HIS Radeon HD 5970 Rating: 9/10
If your system has muscle, this card will flex it
There’s no doubt in our minds that the HIS Radeon HD 5970 offers superlative performance and extremely high frame rates. The combination of dual AMD Cypress GPUs, each coupled with its own dedicated 1GB pool of fast GDDR5 memory, makes this graphics card one of the fastest we’ve ever tested.
This particular card is based on AMD’s reference design, so the two GPUs clock in at 725MHz, while the memory clock is set at 1 GHz. It’s an enormous card, too, at just over 12 inches long. If you buy the card from Newegg, you get a compact PC toolkit, though HIS is looking to expand the toolkit bundle. Also included is a coupon for a free Steam download of Dirt 2, the DirectX 11-capable racing game from Code masters.
Assuming HIS built the cards to AMD specs, there should be plenty of headroom for over-clocking. The beefy cooling system, with its full-length vapor chamber, can dissipate up to 400W of power. Of course, for best results, you’ll want to tweak the card’s voltage. AMD initially offered its own tool for over-volting GPU and memory, but has since withdrawn the utility. However, MSI’s Afterburner tool (http://event.msi.com/vga/afterburner) , which apparently works with any AMD-based graphics card, allows you to tweak the core voltage but doesn’t provide a way to alter memory voltage.
We put the HIS Radeon HD 5970 up against AMD’s last-gen dualie, the Radeon HD 4870 X2, Nvidia’s dual GeForce GTX 295, and the two fastest single cards from both vendors. As was the case last month, when we reviewed XFX’s HD 5970, HIS’s HD 5970 blew the doors off any other graphics card currently available. But at $600, you should ask yourself if you really need such a massive, heat-generating monster of a graphics card.
There’s no question that if you’re running on a 1920×1200 or 2560×1600 display, the huge pixel-pushing power of the HIS HD 5970 makes a difference. Do owners of more modest systems and displays need one–or can they even make use of that much GPU horsepower? The current generation of moderately priced LCD displays typically offer native resolutions of 1680×1050 (20- or 22-inch displays) or 1920×1080 pixels (23-inch and larger units.)
To answer this, we ran our suite of game tests on the HIS Radeon HD 5970, HIS Radeon HD 5870, and the XFX Radeon HD 5850 cards at different resolutions. To simplify the results, we took the geometric mean of all our tests at the different resolutions. With a 22-inch 1680×1050 panel, even the $300 Radeon HD 5850 will average above 62fps. At 1920×1080 that 5850 remains above 62fps. By moving to the Radeon HD 5870, you can average 76fps at 1920×1080 and 74fps at 1920×1200. The 5970 at 1920×1200 puts you in the 92fps range, and on a 30-inch 2560×1600 panel, you’re still running at 70fps. The bottom line: If you’re not running a big display, the HD 5970 is pretty much wasted. In fact, at the 1680×1050 resolution of most 22-inch monitors, you’ll still average higher than 60fps with all the graphics goodness turned up (but no AA or AF) with even the $300 Radeon HD 5850.
There’s no question that the HIS Radeon HD 5970 is an awesome piece of kit, but you really need an awesome system and display to take advantage of it. If you’re system isn’t riding the bleeding edge, you might opt for a lesser card. You’ll save money and watts and still get great performance. On the other hand, if you’ve got a 30-inch monitor and the badass PC to drive it, you can’t do better today than this card.