ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX

Having been impressed with the new HD 5970 in standard and overclocked form, now it's time to see what magic can be made with two of these bad boys.

Published Thu, Nov 19 2009 7:55 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:03 PM CST


ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 02 |

So, we've looked at the HD 5970 in single form and we've also seen the massive OC potential of the card. You have to wonder what else there is to do? - We'll, that's easy; install our second HD 5970 into the system and see how CrossFireX goes.

We're not going to pretend we aren't excited about testing CrossFireX, nor are we going to pretend we don't expect some big numbers out of the setup. For performance junkies, unless there are some real gains in this four GPU configuration, they're simply not going to be interested in the setup.

Since the second card arrived from big red themselves, there isn't a whole lot to look at. We'll have a quick peek at the card, just in case you haven't had a chance to see what's happening with it. We'll also snag a quick GPU-Z screen shot to make sure CrossFireX is working before we simply get into the benchmarks.

The Video Card

With no package all we're going to be looking at the card and as you can see below, there's nothing that we didn't see with the Sapphire version of the card, albeit the lack of a sticker on top of the cooler.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 03 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 04 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 05 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 06 |

If you want a full run down on the card, we recommend that you head over and have a closer look at the Sapphire card. But for a quick rundown, you've got two GPUs on a single PCB. The card requires an 8-Pin and 6-Pin PCI-E connector instead of the dual 6-Pin setup seen on the HD 5870. There's only a single CrossFire connector due to the reason that a maximum of only two of these cards can be installed at the same time.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 07 |

In the I/O department there's two Dual-Link DVI connectors and a Mini DisplayPort. In the event you don't have a Mini DisplayPort connector, it looks like all ATI partners will be including a DP to Mini DP convertor.


It comes as no surprise that the reference ATI model carries with it the default clock speeds. What this means is that the core comes in at 725MHz while the 2GB of GDDR5 carries with it a clock of 4000MHz QDR.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 01 |

Looking across the bottom, you can clearly see that we have CrossFire enabled and four GPUs are up and running. Now we just have to cross our fingers that there's some significant performance increases in store.

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

In this article today we'll be simply looking at the CrossFireX configuration against the single HD 5970 to see just what kind of performance gains the setup gives us. We haven't added in any other cards for the simple fact that we want to clearly see the performance gains of adding the second card into the mix.

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.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 20 |

Straight away we see MASSIVE gains under Vantage. Looking at the Extreme test, we can see we've broken 20000 marks which is something we haven't done here before. You can only begin to imagine what people are going to achieve with the setup once they get into extreme cooling and insane overclocks.

The problem here is that Vantage has always made excellent use of SLI and CrossFireX. What we really need is significant performance increases in real world games.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark (DX10 & DX11)

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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.

DirectX 10

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 21 |

DirectX 11

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 22 |

Under the DX10 test we see the power of CrossFireX really shine. Firing up DX11, however, paints a different picture. Multiple reboots and retests came out with similar numbers. We hope that it's not a CrossFire / DX 11 issue; we'll find out later when we test our real world DX 11 game, BattleForge.

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).

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 23 |

Under CINEBENCH it comes as no surprise that there's nothing going on when the extra card is added. Saying that, it would be interesting to see what a setup like this could do under a rendering program that was able to make use of the multiple GPU setup.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

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

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.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 25 |

In our first real world game we can see the CrossFireX setup gives us a serious boost in performance. At 2560 x 1600 the 70 FPS increase is extremely impressive when talking percentages.

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.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 26 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 27 |

Far Cry 2 sees some significant gains at the higher resolution. While it isn't doubled, the 25 FPS increase does translate to around a 40% increase which is nothing to be shy of.

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.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 28 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 29 |

WIC has never been a huge fan of CrossFireX. The good news is while performance has dropped a little bit, we're still above 30 FPS in the minimum department at all resolutions. What this ultimately means is that your overall game experience shouldn't be impacted.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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.

Without PhysX

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 30 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 31 |

While nothing is going on in the minimum department, we can see under the CrossFireX setup that there's some significant gains in the average scores at the higher resolution. Already getting good FPS with a single card, the game isn't going to feel any better with the second card added and on the plus side, at least there's gains, albeit in the averages.

