XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB Review Page: 1

Introduction

Today you'd expect ATi to be feeling rather smug...and you probably wouldn't be wrong either. Just short of six months ago, ATi dropped a terrific bombshell with their Radeon HD 5850 and 5870 graphics cards, introducing Direct X 11 and much more in the process. Time goes on and nVidia had yet to respond...so mercilessly, team red fired another missile with the launch of their £500 ultra high end HD 5970 solution. It's not even as though ATi's R&D departments have spent the following days twiddling their thumbs either as they have also filled the Radeon HD 5 series line up with affordable variants priced in at £120, £80 and £40; the HD 5700, 5600 and 5400 series. At Overclock3D, we can safely agree that the Radeon HD 5800 series has been tested to death. Now adamant that it's time to set our sights on something new, we wish to take the XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB GDDR5 graphics card for a spin.

First founded in 2002, XFX is a major large scale manufacturer of graphics cards. The XFX badge was once confined to products of nVidia graphics cards, only to become an Add In Board partner for ATi from Late 2008/Early 2009. The firm is well known for it's innovative products, often sporting hefty heatsinks and substantial factory overclocks. With this in mind, we have great expectations for today's review sample.

 Radeon HD 5770 1GBRadeon HD 5750 1GBXFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB
Stream Processors800640400
GPU Frequency850MHz700MHz775MHz
Memory Frequency

4800MHz (effective)

4600MHz (effective)4000MHz (effective)
Memory Interface128bit128bit128bit
Direct X111111
Idle Power
Consumption
18W16W14W

Load Power
Consumption

108W86W61W

Maximum Monitor

333
Current Price~£125~£105~£85


Unlike certain factory overclocked XFX graphics cards, the Radeon HD 5670 operates at it's reference clockspeeds of 775MHz and 4000MHz. Now that we've covered all of the necessary background information, I believe it's time to fully commence this review.



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Packaging & Initial Impressions

     

The XFX Radeon HD 5670 arrived in a compact and well decorated box. The front of the box sports the products name in large bold font and it's key features are listed as well. Inside you will find the graphics card in it's own plastic shroud and on the outside a driver disc and "easy install" manual. XFX also include a rather novel "DO NOT DISTURB" note for your door handle, which you may wish to use if your prerogative is private, intense and outrageously hardcore gaming behind closed doors...

     

The graphics card itself is a very compact solution with a length of just 17cm. In terms of it's physical dimensions, I would be led to believe that this graphics card could prove ideal for Home Theater PC/Compact PC solutions with the Mini ITX form factor. 

At the rear of the graphics card, you will find three monitor outputs. DVI, HDMI and Displayport. If you wish to use an Analog VGA monitor, you will have to buy a DVI->VGA adapter as XFX does not include one in the package. Further, for those who wish to use three monitors at or above 1920x1200 and lack a Displayport input, you will need an Active Displayport Adapter. For lower resolutions, a standard Displayport adapter will suffice.

The heatsink is unsurprisingly very small and of single slot height. It covers the GPU Core and four of it's GDDR5 Memory IC's with it's copper base.

At this stage, I would gather that it's cooling solution is more than adequate, however I do have my reservations about the noise levels of it's low diameter fan.

In terms of installation, the procedure was trouble free. On our open testbench, the Radeon HD 5670's heatsink fan was audible but certainly not a pest.



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Testbed

Intel Core i3 530 Dual Core Processor @ 2.93GHz
Biostar TH55XE H55 Motherboard
4GB Corsair PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
XFX Radeon HD 5670 1GB GDDR5 Graphics Card
320GB Samsung Spinpoint F1 7200RPM Hard Disk Drive
Samsung 22x DVD+/-RW
Be Quiet! 750W 80PLUS Silver Power Supply Unit
Arctic Cooling MX3 Paste
Windows 7 Home Premium x64

ATi Catalyst Control Centre

For some time now, the ATi Catalyst Control Centre has proven itself to be a very capable driver control panel. Despite it's bloated nature, when compared to the less graphical and original ATi Catalyst control panel, it is both responsive and reasonably intuitive. From a memory consumption standpoint, it occupies around 18MB on our testbed machine.

