As our third retail HD 5870 rolled into the labs it was time to check out CrossFire X. Some may wonder what CrossFire X is. Well, it's like CrossFire, but with an X. On a serious note, though, in a single GPU setup it means we're going to be dealing with three cards today. If you're packing a dual GPU setup it tends to mean you're dealing with four GPUs which is something we intend to attack when the HD 5870 X2 shows up on our door step.
Today we've got the new single GPU beast from ATI which has left quite a mark, not just on us, but everyone who has had the privilege of touching the card and sliding it into their system.
Since we already know how a stock HD 5870 is going to perform, we thought it was the perfect time to take CrossFire X for a spin. Unlike our first CrossFire article, because we haven't had a look at what GIGABYTE are giving us we'll take the time to have a look at the package they're offering before getting into the card itself.
Once we've done that it's all going to be about one thing and that's the performance CrossFire X has to offer. Once we've gone through our benchmark line-up we'll wrap it all up with our final thoughts.
We love the new GIGABYTE package. As soon as we opened it the light started reflecting off the front of it and we thought "Ohhh, so shiny". As for the box design, there isn't really anything we haven't seen before apart from a new picture in the middle. Across the top we still find the GIGABYTE logo while to the right we have the Windows 7 and ATI ones.
Moving down, we see a sticker that makes mention that the card is DisplayPort ready. Further down we have mention that the card carries with it 1GB of GDDR5, while below that we have the model which is of course the HD 5870.
Turning over, we've got the model across the top with a number of ATI logos. Moving down, we've got a bit of a blurb on the card. Down again we've got a fair bit of information on some of the technology the card offers including Direct X 11 and Eyefinity multi monitor support. The rest of the box is rounded off with a few more features and more of the standard information we're used to seeing on our graphics cards.
As far as paperwork goes, we've got two manuals along with the standard driver CD. At the moment you'll probably find yourself wanting to make use of it. In the next few weeks, though, we should see the Catalyst 9.10s come out with full support for the model. Not seen but included is the Dirt 2 voucher that we've seen with other HD 5870s. The only reason it's not here is because GIGABYTE made sure the sample was quickly sent out. We did confirm that the game does come with the card which is great.
Looking at the cables, we've got two duel molex to 6-Pin PCI E connectors along with a DVI to VGA connector and a CrossFire bridge that we will be making good use out of today.
Having a look at the card, the only difference we have is the sticker that GIGABYTE has opted for. We can see on the top half we've got the brand while across the bottom we have the ATI logo along with the model. We can also see that GIGABYTE has placed a sticker in the middle of the fan.
Sitting just behind the fan at the back of the card we have a couple of vents which seem to help with cooling. We're not sure if they're able to suck in a bit more air or they're just letting some of the hot air escape from another location.
Just above the vents sitting on top of the card we have our two power connectors which come in the form of two 6-Pin PCI Express connectors. Staying across the top but moving closer to the front we have two CrossFire connectors which we'll be fortunately making very good use of today.
The I/O department doesn't hold any surprises. We've got a small vent that takes up half of the top section of the I/O plate, while next to that we have a single Dual-Link DVI connector. Below we have another and to the left of that one we have a native HDMI connector along with a DisplayPort one.
As you would expect, there's no difference when it comes to clocks. We can clearly see that the core comes in at the same 850MHz while the 1GB of GDDR5 carries with it a 1200MHz clock which translates into 4800MHz QDR.
What's different about this GPU-Z screen shot that we haven't seen before is that three GPUs are enabled in our CrossFire bar across the bottom.
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 Cypress Driver, ForceWare 190.62,
As we mentioned already, we'll be testing the GIGABYTE HD 5870 in CrossFire X form today. What that means is we'll be placing our other two HD 5870s into our testbed along with the GIGABYTE to see what happens with performance when three cards are installed. If you jumped straight to this page you can jump back one to see the GPU-Z screenshot which shows us that three GPUs are enabled.
From a performance perspective we're not 100% sure what to expect. CrossFire X has never been the best of technology and usually completely kills any value for money aspect that the cards that are used tend to offer on their own. Hopefully the HD 5870 is an improvement, but there's only one way to find out for sure.
What we have missed in this line-up is the temperature tests. With three cards installed there was no wiggle room making it impossible for us to grab the temperature of the cores on the rear of the second and third card.
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.
