Author: Chris Barry
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, December 9th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/asus_5970/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Once upon a time there was a videocard that surpassed all others. It was powerful, and could crush any game thrown at it. Every opposing card was shadowed by it's greatness. The card I speak of is the GTX 295, however, it's reign of terror has come to an end. There is a new beast that crushes everything in it's path, and this time it's from the red team. I'm of course referring to ATI's new 5970.
So exactly what is the 5970? Is it just 100 better then the 5870? As many of you know, ATI has created a new way of naming dual videocards. 59XX denotes a dual card, and the 70 refers to what GPU is used. Or at least that would make sense. The Cores on the stock 5970's are equivalent to that of the 5850's cores. So the 5970 is equivalent to a 5850 X2. The only difference is the name is slightly smaller, which makes it much easier to type out.
The 4XXX series of ATI cards had two dual cards. These were the 4870 X2, and the less popular 4850 X2. This means we may be able to hope to see a 5950, or even better a 5990. However, neither of these two theoretical cards are out yet, so let's stay focused on the monster at hand.
Today I'll be looking at ASUS's EAH5970. It's not an overclocked card, and it does not have any custom cooling. However it does have all of ASUS's extra features. These include SmartDoctor, Splendid, and GamerOSD. We'll also be able to tweak the video cards voltage, which is always fun. According to ASUS when using the voltage tweak technology, you can experience clock speeds of up to 31% faster. This means we can expect to overclock the Core Clock to around 900MHz, which is pretty sexy for a video card.
Anyway, let's cut the chit chat and take a closer look at the EAH5970.
No matter how you look at it, the most dominant feature of the 5970 is it's size. Whether or not this is a good thing is hard to determine. When a video card is huge, and new, it usually means that it's a beast. In other words, it will provide you with more performance then you'll need for a long time. The downsides of a huge video card are of course; weight, and how much room you have in your case. I know that many users are subconscious about how much stress a video card puts on the PCIe slots. If you're one of these types the 5970 is not going to make you feel any better, it will however, blow away any game you throw at it. If you're one of the users with a smaller case, you may find it's hard to get the 5970 to fit. The reason for this is because the card is eleven and a half inches long.
Now let's take a moment to look at the backside of the card. Like many of the larger video cards, the EAH5970 is equipped with a backplate. This will serve two very important purposes. The first of which is that the backplate will protect the card's PCB from dirt, and other not so great things. The second, and arguably more important purpose, is that the backplate will act as a heat-spreader for any components located on the back of the video card. These usually consist of half of the cards memory, but who knows? We may find something interesting on the back of the EAH5970.
A card as big as the 5970 must have some special power requirements. If the shear size of the beast didn't give you the clue that the EAH 5970 is a power hog, then the power connectors should. Just like the 4870 X2 the EAH5970 requires power from both a 6PIN, and an 8PIN connector. The EAH5970 also include a CrossFire connector. So, if you've got the money why not pair the 5970 up with another 5970. Then you'll have quad GPU madness. The only downside to this is the cards don't quite scale as well as they should. Hopefully when we start to see Lucid chips included in motherboards, we can start to have a purpose for these QuadFire capable video cards.
As far a display ports go the 5970 utilizes two DVI ports, and a mini display port. This is the first time I've ever seen a mini display port, but it looks exactly like a normal display port. Only smaller! Through these ports you'll be able to use three monitors with eyefinity. The opposite side of the card looks a lot like the other 5XXX series cards. It's got two holes which look like they could be used as intake holes. From what I saw with the 5870, these holes are probably just to make the cooler look cool.
Now let's find out what the EAH5970 looks like under it's massive cooler. Before we can do this we'll need to remove the cooler. This is done by removing all the screws located around the cooler. After you've done this, the first step is to pull off the backplate. Doing so reveals 8 memory modules. These modules make up 1GB of GDDR5 memory, which in turn is half of the EAH5970's total memory.
As soon as the cooler is removed, we can see that it's cooling just about every component. The cooler is riddled with thermal pads, which will hopefully help keep the EAH5970's components nice and chilly. We can also see that the aluminum block inside the cooler is huge. The part that comes in contact with the EAH5970's cores is made of copper. The heat will then transfer to a large, finned, chunk of aluminum. A fan will then blow air through the fins, which should push the heat through the cards vent, and out of your case.
