5970 overclock: The Card They Beg You to Overclock

The Card They Beg You to Overclock

by Ryan Smithon November 18, 2009 12:00 AM EST

  • Posted in
  • GPUs



IndexMeet The 597040nm Supply ReduxThe Card They Beg You to OverclockSTALKER: Call of Pripyat – A Peak at More DX11Radeon HD 5970 EyefinityThe TestCrysis: WarheadFar Cry 2BattleforgeHAWXDawn of War IIResident Evil 5Batman: Arkham AsylumLeft 4 DeadPower, Temperature, & NoiseConclusion

The Card They Beg You to Overclock

As AMD equipped 5970 with a fully functional Cypress core, one particularly binned for its excellent performance, it’s a shame the 5970 is only clocked at 725MHz core, right? AMD agrees, and has equipped and will be promoting the 5970 in a manner unlike any previous AMD video card.

Officially, AMD and its vendors can only sell a card that consumes up to 300W of power. That’s all the ATX spec allows for; anything else would mean they would be selling a non-compliant card. AMD would love to sell a more powerful card, but between breaking the spec and the prospect of running off users who don’t have an appropriate power supply (more on this later), they can’t.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook about building a more powerful card, and simply selling it at a low enough speed that it’s not breaking the spec. This is what AMD has done.

As a 300W TDP card, the 5970 is entirely overbuilt. The vapor chamber cooling system is built to dissipate 400W, and the card is equipped entirely with high-end electronics components, including solid caps and high-end VRMs.

Make no mistake: this card was designed to be a single-card 5870CF solution; AMD just can’t sell it like that. In our discussions with them they nearly (as much as Legal would let them) promised that every card will be able to hit 850MHz core (after all, these chips are binned to be better than a 5870), and memory speeds were nearly as optimistic, although we were given the impression that AMD is a little more concerned about GDDR5 memory bus issues at 5870 speeds.

So with the card that is a pair of 5870s in everything except the shipping specifications, AMD has gone ahead and left it up to the user to put 2 + 2 together, and to bring the card to its full potential. The card ships with a much higher Overdrive cap than AMD’s other cards; instead of 10-20%, here the caps are 1GHz for the core and 1.5GHz for the memory, a 37% and 50% cap respectively (in comparison, on the 5850, the caps were set below the 5870’s stock speeds). The card effectively has unlimited overclocking headroom within Overdrive; we doubt that any 5970 is going to hit those speeds with air cooling.

One weakness of Overdrive is that it doesn’t let you tweak voltages, which is a problem since AMD has to ship this card at lower voltages in order to meet the 294W TDP. In order to rectify that, AMD will be supplying vendors with a voltage tweaking tool specifically for the 5970, which will then be customized and distributed by vendors to their 5970 users.

Normally any kind of voltage tweaking on a video card makes us nervous due to the lack of guidance – a single GPUs doesn’t ship at a wide range of voltages after all. For overvolting the 5970, AMD has made matters quite simple: you only get one choice. The utility we’re using offers two voltages for the core, and two for the memory, which are the shipping voltages and the voltages the 5870 runs at. So you can run your 5970 at 1.05v core or 1.165v core, but nothing higher and nothing in between. It makes matters simple, and locks out the ability to supply the core with more voltage than it can handle. We haven’t seen any of the vendor-customized versions of the Overvolt utility, but we’d expect all of them to have the same cap, if not the same two-setting limit.

All of this comes at a cost however: power. Cranking up the voltage in particular will drive the power draw of the card way up, and this is the point where the card ceases to meet the PCIe specification. If you want to overclock this card, you’re going to need not just a strong power supply that can deliver its rated wattage, but you’re going to need a power supply that can overdeliver on the rails attached to the PCIe power plugs.

For overclocked operation, AMD is recommending a 750W power supply, capable of delivering at least 20A on the rail the 8pin plug is fed from, and another 15A on the rail the 6pin plug is fed from. There are a number of power supplies that can do this, but you need to pay very close attention to what your power supply can do. Frankly we’re just waiting for a sob-story where this card cooks a power supply when overvolted. Overclocking the 5970 will bring the power draw out of spec, its imperative you make sure you have a power supply that can handle it.

Overall the whole issue leaves us with an odd taste in our mouths. Clearly AMD would have rewritten the ATX spec to allow for more power if it were that simple, and we don’t believe anyone really wants to be selling a card that runs out of spec like this. Both AMD and NVIDIA are going to have to cope with the fact that power draw has been increasing on their cards over time, so this isn’t going to be the last over-300W card we see. I would not be surprised if we saw a newer revision of the ATX spec that allowed for more power for video cards – if you can cool 400W, then that’s where the new maximum is going to be for luxury video cards like the 5970.

Last, but certainly not least, there’s the matter of real-world testing. Although AMD told us that the 5970 should be able to hit 5870 clockspeeds, we actually didn’t have the kind of luck we were expecting to have. We have 2 5970s,one for myself, and one for Anand for Eyefinity and power/noise/heat testing. My 5970 hit 850MHz/1200MHz once overvolted (it had very little headroom without it), but the performance was sporadic. The VRM overcurrent protection mechanism started kicking in and momentarily throttling the card down to 550MHz/1000MHz, and not just in FurMark/OCCT. Running a real application (the Distributed.net RC5-72 Stream client) ultimately resulted in the same thing. With the core overvolted, our card kept throttling on FurMark all the way down to 730MHz. While the card is stable in terms of not crashing, or verdict is that our card is not capable of performing at 5870 clockspeeds.

