Radeon HD 5870 Review

Graphics cards 1022 Page 13 of 27 Published by


Setup | Noise | Power consumption | Heat levels

Hardware installation

Installation of the product really is easy. Once the card is installed and seated into the PC we now connect two 6-pin power connectors to the graphics card. And yes... do make sure your power supply is compatible.

You can now turn on your PC, boot into Windows, install the latest ATI Catalyst driver and after a reboot all should be working. No further configuration is required or needed.

Radeon HD 5870The two 6-pin power connector headers -- you need to connect them both.

Energy consumption

We'll now show you some tests we have done on overall power consumption of the PC. Looking at it from a performance versus wattage point of view, the power consumption is pretty good for a product of this caliber, according to ATI the 5870 has a TDP of 188 Watts.

The methodology is simple: We have a device constantly monitoring the power draw from the PC. After we have run all our tests and benchmarks we look at the recorded maximum peak; and that's the bulls-eye you need to observe as the power peak is extremely important. Bear in mind that you are not looking at the power consumption of the graphics card, but the consumption of the entire PC.

Our test system is a power hungry Core i7 965 / X58 based and overclocked to 3.75 GHz. Next to that we have energy saving functions disabled for this motherboard and processor (to ensure consistent benchmark results).

Our ASUS motherboard also allows adding power phases for stability, which we enabled as well. I'd say on average we are using roughly 50 to 100 Watts more than a standard PC due to these settings and then add the CPU overclock, water-cooling, additional cold cathode lights etc.

Keep that in mind. Our normal system power consumption is much higher than your average system.

  • System in IDLE = 169 Watts
  • System with GPU in FULL Stress = 358 Watts

The monitoring device is reporting a maximum system wattage peak at roughly 350~400 Watts, and for a PC with this high-end card, this is simply low and certainly remains within acceptable levels.

The IDLE wattage is very okay, the card is clocking down massively, resulting in an all time low power consumption (for our test PC). We'll show you that in a graph in a minute.

So here's my power supply recommendation:

Radeon HD 5870

  • The card requires you to have a 500 Watt power supply unit at minimum if you use it in a high-end system. That power supply needs to have (in total accumulated) at least 40 Amps available on the +12 volts rails.

Radeon HD 5870 CrossfireX

  • A second card requires you to add another 188 Watts. You need a 700+ Watt power supply unit if you use it in a high-end system. That power supply needs to have (in total accumulated) at least 55~60 Amps available on the +12 volts rails. 

For each card that you add, add another 200 Watts as a safety margin.

There are many good PSUs out there, please do have a look at our many PSU reviews as we have loads of recommended PSUs for you to check out in there. What would happen if your PSU can't cope with the load?:

  • bad 3D performance
  • crashing games
  • spontaneous reset or imminent shutdown of the  PC
  • freezing during gameplay
  • PSU overload can cause it to break down

The core temperature

Let's have a look at the temperatures this huge cooler offers.


We now fire off a hefty shader application at the GPU and start monitoring temperature behavior as it would be when you are gaming intensely and continuously, we literally stress the GPU 100% here as you can see in the graph. We measured at a room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius.

Now we report at two stages the GPU(s) in IDLE and under stress:

Here's what we get returned:

Radeon HD 5870 35~40 77

As you can see we get very respectable temperatures returned. When the card is clocked down and idling we see a temperature of roughly 42 degrees C (95F). And when we completely stress out the GPU 100% for a while, temperatures rise towards roughly 77 degrees C (170 F). You know what, that's okay.

But is the cooler very loud then?

Noise Levels coming from the graphics card

When graphics cards produce a lot of heat, usually that heat needs to be transported away from the hot core as fast as possible. Often you'll see massive active fan solutions that can indeed get rid of the heat, yet all the fans these days make the PC a noisy son of a gun. I'm doing a little try out today with noise monitoring, so basically the test we do is extremely subjective. We bought a certified dBA meter and will start measuring how many dBA originate from the PC. Why is this subjective you ask? Well, there is always noise in the background, from the streets, from the HD, PSU fan etc etc, so this is by a mile or two not a precise measurement. You could only achieve objective measurement in a sound test chamber.

The human hearing system has different sensitivities at different frequencies. This means that the perception of noise is not at all equal at every frequency. Noise with significant measured levels (in dB) at high or low frequencies will not be as annoying as it would be when its energy is concentrated in the middle frequencies. In other words, the measured noise levels in dB will not reflect the actual human perception of the loudness of the noise. That's why we measure the dBA level. A specific circuit is added to the sound level meter to correct its reading in regard to this concept. This reading is the noise level in dBA. The letter A is added to indicate the correction that was made in the measurement. Frequencies below 1kHz and above 6kHz are attenuated, where as frequencies between 1kHz and 6kHz are amplified by the A weighting.

Jet takeoff (200 feet) 120 dBA  
Construction Site 110 dBA  Intolerable
Shout (5 feet) 100 dBA  
Heavy truck (50 feet)  90 dBA  Very noisy
Urban street  80 dBA  
Automobile interior  70 dBA  Noisy
Normal conversation (3 feet)  60 dBA  
Office, classroom  50 dBA  Moderate
Living room  40 dBA  
Bedroom at night  30 dBA  Quiet
Broadcast studio  20 dBA  
Rustling leaves  10 dBA  Barely audible

The noise levels coming from the card paint a different picture. I'm not really thrilled about it. At IDLE you'll have no problem with the card whatsoever as noise levels remain under 40 dBA.

Once the GPU starts to heat up the fan RPM will go up as well. The card however remains steady at roughly 42 dBA which really is a very normal noise level. Not annoying at all. So that's good as well.

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