After we've removed the cooler we can clearly see some of the most important parts of the EAH5970. These include the remaining 8 memory modules, as well as the two Hemlock cores. The chip in between these two cores is what allows them to work together. It's not as shiny as the actual cores, but it does say ATI on it.
As far as specifications go, the EAH5970 is equipped the same as any 5970. It uses the Hemlock cores, which are built on a 40NM process and are stock clocked at 725MHz. It is equipped with a massive amount of 2GB of GDDR5 memory, which is clocked at 4000MHz. The memory interface is a 256Bit X2 bus. Like other 5970 models, you'll be able to increase the cards voltage. This should hopefully allow you to overclock further, but as we saw with the N240GT this feature may not be needed. The card is also 11.5 Inches long, which is pretty big for a video card.
Slightly Different: 5770, 5870, 5970 Bigger Than You: GTX 260, 5970
The EAH5970 doesn't come with any extra special unique hardware, but it does come with some pretty cool software. These include the ASUS SmartDoctor, which will allow you to tweak your card. It also allows you to increase voltage, and it gives you detailed information about your cards health. It's also one of the only overclocking utilities that tells you what the margin of error is for the clock increases. The card also comes with ASUS's GamerOSD, which makes it extremely easy to record yourself gaming. Pwnage videos anyone?
What have we got in terms of packaging this time? ASUS is one of those companies that makes sure you'll be in awe from the moment you receive your video card, till the moment you install it. They do this buy packaging their product in extremely cool packaging. The outside of the box is of course colorful, and it depicts a knight on horseback. It also shows some of the cards specifications. Upon opening this box you'll see a completely black box, with the ASUS logo painted in a gold color. Opening this reveals yet another fancy black box. This third box contains the multitude of accessories. Directly under this is the extremely carefully packed EAH5970.
Included with the card is a Driver CD, a Users manual, a free copy of Dirt2, a DVI to HDMI adapter, a User guide, a Molex to 6Pin connector, and the Mini Display Port cord. There is also an extra little goody that I haven't yet seen included with a video card. It's actually extremely cool. It's a CD case that looks to be made of black leather. I'm no expert on fine fabrics, but I'm fairly certain it isn't actually leather. However it does look extraordinarily cool!
At first I was not pleased at all with the EAH5970's overclocking capabilities. It seemed as though I couldn't increase the clock speeds by even a few MHz. It got to the point where I just decided to increase the heck out of the voltage. Much to my surprise this suddenly made me able to increase the core clock. I was able to bring it up to 953MHz, from the stock 725MHz.
I then began to work on the memory clock. At stock voltage I was not able to do much, but with the increased voltage I was able to bring the clocks up by 1000MHz. Yup that's right! The new memory clock was 5012MHz.
While these clock speeds may seem great, I was still not entirely pleased. Mainly because this card was a pain to overclock. I used my usual test with Crysis between each jump. Usually when I do this, and then run my final tests at the end the overclock holds stable. However, after I had finished overclocking the first time, I was at 960MHz. I ran my entire benchmarking suite, and some of the games showed instabilities. This meant I had to decrease the clock speeds and individually run each game, until the card was perfectly stable.
This was very time consuming, but I guess in the end it was also rewarding!
For the drivers, all the ATI cards used the Catalyst 9.10 drivers, and all the Nvidia cards used Forceware 190.17 drivers.
If you would like any further information about our benchmark settings, feel free to ask us in the forums.
3DMark Vantage is the stunning sequal to 3DMark 06. Futuremark's benchmarking programs have always been at the center of every bragging match. The best way to show that you've got the greatest gaming rig, is to show that you've got the highest 3DMark score. Vantage does just that. It puts your system through a series of strenous tests, and provides you with a score to brag about!
In 3DMark Vantage the EAH5970 crushed its competitors. In just about every one of the benchmarks the card managed to top the charts.
Crysis Warhead is one of the most graphically intensive games on the mainstream market. It's graphically breathtaking, and can bring any system crashing to it's knees.
The EAH5970 obviously destroys every card in it's path. It's good to see a video card take on Crysis with almost no problems!
Bioshock is an older game, but it can still stress the heck out of your hardware. This game combines a thrilling story with beautiful graphics. This combination makes for an overall great benchmark.
