We mentioned in our standalone review that there was really more to the HD 5970 than just what meets the eye. We also covered the fact that ATI have kind of pushed this whole thing about the HD 5970 being "Unlocked." At first glance it's a little hard to figure what exactly ATI mean when they're saying this. Generally speaking, in the computer world the term "Unlocked" tends to refer to a CPU and the fact that it is multiplier unlocked.
So, what does this whole "Unlocked" mean for ATI's latest giant card? Well, you can't enter some secret key combination and unlock more stream processers or ROPs, nor is there a secret to gaining extra memory. What ATI mean by saying the model is "Unlocked" is its overclocking ability.
Initial thoughts on the overclocking potential of the model was that it would be alright, but not great. If it was going to be so good, why didn't the model come out of the factory faster? If the OC potential is so good, why has Sapphire strapped the overclock name to the model and only given us a 10MHz core bump and 40MHz QDR memory bump?
To be honest, we're not sure what the answers to these questions are. All I can tell you is that many hours was spent trying to find the maximum overclock and what we achieved was surprising to say the least; and when I say least, I mean the absolute very least.
So how did we overclock? Well, with two programs. One was the well known Overdrive function in the ATI driver suite and the other was via a tool from ATI that gave us the ability to move the core and memory voltage up.
Starting with the Overdrive side of things, you might find yourself thinking that it's hardly the best program to overclock. This is a bit of a mixed bag; it's great for newbies who want to do a bit of overclocking, but don't have to be concerned about increasing the clocks too high. On the other hand, because the maximum clocks the software offers are quite comfortable, it means that people who really want to get down and dirty with overclocking don't get loads of head room.
Today Overdrive was a bit different; inside it gave us the ability to move our core to 1000MHz and the memory to 1500MHz or 6000MHz QDR. Since we're using beta drivers for the HD 5970, we're not 100% sure if it's going to be like this for everyone when official drivers come out. For the most part we don't really care and that's not to sound like a bastard; the simple fact is that if you want to get higher clocks, there are programs out there that will let you achieve it.
The fact that companies like Sapphire have included over voltage software in the bundle does give us a fair bit of faith that overclocking will be quite a significant feature for the HD 5970 and for that reason the official drivers will probably carry with it the same maximum overclock options.
The other piece of software we used was provided by ATI. The ATI OverVolt Tool is exactly what it sounds like. It gives us the ability to increase the voltage, in this case the core and memory.
Inside we have the ability to move the core from 1.05v to 1.1625v. There's also the ability to move the memory from 1.1v to 1.15v. While normally you'd find the ability to move the sliders in increments, in this case your options are one or the other. What that means is you can move the core voltage to 1.1625v from 1.05v and the memory from 1.1v to 1.5v, but you can't move the memory to 1.11v, 1.12v etc. The same goes for the core, no incremental increase and it's the stock voltage or the increased one being your only options.
What this meant for us was that we felt comfortable moving the sliders straight over; we have to figure that ATI wasn't going to give us the option to run a safe voltage and a non safe one, so we just went for it.
What this all resulted in was a significant overclock. While normally we would take a picture of the first GPU-Z screen, it seems that it doesn't want to recognize our increase in core and memory clock. Instead we've used the next tab which gives us the ability to see what the cores are running at. Telling it that we want to see the maximum speed the core and memory run at, we can clearly see the clocks that we achieved.
What we were able to achieve was a core of 890MHz and a memory clock of 4775MHz QDR. Now, if you think about what we started with, 725MHz on the core and 4040MHz QDR on the memory, you quickly begin to realize the massive OC we have on our hands. With the clock achieved and the ability to run the 3DMark Vantage test multiple times without skipping a beat, it was time to get into the rest of our benchmarks to see what kind of performance increase these clocks offered.
Before we jump to the next page, we just want to mention these weren't the first clocks we tried. I spent a good few hours trying to find the sweet spot and at some states it looked like 900MHz + was going to be an option, but it didn't seem to want to happen with the memory this high. While we might have been able to drop the memory and achieve a higher clock, we found ourselves pretty happy with the position above. The clocks we achieved ran all our benchmarks stable and gave us a significant increase over the stock ones.
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 Kingston Hyper X PC3-16000 2000MHz DDR CL9 (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows 7
Drivers: 8.663.1 Beta4 Hemlock VistaWin7 Nov6
What we've done here today is compare the Sapphire HD 5970 OC at its stock speed of 735MHz / 4040MHz QDR against the same card at the maximum overclock we achieved, that being 890MHz / 4775MHz QDR.
We didn't include the HD 5870 in CF for the simple fact that we wanted to clearly see the difference between this card at the stock clocks and overclocked ones. Having said that, in some of the more major benchmarks we will make note in our explanations on how the overclocked card does when compared to the HD 5870 CF setup which consistently outperformed the HD 5970 due to its higher out of the box clocks.
