Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 2GB Video Card

ATI strap two HD 5870 cores onto a PCB and release a new model labeled HD 5970. Do we love it? - There's only one way to find out.

Manufacturer: SapphireTech
17 minutes & 5 seconds read time


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It has taken me days to get my head around the HD 5970 name. I was one of those people who had in my head that it was simply going to be called the HD 5870 X2; it seemed the logical name since it's what ATI has used in the past. I've written everything from HD 5790 to HD 5970 trying to get my brain and my fingers working together and I have to give myself a tap on the back that I'm now getting it right.

I think the biggest problem is that NVIDIA are enjoying being a bit of a pain in the ass by releasing their new low end models a day before the new high end models from ATI. One side of you says 'why am I testing a GT 200 series model when HD 5970 is sitting next to me?'; the other half is telling me that you've got to take the exciting with the non exciting. I'm not trying to take anything away from the NVIDIA series cards and their new GT 200 models that have impressed us, but come on; we all love high end models.

Anyway, back on topic. We've got the HD 5970 on our hands. This is not a new single GPU offering as the name might suggest; it's instead the new dual GPU offering which one would say replaces the previous dual GPU offering from ATI. However, the new single GPU offerings did a good job of that.

The HD 5970 is ultimately what the previous X2 offerings are and what the GTX 295 to NVIDIA has been for a long time. They're about a company getting on top of the soap box and shouting out at the top of their lungs, "We're the fastest".

Dual GPU cards are a bit of a mixed bag for me. While I think they're a bit of a lazy mans model to create the fastest product on the market, I'm at the point now that there's no point fighting it. Instead, let's just embrace the power that's on offer from a card that only uses a single PCI-E slot on your motherboard.

With all that said and done, let's get into the package of the Sapphire HD 5970 we have on our hands today before having a closer look at the card itself, its specifications and the power it offers us.

The Package

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Sapphire has done a great job with the bundle; we've got all the normal cables we need including the new DisplayPort to Mini DisplayPort convertor. We've also got Sapphires own Redline overclocking software along with two games; Dirt 2 and another DirectX 11 one, BattleForge, which we have recently added to our benchmark line up.

Video Card

Having a look at the card, it looks very similar to a lot of the top HD 5000 series models including the HD 5770, HD 5850 and HD 5870. The same changes are seen here as the other ones; as we've become more powerful the card and cooler has become longer.

Hanging over the end of our motherboard, you may find yourself wrestling to fit this bad boy in your case. As for the rest of the design, there isn't much going on. Sapphire, as always, has included a sticker on the cooler that is similar to the front of the box.

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If we flip the card over quick we can see clearly where our two cores sit. Again, this is really identical to the HD 5870 with the only difference being that we can see the PCB in two locations instead of just the one.

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It's good to know we don't need a whole heap of power connectors to get this card up and running. While the HD 5870 does use a dual 6-Pin setup, the HD 5970 does require an 8-Pin alongside a single 6-Pin connector. This shouldn't be an issue for most people purchasing the card, as we hope that they have got themselves a decent power supply.

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Being a dual GPU card, there's of course a slight change to the CrossFire connector. Due to CrossFireX supporting up to a maximum of four GPUs, there's no point having two connectors. Instead we just have the one which lets two cards play nice together.

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I have to admit I was a bit curious as to what ATI would do with the I/O interface. Since we are dealing with two GPUs I'm sure they didn't want to limit the amount of vents on the card. What they've done is dropped the native HDMI port and standard DisplayPort and added a Mini DisplayPort between the two Dual-Link DVI connectors.

This of course gives the card a lot more breathing room when compared to the HD 5870. If you find yourself worried by the fact that you don't have a Mini DisplayPort, in case you missed it on page 2 Sapphire has included a Mini DP to full size DP convertor in the bundle. It's also pretty safe to assume most companies will offer this.


It comes as no surprise that ATI has down clocked the HD 5970 when compared to the HD 5870. Just how much has it been down clocked? - Well, a fair bit to be honest. The core comes in at 725MHz which is way down on the stock 850MHz that the HD 5870 comes in at.

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As for the memory, that's dropped a fair bit as well; 200MHz or 800MHz QDR which sounds a whole lot scarier. With that said, Sapphire has taken the time to overclock the card. The core has jumped a whole 10MHz and the memory has been increased 40MHz QDR. This isn't really much of an overclock, but its speed is above the standard. We hope that in a later article we can see what a real overclock looks like.

