We've been looking at a few variants of the 5 series ATI cards lately. Today is no different. Except it is, otherwise we wouldn't be reviewing something we have before.
If you plan to ever water-cool your graphics card then most of the high-end variants aren't any good because they use non-reference circuit-boards that mean you can't use an "off-the-shelf" water-block.
Of course you can go with the reference designs which enable easy water-cooling, but then you lose the many other benefits such as factory overclocking, more stable voltages or whatever.
If only it was possible to combine the extra cooling power of a non-stock cooler, with the ability to upgrade to water at some point in the future.
Hello Asus, and the EAH5870 V2.
Fairly standard specs for a 5870, apart from the inclusion of the ASUS voltage tweak BIOS and the 850MHz core speed.
|Graphics Engine||ATI Radeon HD 5870|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express 2.1|
|Video Memory||GDDR5 1G|
|Engine Clock||850 MHz|
|Memory Clock||4.8 GHz ( 1.2 GHz DDR5 ) |
|D-Sub Max Resolution||2048 x 1536|
|DVI Max Resolution||2560 x 1600|
|D-Sub Output||Yes x 1 (via DVI to D-Sub adaptor x 1 ) |
|DVI Output||Yes x 2 (via HDMI to DVI adaptor x 1 )|
|HDMI Output||Yes x 1|
|Adapter/Cable Bundled||1 x DVI to D-Sub adaptor |
1 x CrossFire cable
2 x Power cable
1 x HDMI to DVI adaptor
|Software Bundled||ASUS Utilities & Driver|
|Note||the Card Size is 10.25 inches x 5 inches.|
Thanks to its exclusive tie-in with S.T.A.L.K.E.R Call of Pripyat the main design of the box is dominated by that very game.
The box itself is the standard ASUS black and gold number with the crossfire cable, power adaptor leads and suchlike. Just in case anyone has made it this far without being aware of the exclusivity of the Call of Pripyat deal, they certainly are reminded upon getting down to the card.
Here it is, the V2 in all its glory. Anyone who saw our Matrix review will recognise the design of the cooler, and it's as attractive here as it was there. A nice variant upon the red and black we see usually adorning the high end ATI card.
The business end is, as you'd expect from a modified reference design, all exhaust and outputs. Patience, we're getting there.
Up the other end we see the two power connectors, 8 and 6-pin in this case, and the decent sized fan to pump cool air up the card.
Despite this looking at a glance like a reference design, there are some changes under the hood. The fan is robust and slightly larger than at stock. We can also just see a wedge of shiny copper that should help really give this good cooling.
ASUS EAH5870 V2
Corsair Dominator GT @ 1600MHz
ASUS Rampage 3 Extreme
Intel i7 930 @ 3.6GHz
Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
Noctua NH-D14 with Arctic MX-3
Overclocking and Temperatures
Let's start with temperatures and see if the cooling is up to snuff.
Following a 15 minute Furmark run we saw 57°C at load under stock speeds, and on the right 66°C under load when overclocked.
This is still loads cooler than reference, and yet in the compact adaptable size we're all used to.
Speaking of overclocking, it's always easier thanks to the excellent Asus voltage tweak BIOS. Using the Smart Doctor software we managed to get the core all the way up to 999MHz. Just one shy of the magic 1000GHz. Considering this isn't a specially selected "high clocking" chip, that's great and should show up in the results.
It's rare to find a card we can overclock the RAM on to any great degree, but 49MHz is not bad.
3D Mark Vantage
You can't mention benchmarks without mentioning the program that has spent over a decade as the king of graphical benchmarks, 3D Mark.
At stock both the reference card and the EAH5870 V2 are close, although the Asus edges ahead. The big thing though is how well it responds to the overclock. Just shy of 21000. Impressive stuff.
Moving onto the more realistic High test these results are repeated, with the overclock striding into the lead and the reference card keep up with the Asus, despite scoring lower on the GPU.
Eye candy like no other, Unigine really sorts the men out from the boys. Both with anti-aliasing and without the EAH5870 V2 performs very well, giving smooth performance throughout the test.
Once overclocked we gain about 6 or 7FPS which is not inconsiderable at all given the detail being pushed around here.
If anything should really take advantage of any differences between the standard 5870 and Asus' upgraded one, it should be Crysis Warhead. Sure enough although the maximum frame-rate is close, minimum completely strolls off into the distance which really helps the smoothness of the game. There might only be a 10FPS difference between the reference card and an overclocked V2, but when the V2 stays above 35 minimum it makes an enormous difference to the gamers experience.
Here is a curious one, but we've come to expect slightly strange results from Dirt 2. All through our testing the stock V2 and reference 5870 have been fairly close, with the overclocked one sprinting off into the distance.
Here the Asus is miles ahead of our reference card, and yet the overclock doesn't bring huge benefits. Still, 15FPS average is not to be sneezed at.
Just Cause 2
One of the most graphically demanding games of recent times, Just Cause 2, should make even the most powerful single card systems sweat.
As you can see, there is clearly one winner here. The EAH5870 V2, when overclocked, decimates the graph utterly. Taking into account this is a fixed benchmark, it really emphasises the potential there is.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R Call of Pripyat
Not normally part of our benchmarking suite here at OC3D, we couldn't resist testing it out, especially as it dominates the packaging of this card so much.
Both out the box and overclocked the EAH5870 V2 can handle the detail of S.T.A.L.K.E.R without a problem. Even in DX11 with all the effects turned on, we stay well above the 60FPS that are important for gameplay.
What can we say about the HD5870 that we haven't said a dozen times? It's more rounded than a cannonball, being powerful, sensibly priced, regular driver updates, and capable of handling almost anything you throw at it.
So what does the EAH 5870 V2 from Asus bring to the party?
Probably the most important thing is that under that sexy cooler it's still a reference board. No odd chips or lights to make it impossible to buy a "standard" waterblock from Danger Den, Bitspower, EK or whomever. This is ready for you to give it the H2O goodness as soon as you want.
Besides it being a reference board it looks like a fairly standard cooler too. We have the black and red we've got used to from both Asus and the ATI 5870 series. It clearly owes a small debt to the forthcoming Ares, which is no bad thing at all. However under this shroud are quite a few differences. Rather than a small copper plate above the GPU attached to a aluminium block, this has quite a substantial lump of copper helping to keep it cool.
Cool it certainly is too with it not breaking 60°C under load at stock, and even heavily overclocked to 1MHz shy of 1GHz it doesn't get to 70°C. So you've got all the benefits of a reference board, whilst still getting the cool temperatures of a third-party cooler and exhausting out the rear of your case.
Finally we need to talk about the overclocking. At stock it's 850MHz core which is the same as every other 5870, but it overclocks like a beast thanks to the exceptional cooling and the always great Asus voltage tweak BIOS.
So the cooling is great, the performance is great and you get a copy of Call of Pripyat. Surely this is priced accordingly?
At current pricing this is the second cheapest 5870 on the market. At 20 or 30 pounds more we'd be recommending the EAH5870 V2, at £315 we can easily give it our Editors Choice award.
If it was my money and I wanted a reference card, I'd get this one. I can't think of a higher recommendation than that.
Thanks to Asus for the V2 sample today, you can discuss our thoughts in the forums.