ATI Radeon HD 5870: DirectX 11, Eyefinity, And Serious Speed

Multimedia: Mostly The Same, Plus High-Def Audio

With all of the hardware resource-doubling, DirectX 11-adding, and Eyefinity business going on inside of Cypress, it’s hardly a surprise that nothing has changed, as far as hardware is concerned, in what the GPU can do with regard to video playback. The Radeon HD 5870 continues to boast ATI’s Universal Video Decoder 2.

As you already know, this includes a number of post-processing capabilities, like an advanced temporal de-interlacing algorithm, inverse telecine (pulldown detection), upscaling, dynamic contrast adjustment (though we’ve been critical of image-altering technologies like this in the past), and noise reduction. UVD2 also enables full decode acceleration of MPEG-2-, VC-1-, and H.264-encoded video. It’s able to offload two 1080p video streams simultaneously, enabling the picture-in-picture acceleration seen on previous-generation cards by compositing one image over the other in the GPU’s shaders.

But even though RV790 features 800 shaders, composition efficiency concerns made it necessary to disable Windows’ Aero user interface any time a Blu-ray disc was played back (this wasn’t an issue with standard-definition content). Now, ATI is saying that Cypress supports playback of Blu-ray content (again, even dual-streams) without having to turn off Aero, thanks to the dramatic increase in shader compute performance. Specifically, the number of HD composition passes has been reduced in the shaders, alleviating the load.

By default, this is disabled in PowerDVD 9 as a performance consideration. However, if you enter the settings and configuration menu (this is in the preview build), click the Blu-ray tab, hit the Advanced button, and uncheck the option to exit the Aero interface upon playback, this works perfectly.

Could A Graphics Card Kill HTPC-Oriented Sound Cards?

Much more exciting for home theater enthusiasts, however, is ATI’s claim that with this generation’s hardware it has a protected audio path in place. As you have no doubt read from our previous attempts at setting up the perfect Windows 7-based HTPC, we’ve only tested one product able to bitstream Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio from a Blu-ray disc to your stereo receiver over HDMI: Asus’ Xonar HDAV 1.3. We have Auzentech’s X-Fi HomeTheater HD in the lab as well, and the general consensus seems to be that is an even better solution. But the point is that up until now, there were only a couple of sound cards enabling this capability.

The next best thing would be decoding those two high-def formats in software and outputting uncompressed multi-channel LPCM audio. The issue here is that today’s software players are not allowed to send anything better than CD-quality audio to the receiver (16-bit, up to 48 kHz) due to the AACS, so if you’re watching/listening to something like The Police: Certifiable (24-bit, 96 kHz), you’re not getting bit-for-bit fidelity.

Currently, the caveat is that a claimed protected audio path alone isn’t enough. A company like CyberLink has to work with the IHV to make sure it won’t make the lossless stream vulnerable over a user-accessible bus. Fortunately, ATI already has a driver that enables this (it’s certainly beta, given the install procedure) over HDMI 1.3a connections.

But the software isn’t quite ready. We received a beta build of PowerDVD 9 put together at the last minute to preview this functionality in action, but pass-through of TrueHD and DTS-HD simply wasn’t working with our Onkyo TX-SR507 receiver (though I've spoken with colleagues who've had no trouble getting bitstreaming to work). The good news is that this isn’t a capability way off on the horizon, though. ATI and CyberLink are working on it right now, and we’d expect support to be shored up in days or weeks rather than months. And that’s fine with us—most HTPC enthusiasts won’t be putting a large dual-slot graphics card in their theater room. This functionality will really come into its own when the Juniper-, Redwood-, and Cedar-based variants emerge later this year and in 2010.

Create a new thread in the UK Article comments forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
Comment from the forums
    Your comment
  • Anonymous
    anyone seen these in the uk?
  • jimishtar
    now this is someting. cant wait to see what nvidia will come up with.
  • jimishtar
    does this mean that the prices of existing 48xx cards will go down?
  • siunit
    They are scheduled for release on the 25th in the UK according to major online retailers expected stock date.
  • cyber_jockey
    My god the 4870x2 finally got a rival
  • Anonymous
    Smooth gaming again!?!? YAY
  • plasmastorm
    available for pre order on now £320
  • ainarssems
    All those connectors are nice but first thing I thought when I first saw pictures was there is not enough vents on the backto cool that card properly. Hopefully some board partners will come up with versions with full PCI slot cooling. Eyfinity looks better, but all I need is two DVI connectors one for monitor and other for projector.

    Now lets see what Nvidia brings out, lets hope something competitive in performance and price. I hope prices drop by Cristhmas to £200-259 for 5870
  • ainarssems
    At guru3d they overclocked to 925 core/ 5400 memory could not go further because of temp problems. I wonder what would they do with better cooling. 1GHZ/6GHz?...Now that would be sweet.Link:
  • atomdrift
    ainarssemsAll those connectors are nice but first thing I thought when I first saw pictures was there is not enough vents on the backto cool that card properly. Hopefully some board partners will come up with versions with full PCI slot cooling.

    Anandtech addressed this concern in their review: "As far as the 5870 is concerned, this is solid proof that the half-slot exhaust vent isn’t going to cause any issues with cooling."
  • atomdrift
    Here's the source link to the above quotation.
  • ainarssems
    I have seen Anandtech's article, however they did hit 100C and started to throtle in /crossfire on Toms review and Guru3d temps limited overclocking so there is room for improvement in cooling.

    Also I wonder if 2GB version would perform better at high resolutions with AA
  • jcwbnimble
    No Crossfire? Really? What was ATI thinking releasing a top of the line video card that can't support a major feature set? One of the major selling points is that you can run 3 displays off this one card, yet you need to Crossfire two of these to get playable frame rates. Problem, you can't Crossfire these cards (yet?).

    They should have dispensed with the third video connection in favor of extra ventilation, which it sounds like this card needs. If users are so gung ho about running 3 or more dispays, then wait for the Eyefinity card.

    Glad to see ATI releasing a product that puts a boot up Nvidia's arse, but they shouldn't have released it without solving the Crossfire issue.
  • ainarssems
    Must be mistake. Check benchmarks, they include crossfire results so it is working. They probably had the cards for some while for testing and started writing article and drivers did not support crossfire at the start and does support now. They just forgot to edit part of the article where it says that it does not support crossfire.
  • shrex
    any word on when the 5670 is gonna come out
  • deepblue69uk
    Yes, try
  • chockimon
    £320 ouch, what a rip off and no Physx. I think this time round Nvidia's mid range card, the GTX360 will trounce all over this card from a great height.
  • wikkus
    chockimon£320 ouch, what a rip off and no Physx. I think this time round Nvidia's mid range card, the GTX360 will trounce all over this card from a great height.

    Wow, 8 minutes before the first fanboi commentard...

    As someone who holds allegiance with neither vendor -- both have a place in our house -- this looks great from a stirring-up the market perspective.