Meet The 5970

To cool the beast, AMD has stepped up the cooler from a solid copper block to a vapor chamber design, which offers slightly better performance for large surface area needs. Vapor chambers (which are effectively flat heatpipes) have largely been popularized by Sapphire, who uses them on their Vapor-X and other high-end series cards. This is the first time we’ve seen a vapor chamber cooler on a stock card. AMD tells us this cooler is design to keep up with 400W of thermal dissipation.

With the need for such a cooler, AMD has finally parted with their standard 5000 series port configuration in order to afford a full slot to vent hot air. In place of the 2xDVI + HDMI + DisplayPort configuration, we have 2xDVI + MiniDisplayPort, all on one slot. MDP was just approved by the VESA last week, and is identical to DisplayPort in features, the only difference is that it’s smaller. This allows AMD to continue offering Eyefinity support, and it also conviently solves any questions of how to plug 3 monitors in, as there are now only as many DVI-type ports as there are available TMDS encoder pairs.

Finally, as dual-GPU cards are always bigger than their single-GPU brethren, and the 5970 is no exception to this rule. However the 5970 really drives this point home, being the largest video card we’ve ever tested. The PCB is 11.5” long, and with the overhang of the cooling shroud, that becomes 12.16” (309mm). This puts it well past our previous record holder, the 5870, and even father ahead of dual-GPU designs like the 4870X2 and GTX 295, both of which were 10.5”. The only way to describe the 5970 is “ridiculously long”.

With such a long card, there are going to be some definite fitting issues on smaller cases. For our testing we use a Thermaltake Speedo case, which is itself an oversized case. We ended up having to remove the adjustable fan used to cool the PCIe slots in order to make the 5970 fit. On a smaller and more popular case like the Antec P182, we had to remove the upper hard drive cage completely in order to fit the card.

In both cases we were able to fit the card, but it required some modification to get there, and this we suspect is going to be a common story. AMD tells us that the full ATX spec calls for 13.3” of room for PCIe cards, and while we haven’t been able to find written confirmation of this, this seems to be correct. Full size towers should be able to accept the card, and some mid size towers should too depending on what’s behind the PEG slot. However – and it’s going to be impossible to stress this enough – if you’re in the market for this card, check your case

GTX 295, 5970, 5870, 5850, 5770

On a final note, while the ATX spec may call for 13.3”, we hope that we don’t see cards this big; in fact we’d like to not see cards this big. Such a length is long enough that it precludes running a fan immediately behind the video card on many cases, and quite frankly at a 294W TDP, this card is hot enough that we’d feel a lot better if we had a fan there to better feed air to the card.

Index 40nm Supply Redux


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  • Lennie - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    If so, then one could suspect it's the same issue with games due to VRMs of this particular card getting heated up and throttling the card. Perhaps not enough contact between VRM and HSF or a complete lack of TIM on VRM by accident. I would have reseated the HSF if I owned that card. Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    I suspect it is VRM/heat related. The 'biggest' slaves Volterra currently supply are rated at 45 amps each afaik. Assuming ATI used the 45 amp slaves (which they must have), you've got around 135 amps on tap. Do the math for OCP or any related throttling effects kicking in. Essentially, 1.10VGPU puts you at 150w per GPU before things either shut down or need to be throttled (depends on how it's implemented as it nears peak). Any which way you look at it, ATI have used a high end VRM solution, but 4 slaves per GPU would have given a bit more leeway on some cards. I wonder what the variance is in terms of leakage from card to card as well. Seeing as there's not much current overhead in the VRM (or at least there does not appear to be), a small change in leakage would be enough to stop some cards from doing too much in terms of overclocking on the stock cooler.

  • Silverforce11 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    It could be your PSU, some "single rail" PSU arent in fact using a single rail but several rails with a max limit on AMPs. Its deceptive.

    Guru3D uses 1200W PSU and manages 900 core, which is typically what a 5870 OC to on air. Essentially the chips are higher quality cypress, maybe you should retry it again with a different PSU then conclusions can be drawn.
  • Bolas - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Yep, there is certainly a market for 5970CF. Can't wait! Reply
  • tajmahal - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Big deal, another paper launch where only a tiny handful of people will be able to get one. Reply
  • LedHed - Tuesday, November 24, 2009 - link

    My question is why do the OC the 5970 but not the 295...

    We all know the 295 is memory bottlenecked at resolutions at/over 2560x1600

    But considering the GTX 295 is down below $450 and no one can find these cards in stock with a god awful price of $600 ($100 more than 295 at launch).
  • mschira - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    newegg list 5 different models, they come and go quite fast.
    I managed to get one of them in my shopping card.
    All it would need now is pay. (which I don't want to...).
    So yea they are not exactly easy to get, but far from impossible.
    So not a paper launch.
    Be real, it's day two after the launch, and you CAN get them. That's not bad at all.
  • MrPickins - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    At the moment, Newegg shows two different 5970's in stock. A HIS and a Powercolor. Reply
  • tajmahal - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Listed, but not available. I guess newegg sold both of the ones they had available, and the 5850 and 5870 ?......... not available either. Reply
  • Silverforce11 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Plenty of 5870s around at retails and etailers, what do you mean by "another paper launch"?

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