We’ve attempted to isolate the cause of this, and we feel we can rule out temperature after feeding the card cold morning air had no effect. This leaves us with power. The power supply we use is a Corsair 850TX, which has a single 12V rail rated for 70A. We do not believe that the issue is the power supply, but we don’t have another unit on hand to test with, so we can not eliminate it. Our best guess is that in spite of the high-quality VRMs that are on this card, that they simply aren’t up to the task of powering the card at 5870 speeds and voltages.

We’ve gone ahead and done our testing at these speeds anyhow (since overcurrent protection doesn’t cause any quality issues), however it’s likely that these results are retarded somewhat by throttling, and that a card that can avoid throttling would perform slightly better. We’re going to be retesting this card in the morning with some late suggestions from AMD (mainly forcing the fan to 100%) to see if this changes things, but we are fairly confident right now that it’s not heat related.

As for Anand’s card, his fared even worse. His card locked up his rig when trying to run OCCT at 5870 speeds. VRM throttling is one thing, but crashing is another; even if it’s OCCT, it shouldn’t be happening. We’ve written his card off as being unstable at 5870 speeds, which makes us 0-for-2 in chasing the 5870CF. Reality is currently in conflict with AMD’s promises.

Note: We have since published an addendum blog covering VRM temperatures, the culprit for our throttling issues

40nm Supply Redux
STALKER: Call of Pripyat – A Peak at More DX11
IndexMeet The 597040nm Supply ReduxThe Card They Beg You to OverclockSTALKER: Call of Pripyat – A Peak at More DX11Radeon HD 5970 EyefinityThe TestCrysis: WarheadFar Cry 2BattleforgeHAWXDawn of War IIResident Evil 5Batman: Arkham AsylumLeft 4 DeadPower, Temperature, & NoiseConclusion


Radeon 5970 Overclocking: The VRM Temperature Bottleneck

In our Radeon HD 5970 review, we ran in to some issues when trying to overclock the card to 5870 speeds of 850MHz/1200MHz. At the time this is something we attributed to the VRMs, meanwhile AMD suggested that it was cooling related, and that we should manually increase the fan speed.

As it turns out, we were both right, we just didn’t have the tools at the time to properly identify and isolate the issue. Late last week we got our hands on a beta version of Everest Ultimate, which added preliminary support for the 5970. With that, we could read and log the voltages and temperatures of the various components of the 5970, and properly isolate the issue.

From that, we’ve discovered a few interesting things about the 5970. Let’s start things off with the cooler removed from the 5970.

We’ve gone ahead and circled the VRMs in red. There are 9 altogether; 6 on the right side, and 3 near the left side of the card. We aren’t able to track down what each specific VRM is connected to, but we believe that each GPU is attached to 3, each GPU’s RAM is attached to 1, and finally the PLX PCIe bridge is attached to 1. Regardless, pay attention to the location of these VRMs for later discussion.

As we previously noted in our 5970 review, when overclocked the card was throttling down in two cases. One was when running OCCT/FurMark, members of AMD’s “power virus” list by virtue of the fact that they put a card under a greater load than AMD believes to be realistically possible. Our 5800 series cards never throttled under these applications, so to see the 5970 throttle here was a bit surprising but not wholly unexpected.

The second case was using Distributed.net’s pre-release GPU client for use with AMD’s GPUs. Since this is a real program, this was absolutely unexpected, and is what instigated our look in to the matter.

In both cases, the key was the overall load on the GPU cores, and consequently the amount of power required to drive the GPUs. When a bank of VRMs reached roughly 120C (this being averaged among all the VRMs in that bank), overcurrent protection kicked in and throttling began. In the case of FurMark this was very quick and even at 100% fan speed the cooler could still not keep the VRMs cool enough to allow full-time 850MHz operation. The Dnet client on the other hand was much slower to ramp up, and we ultimately found that 70% fan speed was enough to keep our hottest bank of VRMs below the threshold, stabilizing at 116C.

Notably, during this whole period the GPU cores themselves stayed at or under 94C, which is still a few degrees below their own throttle point. AMD’s fan quickly ramped up, and in our testing it only needed to go to 59%. So if the cores did get hotter there was still plenty of room to go with the fan.

This brings us to our first point of concern for the 5970, which is the fan speed. Clearly it’s adequate for the GPU cores themselves, but we cannot find any proof that the fan speed is adjusted based on the temperature of the RAM or the VRMs. If the fan speed were to ramp up in the case of near-critical temperatures in the VRMs, then the Dnet client likely would have ran without an issue the first time, as this would have pushed the fan to 70%.

We asked AMD about whether the fan speed is affected by VRM temperatures at all, but we didn’t receive a response. This isn’t particularly surprising since post-launch periods are a good time to take a vacation and there’s a holiday this week for their American employees, but it means we couldn’t get a confirmation of our assumption. So for the time being, we’re working on the assumption that only GPU core temperatures drive fan speed.

