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Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB Video Card

We offered you a sneak peak already, but today it gets the royal treatment. Check out our full review of the HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB.

Manufacturer: Sapphire
17 minutes & read time


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The other day we gave you a little bit of a sneak peek at the latest video card from Sapphire, the HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB. You can see it here. In that article we mentioned that we tend to leave previews to products we've seen at tradeshows or at the manufacturers headquarters. However, due to the limited samples of the HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB and the actual time frame it takes to do a review, we thought that we would just give you a bit of a sneak peek at what looked to be the fastest video card on the market.

Today we'll be giving the HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB from Sapphire the normal review treatment which means a bucket load of pictures and even more benchmarks. The HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB was actually first seen at CEBIT and word got around the interweb that the model was the HD 5990; this of course turned out to be incorrect. It was just a pimped out version of the HD 5970 sporting a heap of RAM. Word was that it would be the fastest video card on the market. That bit seems to hold some serious truth, so sit back, relax and find out just what the TOXIC version of the HD 5970 can do for you and me.

The Package

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The package has some serious stand out points when looking at it. The first would have to be the inclusion of both Dirt 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The second would have to be the fact that Sapphire have chosen to include an active DP to DVI adapter.

Priced at $100 US by itself, it's going to give a serious bump in the price; but honestly, if Eyefinity is what you're looking at then this is probably the card you want. The fact we've got an active adapter included in the bundle means not only do you not need a DisplayPort monitor, but you don't have to try and hunt one of the adapters down which is an almost impossible task.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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The card is huge; well, when we say huge we mean it takes up three slots instead of the standard two. Overall, it's not really any bigger than a standard HD 5970. In saying that, though, the fact it's got three massive fans on the cooler makes it look and feel so much bigger than it actually is.

While the I/O shows no changes with the two Dual Link DVI connectors and single mini DisplayPort being present, the big difference about this card compared to other HD 5970s is the fact that it requires two 8-Pin PCI-E power connectors instead of a single one alongside a 6-Pin. For most people this isn't going to be an issue, but in saying that, it's clearly something worth noting.


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When it came to checking the clock speeds I had to double check one of my previous reviews of a HD 5970 to make sure I was reading the overclock correctly. Even after I checked one of my older GPU-Z screen shots I googled to triple check that I was seeing the overclock right.

The 900MHz core clock is 175MHz higher than the stock HD 5970. As for the GDDR5, that's gone from 4000MHz QDR to 4800MHz QDR. If that wasn't tickling your fancy, how about the fact that that 4800MHz QDR clock is for 4GB of GDDR5 instead of the standard 2GB?

If there was ever a card made for triple monitor Eyefinity gaming, this is the one!

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Western Digital, Noctua and Thermaltake.

The main thing we want to look at is just how the Sapphire HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB performs when compared to the 2GB reference version from Sapphire. Also included in the graphs are the new NVIDIA cards, the GTX 470 and the new single GPU bad boy, the GTX 480.

It's worth remembering that the top NVIDIA card is designed to compete against the HD 5870 of which is a single GPU video card. No doubt we want to see how NVIDIAs fastest looks against ATIs fastest, though.

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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Straight out the gate we're seeing big numbers from the Sapphire HD 5970 4GB TOXIC. Our P score is almost 30,000 while our X is well into the 16,000s.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 1 and 2
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 DirectX10 results.

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Tessellation is something that NVIDIA have heavily concentrated on and the GTX 480 manages to give the dual GPU HD 5970 a run for its money. Unfortunately for NVIDIA Sapphire came to the party and decided to rain on their parade.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10 and Release 11.5
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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R10 CINEBENCH performance has always been strong for ATI and here is no different. R11.5 seems to be favoring NVIDIA cards at the moment, however. While it does fall behind both GTX 400 models, we can see that the extra grunt on offer does give us a performance boost over the reference card.

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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Getting into the games and we're beginning to see just some ridiculous numbers here; well into the 200 FPS mark at 1680 x 1050 and well into the 100 FPS mark at 2560 x 1600.

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.