In our first test we can see that in the P preset there is no difference with performance going back slightly. |In the X preset we've got a gain, but nothing too exciting unfortunately.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
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.
We see a bit of a jump at 2560 x 1600, but nothing that could justify the extra cost of the third card. At the lower resolutions we really see no change between two and three cards.
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).
Performance is a little down here. Not any big surprise; we were never going to see a gain as CINEBENCH makes no use of CrossFire technology, let alone CrossFire X.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
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.
We see a bit of positive movement at 2560 x 1600 in the average department, but really for the most part there's again no difference between the two or three card setup.
Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com
Product Homepage: http://crysiswarhead.ea.com/
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.
Up to 1920 x 1200 the performance drops back a little bit. At 2560 x 1600, though, we see a good jump which results in a 30% gain over the two card setup. It's interesting to see that every resolution scored the same 42 FPS minimum.
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.
Like Warhead at resolutions of up to 1920 x 1200 there's nothing to get excited about. Moving to 2560 x 1600 we see a nice little gain that results in an increase of about 17%. While nice, it's hardly worth spending the extra money that adding a third card brings with it.
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: http://www.gsc-game.com/
Product Homepage: http://cs.stalker-game.com/en/
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. 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.
Like Warhead, in the minimum department we see that the score at all three resolutions is almost identical like Warhead and Far Cry 2, though, the only time we see a gain is at 2560 x 1600. In this case the minimum increase translates to just over 10%.
Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead
Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.valvesoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.l4d.com/
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.
The ATI cards seem to be hitting a bit of a CPU limitation at the 160 FPS mark here. We can see that the two and three card setups manage to sit at around the same numbers at all resolutions.
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
Like our normal Far Cry 2 tests we see a good jump in performance here in both the minimum and average department.
World In Conflict
With AA and AF on we see a small jump in the minimum department. In the average area we do see a better performance increase. Mind you, it does translate to only about 8%.
Left 4 Dead
With the intensity increased we see a good performance gain once again here. Mind you, we're already getting good numbers out of the two card setup.
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).
Adding the third card doesn't do a whole lot for noise levels with it sitting in line with all the other setups we have here today.
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.
Adding another card of course increases our overall power draw. It doesn't come as much of a surprise, though. The good news is it's probably not something you're going to be worried about as the setup doesn't do a whole lot for performance.
Let's get the GIGABYTE part of this article out the way. While we didn't test it in single GPU form, we know how it's going to perform with it following the same clock speeds as the other three HD 5870s. What it really comes down to is the bundle; GIGABYTE is actually on the lighter side of things with no real extras. The good news is that the Dirt 2 coupon, while not pictured, is included in the bundle.
Now, with that said, over here in Australia we're finding that the GIGABYTE model actually comes in at the cheapest price which is something we're impressed about. When the pricing calms down a bit in the U.S. we should find something similar. Now, if you're not interested in the extra game that Sapphire offer or the 7-in-1 tool that HIS are giving NewEgg buyers at the moment, then the money saved will no doubt be appreciated.
So with that said, we'll place our final score for the card just below. With that out of the way we'll then get into discussing CrossFire X and let you know our thoughts on it.
CrossFire X with the HD 5870 is like CrossFire X with the HD 4890; for the most part, pretty disappointing. One of the biggest cons to the setup when compared to a dual card setup is that you simply don't get the performance boost consistently on our games.
Now, we can handle when there's a drop in performance at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 when two cards are installed, because really if you've got three you should be using 2560 x 1600. If there's a consistent boost in performance at that resolution then we're happy and while we did see a gain in performance, it wasn't ever enough that could justify the extra money that would have to be spent with the addition of a third card.
The other big con about the setup is that in a two card situation we have 16x on both lanes, but moving to a three card setup means we continue to have 16x on the first lane but on our second and third card they are only running at 8x, which means the cards aren't going to get the same amount of performance. What you hope, though, is that adding a third card combats that and still manages to give us a boost that justifies the price of three cards, but unfortunately it doesn't.
CrossFire is a fantastic technology. Unfortunately CrossFire X isn't in the same category. Hopefully one day that will change, however. For now if you want to add a second HD 5870 we would highly recommend it. The performance boost is great and justifying the extra cost associated with a second card is easy. For now, though, we wouldn't recommend looking at a third card; hopefully CrossFire X looks a bit more attractive with the HD 5870 X2, with both cards being able to run at 16x on the PCI-E lanes.
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