Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire

The only thing better than one HD 5870 is two at the moment, so we slide two into our X58 testbed and see how they play together.

Manufacturer: Sapphire
10 minutes & 28 seconds read time


Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 29

We're not going to blabber on too much here, because we're sure you don't want to read about us having two HD 5870s. You just want to know what happens when we put those two HD 5870s into the one system and run our flurry of benchmarks.

I have to say, over the past few releases we've had the ability to do Crossfire testing at launch, but the drivers haven't been ready from ATI. To be honest, when it came to these drivers we weren't sure if it was going to work, but with our cards installed and the drivers installed we were greeted with a window that told us that Crossfire could be enabled once we had rebooted.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 28

There's two ways to see if it's actually working; the first is to fire up GPU-Z. In the screenshot above you can see at the bottom it says we've got two GPUs enabled under CrossFire. The next thing we had to do was fire up our benchmarks to see if everything was running as it should. I'm going to spoil it a bit here; yes, it worked. And really, you would know that already otherwise we wouldn't have bothered with the article. How well did it work, though? Well, let's go to the next page and find out exactly.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 9.8, ATI Catalyst Cypress Driver, ForceWare 190.62,

As far as results go, we've included the important ones here; single HD 5870 and CF HD 5870 to see what kind of performance adding a second card does. We've also included the GTX 295 which is the top dawg from NVIDIA and to be honest, is still the fastest single graphics card on the market. This setup, however, should give us a bit of a sneak peek into what to expect from the HD 5870 X2 when it's inevitably released.

We've also included the HD 4890 in the results for good measure, so we continue to see just what kind of performance gains are seen from the HD 5870.

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 01

The Performance test was the first test I ran on this setup. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed that the HD 5870 in CF wasn't able to beat out the GTX 295. Once the X test had come out, though, I had a giant grin with it putting out big numbers against the GTX 295.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 02

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 03

The GTX 295 and HD 5870 in Crossfire and single form doesn't show much difference between all the resolutions.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 04

CINEBENCH has never made use of CrossFire and here is really no different. We can see between the single card and CrossFire setups there is no difference at all really.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used:
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10).

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 05

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 06

In the minimum department we can see that the HD 5870 CF setup is a bit lower than the single card setup at the lower resolution. At 2560 x 1600 the CF setup again shines and it manages to outperform the GTX 295 again.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.

It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 07

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 08

Looking at Warhead we can see the CrossFire setup gets a massive boost in performance. The extra card manages to even give us the ability to run the game at 2560 x 1600 with the minimum FPS being over 30. It does fall slightly behind the GTX 295, but nothing major, though.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 09

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 10

Looking at Far Cry 2 we can see not only does the HD 5870 CrossFire setup manage to smash the GTX 295 OC, here but also scales very well with the performance being doubled at the highest resolution which is fantastic.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 11

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 12

Clear Sky has always done well for ATI cards and here is no different. The good news is it manages to also scale very well with big boosts in performance. We again see a minimum FPS of over 30 at the highest resolution we test.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.

Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 13

You can see we hit a bit of a CPU limitation here. We do manage to see a good boost in performance again at 2560 x 1600. We again see at this resolution the setup is able to pull a win out against the HD 5870.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

Far Cry 2

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 14

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 15

Far Cry 2 AA performance wasn't great when we looked at the single card. While it was a good jump from the HD 4890, it was still below that 30 FPS minimum we need to see. CrossFire fixes that, however. While the minimum is behind the GTX 295, the average is way up for the CF setup.

World In Conflict

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 16

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 17

We see a good jump in performance here. We could probably almost move to 2560 x 1600 with these settings. Compared to the GTX 295 we're seeing a good gain for the ATI offering in the minimum and average department.

Left 4 Dead

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 18

Our last graphics test doesn't hold any surprises. We see the GTX 295 again fall behind the HD 5870 CF setup with it again putting out some seriously good numbers.

Temperature and Sound Tests

Temperature Tests

With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).

There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 25

It was interesting to find that the second HD 5870 really didn't carry with it any more heat. It seems that the extra holes at the back of the card help draw cool air in.

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 26

Not really too much of a surprise that the noise levels from the cards were similar.

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB in CrossFire 27

We use a bit more power, but nothing major. We can see that at idle it's the same as the GTX 295 and at load it's only slightly ahead.

Final Thoughts

We loved the HD 5870 in single form and we love it even more now. CrossFire manages to scale extremely well and if this is an idea of what we can be expecting from the HD 5870 X2, then NVIDIA had better be worried! Once companies like Sapphire start attacking the model with new cooling and overclocks, it's only going to get better for the model.

We really made the HD 5870 CrossFire setup work as well. Since we compared it to the most recent GTX 295 we had on hand, the massively pre-overclocked offering from Galaxy, it was going to be an uphill battle for the stock clocked HD 5870s. But they rarely struggled with some good numbers being seen across the board.

Really, the only time we saw the HD 5870 CrossFire setup fall behind the GTX 295 was at the lower resolutions. At 2560 x 1600 the HD 5870 CF setup managed to win almost every contest. To be completely honest, this is the kind of resolution you would be running when it comes to spending this much money on a setup like this, so it's really the most important resolution to look at when we're testing cards like this.

Really, all we want now is a third HD 5870 so we can see what happens when CrossFire X is added into the mix. The other thing we want to start seeing is pre-overclocked offerings which are no doubt going to carry with it even more improvements.

At launch it looks like the HD 5870 CF setup is going to cost $250 - $300 US more than a GTX 295. The first thing you're going to be getting is more performance, which for the most part is the most important. The other main feature you're going to be getting over the GTX 295 is Direct X 11 support and while it might not be ready to use yet, there's no doubt that towards the end of this year and the start of next we will see the technology being implemented.

With the price of the setup at the moment, we would probably wait a few weeks for price to settle down as we've been told that quantity is quite limited at the moment and could be the main reason for the slightly higher price tag, but we don't doubt that with the Catalyst driver team on the job the model is going to become even more and more powerful over the coming months.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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