It also bears mentioning that the 5970 gets quite a bit louder when the fan goes up to 70%. We went ahead and captured the noise data for it at 70% and 100%, which is in the chart below. At the 70% fan speeds needed to run the Dnet client at 5870 speeds, you’re looking at 70dB, which is quite a bit louder than the fan noise at stock speeds. It is in fact uncomfortably loud by this point.

Our second point of concern goes beyond just the fan, and is the overall cooling of the VRMs. When we looked at our Everest logs after running the Dnet client, we noticed something interesting with respect to which VRMs were overheating. The VRM bank attached to GPU 1 was some 25C hotter under load, but it wasn’t GPU 1 that was the hottest. GPU 2 was consistently a couple of C warmer. We don’t believe this to be in error, so to understand why this is, we refer back to our disassembled 5970.

As the fan is on the right, the right side of the heatsink the vapor chamber dumps its heat in to is going to be cooler than the left side by the virtue of the fact that the left side is effectively using the already hot-air of the right side to cool. The heatsink and vapor chamber mitigate this some, but the right side of the card – and consequently the right GPU– should be cooler than the left side. This leads us to believe that GPU 1 is the right GPU, and GPU 2 is the left GPU.

This is important since if we look at the VRMs, the VRMs feeding GPU 2 sit under the vapor chamber, while the VRMs feeding GPU 1 (along with the RAM and PCIe bridge) are not. We haven’t been able to fully dissect the cooler, but the VRMs on the right side sit right underneath the fan, and we don’t believe there to be a significant heatsink in the metal bar that sits above them. So while the VRMs feeding GPU 2 are being cooled by the vapor chamber, the VRMs feeding GPU 1 are only being cooled by the heat dissipation properties of a metal bar.

From this, we can conclude that the VRM banks are receiving wildly different amounts of cooling. The VRMs on the right side are not cooled nearly as well as those on the left and as a result the card is being held back by the VRMs on that right side. To that extent, we believe that if all the VRMs received the same level of cooling as the VRMs on the left side, then the card would have no problem maintaining 5870 speeds while running the Dnet client, and likely even FurMark. It’s also worth noting that all the 5800 series cards share the design of placing the VRMs under a metal bar under the fan, but the 5970 seems to suffer more for it compared to the 5800 series.

Finally, there’s the matter of whether this is even going to matter for most users. After catching the VRMs hitting 120C under the Dnet client, we went looking at other applications and games to see where else the card was throttling. The result of that inquiry was that we couldn’t find anything else that could match the Dnet client in total load. The Dnet client is a bit of a special case here, since crunching encryption keys makes exceedingly good use of the 5-wide SIMD design in the 2000-5000 series cards. When we took a look at something similar to the Dnet client, in this case the Folding@Home GPU client, we couldn’t break 100C. The significance of that result remains to be seen though, since the Folding@Home GPU client hasn’t been optimized for the 5800/5900 series yet like the Dnet client has. Our ultimate concern is that this card is going to repeatedly fall flat on its face at 5870 speeds with more GPGPU applications as OpenCL and DirectCompute take off, and the number of such applications bloom.

Radeon HD 5970 Temperatures
  GPU 1 Temp GPU 1 VRM Temp GPU 2 Temp GPU 2 VRM Temp
FurMark 89C 110C 91C 83C
Dnet Client 87C 101C 88C 77C
FurMark OC 91C 120C 94C 100C
Dnet Client OC 93C 120C 94C 94C
Cryis Warhead OC 87C 96C 89C 74C
STALKER OC 85C 96C 88C 72C

Meanwhile in games it was a similar story. Crysis and the STALKER benchmark are two of the most demanding games we’ve tested on the 5970, and in both cases the VRMs again peaked at near 100C. As games aren’t going to hammer the SIMDs like GPGPU applications do, the power load from games should be lower than for GPGPU applications.

As far as our opinion on the 5970 is concerned though, this doesn’t change anything. While we’ll buy AMD’s “power virus” rationale for FurMark and OCCT, the Dnet client is not a power virus. It’s a real application, one that AMD even used in their 5800 presentation back in September. Thus as far as we’re concerned, our 5970 is only good for 775MHz, the lowest clock speed where the VRMs stayed under 120C. Granted, AMD will never officially promise that the 5970 can reach 5870 speeds, but based on how the 5970 was promoted and presented the fact of the matter is that the card can’t meet its advertised capabilities – this card is clearly meant for 5870 clockspeeds.

With that in mind, we’ll end on two thoughts. The first of which is that in spite of our experience, for pure gaming scenarios we don’t have any data to bring in to doubt the idea that the card can run at 5870 speeds without throttling. So long as you only intend to play games, those speeds should be fine.

Our second thought is that cards from vendors with custom overclocking utilities will be better able to maintain 5870 speeds at all times. These are cherry-picked chips, so there’s no reason why they absolutely need 1.1625v core voltage to run at 850MHz; we suspect that they could do with less. Since voltage is our main enemy here, even a small drop in voltage should have a noticeable impact on VRM temperatures. But you’re going to need a utility with a full suite of voltage options to take advantage of that.

