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Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 OC Review

Price: $629


Little Boy and Fat Man, the two bombs that changed the world as we know it. First Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima and then Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki to end World War II. You have to ask, what does a World War II lesson have to do with video cards? ATI dropped the first bomb with the release of the HD 5870 with clearly superior results over the previous generation ATI products and a commanding performance lead over the current top of the line nVidia single GPU video card, the GTX 285. Now Fat Man has taken flight with the release of the HD 5970. Clear in its sights is the top of the performance ladder for nVidia, the GTX 295. Each of us remembers the introduction of ATI's dual GPU behemoths, the HD 3870x2, HD 3870x2 and the HD 4870x2 and the performance they brought to the table. The 3870x2 gave ATI some high end punch followed up later in the year by the HD 4870x2 to increase the level of performance before the launch of nVidia's GTX 295. From that point the green camp has been wearing the performance crown in the single video card battle. Things look to be a changing! ATI has chosen to go a different route with the naming of this card because it really is not a dual 5870 or 5850 but a combination of both. How is that? It has the hardware from the 5870 doubled up but runs with the clock speeds of the HD 5850 to keep the power consumption and thermals in check even though the heatsink can handle a total of 400 watts. Much like the rest of the HD 5XXX family, the HD 5970 supports DirectX 11, Open CL and ATI's Eyefinity multi-display technology for an added level of immersion.

Sapphire has chosen the route of opening this salvo with an overclocked model for that extra added punch. The Sapphire HD 5970 OC 2GB comes equipped with a total of two RV 870 Cypress cores that have a total of 3200 Stream processors, delivering almost 5TFLOPs of processing power, making the HD 5970 the most powerful video card on the planet. Clock speeds come in a bit higher than the reference versions at 735MHz on the two Cypress cores and 1010MHz (4040MHz effective) on the 2GB of GDDR5 memory. Each core has 1GB of memory dedicated to it, running through a 512-bit bus (256x2). The specifications on paper look impressive, but that's not all; gone are the overclocking limits we have seen in the past as this card comes unlocked so you can throw the screws to it to gain some more FPS or distributed computing power. This card is designed to do some hardcore overclocking based on the construction. It features multiple Volterra voltage regulators, Japanese made pure ceramic SuperCapacitors, real time power monitoring and a programmable fan controller. The cores used are "low leakage" parts so you can get the best parts to push. With many HD 5870s hitting 1000MHz on the cores, overclocking should prove interesting. Let's take a look.










Closer Look:

Of course the packaging comes with the usual Sapphire flair. The front panel features not one but a pair of beauties that you can guess relates to the dual Cypress GPUs used in the construction of the Sapphire HD 5970 OC. Looks like Ruby has a twin sister! Front and center on the front panel are the mention of two games that are DX 11 titles, BattleForge and Dirt 2, and the HD 5970 comes with coupons for both games. BattleForge is already out and will be patched for DX 11, while Dirt 2 is the first true DX 11 game to be released in early December. Mentions of note on the front panel include the Redline overclocking utility, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, that the card is DX 11 ready, is Crossfire X capable, supports EyeFinity and that there is 4TFLOPs of computing power available. The rear panel expands on the features listed on the front panel. Of note on the back panel under "Ruby" is a small graphic that states all of the packaging is made with recyclable paper. The only way to improve this packaging would be to use recycled paper products to reduce the environmental footprint.



Inside the outer sleeve you have a plain cardboard box that houses the HD 5970 and accessories. The card is shipped in an antistatic bubble wrap bag in a form fitting cardboard enclosure that uses a foam block to prevent any movement. Under the HD 5970 you have another box that holds the accessories and documentation.



The bundle of accessories is typical of the type of bundle Sapphire includes with its cards. You get the documentation, driver disc, coupons that include keys for the two DX 11 games so you can download them and play, a card that shows where to download the Redline overclocking utility, a Crossfire bridge connector, DVI to HDMI adapter, mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter, DVI to VGA adapter and both 6 and 8-pin to 4-pin power adapters to make sure you can connect the card to your power supply.



Let's see what the Sapphire HD 5970 OC has under the hood!


  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Closer Look: The Video Card
  3. Closer Look: Drivers & Programs
  4. Closer Look: Catalyst Control Center
  5. Specifications & Features
  6. Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  7. Testing: Far Cry 2
  8. Testing: Crysis Warhead
  9. Testing: Darkest of Days
  10. Testing: Call of Duty World at War
  11. Testing: WarHammer 40,000 Dawn of War II
  12. Testing: Batman Arkham Asylum
  13. Testing: Resident Evil 5
  14. Testing: Left 4 Dead
  15. Testing: 3DMark 06
  16. Testing: 3DMark Vantage
  17. Conclusion
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