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BattleForge is one of the most intensive games in our lineup. When we're not dealing with a minimum we consider an average of around 60 FPS to be smooth. You can see that the GTX 480 is able to offer this at 2560 x 1600. Of course, more FPS is always better, especially when we're talking about a card getting the minimum of what we really want.

You can clearly see the HD 5970 offers a huge increase over the GTX 480 and the Sapphire HD 5970 TOXIC offers an ever bigger bump with it being roughly 15% faster than the stock one.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

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

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X is an arcade-style flight simulator video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iPhone OS.

The fundamental gameplay mechanics are similar to those of other console-based flight series. Players take on enemies with over 50 aircraft available. Each mission is at real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first person, and third person view are selectable. The third person view gives the player an external view of both their plane and the target.

Set above the skies of a near-future world, increasingly dependent on private military companies with elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States.

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Across the board we see massive numbers from the TOXIC card again and compared to the reference HD 5970, the gains are mighty impressive.

Benchmarks - Darkest of Days

Darkest of Days

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.

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Under Darkest of Days NVIDIA sees some great numbers thanks to the PhysX implementation. At the highest resolution, though, the HD 5970 TOXIC from Sapphire is just putting out some huge numbers and performs almost on par with the GTX 480, a test in which NVIDIA normally has a huge lead in.

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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The numbers here are just disturbing. A minimum of 89 FPS at 2560 x 1600 is just crazy. What it shows us is that it's probably not going to have much issue when it comes to the next generation of games, let alone this gen.

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.

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We understand that the GTX 480 is a good chunk of change cheaper than the HD 5970, but the numbers we're seeing from this model are just off the chart. Not literally, although I could make them show as being off the chart. But honestly, compared to the GTX 480 the HD 5970 TOXIC is at times 50% faster.

Benchmarks - Dark Void

Dark Void

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

The game's story takes place during World War II and centers around a cargo pilot named William Augustus Grey (voiced by Nolan North) who is teleported to another world while flying through the Bermuda Triangle. In this world, known as the 'Void', Will encounters an alien race as well as other humans, which are known as the Watchers and the Survivors respectively.

Will reluctantly joins the Survivors who are engaged in a feud with the alien race to satisfy his desire to return to Earth. While aiding the Survivors, Will discovers that the Void is a middle ground that connects both the Watchers homeworld and Earth. It also becomes apparent that the Watchers are supplying the Axis powers with various supplies for reasons unknown. With the help of Nikola Tesla, Will utilizes retrofited Watcher technology to combat the Watchers and eventually find a way to escape the Void.

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Dark Void offers some insane numbers and again compared to the GTX 480 which we understand is a fair bit cheaper, performance gains are around 80%. Compared to the GTX 470 at the highest resolution, the gains are over 100%.

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

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NVIDIA shines in AA, there's no denying that and it's going to be a strong selling point to people. In the average department, though, the HD 5970 is significantly faster for some reason. Of course, it's the least important of the two numbers. In the minimum dept. the GTX 480 manages to beat out the dual GPU beasts from ATI.

Resident Evil 5

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In saying that, AA doesn't always shine for NVIDIA when compared to the HD 5970. You can clearly see the HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB from Sapphire is putting out some devastating numbers here.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

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With no minimum we want to see an average of 60 FPS. You can see that the GTX 480 and reference HD 5870 are actually spot on at 64 FPS. Again, though, like we mentioned earlier this is the minimum of what we want to see. At this level the extra FPS is noticeable. Sapphire come in, pulling out their paddle and start spanking everything with a 50% gain over the reference GTX 480 and HD 5970.

Benchmarks - Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor

Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.51
Timedemo or Level Used: Sample File
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

ElcomSoft has pioneered many software innovations that have made it easier to recover passwords protecting various types of resources. For the first time in the industry, the company's patent-pending GPU acceleration makes its way into Wi-Fi password recovery, reducing the time required to recover Wi-Fi passwords up to a hundred times.

Supporting up to four NVIDIA boards such as GeForce 8, 9, and 200, as well as ATI video cards such as RADEON HD 4000 Series and up, Elcomsoft Wireless Security Auditor allows building servers with supercomputer performance at a fraction of the price.

