected by the lady of the lake one could be forgiven for believing that the HIS HD5870 is a watercooled card but alas it is not. The rear of the box displays all of the main supporting features of the card such as Shader model 5, Open CL and Open GL 3 to name but a few.
 
Front Box rear box
 
Removing the glossy outer sleeve, I was presented with a plain but sturdy grey box featuring the company emblem on top. I do like it when manufacturers go the extra yard with packaging as it is much more satisfying to be presented with quality packing assuring that you have purchased a premium product, this is in contrast to some companies that are still happy to use brown cardboard boxes. Opening the box, we find a tray which contains the cards accessories which certainly couldn't be described as excessive but with 2 dual Molex to 6 pin PCIe adaptors, manual and driver CD along with a voucher for a copy of DiRT 2, I doubt anyone will be upset with what they find.
 
box top contents
 
The card itself is huge. There really is no other way to describe it. Being about the same length of dual GPU's such as the 4870x2 and GTX295, I was shocked at how long the card was especially when you consider this is a single GPU. I worry a little about the cooler as anyone who has the displeasure of hearing recent ATI cards when placed under load will attest, they are hardly what could be described as quiet! The cooler looks on the outset to be of a similar design to the heatsink fan shroud assembly of the past but AMD have assured us that this design is quieter. We will wait and see.
 
Flipping the card over we see that ATI have included a thin metal backplate with a small cutout displaying the familiar ATI GPU clamp. I think adding backplates is so much better than leaving the card bare as this protects the massive amount of transistors on the back of the card so rather than leave the rear of the card bare, as NVidia did with the GTX275, ATI have decided to protect there card. I do however wonder about the legitimacy of leaving the rear of the GPU core exposed. Surely if anywhere needs protecting, it is there?
 
card front card rear
 
Below you can see the HD5870 compared to the slighter shorter GTX280 which puts into perspective the size of ATI's latest graphics card. The card is 28cm long so please check the spacing in your case if you intend to purchase one of these monsters. As a rough guide - if a 4870x2 or GTX295 fits, so should the HD5870, if you have to cram in a GTX280, you may struggle with the HD5870. Edging away from the tacky clear red plastic of yesteryear, the reference design cooler now features a sleek matt black look with some bright red plastic inserts. The card certainly looks the business and is very pleasing to the eye.
 
card 180 card side
 
In order to feed the GPU enough power, the HD5870 requires 2x6 pin PCIe power connectors and should arrive from a minimum 500w power supply although it may be wiser to up the ante slightly and opt for a 600w PSU should you wish to overclock the card. Like it's forbears, the 5870 is also Crossfire X capable should you feel one card cannot give you the FPS you desire.
 
pcie red
 
 Gulping huge amounts of air is a sign of any performance vehicle and the HD5870 is no different. The intakes of the cooler reminded my somewhat of the front aspect of Burt Reynolds Trans-AM from the iconic 'Smokey and the Bandit' movie. Not that this is a dated design you understand, as I do find it quite attractive. This, if memory serves is the first time ATI have completely shrouded a GPU and while NVidia have been doing this for some time, it is certainly a step in the right direction for ATI.
 
The backplate area of the card features the usual 2x DVI ports, an HDMI port and a display port socket. What is interesting about the HD5870 is it capable of supporting the maximum 2560x1600 resolution on not just one but three monitors at the same time!
 
exhaust backplate
 
As always we at OC3D don't wish to stop the fun there, we like to look under the hood to see what makes the card tick. The first move was to remove the backplate. With the rear of the card now exposed you can see that the backplate is not there for additional cooling as even though the card has 1GB of GDDR5, no memory IC's were found on the rear of the card. Removing the top of the cooler was a relatively simple affair and after a small amount of 'jiggling', the heatsink came away. The power regulators, SMDs and 8x128MB GDDR5 memory chips all had thick thermal tape attached to allow the transfer of heat with only the core receiving the thermal paste treatment.
 
