We received an opportunity to get Sapphire's Radeon HD 5970 card in our lab before the weekend and attempted to publish a few benchmark numbers as quickly as possible. As many readers know by now, this is currently the fastest graphics card on the planet and steals the perfomance crown from Nvidia's almost year-old Geforce GTX 295. At the same time, this is the first dual-GPU card with DirectX 11 support.
The GPU cores in Sapphire's Radeon HD 5970 run at 735MHz, a modest 10MHz above the reference clock. The entire card features 3200 stream processors (2x 1600) and 2GB of GDDR5 memory at 1010MHz for 4040MHz overall effective speed. The rest of the hardware specifications include 160 texture units, 64 ROPs, 116 Gtexel/second texture fill rate and compute performance slightly above 4.64 Tflops. The card's pixel fillrate is 46.4 Gpixels/second, its Z/stencil performance is 185.6 Gsamples/second and the memory data rate is 4.04Gbps.
Maximum board TDP is 294W, while idle power is 42W. Let's not forget that the card has two DVI ports and a mini-DisplayPort,
something that hardly anyone needs. The HDMI port is also available with 1.3a HDMI support that can take care of audio but we will discuss this in more detail in our in-depth review.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 comes bundled with the full version of BattleForge and a coupon for DiRT 2 which should be available on December 1st.
In a very short period of time, we managed to run a few important benchmarks for determining performance, including 3DMark Vantage and Far Cry 2:
3Dmark Vantage was dominated by the Sapphire HD 5970 dual-GPU card which scores some 26-percent higher than the previous, now dethroned king, Geforce GTX 295. Even the single-GPU Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 card is close to the GTX 295, scoring 8300 and scoring better than previous dual-GPU Radeon HD 4870 X2.
Far Cry 2 on Ultra settings at 1920x1200 resolution is the game where the Radeon HD 5970 also scores the highest and ends more than 20-percent faster then GTX 295. However, it is only slightly faster than the Radeon HD 4870 X2.
Once we enabled 4X FSAA 4X at 1920x1200, the story changed completely. Radeon HD 5970 dominates the test and ends up easily 20-percent faster than Nvidia's GTX 295 dual-GPU card. Radeon HD 4870 X2 is at least 30-percent slower than the HD 5970, while the single chip HD 5870 is only slightly slower than the 4870 X2, but more than 30-percent slower than Sapphire's HD 5970 2GB card.
We see a similar performance difference at 2560x1600 without AA, where the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 is some 25-percent faster than the Geforce GTX 295, while the Radeon HD 4870 X2 scores only slightly slower than GTX 295. It is important to point out that the HD 5970 is four times faster than Geforce 9800GT and almost four times faster than the HD 4850.
Far Cry 2 at 2560x1600 with 4X AA churns out almost 70 FPS, which is more than enough for a great playing experience. Geforce GTX 295 managed 57 FPS, rendering 19-percent less performance. This certainly proves that even at top settings, a single Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 overclocked card is enough to push you to speeds never seen before.
Our initial impression leads us to believe that the Sapphire Radeon HD 5970 OC is a great card and an excellent performer. If you want the fastest money can buy and don't mind spending £530, €629 or $629, this card just might be your thing. Unfortunately, the big issue that remains is limited availability. We will follow up with more very soon.