The EAH5970, once again, creamed it's competition. Not even the great GTX 295 was able to surpass this beauty.
Far Cry 2 Is another one of those graphically breathtaking games. The only difference is that it depicts the African desert. The intensive graphics can make for a very intensive, and stressful benchmark.
Once again the EAH5970 takes the top of the charts. Will it ever be outperformed? Probably not for a while.
Blunderbuss is an odd little demo created by Fairlight. It's an extremely particle heavy benchmark, that features what looks like a flame flying around.
Surprisingly the EAH5970 was not the top performer in this benchmark. Instead the 5870 Vapor-X was!
Batman: Arkham Aslyum mixes extraordinary visuals with great gameplay, in order to make an excellent benchmark. It's not a stressful as Crysis, but it can still push cards to their limits.
Once again the EAH5970 performed at the top of the charts.
World In Conflict comes with a built in benchmark that will stress any system. How does it do this? By using large amounts of smoke effects and bright lights of course!
You should be able to guess exactly where the EAH5970 ended up on the charts. Just in case you can't, it ended up at the top!
Unreal tournament is one of the most fast paced shooters I've ever played. It's also graphically stunning. Every single weapon has been designed to the finest of detail. This makes for not only a graphically intensive benchmark, but for a fun one as well.
Yet another instance of the 5970's creaming the competition. Surprisingly, the EAH5970 was not able to outperform the GTX 295 by a huge amount.
Resident Evil V is the new installment of the Resident Evil series. The game comes with a built in benchmark that features a bunch of zombies walking around the center of a village. Believe it or not this seemingly simple benchmarks can push video cards way out of their comfort zone!
Without AA the EAH5970 is actually outperformed by the GTX 295. When AA is enabled the two cards perform exactly the same. Hopefully this won't happen in to many games, because the 5970 should smash the GTX 295.
Furmark is a very interesting synthetic benchmark. It depicts a furry doughnut object spinning around in circles. This does however give very accurate results on your systems performance.
I'm not sure why, but the EAH5970 performed way above every other card in the Furmark benchmark.
Hawx is one of Tom Clancy's newer games. It's also a very detailed flight simulator type game. The jet planes are extremely detailed, and the extensive dogfights make for a very stressful game.
The 5970 performed pretty far above the GTX 295. Plus, it performed way above the rest of the competition.
To measure core GPU temperature, we used the hardware monitoring program in RivaTuner 2.24. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running, on Vista's desktop, for a minute. The load temperature was taken after a few hours of running OCCT.
The EAH5970 was surprisingly not as hot as I thought it would be. At full load it was only reaching 76C. This is definitely not the coolest card out there, but for a dual card solution it's running pretty cool.
To measure power usage, we used a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of a 3 hour run of OCCT.
Alright so the EAH5970 wasn't the hottest video card. However, it did suck the most power from my wall. The only card that pulled more power then the 5970 was the GTX 295. If you're going to purchase a big old monster like the 5970. Make sure you're ready to take on your new electric bill.
The EAH5970 is obviously a monster card. It uses two of ATI's most powerful GPUs, so it should do no less than crush the competition. This is of course what it did. It killed Nvidia's offerings, but remember Nvidia hasn't released any cards to compete with ATI's 5XXX series... Yet. When this happens we'll be able to see how these beastly cards perform in a fair fight. Until then, we'll just have to be satisfied watching the 5XXX series cards smash everything.
Sadly the giant EAH5970 comes with a giant price tag. If you want to pick up one of these beasts, you'll need to be prepared to spend more then $600 on one. Plus they're hard to get at this time. Many of the users that manage to get their hands on one spend hours refreshing Newegg's pages.
As far as overclocking goes the EAH5970 is pretty good. It's extremely difficult to fine tune the clock speeds. However, once you get them running the way you want, the card performs even better. It can be a little intimidating increasing the voltage on a video card, but after a few hours you get used to it.
The EAH5970 is a stock clocked card, so it performs the same as other stock 5970's. At this point I probably wouldn't recommend the 5970 to anyone, only because it has a huge price tag and offers more performance then most users need at this moment. However, if you've got the money to spend and want a card that crushes everything, then go ahead and pick one up. Trust me, you won't be disappointed if you do.
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