card rear plate cooling
 
The copper base of the aluminium finned heatsink contributes the bulk of the HD5870's 1KG weight. Our cards heatsink has a near perfect amount of paste applied which in turn resulted in a near perfect contact to the exposed Cypress XT core. When idling in windows the cards temperature rarely exceeded 31c which is testament to the cards cooling capabilities and power efficiency, using just 27watts of power. Increasing the card to full load and it will consume up to 188 Watts so inevitably, the 75x20mm cooling fan will spin up to audible levels but surprisingly, not excessively so, certainly not to the audible levels of previous generation ATI cards.
 
card naked
 
Below we see the guts of the card with the Cypress XT core and 8x128MB GDDR5 HCF0 Samsung chips we are now familiar with. These memory chips were also used in the 4890 series and have proven to be excellent overclocking chips. Even at stock speed they are clocked to 850MHz, couple this with a 256bit memory interface and it should afford plenty of bandwidth for the new core.
 
GPU power
 
Count those transistors! Co-founder of Intel, Gordon E Moore stated way back in 1965 that the number of transistors would double approximately every two years. This became more commonly known as 'Moore's Law'. For the most part, his prediction has been very accurate however, ATI are keen to point out that the HD5870 have broken this law by increasing the transistor count from apx 956 million to over 2150 million!
 
The Cypress XT core you see below features 1600 SPUs, 80 TAUs and 32 ROPs, doubling that of the previous monster 4870 which is an amazing achievement and should be exemplified in the benchmarks. 2.72 TFLOPs is sure going to take some beating so those who vividly support the green team would do well to keep quiet as ATI hold all the aces at present and with technological advances such as these, ATI are making a big push to be back on top again in the single GPU sector.
 
gpu transistor
 
What ATI and thereby HIS have produced is a very well rounded, no frills product. The specification and technology improvements speak for themselves and should need little explanation other than I expect to see some very tasty results from our benchmarking suite. Before we start to go through the figures though, lets take a look at the test setup and overclocking results...


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Test Setup

To ensure that all reviews on Overclock3D are fair, consistent and unbiased, a standard set of hardware and software is used whenever possible during the comparative testing of two or more products. The configuration used in this review can be seen below:
 
i7 Rig

CPU: Intel i7-870 @ 4GHz
Motherboard: MSI P55-GD80
Memory: 2x2GB GSkill Trident @2000MHz 9-9-9-24
HD : Hitachi Deskstar 7k160 7200rpm 160GB
GPU: HIS Radeon HD5870
Graphics Drivers: Supplied by HIS
PSU: Gigabyte ODIN 1200w

 
As you can see, I decided to run the setup at 4GHz to prevent any possibility of CPU bottlenecks. The 2000MHz bandwidth afforded by the GSKill Trident should also ensure that there are no hold ups in our test setup, allowing the cards to stretch there silicon legs.
 
During the testing of the setups above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations. For the 3DMark and gaming tests a single card configuration was used.

To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06
• 3DMark Vantage

3D Games
• Crysis
• Far Cry 2
• Oblivion

• Race drive: GRID
• Call of Duty IV
• Unreal Tournament III
 

Power Consumption

Power consumption was measured at the socket using a plug-in mains power and energy monitor. Because of this, the readings below are of the total system, not just the GPU. Idle readings were taken after 5 minutes in Windows. Load readings were taken during a run of Furmark.
 
 
 
ATI cards are normally power hungry beasts which make PSU's sweat. The HIS HD5870 is a different kettle of fish however as it consumes less power than it's closest rival, the GTX285 on both idle and load tests. Consuming just under 30w less power at both levels, the efficiency of the card is such that it will be cheaper to run than most high end cards on the market. While 30w may not seem a great deal of power consumption, over a long period of time that value can equal a significant amount of money saved on power bills.
 