AMD Radeon HD 5970 — vivat, king! / Video cards

Not so long ago, AMD released the world’s fastest single-chip video accelerator, but did not rest on this, and almost immediately introduced a video card based on two new generation chips. The fact is that until now the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 accelerator has in most cases turned out to be faster, so AMD’s top single-processor video cards could not take the «royal throne» and get the title of absolute champion. A couple of months after the release of the Radeon HD 5870, AMD brings a real contender to the title of absolute king of 3D graphics onto the stage. Meet the AMD Radeon HD 5970 is the latest two-chip accelerator from the “red” camp, the hero of our today’s review.

Even at the time of the announcement of the Radeon HD 5870, we knew that AMD was actively working on a formidable weapon called Hemlock, but nothing was known about the detailed, and most importantly, true characteristics of the new product. Finally, the veil of secrecy has been removed, and we can study all the characteristics of the HD 5970, for this we turn to the table:

Radeon HD 4890 Radeon HD 5750 Radeon HD 5770 Radeon HD 5850 Radeon HD 5870 Radeon HD 5970
Number of stream processors 800 720 800 1440 1600 3200
Number of texture units 40 36 40 72 80 2×80
Number of ROPs 16 16 16 32 32 2×32
GPU core frequency, MHz 850 700 850 725 850 725
Effective frequency and type of video memory, GHz 3. 9 GDDR5 4.6 GDDR5 4.8 GDDR5 4.0 GDDR5 4.8 GDDR5 4.0 GDDR5
Video memory bus width, bit 256 128 128 256 256 256
Video memory bandwidth, GB/s 115.2 73.6 76.8 128 153.6 256
Memory size, MB 1024 1024/512 1024 1024 1024 2×1024
DirectX Version 10. 1 11 11 11 11 11
Number of transistors, million 959 1040 1040 2150 2150 4300
TDP, W ~150 ~86 ~108 ~151 ~188 ~294
Price, rub No data No data No data No data No data No data

In fact, the AMD Radeon HD 5970 is nothing more than a «glue» of a pair of rather powerful Cypress chips, although these chips, like the memory installed on the video card, operate at a lower frequency compared to the Radeon HD 5870. Apparently, such a decrease in frequencies is due to the manufacturer’s desire to fit the power consumption of the Radeon HD 5970 into a thermal package of up to 300 watts. However, even at such frequencies, the accelerator has certain nuances, which we will talk about a little later. In the meantime, let’s arm ourselves with slides from AMD’s presentation and dwell on the key features of the new product.

Since the heart of the AMD Radeon HD 5970 is a pair of chips from the Evergreen family, the owners of this video card have access to the entire arsenal of the latest technologies — DirectX 11, ATI Eyefinity, CrossFireX, etc. According to AMD, the Radeon HD 5970 has about 5 TFlops of processing power. Collaboration of two GPUs in CrossFireX mode is carried out by means of a 2nd generation PCI-Express 2.1 switching PLX bridge.

Ceramic capacitors are used in the power subsystem of the video card. Also, the video card is equipped with a monitoring system, and the Volterra regulators soldered on the board allow you to control the frequencies and voltages on the graphics cores and video memory.

Also worth noting is the intelligent frequency and voltage control system. In 2D mode, the frequency of the leading GPU, as well as video memory, noticeably decreases, and their supply voltage also decreases. The slave chip goes into sleep mode altogether. Thanks to this mechanism, when idle, the Radeon HD 5970 consumes no more than 42 watts.

Now let’s look at a live sample of the AMD Radeon HD 5970.

Externally, the AMD Radeon HD 5970 video card is very similar to all other representatives of the HD 5xxx family of the reference sample. The main difference is in the size of the video card. The length of the Radeon HD 5970 is 34.5 cm. For comparison, the length of the Radeon HD 5870 is 27 cm, the Radeon HD 5770 is 22. 1 cm. The considerable weight of the Radeon HD 5970 (about 1.2 kg) requires careful handling of the video card, it is better not to leave not screwed, otherwise you risk damaging the device.

The reverse side of the PCB is covered with a metal plate, but the GPU areas are clearly visible. Apparently, this plate, in addition to its decorative properties, also brings practical benefits, evenly distributing heat over the entire surface of the PCB.

The output panel has two DVI connectors and one mini DisplayPort connector. There is no HDMI connector, but this is not critical, since most manufacturers will most likely supply appropriate adapters with video cards. Of course, those wishing to use ATI Eyefinity technology will have to use a mini DisplayPort adapter only if the monitor does not initially provide connectivity through this connector.

Now let’s take a look under the AMD Radeon HD 59 cooling system. 70:

First, remove the protective plate from the back of the board.

Externally, the cooling system of the Radeon HD 5970 is quite similar to that of the Radeon HD 5870, but the internal design has undergone a number of changes due to the appearance of a second GPU with its own set of memory and a PCI-Express switching bridge. Video memory chips and power elements are in contact with the heatsink base through thermal pads. A thin layer of thermal paste is used as a thermal interface for the GPU.

Considering that all powerful cooling systems are currently built using heat pipes, it is surprising that AMD engineers did not use them in the case of the Radeon HD 5970. There must be an explanation for this. For an answer, let’s go back to AMD’s slides:

The fact is that the radiator of the cooling system is docked with the evaporation chamber, which, in turn, is in contact with two GPUs, as well as other elements of the printed circuit board, and evenly distributes heat, subsequently transferring it to the radiator fins. According to AMD, such a cooling system can successfully remove up to 400 watts of heat without compromising the normal operation of the video card. Sounds impressive, a little later we will check the effectiveness of CO in action.

