AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 - Conclusions

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


Looking first at Far Cry 2, the HD 5970 starts with a healthy lead over the competition and maintains it throughout, pulling further and further ahead until, at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4xAA, it has nearly a 50 per cent lead over its nearest rival, the GTX 295. Of course, the thing to note here is that it's only at this sort of resolution that all the other cards on test don't deliver very playable framerates, so unless you have a monitor with such a resolution this card is going to be overkill.

It's a very similar picture in Crysis, though rather than the HD 4870 X2 being the most consistent nearest rival, it is now the GTX 295. The performance advantage of the HD 5970 is also felt earlier on with most of the other cards struggling to deliver playable framerates at 1,920 x 1,200, 4xAA. The HD 5970 struggles a little at 2,560 x 1,600 but will still give just playable results. It also holds a significant 20 per cent advantage over its nearest rival at this resolution.

Moving onto less demanding games and we find ourselves in the situation where all cards on test deliver playable framerates even at 2,560 x 1,600, 4xAA. Still, with the HD5970 outperforming its nearest rival in Race Driver: GRID by some 42 per cent and by 43 per cent in Call Of Duty 4 when testing at 2,560 x 1,600 4xAA, this card is certainly proving to have astonishing levels of performance.

The final game we test is Counter-Strike: Source and because all these cards give such good performance, it's actually the CPU/rest of the system that is holding performance back. As such we've only shown the 2,560 x 1,600 results. Here, most of the other cards begin to become the bottleneck and performance drops just a tad. However, the HD 5970 is still completely CPU-limited even at the highest setting, such is its processing power.

Looking now at power consumption and astonishingly, despite being such a fast card, the HD 5970 isn't the most power hungry card on test. That said, the two cards that do beat it are the previous generation dual-chip cards, so that's not surprising. Regardless, the total system power figures of 143W at idle and 330W under load aren't in the realms of the ridiculous.

The HD 5970 also performed well in our noise tests, producing no more noise than its single-chip cousin, the HD 5870, and significantly less than either the GTX 295 or GTX 285 when idling. Under load it does get pretty loud, though, and is only outstripped by the HD 4870 X2, which is a particularly noisy card. Essentially, you'll want to be wearing headphones or employing some serious sound-proofing when gaming with this card.

So, all told, the HD 5970 is an impressive card. It has absolutely bags of performance, has all the latest features, consumes a not horrific amount of power, and when idling it's not too noisy either. However, there is one rather important factor yet to consider, price. Currently retailing for an eye-watering £519.98, this is the most expensive graphics card we've seen in years. As such, we find it impossible to recommend for anyone with a single monitor as the HD 5870 delivers enough performance in the majority of games and will save you £200.

However, taking into account Eyefinity, the HD 5970 starts to make sense. Even three relatively small monitors will give a total resolution exceeding that of a single 30-incher (2,560 x 1,600) so that extra performance will start to be of tangible benefit. And let's face it, if you can afford to be buying three monitors just for a better gaming experience then spending £500 on a graphics card is something you'll certainly consider.


The AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 is without doubt the single fastest graphics card on the planet. However, if you own a single monitor then it's simply overkill and the HD 5870 is a much more sensible option. If you're interested in pursuing a multi-monitor gaming setup, though, then this is a card well worth considering.


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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