Temperatures

Temperatures were taken at the factory clocked speed during idle in Windows and after 30 minutes of running Furmark with settings maxed out (2560x1600 8xMSAA). Ambient temperatures were taken with a household thermometer. As we use an open test bench setup consideration should be given to the fact that the temperatures would likely increase further in a closed case environment.
 

 
I was very surprised at the idle temperatures of the card which never rose much above the 30c mark. This is in stark contrast to the GTX285 which was some 10c higher than the HIS HD5870. Load temperatures again saw the HD5870 run cooler than the GTX285, even with the fan set to auto. Noise was rarely an issue as the fan hardly span up at all. In contrast to earlier ATI cards, the HD5870 is certainly much quieter and while it can still be noisy with the fan running at 100%, the card hardly ever reached this limit so you can rest easy in the knowledge that the HD5870 will afford some quiet gaming and not distract you from online, immersible game play.
 
 
Overclocking
 
For our overclocking tests I used the Catalyst Control Centre utility which worked perfectly with our setup. One thing that did concern me was the fact that the clockspeeds were not reported correctly using GPU-Z. The stock ones were picked up fine but when overclocked, GPU-Z still reported the stock clocks. To test if the clocks had been correctly applied I ran some benchmarks and the improvements in frames per second were clear so I can only assume there is a compatibility issue with the latest version of GPU-Z.
 
Stock overclok
 
The card ran fine with the sliders maxed to values of 900MHz on the core and 1300MHz on the memory. Not satisfied that this was all the card had to give I tried out AMD's new GPU Overclocking tool. Sadly, it appeared the card could not cope with clockspeeds much higher than what the Overdrive utility offered reaching a maximum 924/1320. Even then stability was an issue so I decided to stick with the 900/1300 clockspeeds the Overdrive utility allowed and ran the benchmarks at this setting which resulted in no stability issues what so ever and only a very minor increase in GPU temperatures.
 
Here's how COD 4 looked with overclocked vs stock settings:
 
 
Not a bad result at all really. While the results were nothing drastically significant, the overclock granted us a few extra frames which is always welcome and thus no doubt we will soon see pre-overclocked version of the HD5870 running this speed as stock.
 
After returning the card back to it's default speed I ran our standard set of GPU benchmarks... 


HIS Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 4


3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Results Analysis

Wow! As you can see from the results above, the HIS HD5870 totally destroys the MSI N285GTX 2G, our previous fastest single GPU. The results are even more astonishing when you consider that the Nvidia card should theoretically have the advantage in Futuremarks PhysX friendly Vantage benchmark. As you can see though this is not the case with the HD5870 easily out pacing the GTS285.

Let's see if this transfers over to our real world gaming benchmarks.


HIS Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 5

 
Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 

 
 
GRID
 
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a 2 minute race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.
 

 
 
 
 
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 

 
 
Results Analysis
 
 The HIS HD5870 bettered the GTX285 in all three of the benchmarks above and while it significantly beat the GTX285 in both Call of Duty IV and Unreal Tournament III, it completely destroyed it in Race Driver: GRID, more than doubling the frame rate at the highest resolution and quality setting, proving that the advantage the GTX285 has with 2GB of memory means little. More so, my fear that the 256bit memory interface would be inadequate is unfounded.
 
Let's move on..


HIS Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 6

 

 
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 

 
 
 

Oblivion from Bethseda is now an 'old' game by today's standards, but is still one of the most visually taxing games out there. The benchmark was run in the wilderness with all settings set to the maximum possible. Bloom was used in preference to HDR. The test was run five times with the average FPS then being deduced.
 

 
 


Ubisoft has developed a new engine specifically for Far Cry 2, called Dunia, meaning "world", "earth" or "living" in Parsi. The engine takes advantage of multi-core processors as well as multiple processors and supports DirectX 9 as well as DirectX 10. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
 

 
 
Results Analysis
 
 For the first time, I was able to run Crysis at maximum resolution which still allowed a playable frame rate. This is even more astonishing when you consider that the maximum allowed anti-aliasing and anisotropic filters were added.The frame rates were close to double that of the GTX285 which is no mean feat considering the GTX285 is still classed as one of the best graphics cards on the market today. Oblivion showed a massive hike in frame rates too and while things were a little closer in Far Cry 2, the HIS HD5870 still put the GTX285 firmly in it's place.
 
