There are many inexorable truths about graphics cards. The first is that they are the upgrade most people desire, and the main bulk of the purchase price when considering a new system.
Secondly, whilst most of us who are technophiles desire the absolute latest and greatest, generally we've got a slightly older card either because we were early adopters and can't justify the expense twice, or because we wait until something that is still a great card comes down to a more reasonable level.
Finally, and this is the important part, for every person who has Crossfire 5870s, there are at least a dozen people who've got a lesser card, and quite a few who haven't got a clue what card they have. Anyone who's spent even a small amount of time on the forums of a recently released title will know how many "can my £300 PC run this" questions there are.
ATI are only too aware that the majority of users are in the mainstream segment and haven't necessarily got the thick end of £500 to spend of graphics and it's to these users who require a performance boost without having to sell their grandmother than today's review card is aimed at.
Thankfully gamers aren't the only people who desire graphics cards. One of the most popular uses for PCs is as part of a home theatre system and once you look at graphics solutions and pricing from that angle it very swiftly makes a lot more sense to go budget.
After all, most modern cards can cope with HD output and so rather than consider something as a poor gaming card, consider it as an HTPC card and that any gaming abilities are cherries on a very nice cake.
As a HTPC solution a card needs to be good value, powerful enough to cope with high bit rate media, and most of all quieter than a church mouse in slippers.
Does the ATI Radeon HD5670 fit these criteria? Let's have a look at the specifications.
Often on OC3D we have to take the specifications from a manufacturers webpage. Today, with the HD5670 being so hot off the press that it's still sizzling, we're lucky enough to have a slide from ATI themselves demonstrating the power that this card possesses.
As you can see the main point of interest here is that the GigaFLOPS rating is equal to the Nvidia 9800GTX which ruled the roost for a long while in its 8800GTX guise.
None of the ATI cards have similar theoretical performance levels, although the 4830 comes closest. As we all know though, pure operations per second is only part of the story and how the card goes about handling those instructions in a streamlined manner is just as important.
The other main point is the excellent clock speed. 775mhz is up there with many of the current budget sector cards so hopefully the cooling solution will be such that the heat generated will be well exhausted to ensure good HTPC performance and maybe allow a little headroom for the value-conscious gamer.
Proving the point that clock speed, like GFLOPS, isn't everything, this is running 25mhz faster than the 5850, but I severely doubt it will even come close in performance terms.
So like many things, on paper specifications are all well and good, but the whole architecture and design is the key to performance, rather than certain big figures.
Let's take a closer look at the card.
Before we take a closer look at the new ATI HD5670, it's important to let you know that the card is so brand spanking new that it was sent to us without any retail packaging, therefore we can only present the card naked, as nature intended.
The most obvious thing that you notice straight away, is the lack of external power. Not only is this a boon for those of us who dislike trying to route the copious power-cables that are a necessary part of high-end cards, but it also greatly reduces the power consumption and therefore the PSU needed. Less power = less cost. Another feather in the cap of the 5670, clearly knowing its target market is either on a budget, or wants a slim HTPC and not some 1kw behemoth.
Secondly, that's a very small cooler indeed. Hopefully it's small for TDP reasons and not for budgetary ones. We'll discover soon enough.
Turning the card over we can see how bare the back is. We've got so used to seeing immense support braces and solder crammed into every available space that it is a refreshing change to see something with just the right amount of stuff.
Moving to the input part, the first surprise occurs. The 5670 we were sent for testing prior to the lifting of the NDA comes with a DVI, Full Size Display Port and HDMI outputs. The official ATI photographs as used at the top of todays article shows a DVI, HDMI and VGA port. Curious, but of the two naturally a Full Size Display Port is way more useful and so it's good to see the ones in the wild come with that.
Finally to complete the laying bare of the HD5670, here it is sans cooler. Anyone who has read previous graphics card reviews we've done on this site will know how often a cooler gets removed and a veritable cornucopia of chips and things appear. Further demonstration of the purity of this card is how little is revealed once the cooler is removed.
Time to put this in our test rig for today and spank it until it begs for mercy.
Testing a lot of the latest cards can very quickly lead to a CPU limited situation. Even at extreme resolutions a lot of the very high end graphics can easily sit idly waiting for a CPU to catch up. Thankfully the ATI HD5670 should be easily supplied with more data than it knows what to do with by a good chip, and to this end we did our best to have exactly the type of expensive hardware this is budget card is unlikely to be used with, to ensure it's the card, not the subsystem that affects the results.
CPU : i7 965 overclocked to 3.6GHz
RAM : 6GB of OCZ Blade
Audio : ASUS Xonar Audio
Motherboard : ASUS Rampage II Extreme
PSU : 1000w OCZ Gold
GPU : ATI HD5670 8.65beta drivers
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate 64
One difference to our normal testing methodology is that as well as testing at the normal highest settings, we are also going to see what settings will give a playable frame-rate in our games. For our purposes we will define playable as 30FPS or higher, which although is slightly too low for racing games, is a sensible number for a card such as this.
With the test system sorted, it's time to have a look at some results and see what the HD5670 can do.
3DMark06 and 3DMark Vantage
Starting with 3DMark06, which is definitely showing its age as a test of modern systems but luckily for us still a good test of pure horsepower. Despite the insanely beefy system it actually scored less than a 4850 we tested recently. However it is very close in performance terms, but much cheaper in pricing and with DX11 features. 11000+ points in 3DMark06 from a budget graphics card is certainly good.
Moving on to Vantage, we see an excellent P-Score of over 6000. Given that Vantage is hopelessly bias in favour of cards with Physx support, and the HD5670 is a value solution we were very impressed. Hopefully these good results will translate into good framerates in games.