The main three areas of the Catalyst Control Center are the 3D, Display and Overdrive sections. In 3D, one is able to set Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic filtering. You're provided with a short preview video indicating the effect of the parameter that you've changed. Wasted space for those who know what they're doing but excellent for the novices.

The desktop and displays section covers just about anything that's Multi Monitor related. Here, you may adjust the mode of your multi-monitor setup, create groups and rearrange your monitors' positions. We'll return to this later.

Finally, we get to the Overdrive section. Here, it is possible to overclock the XFX Radeon HD 5670 from it's nominal frequencies to 850MHz Core and 1050MHz Memory (4200MHz effective).

Overclocking

Due to Catalyst Control Centre's low limit, our overclocking endeavours could not exceed 850MHz Core and 1050MHz memory. This is however one should not necessarily turn their noses up at a 75MHz increase on core and a 50MHz increase on memory.

Up next...Eyefinity.



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Eyefinity & Multi-Monitor Functionality

Redefined Multitasking for the Masses?

A major advantage held by ATi is their new Multi-Monitor Technology known as "Eyefinity". Prior to the release of the Radeon HD 5xxx series, you'd be limited to use one or two displays per graphics card and no more. This was due to a hardware limitation that manifested in the types and configurations of display outputs used. If your graphics card sported HDMI and/or DVI, those interfaces commanded a dedicated clock source for every port implemented to the graphics card. However the new Displayport interface benefits from the ability to drive multiple displays from just a single clock source. The nature of displayport means that it is now feasible to implement the functionality to run up to three monitors at once or even six with an upcoming derivative of the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card. In a nutshell, technological advances combined with a pinch of ATi initiative have brought something new and rather special to the home user.

Even for the Misfits?

Common sense would dictate a three monitor setup to consist of identical panels of the same size and native resolution. Symmetry matters greatly under many multi-monitor uses and if anything else, it simply reduces the risk of unnecessary complication. Sadly, this idealistic notion comes in at a stellar price tag, more so if you're an IPS or PVA panel snob. On the other hand, many users have redundant televisions/monitors waiting to find another use and as such might also have little care for commonality, let alone colour production or contrast ratio. With this in mind, we decided to assemble an eyefinity setup for the "budget conscious" and so, with a mindset of overzealous anti-symmetry and intentional imperfection, we found ourselves with the mongrel Eyefinity configuration that we hoped for.

Different monitor brands? Check. Different sizes? Check. Varied aspect ratios? Check. Further details can be found in the table below.


Dell Ultrasharp 2408WFPSamsung P2470HD MonitorHP L1908W Monitor

Size

24"24"19"

Aspect Ratio

16:1016:916:10
Native Resolution

1920x12001920x10801440x900
Display Output

DisplayportHDMIVGA
(DVI->VGA Adapter)


Since our visit to ATi's Eyefinity briefing in London last year, we have been fully aware of the feature's adaptability in terms of mixing and matching monitors. Theoretically, our combination of monitors should work fine...but how about in practice? Let's find out...

User Friendly?

We begun our triple monitor endeavour with just our Dell Ultrasharp 2408WFP monitor connected, for installation processes. Next, we connected our Samsung HDTV and then finally our HP Monitor. So far so good...ish.
Ati Catalyst Control Center automatically initialised all three monitors in “Clone” Mode, where all three monitors are generating duplicate content. In order to do anything useful with your three monitors, you will need to check in to the Catalyst Control Panel. Before, I go into any further detail I'd like to mention the monitor configurations available.

Non Eyefinity
1)      Single Monitor

2)      Triple Monitor – Clone Mode
3)      Triple Monitor – Extended Desktop Mode

Eyefinity Mode
1)      Disabled (Any of the above used)

2)      Enabled – Grouped Monitor Mode

“If you're using Three Monitors, Eyefinity is enabled.”  - Well no, not quite.

It is indeed possible to use all three monitors without Eyefinity. ATi's Catalyst Driver allows you to operate your monitors as three separate devices and thus be able to use conventional multi-monitor modes, however this is not Eyefinity. Enabling Eyefinity will coax your system into believing that your three monitors are infact one single device that operates at one large resolution.