Let's move on to the conclusion...


HIS Radeon HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 PCIe Graphics card Page: 7
Conclusion
 
 I'm always sceptical when a 'new' graphics card hits the market as time and time again all we get with the new product is a new cooler and a slight bump in clockspeeds. The HIS HD5870 however has blown those fears clean out of the water. The new Cypress XT core on the card along with the tried and tested Samsung HCF0 integrated memory chips afford blistering performance, the likes we are only used to seeing with monster dual GPU cards such as the GTX295. Not once did the HD5870 fail to better, no destroy our previously fastest single core GPU, the GTX285.
 
Even the  2GB of memory on GTX285 compared to the 1GB on the HIS HD5870 could not save it's blushes at the 5870 still pulled away at the highest resolutions and quality settings. Crysis in particular ran smooth as butter (something I never thought I would say) at 2560x1600 with 8xAA/16xAF, such is the cards fantastic performance regardless of resolution and quality settings.
 
Now OK, I will admit that I am comparing 'old' technology to new technology and to be completely fair to NVidia they have yet to unleash the 300 series of GPU's which are to be directly pitched against the ATI 5000 series. However, for those not looking to chase the dragon and play the waiting game as it were, the HD5870 is easily the fastest single core GPU on the market today.
 
The model we had for review, the HIS HD5870 was stock clocked and had the stock cooler. No fancy extras were included, just the standard Molex-PCIe adaptors and a crossfire bridge but even so it was very well presented. I would have liked to have received a hard copy of DiRT2 rather than a voucher but that aside I had few complaints regarding the packaging which was very sturdy and should ensure the product reaches you in A1 condition.
 
In the past ATI have shown little mercy for those with sensitive hearing and the whistling of the old stock cooling design would attract stray dogs for miles around. Even worse, when on full load, the cards could have been mistaken for Concorde taking off, such was the noise the cooler produced. I am now happy to report that the boffins at ATI no longer work with mufflers attached to their heads and have decided to show sympathy to the gamers by designing a cooler which is very similar to NVidia designs and as such is much quieter. Sure, when the fan spins up the card can become noisy but in ATI's defence this was not very often at all. Temperatures idled in the low 30's and peaked just over 70c after half our of Furmark, a fantastic result.
 
Overclocking the card was not as great as I would have liked, The catalyst control centre limited clocks to 900MHz on the core (50Mhz over stock) and 1300 MHz on the memory (100 MHz over stock) which was completely stable. To get higher clocks I had to use the new AMD GPU clock tool which was troublesome at best and results were not much more than CCC achieved (924/1320MHz) but these clocks resulted in random BSOD and lock-ups so I stuck with the 900/1300 clockspeeds for the run of overclocked benchmarking which was completely stable throughout. Whether this was an issue with the AMD GPU clock tool I cannot say but I do wish ATI would allow greater flexibility with the Overdrive utility, allowing higher clocks and not limiting them. That said, any overclock is a bonus and the small overclock yielded a good 5% increase on average which is nothing to be criticised.
 
In short, ATI/HIS have produced a card that is worthy of being named the fastest GPU on the planet at the time of writing and because of this I have no hesitation is awarding the card our coveted 'Performance' and Gaming seals of approval. If you are on the lookout for a card that can cope with anything you intend to throw at it, regardless of resolution and quality setting, the HIS HD5870 should be the first product you consider.
 
The Good
- Astonishing performance
- Quiet under all but the most extreme load
- Excellent temperatures
 
The Mediocre
- The price is expensive for a single core GPU

The Bad
- Nothing
 
 
Thanks to HIS for supplying the HD5870 for todays review. Discuss in our forums.