PowerColor Radeon HD 5970 LCS Reviewccokeman -
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When it comes to performance, the HD 5970 is the current undisputed King o' the Hill. Add to that a means of cooling this card down to gain additional clock speeds out of it and you can imagine the possibilities. High component temperatures made it hard to reach the clock speeds used on the HD 5870. While the sample I looked at was able to run at 890MHz on the cores and 1260MHz on the 2GB of GDDR5 memory, performance could have scaled higher if temperatures were kept in check. Now with the PowerColor HD5970 LCS temperatures are kept in check and clock speeds on the dual Cypress cores responded well. The base clock speeds on the GPU for this card come in at 750MHz. Not bad but the stock HD 5870 comes in at 850MHz, so there is work to be done to try and get the performance to that of a true dual HD 5870 setup with just a single card. When it came to overclocking the PowerColor LCS 5970 I was able to bump the speeds up from the as delivered 750MHz to 1010MHz, a 260MHz gain in clock speed. The memory clock speeds did not really show more than the air cooled reference version at 1250MHz, but still a 200MHz bump, or close to a 20% increase. Both of these overclocks contributed to a substantial performance increase that in the end was limited by the processor's clock speed of 3.0GHz. This was seen more so at the lower resolutions that at the top of the scale. Regardless, you still get phenomenal performance.
PowerColor chose one of the top producers of water cooling parts for the water block on this card. EK is well known in enthusiast circles for the fact that it listens to the market and puts out what the crowd wants. Not only is the company responsive, but it also delivers high end cooling solutions that work. The block used on this card is nickel plated with an Acetal top with PowerColor's logo. Nickel plating a block is now the "Gold Standard" of finishes. No more oxidized copper for this card. This cooling solution was able to keep the card temperatures in check, with an average temperature of 35 degrees Celsius under load when overvolted and overclocked. Idle temperatures averaged 21.5 degrees Celsius. Of course, the cooling performance will depend wholly on the design of your water cooling loop but with triple rad, D5 pump and CPU block I was surprised at the cooling performance. The accessory bundle included with this card is typical of many of the 5 series cards I have looked at, so that was not a serious point of difference until you get to the fittings included for you to hook up the HD 5970 LCS into your water cooling loop. You get both 3/8 and 1/2 inch fittings that use a captured o-ring to seal the connection point and clamps to hold the tubing on the barb fittings.
Much like all the other 5 series cards, this card is capable of being used for an Eyefinity setup with resolutions up to 7680x1600, for a fully immersive gaming experience. With the HD 5970 LCS you not only get Eyefinity, but also CrossfireX, so you can blow away anything else out there with a pair of these cards; Power Play technology, Avivo video converter, Stream technology, you get the whole feature set. However, there is a price to be paid for this level of performance, both cooling and gaming. That price is almost 800 dollars. A Ferrari is fast and beautiful, but it's gonna cost you, much like this card. However, if you break down the costs, it's really not that much more than buying the card and block separately, and for this price, at least you get a warranty so you don't run the risk of permanently fragging your card. If you read any water cooling forums there are plenty of horror stories! While it's not the cheapest HD 5970 out on the market, the PowerColor HD 5970 LCS is a top end performer that comes equipped with top end cooling that looks good and offers game changing performance, for a price. As the old saying goes, you have to pay to play!
- EK water cooled
- Good looks
- Temperatures under load
- Included fittings and clamps
- Dual GPU power
- Fit and finish
- Price: you gotta pay!