The board has a pair of Cypress XT GPUs. As mentioned above, the number of functional units of each of the GPUs included in the Radeon HD 5970 is exactly the same as that of the video chip on the Radeon HD 5870. True, their operating frequencies are noticeably reduced (850 MHz for the Radeon HD 5870, 725 MHz for Radeon HD 5970).

The switch chip is marked AMD8647-BB50BC-F. A similar bridge was used to combine the RV770 GPU on the Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics card.

And here is the board itself. Unlike younger brothers, the Radeon HD 5970 has only one CrossFireX connector. This is due to the fact that the board already contains a pair of GPUs operating in the CrossFireX mode, and the maximum number of GPUs that can be combined within the CrossFireX technology currently cannot exceed four.

The total amount of video memory installed on board the AMD Radeon HD 5970 is 2 GB. Microcircuits are manufactured by Hynix, their marking is H5GQ1h34AFR-T2C-934A, and the nominal frequency is 5 GHz QDR. In fact, the operating frequency of the video memory on the Radeon HD 5970 is noticeably lower, and amounts to 4 GHz QDR, which, in fact, opens up scope for overclockers to be creative.

This concludes the external examination. It’s time for practical testing.


First, let’s get acquainted with the configuration of the test stand.

Central processing unit Intel Core i7 920 D0 @ 4.0 GHz (200×20)
Cooling system TITAN FENRIR
Motherboard ASUS P6T Deluxe Palm OS Edition
Video cards AMD Radeon HD 5970

AMD Radeon HD 5870

AMD Radeon HD 5770 CrossFire

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
RAM DDR3 Apacer 3×1 GB @ 1600MHz @ 8-8-8-24
Power supply IKONIK Vulcan 1200W
Hard disk Samsung 750GB
Housing Open stand
Operating system Windows Vista Home Basic x64 SP1
Driver version for AMD/NVIDIA cards For Radeon HD 5870 — Catalyst 9. 10

For Radeon HD 5970 — 8.663.1 Beta 5 «Hemlock»

For NVIDIA ForceWare video cards — 192.62

Temperature control. Overclocking

The performance of the graphics subsystem in modern games plays a very important role. However, the comfort of the game depends not only on the performance of the graphics card. An important factor is the stable operation of the accelerator, which largely depends on its operating temperature. In addition, the user’s acoustic comfort directly depends on the noise level emitted by the video card’s cooling system.

During the GPU temperature check of the Radeon HD 59 graphics card70, the speed control of the cooler of the cooling system was carried out automatically. Testing took place in three modes:

  • Office. Emulated normal office work.
  • Playing FarCry 2 at 1680×1050 with 4xAA/16xAF.
  • Extreme load with FurMark Extreme Stability Test.

For clarity, we have given the temperatures of the GPU and other video cards in similar conditions.

Without load, the AMD Radeon HD 5970 demonstrates a rather cold disposition. The temperature of the Radeon HD 5970 GPU, although not as low as, for example, the Radeon HD 5870, is lower than that of competing NVIDIA solutions. There is an effective operation of power saving modes.

Perhaps the most relevant are the indicators obtained in real combat conditions, that is, in games. Jogging through the expanses of FarCry2 shows us the rather ardent temper of the Radeon HD 5970. The difference in temperature with its closest relative, the Radeon HD 5870, is quite large. It is worth noting that with a long game, the cooling system accelerates and the noise emitted by the turbine begins to stand out against the background of the rest of the system components.

The AMD Radeon HD 5970 stress test gave us a nasty surprise. It would seem that the temperature of the GPU is not as high as that of the same GeForce GTX 295. However, in order to stop the temperature rise, the built-in protection mechanisms, instead of increasing the speed of the turbine, reset the GPU frequency to 500 MHz!

Of course, not all applications create such loads, and even more so not in all modes. Nevertheless, an unpleasant aftertaste from this behavior of the video card remained.


For overclocking, we used the AMD OverDrive utility, as well as AMD’s proprietary program, which allows you to change the voltage on the graphics core and video memory. Since the data we received about the temperature of the GPU was alarming, we set the maximum speed of the turbine in order to avoid possible stability problems. Of course, the results obtained by us can only be considered as an assessment of the video card’s potential during overclocking, and nothing more. In real conditions, overclocking is relevant only when the video card cooling system is operating in normal mode. We managed to pass absolutely all gaming tests at 850/4700 MHz for the core and video memory, respectively. Individual tests were able to pass at frequencies of 975/4800 MHz, however, all tests could not be completed at such values.

Let’s move on to performance testing. The list of test packages and testing modes are presented in the table:

3DMark Vantage DirectX 10, Performance, High, Extreme modes. Total score (Marks)
Crysis v1.2 DirectX 10, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, Max Detail

4xAA and 16xAF are activated in all resolutions

Built-in benchmark was used
FarCry 2
Resident Evil 5
World in Conflict
Need for Speed ​​Shift DirectX 10, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, Max Detail

4xAA and 16xAF enabled in all resolutions

Used FRAPS, Spa GT circuit (3 laps)

The very first test speaks about the claims of AMD Radeon HD 5970 to the absolute leadership. 3DMark Vantage puts the Radeon HD 5970 in first place both with and without overclocking. The former victories of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 simply disappeared, to say nothing of the single-chip flagship of the Californians. In the heaviest mode, the GeForce GTX 285 is almost two times behind the Radeon HD 5970.

