[Preview]ATi Radeon 5970 vs 5870-ATi reclaims the ‘speed’ throne

Ali Tayyab
Nov 17, 2009

Today ATI launches their top of the line dual-GPU graphics card the Radeon 5970 ($600 MSRP) codenamed Hemlock. Hemlock is based on the same RV870 architecture as the RD5870 and RD5850. Some may call this card the 5870×2 but I think it quite doesn’t deserve that title as it runs at a lower engine (725MHz) and memory clock (1000MHz) compared to the RD5870’s 850MHz and 1200MHz engine and memory clocks respectively. What’s nice about this card is that AMD ATI fully unlocks the overdrive on these cards so if you’re lucky you may be able to push the clocks much higher. I only had the card for a few hours so I couldn’t play around with it much. This card requires a full tower casing as it is 13.5” long and requires an 8pin and 6pin power connector. Be sure to have a minimum of 600+ Watt power supply if you don’t want to run into trouble.

The feature list for the Evergreen series is nearly never ending but I’ll highlight some of the newest features ATI has brought forward with its new line of GPUs.



  • 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
  • ATI Eyefinity
  • ATI CrossFireX multi-GPU technology
    • Dual, triple and quad configuration
  • ATI PowerPlay power management technology
    • Ultra Low Power State support (ULPS)
  • ATI Stream acceleration technology
    • OpenCL 1.0 support
  • ATI Avivo HD Video and Display technology
    • UVD 2 dedicated video playback acceleration
    • Integrated Dual Link DVI and Displayport output with Max resolution 2560×1600

You may already be familiar with these features but I’d like to bring your attention to the power saving feature known as ULPS. This can be enabled on all Evergreen multi GPU configurations but here on the Hemlock board one can see the biggest advantage. ULPS forces the slave ASIC to go into a low power state when the card is not being stressed enough or can deliver enough performance from a single core. This is how the 5970 achieves such a low power consumption in the idle state.


I’ll cut the rest of the chitchat and get straight to the numbers that you’ve all been waiting for.

ATI Radeon HD 5870 ATI Radeon HD 5970
Process 40nm 40nm
Transistors 2.15 Billion 4.3 Billion
Engine Clock 850 MHz 725 MHz
Stream Processors 1600 3200 (1600×2)
Compute Performance 2.72 TFlops 4.64 TFlops
Texture Units 80 160
Texture Filrate 68 GPixels/s 116 GPixels/s
ROPs 32 64
Pixel Filrate 27.2 GPixels/s 46.4 GPixels/s
Z/Stencil 108.8 GSamples/s 185.6 GSamples/s
Memory Clock 1200 MHz 1000 MHz
Memory Type GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory Data Rate 4.8 Gbps 4.0 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 153.6 GB/s 256 GB/s
Maximum Board Power 188 Watts 294 Watts
Idle Board Power 27 Watts ~42 Watts


On paper the Radeon 5970 looks like an absolute beast. Now let’s put it where it belongs; inside our test rig.


  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz
  • Motherboard: Intel DX48BT2
  • RAM: Kingston 2GB 1333MHz
  • OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 32 bit RTM
  • Hard drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB @ 7200RPM


  • Futuremark 3DMark03
  • Futuremark 3DMark06
  • Futuremark 3Dmark Vantage
  • Farcry 2
  • Tom Clancy HAWK
  • Call of Juarez DX10


Futuremark 3D Mark 03

Though the benchmark is very old, it still provides an insight into the “monstrous” performance of the card.

Futuremark 3DMark06 SM 2.0

The Benchmarks run pretty much neck to neck all the way upto 1920×1200 when AA is cranked up. You will definitely need a very powerful CPU to get the most out of either of these cards, especially a 5970.

Futuremark 3DMark06 SM 3.0/HDR

More of the same. The 5970 starts to distance itself from its younger sibling at lower resolutions, but both are pretty much neck and neck until again AA is cranked up.

Futuremark 3Dmark Vantage

The DX 10 exclusive benchmark shows how powerful the 5970 is as compared to the 5870.

Game Performance

Farcry 2 (Demo Ranch Long)

The AI for this test was turned off. This was to negate the effect of the central processing unit as much as possible. Farcry 2 is one of the few games that really do take advantage of multi core processors beyond 2 cores. Pairing up this behemoth to a quad core processor would yield better results at high resolutions.

Here is a real time comparison of how the game runs under different renderers and at various in game settings.

Tom Clancy HAWX

The figures speak for themselves. A powerful processor would yield better results.

Call of Juarez Dx10

Shadow maps were set to 2048×2048. Again despite only using an “aging “ processor the performance nearly doubles.


If I had to choose a single word to describe this card, it would be “wow!” 5870 is the most power single GPU card today. The 5970 raises the bar beyond what a 5870 offers. To really get the most out of this card, you will need to pair it to an equally powerful system. We are talking about a core i7 “9” or an “8” series processor here folks. Anything less powerful will leave the GPU wanting. The 5970 is a processor power hungry beast. That is pretty much expected considering it itself is the most powerful consumer level graphics card on the planet today.

IF you have what it takes to unleash the power of 5970 go ahead and buy it. If you don’t beg, borrow or even steal and get yourself a rig worthy of a 5970.

Screenshots [5970]

Share on Reddit