ATI 5000 Series Roundup
Published: 20th January 2010 | Source: ASUS | Price: £117 - £540 |
So what conclusion can be drawn from todays testing?
Firstly I'm sure a lot of you have come into todays review with a preconceived notion of exactly what card you'd like. In previous times the general consensus was to purchase the highest priced card you could afford and stretch if possible to the next one up. For single card purchases that would lead you into looking at the 5970 and pretty much stopping there. So let's start at the top.
If our tests show anything it's that the £540 HD5970 is a poor purchase regardless of how much money you have available. Firstly it's the hottest card on test when run at stock settings. The only hotter card is the overclocked 5770. So straight away you have more heat to dispel and a high power draw. Secondly it's enormous at just over a foot long. There aren't a lot of cases around that will take such a behemoth, although we'd imagine anyone with over 500 notes to spend on their graphics will have a suitable case. Finally, and most tellingly, it just doesn't add up on a pure performance level. An overclocked HD5870 is close in most tests and £200 less, and the HD5850 Crossfire setup at stock speeds easily keeps up with even the overclocked HD5970 and is still £100 cheaper. An overclocked HD5850xf setup would blow it away. So if it suits neither the performance junky nor those looking for value for money, what should you buy instead?
The HD5870. This is an amazing card. Truly outstanding. As a single card solution it is the equal of the last-generation king the Radeon 4870X2 at stock settings but with the power savings and heat reduction you'd expect from a single chip. It also clocks incredibly well. We managed to get the core to 1GHz on air and it coped although it was a little too hot for stability in our tests. Nonetheless being £200 cheaper than a HD5970 you could spend half of that saving on a water-block and then the sky is nearly the limit.Truly one of the best ways to spend around £330 you can find.
In Crossfire the HD5870 is far and away the fastest graphics solution we've tested. It reached, Crysis notwithstanding, the magical plateau where you actually wished for even higher settings because no matter how hard you pushed the game settings, or the AA/AF levels, it just laughed and carried on crunching numbers. A 4870X2 still stands up as an exceptional performing card and so with a HD5870 Crossfire setup being so brutally fast and its performance CPU limited, if you can afford the arse-clenching £650 price tag then it will serve for many years to come. Amazingly even that price doesn't seem as silly as it appears because if you brought a new high end single card every couple of years then you'd spend that anyway.
Moving down the list to the HD5850 this was the little train that could. It's around £100 cheaper than a HD5870 at £230 and performance is around where you'd expect for the price. But my word does it clock. We hit a 1000MHz on the core and could probably have gone a little further. In its overclocked state it just about kept up with the HD5870 so if you're on a bit of a budget then it's easily worth considering. Again price comes into play when looking at Crossfired HD5850s. For a decent Crossfire setup you'd be looking around the £450 mark and the performance slots into about where you'd expect. Better than the £100 cheaper HD5870, about the same as the £100 more expensive HD5970 and quite a bit slower than the £200 more HD5870 Crossfire. Certainly on a performance standpoint the HD5870xf setup is where it's at, but the HD5850xf performs admirably by keeping up with the ever-more disappointing HD5970.
Finally the little engine that could, the HD5770. Naturally it doesn't give the immense performance of its bigger brothers, but conversely one can be had from around £115. Playable frame-rates at such high resolutions and detail whilst still allowing for immense AA settings it starts to look like it will be the bargain the 4770s were in the last generation. You could get Crossfire overclocked HD5770s for the same price as a vanilla HD5850 and suddenly we're all stroking our beards and nodding at the possibilities. If "Bang for Buck", or I guess as we're in the UK "Excitement per Euro" or "Pleasure Per Pound", is an important consideration then this is probably the best of the lot. Certainly if you're building a system to a reasonable budget then it has to be considered.
Phew. I hope you enjoyed that all as much as we did. Making a definitive "buy this" statement isn't easy at all as there are some people who want the best regardless, others who want value for money, still others who just want a cheap card that can game a bit and finally those who want future potential.
Generally our advice can be whittled down to the following :
1) HD5870 Crossfire is as good as it gets, with a price to match. Water-cooled these would be mind-blowing in an OC Crossfire setup.
2) HD5850 is very impressive especially in Crossfire and best for those who can't justify a months wages on eye candy.
3) HD5770 is quite a pocket rocket and we look forward to testing a Crossfire setup, coming soon to OC3D.
4) HD5970 is over-priced and under-performing. HD5850 Crossfire is as quick for less, HD5870 Crossfire annihilates it for £100 more.
Whichever of the three single GPU cards we tested today you decide upon, you'll be pleased with the performance.The ASUS voltage modified BIOS certainly makes clocking of these cards a joy and we very quickly reached massive gains in a stable manner. If anything we reached the thermal limits of the cooler long before we reached the performance limits of the chip.
We really can't rate the BIOS enough to enable us to hit mega core speeds with stability and a total lack of artifacts. For this reason we happily give it the innovation award.
Once some third party cooling solutions hit the market the ATI Radeon 5 series will truly shine and the Nvidia GF100 needs to be very special indeed to sway consumers.