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

  • Zool - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    So yes. The answer is that the gpu is doing less work with vsync than without it.(dam still no edit button) Reply
  • Yojimbo - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    The plural for a casting/shaping instrument "die" is "dies" not "dice." Reply
  • Lennie - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    I am going to post this again here. Thought it may not get noticed since I posted it first as a reply in previous pages. Hope I wont hurt anyones feelings :)

    I thought everyone knew about Furmark and ATi by now. It used to be like this on 4870 series too.

    It went like this, at first there were few reports of 4870(X2) cards dying when running Furmak. Further investigation showed that it was indeed Furmark causing VRM's to heat up to insane levels and eventually killing them. Word reached ATi from that point on ATi intentionally throttles their card when detecting Furmark to prevent the damage.

    Yeah in fact the amount of heat load Furmak puts on VRMs is unrealistic and no game is able to heat up the VRMs to the level Furmark does. OCCT used the same method (or maybe even integrated Furmark) to test for stability (in their own opinion ofc)

    So beware about Furmark and OCCT if you have HD4K or 5K.

    The term "Hardware Virus" is rightfully applicable to Furmark when it comes to HD4K (and 5K perhaps)
    Reply
  • Lennie - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    I want to add that VRM overheating is quite tricky, since normally people only check on GPU temps.

    When you run Furmark you would notice that GPU temps are in acceptable range while at the same time your VRM's are cooking without you knowing about it.

    So remember to always check your VRM temps when running graphics stability tests like Furmark or OCCT's graphics test specially when you're overclocking the card.

    I use Riva or Everest to check on VRM temps.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    The temp reading that is displayed by Everest is an averaged figure. The junction temp of the slaves is the critical issue. Even though the average temp may appear to be within bounds, there is the possibility that one of the slaves may be running abnormally. Volterra keep their specifications under NDA. What I do know is that the general configuration if one slave shuts down is that the remaining slaves take the load. The result is not usually pretty. I think ATI may have implemented throttling to prevent the kind of burnouts users experienced running OCCT GPU tests on the last gen.

    Personally, I think the 3 phase Volterra solution used on the 5970's is right on the hilt for current draw (circa 135 amps per GPU). I'd wait for non reference solutions with enhanced power delivery if you plan on overclocking this card long term or plan to stress it heavily when OC'd).

    Later
    Raja

    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    I should add that I'm assuming ATI used the biggest Volterra slaves rated at 45 amps each and not the 35/40 amp varieties. Reply
  • thebeastie - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Any one that has a clue is buying a proper case like the Storm Sniper Black Edition and fitting this with heaps of space to spare.
    Also I recommend a case with positive or at least neutral are flow.
    The storm sniper has a dust filter on its 20cm side fan to push more air in and aid in the GPU fans air flow that will go out the back of the cards vent holes at the DVI ports.
    Reply
  • at80eighty - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Plan on getting one of these in another 7-8 months - The way I see it, despite being bleeding edge - ATI has a deadlock winner in this card and will produce only limited quantities so I'm kind of 'worried' about the availability & price down the line Reply
  • Silverforce11 - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Wait til the end of December. Apparently the yeilds of cyrpress are going to be improved a lot then, so the prices will either remain the same or be lower a bit.

    However, since nV has nothing real for a long time, i dont foresee a drop in prices on ATI parts. Given the estimates, NV will have fermi out in april 2010, but not in significant quantities for a while after that. Im gonna grab a 5970 around xmas. :)
    Reply
  • at80eighty - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Dude I hate you already :p I just bought a 5750 - I dont have the necessary components that would not bottleneck the 5970, so I'm going to have to wait a while. plus the whole 3 new monitors thing for the Eyefinity Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now