Returning to the situation at hand, it is as simple as a couple of key presses to change your monitor configuration from the initial Clone Mode to Extended Desktop. This essentially left us with a large workspace of three independent monitors, all operating at their native resolutions of 1920x1200, 1920x1080 and 1440x900 respectively. From a multitasking perspective, this is a very unique experience.

Having tested both Cloned and Extended Desktop Modes, it became quite evident that the Catalyst Driver's supposed “user friendly” nature was about to turn a little pear shaped.

"I went to the store to buy ketchup but could only find opaque bottles of 'preserved liquid tomato-vinegar'..."

Those of whom who are used to ATi's Catalyst Control Center are aware of its relative ease of use. If you wanted to change global image quality settings, you know you'd go to the "3D" section. Likewise if you wished to overclock your graphics card, you'd go to the "Overdrive" section. Under similar logic, if you wanted to go about enabling ATi Eyefinity Modes, you would access the "Display" section. As a matter of fact if you were to access the Display section, I can confirm that you're in the right place. However, unlike the aforementioned examples where you will very quickly find parameters such as Anti Aliasing or Graphics Memory Frequency respectively, you will not see the word "Eyefinity" at all. More to the point, there is nothing upon initial inspection that particularly suggests that such a feature even exists.

The submenu's to enable Eyefinity were present within the Display tab however. In order to find them, it required two things. First of all, you need to click on triangles within the menu that expand the drop down options that you need. Second and most importantly, you need the initiative to recognise that the option "Create Monitor Group" is a logically equivalent command to "Enable Eyefinity". It may seem as though I'm being somewhat particular, but surely one would expect such a major feature to be easily accessible and under it's widely known marketing name? Figures.

In ATi's defence, the rest of the configuration procedure was painless. All in all, the initialisation process took less than 30 seconds so with the exception of nomenclature trouble, we were up and running in no time at all.



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Eyefinity & Multi Monitors Continued.

The Result - Gimmick or Breakthrough?

Much like Extended Desktop Mode, it is possible to use all three screens for the purposes of workstation based and multitasking purposes. As the screenshot indicates, one has the potential to carry out a large number of tasks simultaneously. Multiple browser windows, a second operating system under Virtualisation, Music, Instant Messaging, Reminders, you name it, it's all open. There are however two major shortcomings with Eyefinity outside of games.

Downscaled Screen Resolutions

This of course does not apply to those who intend on using three identical monitors, however it remains to be an important factor to mention. As mentioned previously, Eyefinity functions with multiple monitors by means of downscaling monitors to the native resolution of the smallest, which in our case resulted in our 24” panels operating at 1440x900 each. This inevitably means lost space on the larger monitors, which in our eyes is a major downside over Extended Desktop Mode.

Limited Non-Game Usability

This particular issue applies to all Eyefinity users. Also due to the nature of an Eyefinity Configuration, it's user interaction is very different to Extended Desktop, where there are defined bounds between each monitor. The results are somewhat poor outside of games...

Simple actions such as maximising a window to fill just one screen is not possible under Eyefinity without the window in question stretching across all three screens. This means that all windows need to be manually sized, which is very awkward indeed. It gets worse too as our test setup was unable to maximise widescreen video properly. We might have almost accepted video playback to stretch across all three screens but instead it overlapped into the area of the two side monitors by roughly an inch. This is no good at all.

I would like to start saying positive things about ATi Eyefinity but I can't just yet. There's more.

We've quite clearly established that Disabling ATi Eyefinity and operating your three monitors in Extended Desktop Mode represents far superior usability outside of games. This is fair enough, but will this not prove tedious for those that regularly cycle between games and regular system usage? All in all, you will spend a little under a minute switching between Eyefinity and Normal Multi-Monitor modes vice versa. While I'm not suggesting that the procedure takes too long, I feel that it's rather irritating to have to do so. ATi could potentially improve usability substantially simply by assigning predefined Hot Keys to switch between modes or even offer a right click, "Run in Eyefinity Mode" function. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel however as, beyond its niggles, it has much to offer.

