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Report: AMD Radeon HD 5870 and 5850
by Damien Triolet
Published on October 27, 2009

With the Radeon HD 5800s, AMD has opened the ball for the DirectX 11 generation of graphics cards, or rather Direct3D 11. On the menu, Cypress, a new GPU that offers full support for the new API, is engraved at 40 nanometres and offers a huge jump in processing power. Enough to revolutionise the genre?

AMD first onto Direct3D 11
For a while now, AMD’s graphics division has been on very good form and we’ve been agreeably surprised on a number of occasions. First onto the minor revision of Direct3D 10 hardware, first onto GDDR5, first to the 55nm, then 40nm process. You have to say that there have been a series of positive developments one after the other and the arrival of the new Radeon HD 5000 range is the culmination of these.

The release also respects the cycle that has been repeating for some time: NVIDIA first on DirectX 8, AMD (ATI at the time) first on DirectX 9, NVIDIA first on Direct3D 10 – the alternation has been respected. To be first onto a major new revision of the most used graphics API is an important strategic advantage as this means you become the platform of preference for developers.

AMD is launching two variants of Cypress, the Radeon HD 5870 and the Radeon HD 5850, and doesn’t intend to stop there but will follow up with the rest of the range. Hemlock bi-GPU derivatives and mid-range (Juniper) are expected for the end of the month of October or November. At the beginning of 2010, two other cores will make their appearance and flood the entry-level: Redwood and Cedar.

While AMD wants to reassure us on the execution of this roadmap, a lot depends on TSMC and the progress it makes with its 40 nm production lines. Production has been suffering from numerous problems and stopped AMD from mass producing the Radeon HD 4770 GPU, the RV740. In principle these problems should be sorted out, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to be sure.

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