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.
* 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
* AMD ATI HD 5870
* AMD ATI HD 4870 X2
* AMD ATI HD 4890
* nVidia GeForce GTX 295
* nVidia GeForce GTX 285
* AMD ATI HD 5870 - 5870 driver 21st Sept version.
* Other ATI cards - Catalyst 9.9
* nVidia cards - 190.02
* Far Cry 2
* 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.
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.