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The Road Ahead & Final Thoughts

In addition to the Radeon HD 5870 we are reviewing today, AMD is launching a cut down version as well called the Radeon HD 5850. This card is set to cost around $260, and given the similarities with its bigger brother, it should also be a very interesting product -- unfortunately AMD was unable to provide us with a sample.

On the horizon from AMD is a dual-GPU version codenamed "Hemlock XT," which is essentially a pair of Radeon HD 5870 GPUs on a single PCB. Looking at our benchmark results today this is an almost frightening prospect, yet one we really want to see! The Hemlock XT is due out next month, along with the Juniper XT and Juniper LE, which will be known as the Radeon HD 5770 and Radeon HD 5750 respectively.

Then early next year AMD will start production of its 32nm parts, as it introduces the Redwood XT (Radeon HD 5670), Redwood PRO (Radeon HD 5650) and Cedar XT (Radeon HD 5550). These cards should consume very little power and the latter two are expected to cost less than $100.

Although we just threw the Radeon HD 5870 through a huge barrage of tests, I feel as though we are just getting to know it; and in a sense we are. It will be very interesting to see how this card performs against the comparatively priced GeForce GTX 285 in upcoming games, particularly in those supporting DirectX 11.

But there's one thing we can be certain of right now, and that is that the Radeon HD 5870 crushes the old Radeon HD 4870 -- and even the 4890 -- in terms of performance. Newer games such as Wolfenstein showed massive gains of up to a 100% when compared to its previous-generation sibling; and not only did the 5870 beat the GTX 285 by a huge margin in this particular game, but it also put away the Radeon HD 4870 X2.

Using a 2560x1600 resolution, where multi-GPU technology works at its best, the single-GPU Radeon HD 5870 actually managed to outperform the Radeon HD 4870 X2 in 6 out of the 15 games tested, and in many of the cases where it was slower the margin was minimal.

The Radeon HD 5870 also beat the GeForce GTX 295 in 5 of the games tested, which is certainly very impressive considering we are talking about a pair of high-end GPUs here. Therefore it is fair to say that in terms of performance the new 5870 will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with, even for Nvidia’s upcoming GPUs.

With an introductory MSRP of $380, the Radeon HD 5870 offers a good value proposition, as the majority of GTX 285 graphics cards currently cost around $350. You could go for a pair of Radeon HD 4890s and spend around the same amount as you would for a shiny new Radeon HD 5870, but this configuration would require a motherboard with full bandwidth dual PCI Express 16x lanes and consume considerably more power.

Furthermore, while you might see a performance advantage with this setup it would come at the expense of DirectX 11 support, so we definitely feel the Radeon HD 5870 is a much better solution at this price.

It's worth noting before making any final conclusions that today we only tested a reference card with beta drivers. While performance was excellent for the most part, we'll have to keep an eye on further improvements as AMD delivers more mature drivers over the next few months.

We also expect future special edition Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards from AMD’s board partners to provide improved cooling designs. This will ultimately result in better overclocking and much cooler case temperatures, especially if you plan to use two in tandem.

Overall, the Radeon HD 5870 has proven to be a real winner, and possibly one the best graphics cards we have ever reviewed in this price point. It is the fastest single-GPU graphics card you can purchase today, the power consumption levels are excellent, and hopefully with better software support overclocking will improve as well. For now we look forward to checking some retail examples out while we wait for the counter from Nvidia -- other than some expected price cuts on their current cards, that is.