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Asus EAH5870 Radeon HD 5870 Review
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Date: Dec 29, 2009
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Intro, Specifications and Bundle

Immediately upon its introduction, the ATI Radeon HD 5870 took the title for the fastest, single-GPU on the market. There was simply no other single-GPU that could touch it, not only in terms of performance, but in regard to features as well. And at the time, virtually all of AMD's strategic board partners were at the ready with products based on the Radeon HD 5870 reference design.

Unfortunately, due to some yield issues at TSMC, the foundry that manufactures the actual chips at the heart of the card, supplies of Radeon HD 5870 (and Radeon HD 5850) cards quickly dried up. AMD had the fastest, most feature-rich single GPU on the market, and it was incredibly difficult to buy one for a while there.

The supply issues have since cleared up, however, and Radeon HD 5870 cards are easily attainable once again. With that in mind, we're taking a look at Asus' take on AMD's flagship single-GPU, the EAH5870. Like essentially all of the other Radeon HD 5870 cards currently available, Asus' offering is based on AMD's reference design. But Asus does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve that help differentiate the EAH5870 from the also-rans. Read on and take a look for yourself...

Asus EAH5870
Specifications and Features


  

Asus did a nice job with the EAH5870's accessory bundle. In addition to the card, we also found a basic, printed user's manual, a driver and utility CD, a single DVI-to-VGA adapter, a dual-Molex to PCI Express 6-pin power adapter, a CrossFire bridge connector, and a second CD with more detailed user's manuals in digital form available in many different languages. Along with the aforementioned items, Asus also includes a coupon for one of the first DirectX 11 games, Dirt 2, and a copy of their SmartDoctor tweaking utility.

The inclusion of SmartDoctor will appeal to the modders out there, because in addition to giving users the ability to alter the EAH5870's GPU and memory frequencies, it also allows for GPU voltage modifications, which enhance the card's overclockability.

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Asus EAH5870 Graphics Card

Like AMD's reference Radeon HD 5870, the Asus EAH5870 card is 10.5" long and features a black fan shroud that encases the entire PCB.

 

The card's cooler has a barrel fan that draws air into the shroud, where it is forced through the heatsink and partially exhausted from the system through vents in the card's mounting plate. Two more small vents at the back of the card also direct some air that's ultimately vented within the system. Overall, the cooling solution is much like the one used on the Radeon HD 4890, although it is somewhat quieter during idle and light-load conditions.

 

The Asus EAH5870 has a stock GPU clock of 850MHz with a memory clock speed of 1.2 GHz (4.8Gbps effective)--that equates to roughly 153.6GB/sec of peak memory bandwidth. By using Asus' SmartDoctor utility, however, significantly increasing both core and memory clock speeds is a definitely possibility. More on that topic in the overclocking section towards the end.

 

As you can see, two 6-pin PCIe power connectors are required for the EAH5870 and outputs on the card consist of dual, dual-link DVI outputs, an HDMI output (with audio) and a DisplayPort output. As is the case with all other Radeon HD 5000 series cards, the EAH5870 supports a variety of triple-monitor ATI Eyefinity configurations by using any combination of three outputs--provided at least one of them is the DisplayPort output.

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Test Setup and 3DMark Vantage

HOW WE CONFIGURED THE TEST SYSTEM: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD6 motherboard powered by a Core i7 965 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 965 (3.2GHz)

Gigabyte EX58-UD6
(X58 Express Chipset)

Asus EAH5870
Radeon HD 5870
Radeon HD 4890
Radeon HD 4870 X2
GeForce GTX 285
GeForce GTX 295

6GB OCZ DDR3-1333 C7
(3 X 2GB)

Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Western Digital "Raptor" 150GB
(10,000RPM - SATA)

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
ATI Catalyst v9.11b
NVIDIA GeForce Drive v191.00

Benchmarks Used:

3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
FarCry 2
H.A.W.X.
Crysis*
Left 4 Dead*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - Custom benchmark

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Vantage

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark Vantage, is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which y isn't available on previous versions of Windows.  3DMark Vantage isn't simply a port of 3DMark06 to DirectX 10 though.  With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1200 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.



The Asus EAH5870 performs right on par with the reference ATI Radeon HD 5870 in 3DMark Vantage, which is to say it performs very well. It is the fastest single-GPU powered card of the bunch by a wide margin.

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Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
OpenGL Gaming Performance


Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on a radically enhanced version of id's Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  In fact, we'd venture to say that id took EA's team-based warfare genre up a notch or two.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many smaller textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

The Asus EAH5870 rules the roost in our custom Enemey Territory: Quake Wars benchmark. Here, the Asus EAH5870 is not only the fastest single-GPU powered card, but it pulls ahead of the dual-GPU powered GeForce GTX 295 as well.

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Crysis Performance

Crysis v1.21
DirectX 10 Gaming Performance


Crysis

If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player, FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine produces some stunning visuals that are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the PC to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is a beast of a game.  We ran the full game patched to v1.21 with all of its visual options set to 'Very High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested  A custom demo recorded on the Ice level was used throughout testing.

