Conclusion

There are two things that become very clear when looking at our data for the 5970

  1. It’s hands down the fastest single card on the market
  2. It’s so fast that it’s wasted on a single monitor

AMD made a good choice in enabling Crossfire Eyefinity for the 5970, as they have made a card so fast that it basically shoots past everything on the market that isn’t Crysis. All of our action games that aren’t CPU limited do better than 100fps at 2560x1600, and RTSs are doing just under 60fps. The 5970 is without a doubt Overkill (with a capital O) on a single monitor. This will likely change for future games (i.e. STALKER), but on today’s games it’s more power than is necessary to drive even the largest single monitor. The 5970 still offers a good performance boost over the 5870 even with a single monitor, but with the 5870’s outstanding performance, it’s not $200 better.

So that leaves us with Eyefinity. So long as GPUs are outpacing games, AMD needs something to burn up extra performance to give faster cards a purpose, and that’s Eyefinity. Eyefinity is a strain - even 3 smaller monitors can result in more pixels being pushed than a single 2560. Having Crossfire Eyefinity support gives an AMD card the breathing room it needs to offer Eyefinity at playable framerates across a wider spectrum of monitors and games. Given the price of 3 20”+ monitors is going to approach if not exceed the $600 price of the card, the 5970 is the perfect match for Eyefinity gaming at this time.

When AMD originally told us about this card, I was surprised to see that they slapped only a $600 price tag on it. As the fastest of the fast cards, AMD can basically charge up to 2x the price of a 5870 for it, and they didn’t. After seeing the performance data, I understand why. In our benchmarks the 5970 is practically tied with the 5850CF, and a pair of such cards would sell for $600 at this time. I still expect that we’re going to see a performance gap emerge between the cards (particularly if the 5970 is held back by drivers) but right now the $600 price tag is appropriate.

What this does call into question though is what’s better to have: a pair of 5800 series cards, or a 5970. If we assume that the 5970 is equal to a 5850CF in performance and in price, then the differences come down to 3 matters: Heat/noise, power, and Crossfire Eyefinity. The 5970 enjoys lower power usage and it doesn’t need a power supply with 4 PCIe plugs, but the cost is that by compacting this into one card it’s hotter and louder than a 5850CF (which really, is true for all dual-GPU cards). The biggest advantage to the 5970 right now is that it’s the only card to support Crossfire Eyefinity, which means it’s the only card to even consider if you are going to use Eyefinity right now. Ultimately if you can run 2 cards and only will be driving a single monitor, go with the 5850CF, otherwise go with the 5970. And if it’s 2010 and you’re reading this article, check and see if AMD has enabled Crossfire Eyefinity for the 5850CF.

Next, we’re left with the prospects of overclocking the 5970. Only one of our two cards even runs at 5870 speeds (850MHz/1200MHz), and while we're willing to entertain the idea that our 1 cranky card is a fluke, we can't ignore the fact that none of our cards can run a real application at 5870 speeds without throttling. Ultimately our experience with the working card has called into question whether the VRMs on the card are up to the task. Since this is a protection mechanism there’s no risk of damage, but it also means that the card is underperforming. Overclock your 5970 to 5870 speeds if you can bear the extra power/heat/noise, but don’t expect 5870CF results.

Last, that leaves us with the 5870CF, and the 5970CF. Thanks to VRM throttling, there’s still a place in this world for the 5870CF. For a 2-GPU setup, it’s still the best way to go, but keep in mind it comes at a $200 premium and lacks Crossfire Eyefinity support. Meanwhile with the 5970CF, while we didn’t get a chance to test it today, we can safely say that it’s entirely unnecessary for a single-monitor setup. There’s a market out there for $1200 in video cards, but you had better be running 3 30” monitors in Eyefinity mode to make use of it.

Power, Temperature, & Noise
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  • kilkennycat - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    Er, have you noticed the "Not in Stock" or "Pre-order" when you have gone to order one. You might get a 5850, but try finding a 5870 without having to psy a jacked-up premium over MSRP. Best of luck. Reply
  • mrdaddyman - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Since the 5870 seems to be in such great supply, I would like for someone to post a link where I can actually buy one of these. I have been trying to buy one for a month and haven't been able to find one. Reply
  • rennya - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    Does it has to be online?

    Here, I have many options for 58xx and 57xx models in retail stores. Which is more applicable for me because Newegg doesn't ship to my place.

    Well, if you insist of finding online links, plenty of them at http://flaturl.com/eb0">http://flaturl.com/eb0 or http://flaturl.com/YmU">http://flaturl.com/YmU or http://flaturl.com/pAU">http://flaturl.com/pAU or http://flaturl.com/q15">http://flaturl.com/q15 or http://flaturl.com/5av">http://flaturl.com/5av and many more.

    These are just some of the sellers in my place who sells those so-called mythical ATI cards online (doesn't include the gazillions others sold in retail). You may want to argue that they won't ship to you in United States, but then again the likes of NewEgg doesn't ship here too.

    If you are desperate enough, I can help you obtain one of those cards. Want to take the offer?
    Reply
  • Alexstarfire - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    And this is the 5970 that we are talking about. Not the same thing. Reply
  • MamiyaOtaru - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    by saying "another paper launch" you were implying that the previous launches were paper. So you were talking about the 5870. As they are and have been available, they were not paper launches. So even if the 5970 is a paper launch (it isn't) you can't very well call it another one Reply
  • tajmahal - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    No link yet for the 5850 or the 5870? That's a surprise. Reply
  • lloyd dd - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    would using 3 monitors in portrait orientation sort out the aspect ratio in eyefinity? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    It would be closer. 4800x2560 would end up at a 1.875 AR, compared to 1.78 for 16:9 and 1.6 for 16:10. I think that 16:9 content stretched to fill 4800x2560 should look fine (about the same as 16:10 stretched to fill a 16:9 monitor).

    Of course, the more difficult question is how to put three 30" LCDs into portrait mode. You would need a different base stand -- none of the 30" LCDs I've seen allow you to rotate the display into portrait mode, probably because the LCDs are two feet wide.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Hey Jarred,

    Why not be inventive, and make a stand to hold 3 x 30" LCDs ? I do not mean you specifically of course, but whomever would want to have one. It really is not that difficult . . . just a little planning, and the ability to work with steel ( heavy ) or quality aluminum. Now if someone did not have the skills to make brackets etc, they could even draw something up, give it to a local fabricator, and be on their merry way . . .

    Personally, I like the first option mainly because I enjoy working with materials as such ( metals, wood, plastics, etc ). Not to mention the fact that it can cost far less doing it yourself.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    I understand it's entirely possible. My point is merely that it's yet another expense. I don't think 3x30" with EyeFinity is going to be anything but a very, *VERY* niche product. LOL.

    5970 = $600
    3 x 30" = $3000 (minimum)
    3 x Stands = $120 to $600

    So besides having the money, you need the space (and possibly time). I'd say $4000+ just for the GPU and LCDs is where the costs start, and naturally you would want a killer system (i7-920 with overclocking, or i7-975). But hey, you want the best of the best, there you have it. Until the next big thing comes along.

    Speaking of which, what about 30" LCDs with 120Hz and 3D Vision? LOL.... (No, I'm not saying that's out or coming soon, but it could be.)
    Reply

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