AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 - Test Setup

By Edward Chester



Our Score:


We tested this card on our usual test bench, the details of which are below. We ran five games to test for performance then checked total system power consumption and noise levels both when idling and gaming. As always we ran our tests multiple times to try and ensure consistent figures then record the average.

With the exception of Counter-Strike: Source (CSS) and Crysis, the gaming results are recorded manually using FRAPs while we repeatedly play the same section of the game. For CSS and Crysis we use timedemos and framerate recording is automated. For Crysis, all in-game detail settings are set to High while all the other games are run at their highest possible graphical settings.

Meanwhile, power draw testing is done using a mains inline power meter. The idle figure is taken when the system is simply on the Windows Desktop with no obvious background activity going on. The load test is then taken when running our Crysis timedemo at 1,920 x 1,200 with 2xAA. Likewise, noise levels are tested using the same idle and load scenarios as above. We isolate the test bed in a sound-proof box and record noise levels from about 30cm away.

We find that below about 40dB is indicative of a card that when housed in a conventional case will go unnoticed in a relatively quiet home office environment. For use in a 'silent' PC (for in the bedroom or cinema room) without resorting to sound-proofing your case, you'll want a card that's lower than 35dB at idle. As for under load, above about 50dB is a constantly noticeable level that would disturb you if using speakers or open-back headphones while gaming.

Test System

* Intel Core i7 965 Extreme Edition

* Asus P6T motherboard

* 3 x 1GB Qimonda IMSH1GU03A1F1C-10F PC3-8500 DDR3 RAM

* 150GB Western Digital Raptor

* Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit

Cards Tested

* AMD ATI HD 5970

* AMD ATI HD 5870

* AMD ATI HD 4870 X2

* nVidia GeForce GTX 295

* nVidia GeForce GTX 285


* AMD HD 5970 - Hemlock beta driver 8.663.1

* Other AMD ATI HD 5000 series - 5000 driver

* Other ATI cards - Catalyst 9.9

* nVidia cards - 190.02

Games Tested

* Far Cry 2

* Crysis

* Race Driver: GRID

* Call of Duty 4

* Counter-Strike: Source


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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