Good old Crysis is adamant. When will there be accelerators capable of keeping the minimum frame rate in heavy modes at 60 fps? Guess not so soon. However, the video card Radeon HD 5970 even now shows more than decent results. The advantage over competitors and brothers from the AMD camp is obvious.

Until now, there are disputes about what frame rate in the game is comfortable and allows you to professionally play three-dimensional “shooters”. We will not offer our answer to this question, we will only say that the new AMD product will provide smoothness in FarCry2 even with the most difficult graphics settings. Such performance should appeal to avid fans of 3D-Action.

World in Conflict echoes its colleagues from the gaming world, preferring the AMD Radeon HD 5970 accelerator. I must say that thanks to the excellent optimization of this game for NVIDIA video cards, here the GeForce GTX 295, although it loses to the new AMD product, nevertheless looks quite confident.

A comfortable level of play, even at maximum settings, is provided by all test participants without exception, which is quite natural. Leading AMD Radeon HD 5970 with and without overclocking, followed by the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 and the Radeon HD 5770 CrossFireX bundle.

Need for Speed ​​Shift is the only game from our test suite where even a pair of the most powerful Cypress video chips at 1680×1050 turned out to be a little weaker than NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295. However, at 1920×1200, the AMD Radeon HD 5970 accelerator took revenge and still pulled ahead .


In our opinion, based on the data obtained, only one conclusion can be drawn. Today we have a new king of 3D graphics, and his name is AMD Radeon HD 5970. This accelerator supports all modern technologies (some of which have not yet appeared in competitor solutions), in addition, even without overclocking, the Radeon HD 5970 is ahead of all other video cards. However, like all kings, the Radeon HD 5970 has its weaknesses. Our copy of the accelerator showed oddities when operating at maximum load, which makes us think about the need for additional measures to ensure the cooling of the video card. However, for many fans of «fast driving» this is not a problem.

— Discuss material in conference

Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX. One head is good, but four

Modern methods of increasing the performance of the graphics subsystem are in many ways similar to the methods of increasing the speed of the latest central processors. Both of these directions have been developing for quite a long time due to the parallelization of calculations. Over time, desktop processors acquire a large number of cores, «fill up the tummy» in the form of a large cache, and receive built-in multi-channel memory controllers. At this time, graphics chips receive more and more functional units, the amount of local video memory is also steadily growing, and when this becomes insufficient, NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX technologies come on the scene, which allow you to combine the power of several graphics accelerators. Two Sapphire Radeon HD 59 video cards got into our test lab70, each carrying a pair of Cypress graphics chips. Well, let’s take a look at Quad CrossFireX in action.

It’s no secret that multi-GPU image rendering technologies have been around for more than a decade. However, for quite a long time, graphic tandems could not get rid of «childhood diseases». Users periodically encountered various difficulties that prevent them from enjoying the power possessed by video cards combined in an SLI/CrossFire bundle. At the same time, the more graphics chips in tandem, the more difficult it is to correctly distribute the load between the GPU and optimize their work. On the eve of the new, 2010, it’s time to take stock of the outgoing year. It is very interesting to see how game developers have progressed in optimizing their products for fancy graphics bundles of four GPUs. However, before proceeding to practical tests, let’s look at the main characters of our review — Sapphire Radeon HD 59 graphics cards70.

The Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 graphics card is packaged in a large glossy box that attracts the eye with bright colors and cute virtual girls with unusual hairstyles. The front side of the package contains information about the key features of the video card. The manufacturer talks about support for CrossFireX technology, DirectX 11, ATI Eyefinity, etc. A small sign in the upper right corner says that the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 video card was initially overclocked by the manufacturer. Judging by the stickers, the video card comes with DiRT2 and Battle Forge games.

On the back of the box, the manufacturer describes the capabilities of his offspring in more detail, and also reports on the number of awards issued to his products.

We open the box. Inside it is divided into two compartments. The top compartment stores the video card itself, packed in a thick antistatic bag. A little lower is a compartment for various accessories from the package.

Recently, many video card manufacturers have not followed the best tradition, and even with top-end accelerators, we did not find anything other than a disk with drivers and instructions. In the case of Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 the situation is different. The manufacturer made sure that the buyer received hit games immediately upon purchase of a video card. True, you will not see the game discs directly in the kit, but you will find special serial numbers, using which games can be downloaded from the network. The Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 Paper Kit includes:

  • quick install instructions;
  • CD with drivers and company sticker;
  • Sapphire overclocking utility coupon;
  • Battle Forge and DiRT2 game coupons.

In addition to instructions and coupons, the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 package includes various adapters and cables:

  • two molex to PCI-Express power adapters;
  • DVI/D-Sub adapter;
  • DVI/HDMI adapter;
  • mini Display port / DisplayPort adapter;
  • CrossFireX Bridge

The Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 accelerators that we received for testing are made on the basis of a reference design developed by AMD. The main and, perhaps, the only external difference is a colorful sticker on the casing of the cooling system.

