ATI Radeon 5970 Performance Preview
Radeon 5970 reference board
Prior to today's arrival of the Radeon 5970, ATI was in a bit of a weird position. Media outlets like ourselves here at FiringSquad praised ATI’s flagship Radeon 5870 for its feature set and technology, it’s the world’s first DirectX 11 GPU after all, but it wasn’t the fastest graphics card on that day. In the conclusion of our Radeon 5870 article, we stated: “While ATI’s Radeon 5870 is clearly the fastest GPU on the planet right now, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 295 is still the world’s fastest graphics card overall.”
ATI’s flagship card delivered the best single-GPU performance, but it couldn’t wrestle the performance crown from NVIDIA’s dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295 graphics card, which has held the title for 10 months now. In fact, there were multiple cases where ATI’s own Radeon 4870 X2 was faster than the 5870. As you can imagine, it’s a bit embarrassing when your competitor’s previous generation product is still considered to be the 3D performance champ.
NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 295 card isn’t the top dog anymore though. By fusing two of the RV870 GPUs found in the Radeon 5870 onto one card, ATI’s Radeon 5970 is the new performance king.
Radeon 5970 and GeForce GTX 295
Dual GPU comparison: 5970 and 4870 X2
Radeon 5970 dwarfs the 4890
It took a lot of work to make the Radeon 5970 into a reality though, and while the
”70” designation in its name suggests that it’s spec’ed like a 5870, this isn’t the case for a variety of reasons. Instead it’s clocked identically to the Radeon 5850.
As a result, buying a pair of Radeon 5870s to run CrossFire will net you better performance, but you’ll have to fork over $800 to enjoy the privilege. In comparison, the Radeon 5970 will sell for an MSRP of just $600. Here are the rest of the board’s key specs:
|Radeon HD 5970 Specifications|
|Radeon HD 5850||Radeon HD 5870||Radeon HD 5970|
|# of Transistors||2.15 Billion||2.15 Billion||4.3 Billion (2.15 Billion x 2)|
|Core Clock Speed||725MHz||850MHz||725MHz|
|# of Stream Processors||1440||1600||3200 (1600 x 2)|
|Compute Performance||2.09 TeraFLOPS||2.72 TeraFLOPS||4.64 TeraFLOPS|
|# of Texture Units||72||80||160|
|Texture Fillrate||52.2 GigaTexels/sec||68 GigaTexels/sec||116 GigaTexels/sec|
|# of ROPs||32||32||64|
|Pixel Fillrate||23.2 GigaPixels/sec||27.2 GigaPixels/sec||46.4 GigaPixels/sec|
|Z/Stencil||92.8 GigaSamples/sec||108.8 GigaSamples/sec||185.6 GigaSamples/sec|
|Memory Clock Speed||1000MHz||1200MHz||1000MHz|
|Memory Data Rate||4.0 Gbps||4.8 Gbps||4.0 Gbps|
|Peak Memory Bandwidth||128GB/sec||153.6GB/sec||256GB/sec (128GB/sec x 2)|
|Max Board Power||170W||188W||294W|
|Idle Board Power||27W||27W||~42W|
5970 even makes the GTX 275 look small
Radeon 5970 up top, 5870 bottom
What’s in a name?
You may wonder why ATI’s latest dual GPU board is designated as the “5970” instead of using the “X2” nomenclature ATI used previously for the 4870 X2 and 3870 X2 dual GPU cards. We wondered too so we asked ATI and their answer was they wanted to simplify their branding. Adding suffixes like “X2” is out at ATI, as they found it’s confusing to general consumers who don’t follow the graphics hardware industry closely. When ATI introduced the Radeon 4890 earlier this year for example, they found there was confusion amongst some who mistakenly believed the 4890 was faster than the 4870 X2.
By dropping the suffix and branding their latest dual GPU card as the Radeon 5970, ATI hopes to clear up this confusion once and for all.
As you can see from the specs above though, ATI’s latest and greatest isn’t clocked as high as the Radeon 5870. Instead it operates at the same speeds as the 5850. Potentially designating it as a 5950 wouldn’t be 100% accurate either, as the board boasts the full 5870 specs when it comes to texturing and shading horsepower, with the 5970 sporting 3200 shaders and 160 TMUs.
What ATI’s decided to do with the 5970 is give end users the full specs from a pure hardware perspective – nothing on the chip is deactivated – and give their board partners, and potentially the public, the tools needed to uncork the full potential from the hardware via overclocking. In a way, ATI’s taking the Black Edition formula from AMD CPUs, and applying it to GPUs with the Radeon 5970.
It’s a compromise move that’s designed to satisfy those performance enthusiasts who were longing for a potential 5870 X2 card, while still addressing the concerns of those who may be worried about the potential power consumption and heat such a card would generate.
Before we get into this though, we’ll discuss the origins behind this move in much more detail on the next page.