5 Generations of Radeon Graphics Compared: HD 5870 through R9 290X

By Steve · 23 replies
Jan 19, 2015
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  1. evergreen sea islands radeon amd gpu graphics cards

    Late last year we took five years’ worth of DirectX 11 capable GeForce graphics cards and compared them in the latest and greatest video games. The results were compelling as we got to see when and where Nvidia made their biggest performance leaps and which GPUs aged the best. Never before had we compared so many graphics generations on the same test.

    So naturally folks using AMD Radeons were also curious to see how their single-GPU flagship parts have held up. Equipped with five years of Radeon technology and the latest Catalyst driver, we set to benchmark major AMD architectures released between late 2009 and October 2014: Evergreen (HD 5870), Northern Islands (HD 6970), Southern Islands (HD 7970) and the company's most recent GPU architecture, Sea Islands (R9 290X).

    Read the complete article.

  2. CaptainTom

    CaptainTom TS Maniac Posts: 306   +132

    290X narrowly beats the 780 Ti on average. LOL so many shills payed $700 for the 780 Ti so they could have less VRAM. Let that be a lesson people...
    Cryio and SuperVeloce like this.
  3. tomkaten

    tomkaten TS Maniac Posts: 222   +143

    Good job, Steven ! The results were somewhat predictable, but the chart that shows the price evolution of top spec AMD cards is interesting to say the least. They are increasing with every new generation of top cards. I thought lower fab processes were supposed to increase yields and drive prices down ?

    I know the latest cards have more memory and better VRMs and such, hence the added costs, but still, it's a worrying trend.
    Julio Franco likes this.
  4. SuperVeloce

    SuperVeloce TS Booster Posts: 133   +34

    Price is set at a mark that market allows. Lower fab would (eventually) drive prices down, but not at the beginning when yields are lower than older mature fab. That is especially true if new flagship chip is actually the same die area with twice the transistors.
    tomkaten likes this.
  5. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,147   +915

    Interesting to see Power Consumption has just gone up and up. I wonder if they'll do an Nvidia and manage to get this to go down in the future?
    Julio Franco likes this.
  6. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    There was actually a larger performance delta between the two boards when they first arrived. The fact that the 780 Ti was 8-10% faster in raw f.p.s. than the 290X at launch and is now favouring the 290X by ~2% on average, says volumes about the relative state of both vendors driver maturation.
    Burty117, Jos and Cryio like this.
  7. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,869   +2,038

    Also let's not forget the R9 290X cost more than the GTX 780 Ti for a very long time so unless you were willing to wait 6+ months to buy a flashship GPU the GTX 780 Ti wasn't a bad choice.

    Moreover if you are concerned with value and getting the most bang for your buck you wouldn't buy the R9 290X anyway, the R9 290 was and still is considerably better value.

    Keep in mind we are testing with newer games, just four of the games featured in the original article are still in use. Perhaps even more important than that is the fact that for the most part we weren't testing with anti-aliasing enabled.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2015
    Puiu, Kibaruk, gamoniac and 2 others like this.
  8. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 1,936   +1,101

    I have a friend STILL running CrossfireX 2GB 5870's for 1080p/60hz gaming.
  9. robb213

    robb213 TS Maniac Posts: 330   +100

    Sounds like me. Was using a 480 up until a few months ago, and now 970s. Didn't think the performance jump would be as big as my jump from a GF6800 to the 480, but it was.

    Like me before, he/she is probably feeling the effects of lower VRAM by now.
  10. Lionvibez

    Lionvibez TS Evangelist Posts: 1,266   +436

    Great write up thanks.
  11. GhostRyder

    GhostRyder This guy again... Posts: 2,198   +593

    Very interesting article @Steve, its interesting to see how things compare generation to generation as it puts things much more in perspective for those looking to upgrade. I am almost shocked at some of the numbers how they have changed over the years. I always (Well try I have broken it from time to time) stick with the whole skip a generation before updating my cards to get a nicer performance jump as its better at offsetting costs and this helps put what people should expect to see in perspective should they consider it.
    robb213 and Julio Franco like this.
  12. Dragonstongue