The terminal panel has all the necessary connectors, which, thanks to the abundance of adapters included in the kit, allow you to connect any modern display device.

The video card houses a pair of GPUs, which work together through a second-generation PCI-Express 2.1 switching bridge.

We conducted a more detailed visual inspection of the reference AMD Radeon HD 5970 video card in our previous article. And now let’s move on to practical studies of the CrossFireX capabilities of a bundle of two Sapphire Radeon HD 5970s.

First, let’s get acquainted with the configuration of the test bench, as well as with the list of extras and competitors for our heroes.

CPU Intel Core i7 920 D0 @ 4.0 GHz (200×20)
Cooling system TITAN FENRIR
Motherboard ASUS P6T Deluxe Palm OS Edition
Video system Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX

AMD Radeon HD 5970

AMD Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire

AMD Radeon HD 5870


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295


NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
RAM DDR3 Apacer 3×1 GB @ 1600MHz @ 8-8-8-24
Power supply IKONIK Vulcan 1200W
Hard disk Samsung 750GB
Housing Cooler Master LAB test bench 1. 0
Operating system Windows Vista Home Basic x64 SP1
Driver version for AMD/NVIDIA cards For Radeon HD 5870 — Catalyst 9.10

For Radeon HD 5970 — 8.663.1 Beta 5 «Hemlock»

For NVIDIA ForceWare video cards 192.62

It is no secret that the convenient location of the components of an open test stand is often a problem not only for ordinary users, but also for specialists. Thanks to Cooler Master, we no longer have such problems. To assemble the test bench, we used a special chassis called Cooler Master LAB test bench 1.0, which we already wrote about in the news.


As we noted at the beginning of our material, the more chips are used to process 3D graphics, the more potential problems may arise. Our review includes bundles that involve up to four GPUs, inclusive. AMD is represented by the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970, and NVIDIA’s honor is protected by the GeForce GTX 295.

Despite the use of the latest (at the time of testing) drivers, visual anomalies were periodically observed, in other words, artifacts, and not only on the Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX, but also on the GeForce GTX 295 SLI. Separately, all video cards passed the tests without any problems, apparently, the reasons lie precisely in the work of quad-core tandems.

Another point that I would like to note is a bug in the BIOS of the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 video cards that we tested. The flaw lies in the impossibility of manually adjusting the turbine speed (this does not depend on the utility used). After all the tests, we received the corrected versions of the Sapphire Radeon HD 59 BIOS70, which were «sewn» into both cards. After this manipulation, the turbine could be controlled using both AMD OverDrive and MSI Afterburner.


The Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 boards that came to us for testing have already been overclocked by the manufacturer. This is evidenced by a sticker on the box of the video card. The frequencies of the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 are 735/4040 MHz against AMD’s recommended 725/4000 MHz. By and large, such an increase in frequencies can hardly be called overclocking. However, buyers who choose Sapphire products will definitely get some advantage over owners of other Radeon HD 59 graphics cards.70 operating at standard frequencies. We, of course, decided not to stop at the frequencies set by the manufacturer, and decided to overclock manually. The result of our tests was the frequency formula 950/4600 MHz for Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX.


In the review devoted to the CrossFireX bundle of two AMD Radeon HD 5870 video cards, we have already noted the serious «appetite» of tandems from top accelerators. And if in the previous article we talked about bundles of single-chip video cards, now everything is much more complicated. Let’s see how demanding the four-chip tandems of AMD and NVIDIA video cards are in terms of cooling and power supply.

Testing was carried out in three modes:

  • office work;
  • game in FarCry2;
  • maximum load using FurMark Extreme Stability Test.

On the temperature graphs, we deliberately excluded the bars with GPU temperatures of some accelerators working in tandem, but only in cases where there was no difference. As for the results, they are:

In office mode, AMD’s two-chip Cypress-based new products heat up no more than NVIDIA’s single-chip flagship, while the GeForce GTX 29 graphics card5 turned out to be the hottest of all.

The game in FarCry 2 warms up the GeForce GTX 295 and Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 GPUs to about the same level, although this time the fighter from the «green camp» turned out to be 1 ° C cooler. The tandem of the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 pair heats up the most, the temperature of the hottest GPU is 79°C.

Now it’s time for extreme warming up. The hottest graphics card according to FurMark is NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295, immediately followed by a bunch of Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX and, finally, AMD Radeon HD 5970 closes the top three. Single-chip solutions from AMD and NVIDIA are noticeably colder than their multi-chip counterparts. The GeForce GTX 285 graphics processor was only 1°C hotter than the AMD Radeon HD 5870, however, such a difference can be completely neglected.

Power consumption

Measuring the power consumption of systems with top tandems, even in office mode, can shock the owners of medium or budget systems.

The dubious «leadership» in power consumption in office mode is given to a system with an installed NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 SLI bundle, the second place is occupied by a system with a Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX, and a computer with a single NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 video card is in third place. Despite the higher frequencies video cards, a system with a pair of GeForce GTX 285 in SLI bundle turns out to be slightly more economical than with a GeForce GTX 295. Well, the systems with Radeon HD 5870/5870 CF video cards turned out to be the most economical. Moreover, thanks to efficient power management technology, the addition of a second video card practically does not increase power consumption.

