ATI’s much anticipated and slightly delayed Hemlock – Radeon HD 5970 is here. To be honest, there are really no notable surprises surrounding this release.

Our forum member, adrianlee, has once again created a comprehensive list of reviews across the web. However, the HD 5970 is something more. It is not just about benchmarks and numbers.

ATrHD5970 blk lowres ATI Radeon HD 5970 Roundup

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ATI’s much anticipated and slightly delayed Hemlock – Radeon HD 5970 is
here. To be honest, there are really no notable surprises surrounding
this release.

Our forum member, adrianlee, has once again created a comprehensive
list of reviews across the web.
However, the HD 5970 is something
more. It is not just about benchmarks and numbers.

The problem is, the Radeon HD 5970 is just too good, too powerful, for today’s environment. Sure, the HD 5970 is far and away the fastest single graphics card according to current benchmarks, but somehow, it does feel held back. We have said this about the HD 5870, but it is that much more evident on the HD 5970. If it is not a CPU bottleneck, it is a resolution not high enough. For the previous generation HD 4870 X2, we have often said “this card only makes sense if you have a 30″ monitor”. For the HD 5970, it goes beyond that. Even a 30″ monitor isn’t enough to test the HD 5970 (except, Crysis, of course)! Thank god for Eyefinity then. Yes, the HD 5970 makes little sense unless you are planning to game on more than one monitor. And at those resolutions, be prepared to run into a hefty CPU bottleneck. The HD 5970 is held back by PCI SIG regulations too. While in real gaming applications the HD 5970 uses far less power than 300W, stress applications like Furmark (something AMD calls “power virus”) can run it to 294W. So, AMD have had to downclock the HD 5970 to HD 5850 clocks. However, this does make for great overclocking potential. Most reviews report memory overclocked from 4 GHz to 5 GHz and beyond; whereas core overclocks from 725 MHz to 900 Mhz is common. Not all samples have had the same luck, though.

Even though it might not be the most sensible choice today, the price is not too shabby at $599. It is only $100 more than the aging GTX 295, and double the price of HD 5850s, where as in fact, you get 2 GPUs with 11% more shaders and TMU than the HD 5850. Incredibly, there are occasions where the HD 5970 loses out to HD 5850 CF which is nothing but HD 5970 with 4 SIMD units disabled in total. So, it seems the HD 5970 is held back by slow CPUs, games too frugal on GPU resources, resolutions too little, monitors too small, power limits too modest and immature drivers as well!

What the HD 5970 does make for is great future-proofing. This is one of those cards – like the 8800 GTX – which is likely to last you for a generation or two. The HD 5970 will really come into its own only when DX11 games pop up which could exploit the true potential of the HD 5970 – a gargantuan 4.64 TFlops of shader power. You can be rest assured that this will be safe investment. 

If you can get one, that is. On launch day, there is practically no availability on e-tail, making this a paper launch. AMD suggests there will be “thousands” of cards available, with widespread availability of HD 5800 and HD 5970 only after December 15th. On another disappointing note, we are still stuck to traditional AFR Crossfire over a PLX chip. No exotic inter-GPU communication just yet. And multi-GPU, though constantly improving, are still retain their flaws.

In the end, the HD 5970 was everything we expected it to be, no more, no less – though the non-availability is a bitter disappointment. It does feel ahead of its time, though. A product from the future that is quite simply held back by other technologies of the day. The HD 5970 can only get better.