Left 4 Dead @ 4320 x 900

In some ways, it might be a little difficult to appreciate the effect of Eyefinity with screenshots as it may simply appear as a heavily cropped shot, but it genuinely makes an impact on overall gaming experience. Within minutes you will have forgotten about the bezels that separate your three aspects of vision and focus on your frontal monitor as your main source of vision, while merely glancing at the other two. Essentially, Eyefinity introduces the concept of a peripheral vision in gaming which adds greatly to realism. Left 4 Dead proved to be an ideal game to put Eyefinity to the test, where the sight of zombie hordes coming at you from the corner of your eyes really keeps you on the edge.

Flight Simulator X @ 4320 x 900

Playing Flight Simulator X with our three monitors also yielded impressive results. While it generally had a positive effect on the realism front, the slow pace nature of the game meant that you will inevitably spot the flaws of multi monitor gaming setups, more so if your monitors do not line up correctly on your desk. This particular bank over Seattle looks brilliant as a screenshot, however in "virtual reality", the horizon didn't match, nor did some of the instrumentation, souring the experience somewhat.

It should also be mentioned that unlike in Left 4 Dead, the Radeon HD 5670 performed very poorly at this resolution in Flight Simulator X. Knowing the demanding nature of this game, it would be unfair for me to expect an ATi graphics card with 400 stream processors to cope at this resolution but the point still stands in that a faster graphics card is in order to guarantee acceptable performance amongst today's latest hits.

Now that we have evaluated Eyefinity, our final benchmarks will be carried out on a single Dell 2408WFP monitor.



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3DMark06

As Futuremarks previous gaming benchmark application, it is getting a little old but remains to be a reliable means of testing a graphics card's capability.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. Our tests were carried out under the "Performance" prefix.

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead is a very popular hit and as such was a game that we wanted to throw at our Core i3 530's Integrated GPU. Let's see how well it performs.

 

Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead is without a doubt one hard nut to crack, especially at higher resolutions and a dash of Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering. Given its level of GPU dependency, this will be an interesting place to put our XFX Radeon HD 5670 through its paces.

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

Flight Simulator X remains to be a terribly demanding game for it's age. Known for being very demanding on the CPU but also requiring a level of GPU power in the process, we thought it'd be interesting to see how it faired. 

DiRT2

DiRT2 is a very recent race driving game, known for it's Direct X 11 support. Once again, this is a very GPU dependant game and as such will really push the Radeon HD 5670 to it's limits.

A mixed bag of results but generally, but promising regardless. Given it's low stream processor count, it still performs admirably well and it has also shown that games such as Flight Simulator X do not necessarily need a high end graphics card. DiRT2 felt rather choppy however given the resolution that had been applied, it was to be expected. For modern hits, a faster graphics card is necessary.



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Conclusion

Well it can be safely said that from our testing process that we quite liked the XFX Radeon HD 5670. In terms of performance, it sits around the realms of GeForce 8800 and Radeon HD 3800 series graphics cards of the past but benefits from being smaller and cooler with of course lower power consumption. Even amongst the usual competitors, XFX holds a major advantage in that it's cooling solution is single slot, thus allowing it to fit in smaller cases.  Finally, it should also be mentioned once more that the graphics card's Multi-Monitor support is a feature that puts it well ahead of it's competition from team green.

A part of me does question the Radeon HD 5670's value for money. For those of whom that need a low power graphics card for Home Theater PC usage or purely for Multi-Monitor support then even the entry level HD 5450 for as little as £37 would suffice. On the other hand, those who play games could spend as little as £20 more for an additional 60% stream processing power or a further £20 to double it with the Radeon HD 5750 and 5770 respectively. I can see this graphics card appealing to those who don't need the additional power but I genuinely wonder why an end user wouldn't spend a small amount more for something that'll go a long way with newer games. That said, the HD 5670 does benefit from lower power consumption and its smaller size allows it to fit in small Mini ITX form factor cases.

On that basis, I am not willing to give the Radeon HD 5670 any value for money prizes as it isn't quite there in terms of price. It's performance however is still admirable given it's specification and may still represent good value for those who have absolutely no scope to raise their Graphics Card budget.

The Good
- Small, Single Slot Solution
- Relatively Quiet
- Low Power Consumption
- ATi Eyefinity Support
- Reasonable Performance

The Mediocre
- A price tag nearer the £60-70 mark would represent better value

The Bad
- None

We would like to thank XFX for the card on test today, you discuss this in our forums.