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Despite the decent power consumption claims, AMD was at pains to point out that the HD 5970 has plenty of headroom for overclocking. As well as the chips themselves already being 'underclocked', the scope for boosting performance is aided by particularly high quality power management circuitry and the new cooler that AMD has employed. The latter uses a vapour chamber (essentially a flat heatpipe) to contact directly with the chips, with a conventional aluminium fin arrangement on top of this to dissipate the heat. This vapour chamber, and the rest of the cooling system, can actually cope with up to 400W of thermal dissipation.
AMD also pointed out that OEMs will have the option to use two 8-pin power connectors and significantly overclock its cards to sell at a premium. It will be some time before such cards arrive though.
As a consequence of the new cooling system, AMD has had to change its output configuration from the 'two dual-link DVIs, DisplayPort (DP), and HDMI' configuration we've seen on all previous 5000 series cards. Instead, one full slot of the output panel is given up to exhausting the card's heat and the other slot is home to two dual-link DVI ports and a mini-DP. Before getting too upset, though, remember that you could only use three of the four outputs at any one time on the other cards anyway. Furthermore, with DVI to HDMI and mini-DP to full-size-DP converters in the box, you'll still have all the various output configurations available in some form or other. The DVI/HDMI also supports digital audio output over HDMI like all previous AMD cards.
A first for this card is that it will support AMD's new Eyefinity multi-display technology, something that previous CrossFire setups couldn't do. This means you'll be able to game on three monitors at once with a total resolution of up to 7,680 x 1,600. Currently just 22 games are supported but this will of course increase over time. Meanwhile Eyefinity support will find its way to conventional Crossfire setups at the start of next year.
So, that's how the card stacks up physically and in terms of features but the real question as always is how does it perform? Read on to find out.