Radeon HD 5970 Single card and Crossfire review -
Final Words and Verdict
Well my fellow guru's make no mistake, don't even doubt that ATI hasn't build the fastest graphics card in the world. Man, is ATI on a winning streak alright, this is already their fifth DX11 class product. We do hope this card fits in your chassis though! Man this fracker is long. If you even remotely opt this card, please make sure you have enough clearance inside that PC. Most ATX big-towers chassis will not have an issue with the length but you'd be wise to check anyway -- remember 30cm / 12 in.
The Radeon HD 5970 in every foreseeable way, is a truly appetizing graphics card, scrumptious, delicous like icing on a cake. It's a challenging one though, as you could easily run into some sort of bottleneck if you do not have your gear right. Whether that is your CPU or simply the game itself responsible for that makes no difference, the 5970 often will sit on it's cute toosh as the card is way ahead of it's time. The reality is a little controversial, games do not need this much brute horsepower, anno 2009. On the not too long term new games and hopefully some more DX11 titles will arrive allowing the 5970 to go for the kill, the 'maximum attack'. Until then, some of the 'older' games will be CPU limited. See, having a fast CPU with a setup like the one used today still makes your frame rates fly, yet the GPUs stall as the CPU can't process the datasets it needs to provide the graphics driver any faster. This often happens with somewhat older titles as we have seen with Fallout 3 for example. In such scenario's yes, it's hard to justify the Radeon HD 5970.
Once we startup newer titles like HAWX, Resident Evil 5, Anno 1404 with a proper and demanding 3D game engine we see the 5970 haul major ass and kick in nicely -- exactly what we like to see.
Now the Radeon HD 5970 without doubt is the fastest card on the planet. I however was surprised how well NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 295 still can keep up, but obviously the 5970 is superior. NVIDIA did their homework when they released the GTX 295 a year ago. Seen from a larger point of view, overall and especially with the newer game titles, the Radeon HD 5970 starts to dominate. And with future game titles, things will only get better.
Also bare in mind that the Radeon HD 5970 comes with full DirectX 11 support meaning your are future proof for 2010/2011/2012 with a card of this caliber. And then next to all that brute rendering and compute horsepower you obviously will get some additional lovin in the form of Eyefinity as well. You could hook up three monitors to this card, create a big wide resolution and game on it. The new driver now shows multi-GPU Eyefinity support for a good number of titles. More and more games will hopefully be added with future driver releases.
Stability wise we've seen no rare or weird issues. We've had no crashes and all games tested ran properly, also image quality is just great. The one thing I always need to remind you guys of though, are driver game profiles. For a game to properly use two GPUs there needs to be a profile for it in the driver. This means, with a new game you'll have to wait on ATI to release their monthly driver, or a hotfix. This is now the second consecutive year that I am asking ATI to insert user based profiles in their drivers. A design that allows users to at the very least try and create a profile themselves when that new game launches.
Drivers wise we did stumble into the fact that the 5970 was a slightly slower than two 5850's in CrossfireX here and there. A little weird yes, but we do feel the drivers are not fully optimized to get the most performance out of the 5970. But we're talking 1 maybe 2% differentials and offsets here -- really marginal.
Power consumption -- Now we know that nearing 300 Watts for a graphics card is pretty insane. Bare in mind though that for a card of this caliber with 3200 Shader processors and 4.3B transistors we also understand that it really could have been much worse. The 294W TDP is a peak wattage, so only when you are gaming with both GPUs stressed 100% you are consuming that power. Overall and on average that power consumption will be lower, much lower. We definitely liked to see the IDLE power consumption. Roughly 40 Watts, that's 15~20 Watt less than your average DX10 mid-range dedicated graphics card. Very good but most of all, important stuff.
Overclocking -- we can't leave it out can we. If you stick to regular overclocking you'll likely squeeze roughly 800 MHz out of the core. However, pickup the latest version of MSI's AfterBurner. We pumped 1.3 Volts into the GPU, took it towards 900 MHz -- then clocked the memory towards 4800 MHz and we had smooth sailing with even more performance. There's definitely a lot of overclocking potential in this card, some of you might reach 1 GHz on the coreclock we feel.
Now, for those of you that would like to purchase this card, you'll need to be aware of a couple of things. First off, you'll need 599 USD / 539 EUR in hardcore cash in order to purchase the card. IMO that's 100 USD above what I find acceptable -- so yes, I do find the card very expensive. But I know that won't stop the true aficionados. Secondly, your PC should form a proper symbiosis with a card like this. Meaning, match your components accordingly. We really recommend a Core i5 / i7 based platform or AMD 790 Chipset with Phenom II X4 class 955 or 965 BE processor preferably overclocked to get the most out of your graphics experience.
Third requirement -- you need to play your game at a monitor resolution of 1920x1080 or higher, as that's where the card's performance really shows and shines.
Today we tested the HIS Radeon HD 5970 LE with 2048 MB of gDDR5 memory. It's a tremendous card with a lot of stature -- no doubt about it. HIS tops off their bundle with an iClear card which cleans up and filters the PCie bus for a sharp strong signal, then you'll receive a coupon for Colin McRAE Dirt 2 -- a superb DX11 title.
Then HIS adds their handy 7-in-1 Toolkit with multipurpose screwdriver, duster and LED light and then there's the regular kit including power connector cables, the mini- DisplayPort converter, HDMI adapter and Crossfire bridge. It really is an outstanding product bundle which will sweeten up the hefty price tag on the Radeon HD 5970.
We certainly have much respect for what HIS is offering here. The HIS Radeon HD 5970 LE 2048 MB has top-notch build quality and is a leading product and as such comes very much recommended -- we'll award this product with out "Top Pick" award as that really is a great piece of hardware wuth excellent bundle. HIS had to move mountains to get the sample here in time for the launch, which we thank them for very much. Please give them a visit on their website.
Alright let me stop the conclusion, as I can write on and on about high-tech gear like this.
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Bottom line: price aside and remarks being said -- we adore the Radeon HD 5970. It's the fastest and most versatile single graphics card on the planet. The new king is here, all hail the Radeon HD 5970. If you can't afford it, you'll at the very least respect it -- very much. ATI was right about calling it Hemlock, its a poisonous and addictive product.
Keep an eye on Guru3D as we still owe you an overclocking article, and sure .. we'll check out more Radeon HD 5970 CrossfireX performance soon as well.
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