Ok. Enough synthetics and photos. It's time for some gaming and to see what the scores on the doors are.
To reiterate what we said earlier, unlike reviews of high-end cards, today we'll be adjusting settings to attempt to obtain the highest detail but still at a playable 30fps or higher at 1920x1200. All of our games were tested at this resolution and the only items changed are detail settings.
Crysis Warhead is an updated version of the Crysis engine that supposedly brought enormous performance benefits, although few benchmarks bore this out. If there is any game that can make any card struggle it's this one, but the amazing thing is that the graphics aren't so mind-blowing as to make the performance justifiable. Anyway, naturally with little graphics processing overhead to enable anti-aliasing we changed the settings between 'gamer' and 'mainstream'. Even mainstream only got to 28fps average and that's with over a grands worth of motherboard and processor pushing it.
But, for a graphics card of this price, 28fps in Crysis is something that could only have been dreamt of 18 months ago.
Dirt 2 is a game that received a lot of press. Due out about three months ago Codemasters took the brave decision to delay the game to enable implementation of DirectX 11 functionality. Naturally two things are immediately apparent. Firstly that this is eye-candy and performance neatly bundled up in a very addictive game. Secondly, oh my word water has never been so lovely. Even in DirectX 10 mode it's very very nice, but in DirectX 11 it's something else entirely.
Then upon testing we got a very strange result as you can see from the graph below. Just given the settings without knowing the results, twice the anti-aliasing and high not medium settings in DirectX 11 mode, we'd all assume that the lower settings would annihilate the higher. This just isn't the case. Both provided 32 average frames per second, so you might as well have the eye candy.0
Ah the old girl is getting a bit long in the tooth now, but we still love her just the same. It's always been a very ATI friendly game. For todays run we undertook the always enjoyable Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium. Here, unlike in NFS Shift, in its current guise with the modified Bus Stop. An attempt to run with 8xMSAA proved a bit too much, but 2xMSAA not only was perfectly playable but also looked very good too. It's amazing how little AA you need to make a real difference and whilst 8xMSAA looked very nice indeed, under gaming conditions 2xMSAA was pleasant enough.
Modern Warfare 2
A new year and time to sweep away some of the older games we've been testing with for a while. Naturally with frame rates reaching into the double hundreds, Modern Warfare has ceased to be a useful indicator of performance. Luckily Infinity Ward have given us Modern Warfare 2. Although it's not really modern unless we're battling in space now, and it's not really warfare but more a collection of insurgencies. However, it is fun and graphically good. Like its predecessor there isn't much you can change in terms of graphical quality but, just like Modern Warfare 1, you don't really need to.
For such a small loss, only 7fps average, we'd definitely run with anti-aliasing rather than without. Sometimes a games console roots can benefit the PC gamer by allowing even modest setups to provide playable frame rates. Such is the case with Modern Warfare 2.
Time for a conclusion. And it's not quite what you might expect.
Given that this is very likely to be used in an HTPC system, or for those on limited budgets who are unlikely to have immense aluminium cases with water cooling, noise is a vital factor. We're pleased to report that despite the svelte proportions of the cooler it copes admirably. During testing we saw a maximum temperature of only 66c with the fan set to 50%. Even at 50% it was very quiet indeed and a far cry from some of the audible tyranny we've been subjected to from other solutions.
A Pre-Conclusion Warning
If you're one of those types who has skipped here from page one, then stop and read now. If you're one of those people who just glances at the score, it is time to read too.
Because information about the HD5670 is held under a non-disclosure agreement the only pricing information we have available at the time of going to press is the official price from ATI themselves. The RRP in the US is $99. At the current exchange rate this translates to a UK price of £60. It is at this £60 price point that we shall be summing up and scoring.
Should the normal US/UK conversion apply (which boils down to a company exchanging the $ for a £) and it hit these shores at £99, then our thoughts are hugely different and we'll give a quick summation of that after the score.
There certainly is a lot to like about the HD5670.
Firstly as a HTPC solution it is easily powerful enough to handle HD content. With a small 170mm length it should fit in the most compact of chassis, although without a low-height bracket it naturally isn't suited for extreme "content providing only" HTPCs. With three different outputs, including the very important HDMI, it is capable of delivering media to almost any display.
Most vitally, for both gamers and the silent movie crowd, is that the card itself runs cool and quiet. Only 66c when being run to its silicon limits by Dirt 2 or Crysis Warhead is impressive indeed, and ensures that under the much less stressful media providing application it definitely will be silent.
As a budget all-rounder or even gaming card, the results speak for themselves. Crysis was only 2fps short of our arbitrary limit, but otherwise all of our games allowed 30fps or better average at the rather meaty 1920x1200 resolution, and with AA in most cases too. With slightly older games this would be good, with two of the latest games around it's exceptional.
Because this is a pre-release sample minus retail packaging we have had to omit a score for presentation. Our performance score is not a pure rating, but one based upon a "bang for buck". Obviously it doesn't compare to a 5870 or similar, but then it isn't priced to.
- Good performance
- Price (at £60 is okay, any more and it'll be a con)
- It's not the best value gaming card, although at this price you wouldn't expect it to be.
This score is based upon the converted £60 price point, which makes it a fairly easy recommendation as a budget solution. Should it reach the UK at a higher price it becomes much harder to recommend. Especially in the current market with the still excellent 4870 available for around the £100 mark.
Our thanks go to ATI for providing us with todays sample and the opportunity for an early look. Discuss in our forums.