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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  • Paladin1211 - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    To be precise, anything above the monitor refresh rate is not going to be recognizable. Mine maxed out at 60Hz 1920x1200. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    Thanks :)
    Reply
  • noquarter - Saturday, November 21, 2009 - link

    If you read AnandTech's 'Triple Buffering: Why We Love It' article, there is a very slight advantage at more than 60fps even though the display is only running at ~60Hz. If the GPU finishes rendering a frame immediately after the display refresh then that frame will be 16ms stale by the time the display shows it as it won't have the next one ready in time. If someone started coming around the corner while that frame is stale it'd be 32ms (stale frame then fresh frame) before the first indicator showed up. This is simplified as with v-sync off you'll just get torn frames but the idea is still there.

    To me, it's not a big deal, but if you're looking at a person with quick reaction speed of 180ms, 32ms of waiting for frames to catch up could be significant I guess. If you increase the fps past 60 you're more likely to have a fresh frame rendered right before each display refresh.
    Reply
  • T2k - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    Seriously: is he no more...? :D Reply
  • XeroG1 - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    OK, so seriously, did you really take a $600 video card and benchmark Crysis Warhead without turning it all the way up? The chart says "Gamer Quality + Enthusiast Shaders". I'm wondering if that's really how you guys benchmarked it, or if the chart is just off. But if not, the claim "Crysis hasn’t quite fallen yet, but it’s very close" seems a little odd, given that you still don't have all the settings turned all the way up.

    Incidentally, I'm running a GeForce 9800 GTX (not plus) and a Core2Duo E8550, and I play Warhead at all settings enthusiast, no AA, at 1600x900. At those settings, it's playable for me. People constantly complain about performance on that title, but really if you just turn down the resolution, it scales pretty well and still looks better than anything else on the market IMHO.
    Reply
  • XeroG1 - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    Er, oops - that was supposed to say "E8500", not "E8550", since there is no 8550. Reply
  • mapesdhs - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link


    Carnildo writes:
    > ... I was the administrator for a CAVE system. ...

    Ditto! :D


    > ... ported a number of 3D shooters to the platform. You haven't
    > lived until you've seen a life-sized opponent come around the
    > corner and start blasting away at you.

    Indeed, Quake2 is amazing in a CAVE, especially with both the player
    and the gun separately motion tracking - crouch behind a wall and be
    able to stick your arm up to fire over the wall - awesome! But more
    than anything as you say, it's the 3D effect which makes the experience.

    As for surround-vision in general... Eyefinity? Ha! THIS is what
    you want:

    http://www.sgidepot.co.uk/misc/lockheed_cave.jpg">http://www.sgidepot.co.uk/misc/lockheed_cave.jpg

    270 degree wraparound, 6-channel CAVE (Lockheed flight sim).

    I have an SGI VHS demo of it somewhere, must dig it out sometime.


    Oh, YouTube has some movies of people playing Quake2 in CAVE
    systems. The only movie I have of me in the CAVE I ran was
    a piece taken of my using COVISE visualisation software:

    http://www.sgidepot.co.uk/misc/iancovise.avi">http://www.sgidepot.co.uk/misc/iancovise.avi

    Naturally, filming a CAVE in this way merely shows a double-image.


    Re people commenting on GPU power now exceeding the demands for
    a single display...

    What I've long wanted to see in games is proper modelling of
    volumetric effects such as water, snow, ice, fire, mud, rain, etc.
    Couldn't all this excess GPU power be channeled into ways of better
    representing such things? It would be so cool to be able to have
    genuinely new effects in games such as naturally flowing lava, or
    an avalanche, or a flood, tidal wave, storm, landslide, etc. By this
    I mean it being done so that how the substance behaves is governed
    by the environment in a natural way (physics), not hard coded. So far,
    anything like this is just simulated - objects involved are not
    physically modelled and don't interact in any real way. Rain is
    a good example - it never accumulates, flows, etc. Snow has weight,
    flowing water can make things move, knock you over, etc.

    One other thing occurs to me: perhaps we're approaching a point
    where a single CPU is just not enough to handle what is now possible
    at the top-end of gaming. To move them beyond just having ever higher
    resolutions, maybe one CPU with more & more cores isn't going to
    work that well. Could there ever be a market for high-end PC
    gaming with 2-socket mbds? I do not mean XEON mbds as used for
    servers though. Just thoughts...

    Ian.

    Reply
  • gorgid - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    WITH THEIR CARDS ASUS PROVIDES THE SOFTWARE WHERE YOU CAN ADJUST CORE AND MEMORY VOLTAGES. YOU CAN ADJUST CORE VOLTAGE UP TO 1.4V

    READ THAT:
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php...">http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/sho...cd1d6d10...

    I ORDERED ONE FROM HERE:

    http://www.provantage.com/asus-eah5970g2dis2gd5a~7...">http://www.provantage.com/asus-eah5970g2dis2gd5a~7...


    Reply
  • K1rkl4nd - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Am I the only one waiting for TI to come out with a 3x3 grid of 1080p DLPs? You'd think if they can wedge ~2.2 million mini-mirrors on a chip, they should be able to scale that up to a native 5760x3240. Then they could buddy up with Dell and sell it as an Alienware premium package of display + computer capable of using it. Reply
  • skrewler2 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    When can we see benchmarks of 2x 5970 in CF? Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    "This means that it’s not just a bit quieter to sound meters, but it really comes across that way to human ears too"

    Have you considered using the dBA filter rather then just raw dB? dBA is weighted to measure the tones that the human ear is most sensitive to, so noise-oriented sites like SPCR use dBA instead.
    Reply

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