What you ultimately have is two HD 5870s on a single PCB that have been down clocked to HD 5850 speeds. We don't want to say you have two HD 5850s, because the core specifications are the same as HD 5870 with 1600 shaders and 80 texture units. They have just simply been down clocked to combat any issues with heat.

As for the rest of the specifications, it's nothing you haven't seen before. We've got all the same specs as the HD 5870 and feature set including DirectX 11 support.

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: ATI Catalyst 9.10, 8.663.1 Beta4 Hemlock VistaWin7 Nov6, ForceWare 191.07

Today we'll be comparing the HD 5970 against all the setups that matter. This means we've got the HD 5970 against the dual GPU bad boy from NVIDIA, the GTX 295 while also comparing the model to the HD 5870 in both singular and Crossfire configurations.

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.

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In our first test we see what we would expect when it comes to comparing the HD 5970 to the HD 5870 in CF. The lower clocked HD 5970 comes in behind the higher clocked HD 5870 CF setup. Compared to the GTX 295, we can see in the less stressful P preset the NVIDIA offerings pull out a win. When we start cranking up the intensity, we can see that the HD 5970 comes out way ahead.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark (DX10 & DX11)

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1
Developer Homepage:
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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

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Looking at DirectX 10 performance, we can see the HD 5970 from Sapphire does a good job of taking out the GTX 295. But again it falls a little behind that HD 5870 CF setup.

DirectX 11

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We again see some good scores when we move over to a DX11 mode. The results between the ATI cards are similar to what we saw in the DX10 one.

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).

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There's no real surprises under CINEBENCH; most of the ATI cards sit around that high 10k to low 11k score while the NVIDIA offerings sit in that typical 6k range.

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.

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The GTX 295 performs very strong under RE5. With that said, it isn't quite enough to outperform the HD 5970 which across the board puts out better numbers.

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.

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Compared to the GTX 295 we again see some excellent performance across the board here. Again the HD 5970 continues to fall a little behind the higher clocked HD 5870s in CrossFire, but considering we're only using a single PCI-E slot here, the results are extremely impressive.

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.

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In the minimum department every card is able to break 30 FPS in every situation. While there's not a lot separating all four setups, the two dual GPU ATI configurations perform very close to each other with the HD 5870 CF setup offering better averages at the higher resolution.

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

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While the GTX 295 manages to do a good job of putting out numbers well above the 30 FPS minimum we need at all resolutions, we can clearly see the HD 5970 screams along. Compared to the HD 5870 CF setup it falls a little behind at the higher resolution, but the numbers are no doubt impressive none the less.

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

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PhysX set to Medium w/ PhysX based Card

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Under Darkest of Days we see some high numbers across the board. Compared to the GTX 295 the numbers are a good chunk higher. You have to remember, though, PhysX effects are set to low on the ATI based cards. With PhysX at medium we can see the GTX 295 doesn't really have any issues gaming at 1920 x 1200. If you want more FPS from the NVIDIA offering you can simply move the PhysX to low.

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)

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DirectX 10 (NVIDIA and Older ATI HD 4000 Series Only)

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Across the board we see the HD 5000 series cards put out good numbers in BattleForge. Compared to the GTX 295 we can see that the HD 5970 is able to outperform NVIDIAs dual GPU offering while implementing the latest DirectX technology as well.

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

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We're seeing a similar picture to what we've seen all along with the HD 5970 falling slightly behind the HD 5870 CF setup and its higher clock speeds. Compared to the GTX 295, however, performance for ATI is very strong here.

Far Cry 2

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Both the HD 5970 and HD 5870 CF are able to achieve a minimum higher than 30 FPS which is exactly what we want to see. We can see that the HD 5870 CF setup manages to squeeze out an extra few FPS.

World In Conflict

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With World in Conflict literally maxed out as far as settings go, we can see that all cards struggle to break the 30 FPS minimum. The HD 5970 sits again behind the HD 5870 CF setup. Hopefully a bit of overclocking can help yield those extra FPS we need to overtake the HD 5870 CF setup and break that 30 FPS minimum.

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.

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Heat output doesn't show anything too worrying; the cores do run a bit hotter than the standard HD 5870, but nothing that we're concerned about.

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).

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Noise across the board on the ATI offerings is pretty good. The HD 5970 did manage to idle a little lower, but load noises are all pretty much in line with the only card standing out being the GTX 295 in a more negative light than any other.

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.

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Power draw is actually very good on the HD 5970; the number we're getting from it at load is similar to the single GPU offering and idle numbers are only slightly up. The load numbers look a lot more attractive than the CrossFire HD 5870 setup.

Final Thoughts

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.

What do awards mean? Click for details!

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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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