    Dragonstongue TS Rookie

    5 generations of radeon, hmm lets see a 7970 vs 7970 Ghz, 7970 Ghz is NOT a new generation of card. 4870 vs 5870 vs 68(9)70 vs 7970 vs R9 290 now that would be a true 5 generation comparison.
  13. Footlong

    Footlong TS Booster Posts: 79   +38

    Power goes up and up! Hope AMD can stop this.
  14. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,264

    The 4870, like all R700 series cards doesn't support DirectX11, so a direct comparison isn't possible.
    Still solid performers. My old Crossfired XFX 5850 Black Editions are still giving sterling service with their current owners, as are my three old Sapphire 5850 Toxic's (2GB).
  15. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,869   +2,038

    Did you read the review and as DBZ pointed out it isn't even possible to use the 4870 :S

    JONVIGO TS Rookie

    If only amd driver was simple and clean, I hate amd because of their stupid driver installation which could corrupt windows registry
  17. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +903

    Great article, very informative and a nice addition for GTX comparison.

    So far the main bottleneck in current tech is power consumption and generated heat, so it's expected to get that down in the future.
  18. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,147   +915

    You say that but the rumoured "AMD R9 390x" GPU supposedly eats well over 300 watts. If these rumours turn out to be true, I hope the performance gain is substantial, especially when you look at what Nvidia pulled off with it's 980, that thing eats considerably less than a 780 while beats it in pretty much every gamer orientated way.
  19. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +903

    In the "Future" not next months, and through processes they've been able to keep power consumption vs heating controlled.

    Again, I was talking about the "FUTURE" because of "current tech" bottleneck. Never said that the NEXT CARD brought by AMD or Nvidia was going to rock world's tech.
  20. Dragonstongue

    Dragonstongue TS Rookie

    I read the review, but I understand kind of, if the 4870 cannot do DX11 which is fine, run other cards in DX10 if need be so at least there IS a true 5 generations spread, 7970Ghz is not a different generation, so maybe 4 generation compared would be better to show, 280x would also be better compared so to me if possible, 5870-6950-7950-280x some such thing, as in the ones that directly replaced or the closest performance, tdp, power use type deal?

    As for 300watt, NO that's TDP and generally AMD is quite conservative in regard to power consumption, the WHOLE of 7000 series used the rated TDP generally only under VERY heavy loads or in some cases overclocked, where Nvidia on the other had tends to use right on the neck of its ratings, the new Nvidia cards have all kinds of fancy tech to try and avoid such things, but facts remain, AMD does tend to use its ratings better and has for a very long time compared to Nvidia both in absolute terms as well as proper power use(pci-e and bus are part of this and many Nvidia cards over the years mis-used the allowable spec per connector and over the slot) anyways, if AMD top card will be TDP 300 that's only 10w more then 290x A and B will be MUCH faster pure spec wise, so 10w is not asking much considering this.
  21. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,869   +2,038

    That defeats the entire purpose of such an article, it if makes you feel better just call it 4 generations of Radeon GPUs.

    This is a little funny ;) You want different generation cards so you propose using the 280X which for some reason would be better and that the 7950 should be included alongside it, that’s funny. In case you missed the joke the 280X is a re-badged 7970 GHz Edition so you are really saying we should have included the 7950 and 7970 GHz Edition.

    The fact that you have proposed testing the 5870-6950-7950-280x makes it clear you are missing the point of this article.

    As for all the talk about TDP ratings the proof is already out there. The 290X consumed 50% more power in Thief than the GTX 980. Granted the TDP rating of the 290X is 75% higher what you should be focusing on is the first result, real-world gaming. Also note that the GTX 980 is 2% faster than the R9 290X in Thief at 2560x1600.
    Kibaruk and Burty117 like this.
  22. dr4go

    dr4go TS Rookie

    Regarding the power consumption it would also have been nice to compare the idle usage of the graphics cards.
  23. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 2,869   +2,038

    Don't think it would have been as exciting as you imagine since the numbers would pretty much all be the same.
    dr4go and Kibaruk like this.
  24. EnesK

    EnesK TS Rookie

    I am really surprised that 5870 can run games at 768p without aa and max detail, that is really nice.

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