It's funny; once you kind of know what you're going to be dealing with there isn't a huge surprise as to what you can expect. What I mean by this is that after looking at the tech docs and reading into the specifications the model will carry, you understand that performance of the model isn't going to be quite as good as the HD 5870 in CrossFire, but better than a standard HD 5870.
Talking to someone, they said to me "No Surprise, No Fun." Thinking about that, it's probably kind of true. Most people who have been testing hardware for as long as I have will probably not find a whole lot of "fun" from components, so I think that statement does hold a bit of truth.
Saying the HD 5970 is no fun, however, is like saying the HD 5850 is no fun; you know it's going to perform just below the HD 5870. It's all ultimately fun in one way or another; it's not fun like you're on a rollercoaster, but fun in the sense that you are getting above 30 FPS in the minimum department when testing Far Cry 2 at 1920 x 1200 with 8x AA on; something that wasn't achieved on any other single card here.
If you know how the HD 5870 CF performs you don't need to look at the benchmarks after finding out the specifications of the HD 5970 to know how it's going to perform. The model is going to perform slightly behind a HD 5870 CF setup. With all this said, we keep hearing ATI throw this "Unlocked" comment around.
So, the HD 5970 is an unlocked product? What the hell does that mean? - To be honest, you won't know until you fire up the over voltage software that a company includes and get into the overclocking. Using the word "Unlocked" probably wasn't the best. Mind you, we understand that they don't really want to say "The HD 5970 goes like the clappers when you shove more voltage into it". (I'm not too sure if anyone outside of Australia is going to understand me saying it goes like the clappers, but I think for the most part you would understand what I mean.)
We're not going to go into the overclocking abilities of the card here. We'll do that soon enough in another article which is being worked on at the moment. What we can say is that we've got a bit of "more than meets the eye" going on here.
With everything said and done, what are our thoughts on the HD 5970 and the Sapphire version as it comes out of the box? Well, to be frank, we love it. There's nothing better than having a single graphics card that performs almost as well as two out of the box. The bundle is kick ass and the specifications and feature set is the same as the HD 5870 which we love.
This card suits people who want an extremely fast setup but don't have a board that will offer them dual 16x; something like the P55 would be a prime example. It's a great card if you're not interested in having two cards in your system and prefer the clean design of just a single one, want the chance to run up to four of the HD 5870 GPUs or just really love playing with fast and expensive technology.
The package Sapphire has given us is great; the inclusion of all the normal HD 5870 goodies along with the extra game is a great addition. This is especially true since you can grab BattleForge now and start taking advantage of DX11 immediately. The performance of the model is what you would expect, which is nothing short of fantastic and the pricing while being a bit hard to swallow, isn't really that much of a surprise.
If you look at the price as well, early sightings are telling us that the HD 5970 is cheaper than two HD 5870s. Now, while you might be saying "that's fair enough; it's slower than two", you have to remember we said there's more than meets the eye with this model. If you're happy to overclock, if you're happy to muck around with voltages, this card is going to represent huge value.
If you're not interested in doing that, but some of the other pros suit you like not having a dual 16x lane board, then again, the value is also great. The ONLY people who don't really see the excellent value and instead probably only see reasonable value are people who don't want to overclock and are happy to have two cards in their system. In that case you would be better off purchasing two HD 5870s which while costing you more, will offer you better out of the box performance.
Editor Note: Since we had a few people ask what exactly Shane meant when he said "Go like the Clappers" you can find out the meaning and origin of the saying here.