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Looking more closely at the card itself, this is one of the longest graphics cards AMD has ever produced, coming in at 284mm. While this is bad enough in itself, what makes it worse is that the some of the extra length comes from the red vents on the back that don't actually appear to do anything. We appreciate AMD's attempts to make its card look a bit different but we'd rather it didn't come at the expense of practicality.
Elsewhere the card looks pretty familiar with the usual CrossFire connectors on the top edge and radial fan based cooling solution. However, there are a couple of notable changes.
The first thing to note is the drop in the number of extra power connectors. Instead of the 1x8-pin and 1x6-pin required by the HD 4890 and HD 4870 X2, the HD 5870 needs just 2x6-pin adapters. These means the card will be compatible with many more power supplies.
The other noticeable change is in the display output configuration. Instead of the familiar 2xDVI and 1xanalogue 9-pin DIN connectors, this card has four digital outputs; 2xDVI, 1x HDMI, and 1xDisplayPort. Before you get too excited, though, only three of these can be run at any one time and one of the three must be the DisplayPort. Still, when using 2xDVI and 1xDisplayPort you can at least run three thirty-inch monitors at once, which is sure to impress the ladies. There will also be a card that sport six DisplayPort connections for the ultimate in single-card, multi-monitor configurations.
As a result of the change in outputs, the exhaust of the card has had to be changed as well. With one DVI socket covering half the area that is normally given up for exhausting hot air, AMD has had to resort to venting some of the hot air out the top of the card, where it will flow back into your case. While we never like to have hot air being blown back into PC cases, considering how cool this card runs, it's not half as much of a problem as we may have expected.
This coolness is due mostly to the change in manufacturing process and it also explains the change in power configuration mentioned above. The smaller transistors simply require less power to run at the same speed, thus they produce less heat. This explains the drop in maximum board power as compared to the HD 4870 but it's down to some tweaking of the chip's circuitry that AMD has also significantly reduced power when the card is idling. AMD quotes idle power consumption of just 27W, which is less than half that of previous gen cards, so you're wasting less power when the card isn't being used for anything too taxing.