Let's get started!
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
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.
Straight away we see the massive overclock bringing with it some very impressive gains. Considering the HD 5870 CF setup scored just under P 22000, these are some very nice numbers from the overclocked card.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark (DX10 & DX11)
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//
New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.
Note: If a card doesn't support DirectX 11 the benchmark will be left out, if it does it will be included along with the DirectX 10 results.
We see a great boost in performance under the Unigine Heaven benchmark at both the DX10 and DX11 graphics settings.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
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).
It comes as no surprise that there's no difference under CINEBENCH when it comes to comparing the two cards.
Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5
Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/
Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Across the board at all resolutions RE5 manages to achieve quite a healthy jump in performance. The overclock is really giving us a nice increase so far and hopefully this carries on to other real world tests.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
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.
At the lower resolution there isn't a huge difference between the two setups. As we move higher, the HD 5970 when overclocked begins to see better and better gains with the best being seen at 2560 x 1600.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 22.214.171.124
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
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.
WIC has never been a fan of video card overclocking. What we see is that the overclocked card which is giving us a consistent boost in performance under our other tests actually gives us slightly lower results here.
Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham Asylum
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.
Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.
Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.
In the minimum department we can see not a whole lot happens at the lower resolutions. At the same resolution, though, the increase seen in the average department is quite impressive. At 2560 x 1600 the increase in both the minimum and average department is quite attractive also.
Benchmarks - Darkest of Days
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Product Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.
The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.
Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High Darkest of Days take advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, NVIDIA based cards though will be tested at Low and High.
PhysX set to Low w/out PhysX based Card
Like a few of our other tests, we're seeing the HD 5970 really begin to shine at the higher resolution when overclocked. This isn't a bad thing since this is probably where you're gaming at with a card like this.
Benchmarks - BattleForge
Version and / or Patch Used: Auto Patched at Load
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
The Gods have disappeared and the old sun has died, letting a vile twilight engulf the world of Nyn. In exchange for all treasures the mortals possessed, the evil giants agreed to forge a new sun and hurl it into the sky.
But the deal was betrayed, the treasure stolen and now the mortals flee the wrath of the giants. Under the light of a new sun the mortals stumble into a world changed and twisted by an age of twilight. The long journey home has become a conquest of survival.
Note: Supporting DirectX 11 we have seperated the graphs for NVIDIA and ATI cards. While the numbers between the two brands can be compared you have to make note that ATI based HD 5000 series cards are running DirectX 11.
DirectX 11 (ATI HD 5000 Series Only)
Under BattleForge we see that the only time we see a gain is when we test at the 2560 x 1600 resolution. At the lower resolutions there's no real change when compared to the stock model.
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.
Resident Evil 5
Cranking up the AA and AF under RE5, we again see the HD 5970 perform very well when overclocked.
Far Cry 2
While the HD 5970 in its stock form manages to get over 30 FPS in the minimum department, it really does manage to only scrape past it. The same card overclocked gives us a lot more breathing room with the minimum moving over 40 FPS.
World In Conflict
While our non AA WIC tests didn't show anything too exciting, you can see when the card is placed under a lot of pressure we begin to see the overclock work here. More importantly, the card manages to break the 30 FPS minimum which is something the HD 5870 CF setup wasn't able to achieve.
Temperature and Sound 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.
With the voltage and clock speeds bumped up, the temps seem to also rise slightly. It's nothing to worry about, though.
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).
As the cores have warmed up the HD 5970 has taken it upon itself to increase the fan speed to help keep the card cooler. In turn, that's increased the noise levels under load.
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.
Power draw on the HD 5970 when overclocked seems to be up a bit. Like the temps, however, it isn't anything too worrying as any good quality power supply isn't going to have any problems carrying the extra load.
There's some serious power on tap with the HD 5970 when it comes to overclocking. We just hope that the high clock speeds and the voltage software is obtainable by anyone who's interested in attacking the HD 5970.
Looking at the performance numbers, we're seeing the best gains come at the higher resolution. This isn't really too much of a surprise considering you'll probably be running something like 2560 x 1600 or 1920 x 1200 with some pretty high image detail.
Simply put, there's some massive performance to be had here and if you really want to get the most out of the new model from ATI you're going to want to overclock it. Saying that, it doesn't mean that you have to overclock the card; there's still no denying that out of the box the HD 5970 offers some serious numbers.
Overclocking is pretty easy; the clocks you're able to get are insane and the performance increase that we receive when overclocked is nothing short of fantastic. With a bit of time and patience you're going to get better performance than a HD 5870 CF setup for a cheaper price.
If you're going to purchase a HD 5970, there's no rule that says you have to overclock it. But the simple fact is that if you want to make that grin on your face even bigger, you probably will be firing up Overdrive in no time.
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