I’m a curious person who likes doing a lot of thinking and analysis of things. And after yesterday’s revelation of an unannounced ATI FirePro M5800 card, I’ve been thinking… which consumer ATI card would be the mysterious workstation-class FirePro M5800 be based on? The answer, I suspect, lies with HP and their Elitebook 8540w. See, their current Elitebook 8540w makes available two Nvidia Quadro graphics options: the 512 MB Quadro FX880M and 1 GB Quadro FX1800M. Both are 40 nm chipsets. All of ATI’s new Mobility Radeon 5000 series graphics cards are based on the 40 nm process, plus the fact that ATI (with their recent reputation of coming out with all the good stuff) is very unlikely to use their “old” 4000-series designs for a new product… first part solved – the FirePro M5800 will be based off a card in the 5000-series.
Now, which specific card in the ATI Mobility Radeon 5000 series? The Nvidia Quadro card options for the Elitebook 8540w have bandwidth figures of 25.6 to 31.2 GB/s and TDP values of 35W and 45W respectively. So the ATI FirePro M5800 card HP has chosen should sit with specifications somewhere near those ranges. Also, the Nvidia Quadro FX1800M is a DDR3/GDDR5 card. So at first guess, one would probably suspect the ATI Mobility Radeon 5470 as the “base” of the new FirePro card, but no… it has a lower minimum bandwidth (12.8 GB/s) and significantly lower TDP (13W-15W) than the Nvidia cards.
Under the fairly accurate assumption that HP would like to keep power consumption/heat output/TDP similar to Nvidia’s cards, so to get the most out of the Elitebook 8540w’s design, the ATI FirePro M5800 will likely (with high probability) be based off the ATI Mobility Radeon 5850. The Mobility Radeon 5850 ticks all the boxes for being the perfect candidate for creating a workstation-class graphics card which matches/bests Nvidia’s top offering (FX1800M) for 15 inch notebooks – bandwidth (28.8-64 GB/s), DDR3/GDDR5, manufacturing process, TDP (30-39 W) and all are a closer match than any other graphics card that ATI has. So I’m almost 99% certain this will be it – the FirePro M5800 will be based off the ATI Mobility Radeon 5850, and time will tell if my guess is correct.