Some time has passed since AMD’s graphics department introduced the fourth generation of Radeon HD graphics cards. AMD has been doing great through all this time. It has been winning back the ground it had lost to Nvidia previously, the attack unfolding on every front. Such a long chain of victories seems to be unprecedented in the world of consumer 3D graphics hardware and it must have been the result of a properly chosen strategy.
The point of that strategy should be familiar to you if you are interested in PC games and gaming hardware. While Nvidia focused on developing an expensive and complex G200 core, AMD preferred to look for a reasonable compromise between the manufacturing cost and performance, producing the RV770 processor. The outcome was that Nvidia’s 1.4-billion-transistor chip with a 512-bit memory bus proved to be ahead of its time and economically unprofitable whereas AMD’s Radeon HD 4800 series was a real breakthrough and set a new standard for performance of affordable single-processor gaming graphics cards.
AMD did not forget about enthusiasts who wanted to get maximum performance whatever the price and introduced the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. This dual-processor card remained the world’s fastest for a long time until it was beaten by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 295. The latter card, being a dual-processor solution too, had all the drawbacks of the G200 architecture, though, and even multiplied them by 2. Thus, it was an extremely expensive product with low availability.
The recent arrival of the fifth generation of ATI Radeon HD cards has showed that AMD’s graphics department is still pursuing the same strategy. Following it, they first introduced the RV870 Cypress processor and high-performance single-processor cards based on it: Radeon HD 5870 and HD 5850. The HD 5870 even proved to be competitive to dual-processor solutions of the previous generation (see this review for details). Thus, AMD repeated its technological feat and once again set a new milestone in performance of high-performance, yet affordable, single-processor gaming cards. Then, the entry-level Radeon HD 5700 series was introduced, based on a specially developed RV830 Juniper chip, a simplified version of the Cypress. Although the Radeon HD 5770 could not match the Radeon HD 4890, its price was a mere $159.
And now it is time for ATI to roll out its heavy weapon codenamed Hemlock, the successor to the famous Radeon HD 4870 X2. Will it be able to carry on the glorious tradition of its predecessor and raise the performance bar higher in the premium sector? Judging by what we know about the capabilities of a single RV870, we have nearly no doubt of that, but our rule is to check every theoretical supposition in practice. So, let’s check out the new ATI Radeon HD 5970, too!