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Big clocks mean big performance. WSA is a great GPGPU benchmark because it's able to make use of the extra MHz on cards. Oh how it makes use of them as well, with it just smashing everything here.

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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When we test a dual GPU card we just grab the hottest GPU to give you an idea of worst case. Compared to the reference HD 5970 the card runs a whole lot cooler and it seems those three fans aren't just there to make the card look mean. This really is a fantastic temperature for the dual GPU beast. Even with the three fans we thought it would run hotter than this because of the massive clocks.

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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This cooling does come at the cost of some extra noise. In saying that, though, it's quieter than both NVIDIA offerings at load and compared to the HD 5870 reference cooler which is the loudest of the ATI cards, it's only 2dB more.

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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Oh such power draw; not a surprise with the dual 8-Pin PCI-E power connector setup and the huge clocks on offer. The chances are that if you're looking at a card like this, you'll already be carrying a big power supply or at least be buying one at the same time.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and ATI are on an even playing field. This includes benchmarks where PhysX can be forced off like Dark Void and Batman: Arkham Asylum, but not Darkest of Days.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark Vantage, Heaven Benchmark V2, CINEBENCH R11.5, Resident Evil 5, BattleForge, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off), Dark Void (PhysX Off) and our three High Quality tests which include Far Cry 2, Resident Evil 5 and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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The fastest video card on the market just got a whole lot faster.

Final Thoughts

If it was ever possible to have an unnatural attraction to a piece of computer hardware, I'm pretty sure this is what you'll fall for. This is just an absolutely gorgeous card and continues to show us why not only ATI are a force to be reckoned with, but why Sapphire are such a fantastic partner.

The HD 5970 is already a fast card; a really fast card! The Sapphire version is just ridiculous fast. Some people will say overkill; others will say it's the card we've been waiting for. The Sapphire HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB isn't the answer to the GTX 480 for the simple reason that ATI have nothing to answer to when it comes having the world's fastest video card.

On the topic of the extra memory, it's safe to say that the huge performance gains come from the massive jumps in MHz as opposed to the extra memory. Extra memory is always a nice touch, although most the time it does very little for performance. Sapphire wanted to offer the world's fastest video card and in doing so it really needed to offer the model in 4GB; it ultimately helps offer that "wow" value.

As for the bundle, I find myself really torn. The fact that Sapphire have chosen to bundle both of the games we've seen on recent ATI models is great. The fact that they're also games that are actually worth playing makes it even better. The issue I have with the bundle is the fact that they have chosen to include an active DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter.

For starters, you're only going to use it if you're running Eyefinity. Since this is just an awesome card for 2560 x 1600 gaming, though, people who just want the fastest video card for their 30" monitor aren't going to make use of the adapter. Secondly, if you're going to run an Eyefinity setup you'll probably want to get yourself a DisplayPort monitor which means again the adapter won't be of any use to you.

The biggest issue is the fact that the adapters are worth $100 US. In the event that you're not going to use the adapter, it's just a completely unnecessary expense. The biggest problem we have with the card is that the bundle carries with it too much.

The only other problem? It's going to cost too much, but it was always going to.

The Sapphire HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB gives us more performance than we need, offers more memory than we need and will cost more than we want to spend. And we absolutely love every bit of PCB, circuitry and chip on the card.

It costs money to be on the bleeding edge of technology. You're either happy to pay to own the world's fastest video card or you're not. The people who buy this card are going to be the same people that have an Intel i7 980X, Corsair Dominator GTX 2200MHz DDR modules, SSD hard drives and anything else that just helps make your computer the fastest on the planet.

The HD 5970 TOXIC 4GB will hold value at its launch price for the simple reason it's the fastest video card we've ever tested and also because it carries with it not only two games, but two that are actually worth playing, a massive cooler that does a fantastic job of keeping the core temperature down and a monstrous amount of memory.

People are going to say how the model is a waste of money, but they're the same people who say that the i7 980X and SSD hard drives are a waste. We're sure there will be limited amounts of this model and if you've got the money to burn and the desire to own something which is so much more than a reference HD 5970 overclocked, you'll love this model.

Sapphire has created the world's fastest video card. If that's what you want, here it is.

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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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