The load on video cards in the form of the game FarCry2 kindles the «appetite» of the participants. Systems based on bundles with the GeForce GTX 295 SLI and Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX are still «leading». It is these tandems that consume the most electricity. A system with a pair of GeForce GTX 285s is ahead of the AMD Radeon HD 5870 CrossFire, and a system with an AMD Radeon HD 5970 is noticeably «cooler» than a system with a single GeForce GTX 295.

The maximum load on the video system with the help of FurMark shows incredible appetites for both four-chip and two-chip tandems. It is for such systems that the most powerful and expensive power supplies are produced.

Well, the temperatures and power consumption of all participants in today’s «race» are known, it’s time to move on to performance testing.

Performance test

The list of test packages and testing modes are given in the table:

was used

3DMark Vantage DirectX 10, Performance, High, Extreme modes. Total score (Marks)
Crysis v1.2 DirectX 10, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, Max Detail

4xAA and 16xAF enabled in all resolutions

Built-in benchmark
FarCry 2
Resident Evil 5
World in Conflict
Need for Speed ​​Shift DirectX 10, 1680×1050, 1920×1200, Max Detail

4xAA and 16xAF enabled in all resolutions

Used FRAPS, Spa GT circuit (3 laps)

As a small addition, I would like to note that, given the negligible difference in the frequencies of the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 and the reference AMD Radeon HD 5970 video card, we do not show the results of the AMD Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX bundle operating at standard frequencies of 725/4000 MHz on the charts.

The 3DMark Vantage test package, as it should be for this synthetic brainchild of Futuremark, reacts quite quickly to the appearance of several GPUs in the system. More recently, the results demonstrated by one Radeon HD 59 video card70, seemed impressive, but now they pale in front of the power of a pair of Sapphire Radeon HD 5970. The Quad SLI bundle of GeForce GTX 295 graphics cards follows the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX, showing very good results. The fight between the dual-chip monsters NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 and AMD Radeon HD 5970 in this test ended in victory for the latter, but the combination of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 SLI in Performance and High modes still managed to bypass one Radeon HD 5970 video card.

The FarCry2 engine, as we have already noted, responds well to tandems of several GPUs. The four-chip bundle Sapphire Radeon HD 59 leads by a huge margin in this game70 CrossFireX. Moreover, increasing the resolution practically does not lead to a drop in performance. Most likely, our processor is simply not able to make the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX bundle work at full capacity in this test. The leader is followed by a CrossFireX bundle of two AMD Radeon HD 5870s. Then comes a Quad SLI tandem of two GeForce GTX 295s. The performance of this pair is enough for any, even the most demanding gamer, since the minimum frame rate is kept close to 80 fps.

In Crysis, the four-GPU tandems are almost equal at 1680×1050, but when moving to the maximum resolution, the leadership of the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX becomes clearer. As a result, Quad CrossFireX bundles from a pair of Radeon HD 5970s take the first place according to Crysis, followed by a bundle of GeForce GTX 295 SLI, followed by Radeon HD 5870 CrossFireX and Radeon HD 5970.

It is worth noting one more nuance. At 1680×1050, a pair of Radeon HD 5870 CrossFireX perform almost on par with the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX, which indicates the redundancy of Quad CrossFireX even for a resolution of 1680×1050 with 4xAA full screen anti-aliasing. We can definitely say that owners of a pair of Radeon HD 5970s will be able to painlessly increase the resolution in Crysis even higher, of course, if the monitor allows it.

Zombieshooter Resident Evil 5 turned out to be easy prey for our monsters. The performance of a pair of Sapphire Radeon HD 5970s in the CrossFireX bundle «rested» on the CPU somewhat earlier than the results of the Radeon HD 5870 CrossFireX. Apparently, this happened due to the appearance of an additional load on the CPU associated with the distribution of «tasks» by the video driver to four GPUs. We can observe a similar picture on NVIDIA solutions, except that the absolute performance indicators are slightly lower than those of AMD video cards.

But in the World in Conflict game, there is not so much sense from multi-chip solutions, to be more precise, almost none at all. In the case of accelerators based on AMD chips, the performance of the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 CrossFireX tandem turned out to be even lower than the performance of the Radeon HD 5870 CrossFireX, and only overclocking the Quad CrossFireX tandem from Sapphire made it possible to bypass the Radeon HD 5870 CF. The Quad SLI tandem based on NVIDIA video cards shows results almost equal to those demonstrated by the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 SLI or GeForce GTX 29 bundle5. It turns out that two chips operating at a high frequency are at least no worse than four low-frequency chips. At least in World In Conflict.

Even single-chip top-end video cards from NVIDIA and AMD allow you to comfortably play Need for Speed ​​Shift at maximum resolution. If you add another video card to the system to activate the CrossFireX or SLI mode, the picture does not change much. All participants show similar performance results, however, in terms of the minimum FPS, NVIDIA tandems look somewhat better than bundles based on AMD video cards.


As testing has shown, the presence of four GPUs in one system, along with serious power consumption, can demonstrate stunning performance. However, in general, the benefit of having four top-end GPUs in the system is not so obvious.