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AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 - AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


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.


November 18, 2009, 11:43 pm

that poor motherboard...


November 19, 2009, 12:00 am

FYI - Looks like the page numbering has gone a bit funny here, guys.


November 19, 2009, 2:08 am

@Tobeman: Not sure what you mean?

tom 6

November 19, 2009, 3:36 am

you have messed up the comparison table the third column has the wrong figures in the wrong places.


November 19, 2009, 5:24 am

Thanks for including noise tests - looks like the Nvidia cards are a fair bit louder when idle.


November 19, 2009, 2:25 pm

@tom: Thanks, I've updated it now.

George 13

November 19, 2009, 5:09 pm

From your graphs I can see that the ati HD 4870 X2 matches and even outperforms GTX 295 in some cases. Is this due to new drivers from ati?


November 19, 2009, 5:18 pm

@George: Not especially, it's long competed with the GTX 295 in our tests. There is a great deal of variation between games, though. Something that's particularly well demonstrated comparing Far Cry 2 to Crysis.

George 13

November 19, 2009, 10:45 pm

Thanks Ed. What is great though is the gain of 31fps in the 2560x1600 4xAA at Call of Duty, since the last test.


November 19, 2009, 10:54 pm

Yeah, obviously performance is going to have improved since over a year ago when that card was brand new.


December 4, 2009, 4:39 am

You gave a £500 graphics card a 7 for value. Are you kidding me! At university 70% is a first, the highest grade boundary you can get! That would be a B at A level, but you give it to the most expensive piece of equipment on the market!? This is insanity.


December 4, 2009, 9:51 am

@Kaiser202 - I completely understand where you're coming from on both accounts. In defence I'll say that value isn't the same as affordability. We feel this card has exceptional performance and is therefore reasonably justified in its premium price.

That said I also feel quite strongly about the notion of scoring. In my personal opinion 5 means average and I'd certainly like to see our scores adjusted to represent that. The problem is it would create a massive inconsistency with our back catalogue of 1000s of reviews over the years so it may not be feasible. After all, the world would decimalise time if it were remotely practical!


December 5, 2009, 7:59 pm

@ Gordon

I understand, but then maybe the best response would be to completely revamp the ratings system. Have a different approach to other websites as well, maybe a graded system (like school A*-F) or a class based system with quirky names to indicate levels of awesomeness (for example, Editors choice you already have, but lower grade ones like, Wallet Buster for the 'inexpensive but good' reviews and 'PowerHouse' or 'Bragging rights' for something like this graphics card that costs about the same as the computer I built 2 years ago (that still plays most games at 1920x1200) for the expensive but awesome things.

This way you could avoid inconsistency. Hope this is enlightening, I look forward to seeing the whole website change based on my recommendations! :P


December 5, 2009, 10:48 pm

@Kaiser202 - quite possibly ;) We've discussed these and many more. Scrapping all scores apart from an overall could well be the answer. Either way, many changes are coming in 2010!

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