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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  • prophet001 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    This looks like a sweet card. Certainly ATI is taking control of the market.

    One question though...

    What happened to the Hydra by Lucid Logix? I haven't heard anything about it in a while. Theoretically, the Hydra should take 2 ATI cards and make them perform better than Crossfire can.

    Any news?
    Reply
  • tamalero - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    there as been reviews of HYDRA already, what planet are you on?
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    1) No need to be a douche.

    2) No Hydra 200 products have shipped, all current "reviews" have been done using Lucid's development hardware.

    3) It appears that Hydra will not work well with dual GPU cards; it will see only one of the GPUs.

    4) Early results show that Hydra offers roughly equal performance overall to Crossfire/SLI.

    5) Link to one of the better articles I've read:
    http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=815">http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=815
    Reply
  • driver01z - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Wow - so we have a card now that plays the latest Crysis at 2560*1600, 4XAA with details at a smooth playable FPS. IMHO I believe we've entered a new GPU generation. Or new compared to the capabilities I'm used to. Reply
  • rcpratt - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Is there some way to set up a dual-monitor setup (2 x 1920x1080) to run in horizontal span mode (3840 x 1080), like you do with your three monitors, without an Eyefinity card? I'm currently running with a 4870 and haven't been able to find a way to do this. Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    I haven't tried but you should be able to do this easily, using catalyst. There's an option there to flip your screens for horizontal/vertical views and duplicate/extend your screens. That should do it for you.

    I haven't use the flip feature but I use the extend all the time because I'm hooked up to my tv.
    Reply
  • rcpratt - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    I've spent hours trying to find a way to do it with Catalyst, and I can't find one. Right now it's on extend, which just leaves the secondary monitor as the desktop, with no taskbar on the bottom, and leaves me unable to play games at 3840x1080.

    If anybody has an explanation or idea, I'd appreciate it.
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    To put it simple, no it's not supported. The only way you'll be able to use the second screen is with games that are explicitly coded to support dual screens (Supreme Commander?).

    Your only other option is to use a Matrox multimon device (forgot the name) or an EyeFinity card of course. No NVIDIA card will allow this either, it's not a driver issue.

    Either way, 2 screens wouldn't be a nice experience anyway, with the big bezel right in the middle, I can't imagine any type of game where that would work (no FPS, RTS, RPG, racing game, ...)
    Reply
  • rcpratt - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    That's what I was afraid of. Thanks. And yeah, I wasn't planning on playing with 2 monitors, but I was considering getting a third. Oh well, probably better that I can't blow the cash :) Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    On the same topic, does anyone know why my dual screen setup resets after PC restarts/shutdowns? In addition, I HAVE to select duplicate first, set it and then switch to extend. Selecting extend first doesn't enable it. Using current driver but this was there with previous versions as well.

    I've Googled and read many forums but haven't encountered many users having this particular issue. This is consistent in XP, Vista and Win7 as far as I can remember.

    4870 with Dell 30" and Samsumg 73" 1080P TV. Temperatures around 56C for video card. If you have any tips I appreciate them. Thanks in advance.
    Reply

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