Once again, the Asus EAH5870 performs very well. In our Crysis tests, Asus' rendition of a Radeon HD 5870 pulls ahead of all of the single-GPU based cards and falls victim only to the dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295.

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FarCry 2

FarCry 2
DirectX Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the "Ranch" map.  The test results shown here were run at various resolutions with 4X AA enabled.

The Asus EAH5870 put up some great numbers in the FarCry 2 benchmark. Here, the dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 4870 X2 and GTX 295 pull ahead at the lower resolution, but only the top-of-the-line GeForce is able to hold onto its lead once the resolution is increased to 2560x1600.

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Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead
DirectX Gaming Performance


Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead is a co-operative, survival horror, first-person shooter that was developed by Turtle Rock Studios, which was purchased by Valve part-way into development. Like Half Life 2, the game uses the Source engine, however, the visual in L4D are far superior to anything seen in the Half Life universe to date. The game pits four Survivors of an apocalyptic pandemic against hordes of aggressive zombies. We tested the game at resolutions of 1,920 x 1,200 and 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering enabled and all in game graphical options set to their maximum values.

All of these high-end graphics cards are able to churn through Left 4 Dead without breaking much of a sweat. At the lower resolution, the Asus EAH5870 comes out on top, but once we crank things up to 2560x1600, the GeForce GTX 295 pulls into the lead.

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

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.
DirectX Gaming Performance


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

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is an aerial warfare video game that takes place during the time of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.  Players have the opportunity to take the throttle of over 50 famous aircrafts in both solo and 4-player co-op missions, and take them over real world locations and cities in photo-realistic environments created with the best commercial satellite data provided by GeoEye.  We used the built-in performance test at two resolutions with all quality settings set to their highest values, using the DX10-based engine for the GeForce cards, and DX10.1 libraries for the Radeons.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. runs best on the dual-GPU powered cards, as is evident by the significantly higher scores for the X2 and GTX 295 at 1920x1200. With the resolution increased to 2560x1600 though, the GeForce GTX 295 falls victim to the Asus EAH5870. The 4870 X2, however, is able to maintain its a wide lead.

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Overclocking The EAH5870

For our next set of performance metrics, we spent some time overclocking the Asus EAH5870 using the Overdrive utility built into ATI's Catalyst drivers and using Asus' SmartDoctor utility, which gives users the ability to tweak not only clock speeds, but the GPU voltage as well.

Overclocking The Asus EAH5870
Pedal To The Metal



Without any voltage modifications, we were able to overclock the Asus EAH5870 to a respectable and fully stable 900MHz / 1.29GHz. That was basically the upper limits of what Overdrive could do, before Asus sent over an update for the card's BIOS. With the card flashed to the shipping BIOS and using SmartDoctor to alter the GPU voltage, however, we were able to take the card much higher. With a bump in GPU voltage to 1.35v, we took the Asus EAH5870 all the way up to a 1GHz GPU clock with 1.3GHz memory.

While we had the card overclocked, we re-ran a couple of benchmarks and realized a marked improvement in performance. ET:QW showed the larger gain, but L4D was mostly CPU limited, hence the smaller increase in performance.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Asus EAH5870 performed exactly as expected. Considering the fact that the card has the exact same stock GPU and memory clocks as AMD's own Radeon HD 5870, it should come as no surprise that both cards performed right in-line with each other. In light of the competition, the EAH5870--like all other 5870s--is clearly the fastest single-GPU on the market, bar none. It's only the dual-GPU powered cards that can hang with, or surpass the 5870, depending on the test.

 

In a sea of similar looking and performing Radeon HD 5870 cards, has Asus done enough to clearly differentiate the EAH5870 from the rest of the pack? We think so, yes. In addition to including a coupon for a copy of the recently released DX11 game Dirt 2 (which most other board partners have done as well), Asus has also thrown in a copy of their SmartDoctor utility. What makes SmartDoctor and interesting addition is that the utility gives users the ability to not only overclock their cards, but to tweak its GPU voltage as well. Stock Radeon HD 5870 cards are somewhat overclockable, but with a slight bump in GPU voltage, the Asus EAH5870 was able to hit a fully stable GPU clock of 1GHz--a full 150MHz above stock.

About the only area where the Asus EAH5870 pales in comparison to some competing offerings is with regard to its warranty. Asus covers the card for 3 years, which isn't bad. But when some others offer lifetime warranties, that are transferable upon the sale of the card, a 3 years warranty doesn't seem quite as nice.

Even still, the Asus EAH5870 is competitively priced with all other Radeon HD 5870 cards at about $400, it offers a good accessory bundle, and it's very tweaker-friendly thanks to Asus' SmartDoctor utility. Until the next wave of custom Radeon HD 5870 cards that clearly differentiate themselves from the rest hits the scene--whenever that may be--the Asus EAH5870 stands out as a solid, high-performance offering, worthy of your consideration.


     
  • Great Performance
  • Good Bundle
  • Very Overclockable
  • SmartDoctor w/ Voltage Tweak
  • DX11 and Eyefinity Support

 

  • Still A Reference Card
  • Relatively Short Warranty

 



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