Benchmarks - Darkest of Days

World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 34 |

Darkest of Days doesn't seem to be getting any use out of the CrossFireX configuration. We can see the score is almost identical between the two setups. At the lower resolution the CFX setup is actually just ever so slightly slower.

Benchmarks - BattleForge


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

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)

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 36 |

It seems that BattleForge might be hitting a bit of a wall around the 108 - 110 FPS. Since the only test that wasn't able to achieve around this mark in the single card form was at 2560 x 1600, adding the second card manages to get us there, which lets us know that CrossFire is working. In a situation like this you would probably start to add AA and increase the detail to help combat the FPS limitation. If you had your average around 70 - 80 FPS, you would be getting a pretty nice gaming experience.

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

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 38 |

Increasing the detail, we can see RE5 makes some excellent use of the second card. We've moved a massive 60 FPS forward which is fantastic. It's a pity in this situation RE5 is literally maxed out.

Far Cry 2

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 39 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 40 |

One minute we're scraping at the bottom of the 30 FPS minimum, the next we're so far above it. This would really make your whole game experience nicer. While 30 FPS is what we want to aim for, getting above 40 is what you ultimately want if you're spending big dollars.

World In Conflict

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 41 |

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 42 |

While our non AA WIC tests saw a bit of negative performance, when we start to max out the settings of the game and really put the cards to work, we see a good increase in performance. We've fortunately gone from 5 FPS under that 30 FPS minimum to 4 FPS over it.

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.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 43 |

The top card starts to run significantly warmer due to the restriction of airflow when compared to the same card when running by itself. Due to the cards being so close together, we weren't able to pull a temperature from the second card. It did seem to feel like it was running cooler, though, which was probably due to the fact the fan had no issue getting 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).

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 44 |

So you've got the two cards in and you're sitting in Windows; nothing has changed with the noise levels which is nice.

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.

ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB in CrossFireX 45 |

It comes as no surprise that under load the HD 5970 in CrossFire is going to start sucking down the power. At idle there's very little change when adding the second card. Power draw in excess of 500 Watts shouldn't be an issue for anyone who is going to buy a setup like this as we expect them to have a good quality kilowatt unit installed.

Final Thoughts

CrossFireX is really beginning to make some strides. The technology isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than it was a few years ago. Apart from the DX11 Heaven benchmark, there was no worrying negative effects when adding the second card. The worst thing that happened was that we didn't see much of a performance gain.

The good news is if you've got some money just wanting to burn a hole in your pocket or you need something to keep you warm this Christmas, the HD 5970 CrossFireX setup is hardly a waste of money. As we see more and more driver releases come from ATI, the performance of the technology should become only better.

The ultimate setup as of today is this. The bottom line is that if you walk into a computer shop and say "I don't care about money, I just want the fastest setup", unless they're setting you up with an i7 X58 rig that carries with it HD 5970s in CrossFireX, you're not getting what you want.

Performance is only going to get better when you start to overclock the model. We've already discovered the huge amount of headroom that is available with a bump in voltages and when you start doing this to a CFX setup the performance is going to be out of this world.

A few months ago we weren't sure if ATI was going to be on top come November; GT 300 was supposed to be released and we don't doubt that the model is going to give the HD 5000 series a good fight. The simple fact is that the GT 300 isn't available. If you're getting ready to take some time off for Christmas and want to get down and dirty with some of those games that have come out this year, the chances are you're probably going to be looking at something from the red team, and to be honest with good reason.

If you want a fast setup, you buy a HD 5870. If you want a really fast setup you buy a HD 5970. If you want more performance than you can point a 30" monitor at, you get a pair of HD 5970s. And while some might say "what's the point? The numbers are so high already with a single card, why bother with a second card?", you can respond with a simple "Because I can!"

If they're looking for a bit more of an explanation, though, you can simply say that you're preparing for some future EyeFinity gaming with three 1920 x 1200 screens which pushes out 2,816,000 pixels more than a single 2560 x 1600 screen. Of course, we just need ATI to hook us up with drivers that let us use CF technology with EyeFinity.

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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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