Summary

Our Score

8/10

Review Price free/subscription

We tested this card in the usual way, whereby we added it to our reference system, the details of which are below, then ran a series of gaming benchmarks. With the exception of Counter-Strike: Source (CSS) and Crysis, the 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. All results are repeated to check for consistancy and the average of the results is recorded. For Crysis, all ingame detail settings are set to High while all the other games are run at their highest possible graphical settings.

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 5870

* AMD ATI HD 4870 X2

* AMD ATI HD 4890

* nVidia GeForce GTX 295

* nVidia GeForce GTX 285

Drivers

* AMD ATI HD 5870 - 5870 driver 21st Sept version.

* 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

The HD 5870 puts in an impressive performance, comfortably beating its predecessor and generally matching the HD 4870 X2, though the latter consistently pulls away slightly at the highest resolutions and AA settings. The only real competition from nVidia is the GTX 295 where again the dual-chip card generally pulls away slightly at the highest resolutions. All told, though, the HD 5870 performs impressively, at least for its price. If you were looking to upgrade from your HD 4870 X2 or GTX 295 then the lack of outright performance may be something of a disapointment but, as mentioned earlier, AMD will no doubt follow this card up shortly with a dual-chip version for the ultimate in performance. Obvisouly we can't actually test arguably the most important feature of this card; DirectX 11 performance, because there aren't any DirectX11 games yet so we'll just have to wait and see on that front.

Next we tested power draw using a plug-in meter that measures the total system power. Just as AMD claimed, this card has seriously impressive power consumption figures, bettering both the GTX 285 and HD 4870 at idle and under load.

Looking at this card as a purchase, with prices for the GTX 285 and HD 4870 X2 hovering around the £300 mark still, and the GTX 295 demanding £350+, the HD 5870 certainly offers better value right now. However, as an upgrade, from any of these cards, well there's just not enough there. DirectX 11 games are still a long way off and performance is not improved enough to bother. Moreover, with the HD 5850 costing £100 less than its bigger brother yet (at least theoretically) offering 80 per cent of the performance, that card looks set to be the bargain of the moment. We'll give you the full lowdown on that card, though, when we review it shortly.

Verdict

The AMD HD 5870 is an impressive graphics card, marrying top class performance (just) with low power consumption, support for upcoming DirectX 11 games, and a good price. But if you have a current generation high-end card, there's not enough reason to upgrade.

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smc8788

October 6, 2009, 4:25 am

I think it may be time to drop Counter-Strike from the games test list. Over 100FPS at 2560*1600 with 4x AA, even on last generation hardware, could be called excessive even for CS addicts ;)

betelgeus

October 6, 2009, 5:15 am

it would be nice if you stated quality settings on the benchmarks,you have the 5870 trouncing the gtx 295 in far cry 2,yet in all others reviews ive read the 295 scores higher.

Tommy K

October 6, 2009, 4:01 pm

surely ther overall should be 9 as if you add up the 3 columns you get an average of 9?

Luan Bach

October 6, 2009, 4:02 pm

The features table image has the Frame Buffer and Memory Bandwidth data transposed for the GTX285.

Jay4d0

October 6, 2009, 7:10 pm

@ betelgeus: they do page 4

guy

October 6, 2009, 7:24 pm

Why is the noise level of the cooling fans does not get a mention?





For me, the noise level is a major factor in choosing a new graphics card. I know this new generation card runs cooler than the previous generation due to the smaller and more efficient manufacturing process, but does this equal a quieter fan? Nothing worse than a card immitating a hair dryer.

Malderon

October 7, 2009, 12:28 am

I dont understand why when the card consumes alot less power and runs alot cooler than previous high end cards is it so... massive.





I remember I got my 2900XT on release day ( /sigh at people who actually bet on the 8800GTX horse) i was amazed at how massive it was, but then you realized the heat it produced and understood why.





I have a fairly roomy case, but the biggest case in the world wouldnt stop this monstrosity from hitting my southbridge heatsink.





AMD looks like they have DX11 in the bag though. GT300 looks inefficient, late, and poor real world performance. I'll just wait a little though, something like a 5830 or 5770 for me with a smaller footprint.

smc8788

October 7, 2009, 1:40 am

@ Malderon - The size of the card has nothing to do with the amount heat it produces; there's a lot more stuff they've got to fit on the PCB than just the GPU, it isn't just wasted space.





Also, where are you getting you information on GT300? AFAIK, nVidia are still at the testing stages with early production samples and haven't even decided on clock speeds yet, which is why they're so late and also why any reports on performance are most likely wrong. Besides, the talk coming out of nVidia is that Fermi will be faster than Cypress, which will almost certainly be the case in the GPGPU stakes, although for gaming that remains to be seen, not least because nVidia aren't talking about it to anyone. While this may just be marketing guff, it would be quite embarrassing for them if it turns out it's not true.





Oh, and I think you'll find that the 5850 is a good deal shorter than the last generation of high-end cards, and almost exactly the same length as your 'huge' 2900XT at ~9.5":





http://images.anandtech.com/re...

Pbryanw

October 7, 2009, 5:54 am

@guy - agree about noise levels, though they've been mixed messages on this front for the 5870.





AnandTech said "At 64 dB it’s louder than everything other than the GTX 295 and a pair of 5870s. Hopefully this is something that the card manufacturers can improve on later on with custom coolers"





While The Tech Report said "The 5870 has best-in-class acoustics at idle and the second-lowest noise level under load."





So, I'd be interested in TR's take on this.

Ed

October 7, 2009, 12:34 pm

I basically ran out of time so haven't done noise level testing yet. I should have time this afternnon to take a look so I'll update the review if I get that done.

jm3da

October 7, 2009, 9:55 pm

It scored 10, 9 and 8 = 27/3 = 9. Why 8 overall?????

Gordon394

October 7, 2009, 10:51 pm

@jm - because scores are not an average ;)

Don Kanonjii

October 8, 2009, 3:00 pm

I agree about changing the gaming benchmarks, especially with this new generation of hardware. Need to run stuff that is crippling not because it is poorly optimised but because of the level of detail etc. Crysis still fits this bill though.

Ed

October 8, 2009, 3:03 pm

For these high end cards, i totally agree, but I keep running CSS becuase it's a popular game and becuase it's still a challenge for low end cards. I also find it an interesting reference point as only running the latest games gives a skewed impression of overall perforamnce.

Ed

October 24, 2009, 5:13 pm

Please note, I've now added sound level results to this review.

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