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
POST A COMMENT

114 Comments

View All Comments

  • GourdFreeMan - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    Having not bought MW2, I can say conversely that the lack of differentiation between console and PC features hurts game sales. According to news reports, in the UK PC sales of MW2 account for less than 3% of all sales. This is neither representative of the PC share of the gaming market (which should be ~25% of all "next-gen" sales based on quarterly reports of revenue from publishers), nor the size of the install base of modern graphics cards capable of running MW2 at a decent frame rate (which should be close to the size of the entire console market based on JPR figures). Admittedly the UK has a proportionately larger console share than the US or Germany, but I can't image MW2 sales of the PC version are much better globally.

    I am sure executives will be eager to blame piracy for the lack of PC sales, but their target market knows better...
    Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    [quote]Unfortunately, since playing MW2, my question is: are there enough games that are sufficiently superior on the PC to justify the inital expense and power usage of this card? Maybe thats where eyefinity for AMD and PhysX for nVidia come in: they at least differentiate the PC experience from the console.
    I hate to say it, but to me there just do not seem to be enough games optimized for the PC to justify the price and power usage of this card, that is unless one has money to burn.[/quote]

    Yes this is exactly my thoughts. They can tout DX11, fancy schmancy eyefinity, physx, everything except free lunch and it doesn't change the fact that the lineup for PC gaming is bland at best. It sucks, I love gaming on PC but it's pretty much a dead end at this time. No thanks to every 12 year old who curses at you on XBox Live.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    My main reason to want this card would be to drive my 30" LCDs. I have two Dell's already and will get another one early next year. I don't actually play games much but I like having the desktop space for my work.

    -VM's at higher resolution
    -more open windows without switching too much
    -watch movie(s) while working
    -bigger font size but maintaining the aspect ratio of programs :)

    Currently have my main on one 30" and to my 73" TV. TV is only 1080P so space is a bit limited. Plus working on the TV sucks big time :/
    Reply
  • shaolin95 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    I am glad ATI is able to keep competing as that helps keep prices at a "decent" level.
    Still, for all of you so amazed by eyefinity, do yourselves a favor and try 3D vision with a big screen DLP then you will laugh at what you thought was cool and "3D" before.
    You can have 100 monitors but it is still just a flat world....time to join REAL 3D gaming guys!
    Reply
  • Carnildo - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Back in college, I was the administrator for a CAVE system. It's a cube ten feet on a side, with displays on all surfaces. Combine that with head tracking, hand tracking, shutter glasses, and surround sound, and you've got a fully immersive 3D environment.

    It's designed for 3D visualization of large datasets, but people have 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.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    But Ryan, I feel you might need to edit a couple of your comparison comments between the 295 and this new card. Based on the comments in a several previous articles quite a few readers do not look at (or understand) the charts and instead rely on the commentary below the charts. Here's some examples:

    "Meanwhile the GTX 295 sees the first of many falls here. It falls behind the 5970 by 30%-40%. The 5870 gave it a run for its money, so this is no surprise."

    This one for Stalker is clear and concise. I'd recommend you repeat this format for the rest of the games.

    "As for the GTX 295, the lead is only 20%. This is one of the better scenarios for the GTX 295."

    This comment was for Battleforge and IMO is confusing. To someone not reading the chart it could be viewed as saying the 295 has a 20% advantage. Again I'd stick with your Stalker comment.

    "HAWX hasn’t yet reached a CPU ceiling, but it still gets incredibly high numbers. Overclocking the card gets 14% more, and the GTX 295 performance advantage is 26%."

    Again, this could be seen as the 295 being 26% faster.

    "Meanwhile overclocking the 5970 is good for another 9%, and the GTX 295 gap is 37%."

    This one is less confusing as it doesn't mention an advantage but should just mention 37% slower.


    Finally I think you made a typo in the conclusion where you said this:

    "Overclock your 5970 to 5870 speeds if you can bear the extra power/heat/noise, but don’t expect 5970CF results."


    I think you meant 5870CF results...


    Overall, though, the article is really interesting as we've finally hit a performance bottleneck that is not so easily overcome (due to power draw and ATX specifications). I'm very pleased, however, that you mention first in the comments that this truly is a card meant for multi-monitor setups only, and even then, may be bottlenecked by design. The 5870 single card setup is almost overkill for a single display, and even then most people are not gaming on >24" monitors.

    I've said it for the past 2 generations of cards but we've pretty much maxed out the need for faster cards (for GAMING purposes). Unless we start getting some super-hi res goggles that are reasonably priced, there just isn't much further to go due to display limitations. I mean honestly are those slightly fuzzy shadows worth the crazy perforamnce hit on a FPS? I honestly am having a VERY difficult time seeing a difference in the first set of pictures of the soldier's helmet. The pictures are taken slightly off angle from each other and even then I don't see what the arrow is pointing at. And if I can't see a significant difference in a STILL shot, how the heck am I to see a difference in-game!?

    OK enough rant, thanks for the review. :)
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the edits, I've made some corrections for Ryan that will hopefully make the statements more clear.

    I agree that the need for a faster GPU on the desktop is definitely minimized today. However I do believe in the "if you build it, they will come" philosophy. At some point, the amount of power you can get in a single GPU will be great enough that someone has to take advantage of it. Although we may need more of a paradigm shift to really bring about that sort of change. I wonder if Larrabee's programming model is all we'll need or if there's more necessary...

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Thank you for the edits and the reply Anand.

    One of the main things I'd like to see GPU drivers implement is an artificial framerate cap option. These >100fps results in several of the tests at insane resolutions are not only pointless, but add unneccesary heat and stress to the system. Drop back down to normal resolutions that >90% of people have and it becomes even more wasteful to render 150fps.

    I always enable V-sync in my games for my LCD (75Hz), but I don't know if this is actually throttling the gpu to not render greater than 75fps. My hunch is in the background it's rendering to its max but only showing on the screen the Hz limitation.
    Reply
  • Zool - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    I tryed out full screen furmark with vsync on and off (in 640*480) and the diference was 7 degre celsius. I have a custom cooler on the 4850 and a 20cm side fan on the case so thats quite lot. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the reply Zool, I was hoping that was the case. So it seems like if I ensure vsync is on I'm at least limiting the gpu to only displaying the refresh rate of the LCD. Awesome! Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now