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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

Radeon HD 5870 versus 5770
and three other GPUs

Posted Monday, August 30th, 2010, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

Wondering whether to opt for the Radeon HD 5870 for your 2010 Mac Pro or settle for the Radeon HD 5770? Should you keep your Radeon HD 4870 or GeForce GTX 285 you bought last year? We put together both game and "serious" graphics benchmarks to help answer those questions.

NEWS FLASH: Radeon HD 5870 kit status became "Ships: Within 24hrs" on November 12th, 2010, on Apple Store USA.

Portal (Full Version) was tested with these settings: Full Screen, 2560x1600
Model Detail = High, Texture Detail = High, Shader Detail = High
Water Detail = Reflect All, Shadow Detail = High, Color Correction = Enabled
Antialiasing Mode =
4X MSAA, Filtering Mode = Anisotropy 4X
Vertical Sync = Disabled, Motion Blur = Enabled
(The Radeon HD 4870 refused to run any Steam games on the 6-core Westmere.)

World of Warcraft was tested Full Screen 2560x1600 and 4X MSAA with Ultra Quality. (Our "Narache Villiage Totem to Tree Sprint" emphasizes GPU over CPU.)

X-Plane 9.61 Demo was tested at 2560x1600, 4x Aniso, 2x MSAA, all advanced options enabled.

OpenGL Extensions Viewer was tested at 2560x1600, 4x MSAA, 8x Aniso, Fog, Transparency. The graph shows the results for the OpenGL 2.0 Extension.

For Apple's Motion 4 we did a "RAM Preview > Play Range" of the Blocks-Detail.HD Template. We calculated frames per second by dividing the 900 frames by the time in seconds. Though Motion is not multi-core aware, it does hand off rendering of certain visual effects to the GPU.

SmallLuxGPU is the best OpenCL tester we have at the moment. It has five different tests you can run. We raytraced the GlassTable model scene using "GPU only" interactive mode. The render window displays thousands of samples per second at the bottom.

NOTE: Notice we included the Quadro FX 4800 in the non-game tests. Test "mule" was the Apple 6-core Westmere 3.33GHz Mac Pro.

As expected, the Radeon HD 5870 was the fastest. Compared to the Radeon HD 5770, it was 49% faster running Portal, 100% faster running OpenGL Extensions Viewer, and 60% faster running SmallLuxGPU OpenCL benchmark.

If you already own a Radeon HD 4870, there's very little reason to upgrade to the 5770 kit Apple is selling, as you can see from the performance. If you are ordering a 2010 Mac Pro, I still think it's worth the extra $200 to get the 5870 CTO option -- unless you need to drive six displays or plan to use CrossFire under Windows 7 (Boot Camp) with two 5770s. But I digress.

The GeForce GTX 285 is no longer being sold. If you already have one, you can feel good about the fact that it came in second in all but one test (Motion). So you might think twice before you pay $449 for the Radeon HD 5870 kit for your pre-2010 Mac Pro.

You can still order the Quadro FX 4800 for $1800 from the Apple Store (or $1680 at OWC) but the Radeon HD 5870 looks like a much better buy for overall graphics intensive needs. That's not to say that certain applications benefit from its 1.5GB of GDDR3 video memory but you certainly don't want to pay that much for faster gaming -- which would be a double mistake since it was so slow running games, I didn't want to embarrass it by publishing the results in the game graphs.

Finally, as you have seen from previous articles, the Radeon HD 5870 works fine on the 2006 Mac Pro we tested as well as the 2008 and 2009 Mac Pros we tested. Today we are off to PowerMax to try the 5770 on the 2006 Mac Pro. So stay tuned.

Speaking of the 2006 Mac Pro, if you have one with a Radeon X1900 XT or GeForce 8800 GT and a display that supports 1920x1200, we have some tests we'd like you to run. Send email to , mad scientist. (Follow me on Twitter @barefeats)

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copyright 2010 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"