ATI Radeon HD 5970 Dual-GPU Powerhouse Review

Introduction and Specifications

AMD's "Sweet Spot" GPU strategy over the last few years has been fairly predictable. Instead of producing the biggest, most powerful GPU possible--yields be damned--the company sets out to produce a relatively high-end GPU, using a cutting edge fabrication process, that hits a proverbial sweet spot between cost and performance. Then derivatives, and even multiples, of that GPU are used to flesh out a top-to-bottom line-up of graphics cards, that hit a broad range of price points.

It began with the RV670, which powered the single-GPU based Radeon HD 3870 and dual-GPU Radeon HD 3870 X2--hence the X2. Then came the RV770, which powered the Radeon HD 4870 and eventually the Radeon HD 4870 X2. The strategy has obviously paid off, as AMD is once again a price/performance leader in the GPU space, after some not-so-great performances like the R600, better known as the Radeon HD 2900 XT.  Knowing their strategy, it should almost come as no surprise that the graphics card we'll be showing you today, the Radeon HD 5970, has come to fruition. Although it doesn't follow the same naming convention as AMD's previous dual-GPU powered cards, the Radeon HD 5970 is nonetheless powered by a pair of ATI "Cypress" Radeon HD 5800 series GPUs, linked together on a single PCB by a PCI Express bridge, very much like previous X2 iterations.

Considering the fact that the Radeon HD 5870 is undeniably the fastest single-GPU powered graphics card currently on the market, this dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 5970 should offer performance that completely outclasses any other single graphics card on the market currently. In addition to killer performance, the Radeon HD 5970 also boasts all of the same features of the Radeon HD 5800 series, like full DirectX 11 support, ATI Eyefinity support, top-notch image quality and power efficiency.

We've got a Radeon HD 5970 in house, in full retail trim, courtesy of HIS that we've run through and array of benchmark tests. Read on to see how AMD's new flagship fares in light of competing single and dual-GPU powered solutions...

AMD Radeon HD 5970 Dual-GPU DirectX 11 Graphics Card

AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970
Specifications and Features
2.15 billion 40nm transistors x 2

TeraScale 2 Unified Processing Architecture
  • 3200 Stream Processing Units
  • 160 Texture Units
  • 256 Z/Stencil ROP Units
  • 64 Color ROP Units
GDDR5 Memory Interface

Up To 256GB/sec of memory bandwidth

PCI Express 2.1 x16 bus interface

DirectX 11 support
  • Shader Model 5.0
  • DirectCompute 11
  • Programmable hardware tessellation unit
  • Accelerated multi-threading
  • HDR texture compression
  • Order-independent transparency
OpenGL 3.2 support

Image quality enhancement technology
  • Up to 24x multi-sample anti-aliasing
  • Super-sample anti-aliasing modes
  • Adaptive anti-aliasing
  • 16x angle independent anisotropic texture filtering
  • 128-bit floating point HDR rendering
ATI Eyefinity
  • Advanced multi-display technology
  • Three independent display controllers
    • Drive three displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls, and video overlays
  • Display grouping
    • Combine multiple displays to behave like a single large display

ATI Stream acceleration technology

  • OpenCL 1.0 compliant
  • DirectCompute 11
  • Double precision floating point processing support
  • Accelerated video encoding, transcoding, and upscaling
    • Native support for common video encoding instructions

ATI CrossFireX multi-GPU technology

  • Dual, triple, and quad GPU scaling
  • Dual-channel bridge interconnect

ATI Avivo HD Video & Display technology

  • UVD 2 dedicated video playback accelerator
  • Advanced post-processing and scaling
  • Dynamic contrast enhancement and color correction
  • Brighter whites processing (blue stretch)
  • Independent video gamma control
  • Dynamic video range control
  • Support for H.264, VC-1, and MPEG-2
  • Dual-stream 1080p playback support
  • DXVA 1.0 & 2.0 support
  • Integrated dual-link DVI output with HDCP
    • Max resolution: 2560x1600
  • Integrated DisplayPort output
    • Max resolution: 2560x1600
  • Integrated HDMI 1.3 output with Deep Color, xvYCC wide gamut support, and high bit-rate audio
  • Max resolution: 1920x1200
  • Integrated VGA output
  • Max resolution: 2048x1536
  • 3D stereoscopic display/glasses support
  • Integrated HD audio controller
  • Output protected high bit rate 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI with no additional cables required
  • Supports AC-3, AAC, Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio formats

ATI PowerPlay power management technology

  • Dynamic power management with low power idle state
  • Ultra-low power state support for multi-GPU configurations

Certified drivers for Windows 7, Vista, and XP

Speeds & Feeds

  • Engine clock speed: 725 MHz
  • Processing power (single precision): 4.64 TeraFLOPS
  • Processing power (double precision): 928 GigaFLOPS
  • Polygon throughput: 1450M polygons/sec
  • Data fetch rate (32-bit): 464 billion fetches/sec
  • Texel fill rate (bilinear filtered): 116 Gigatexels/sec
  • Pixel fill rate: 46.4 Gigapixels/sec
  • Anti-aliased pixel fill rate: 185.6 Gigasamples/sec
  • Memory clock speed: 1 GHz
  • Memory data rate: 4 Gbps
  • Memory bandwidth: 153.6 GB/sec
  • Maximum board power: 294 Watts
  • Idle board power: 42 Watts


AMD's "Sweet Spot" GPU Strategy

AMD's release schedule with their latest barrage of DirectX 11 capable GPUs is outlined on the slide above. Of course, a lot of groundwork had to be laid over the years before the company could produce this line-up of products. As the above list of specifications and features show, the new Radeon HD 5970 is quite advanced in comparison to other current GPU products. But the chip does leverage technologies already implemented in previously released GPUs, so it's not all new.  As such, we'd recommend perusing some recent HotHardware articles to brush up on a few of the technologies and features employed by the new Radeon HD 5970...

The articles listed above cover many of the features available with the Radeon HD 5970, like CrossFire, the UVD 2 video engine, Catalyst Control Center, PowerPlay, GDDR5 memory, and more. There are, however, a lot of brand new things that were introduced with the Radeon 5800 series that we that we detailed in our Radeon HD 5870 coverage, so that article at the very least is a must-read companion to this piece.

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