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XFX Secret Weapon tested - HD 5970 Black Edition

by on25 September 2010


Review: Eyefinity 6 and 4GB memory

XFX HD 5970 4GB Black Edition graphics card is a limited quantity graphics card that comes at a pretty penny but in turn offers equally pretty performance levels. This naturally means that the card is not quite aimed at the general masses, and this kind of performance is surely not for the faint of heart. We know that Radeon HD 5970 is currently the fastest graphics card around, but XFX pushed the bar even further with its Black Edition card. So, for the price of US$1000/€1000, you’ll get XFX’s HD 5970 4GB Black Edition cards with six video outs, meaning Eyefinity 6.  

The reference HD 5970 runs at 725MHz and the memory at 1000 (4000MHz effectively). Many expected the reference dual GPU HD 5970 to end up running at single-GPU HD 5870’s clocks (850MHz core, 1200MHz memory), but XFX offered that with its HD 5970 4GB Black Edition card. Naturally, this managed to give it the upper hand in the fight with the reference card.

XFX used non-reference cooling to make sure that the card will handle higher clocks. Furthermore, the card comes with 6 video outs and as much as 4GB of memory. While the reference card’s GPU has 1GB at its disposal, this time around it’s 2GB.


XFX HD 5970 4GB Black Edition card isn’t only special for its performance – XFX has got a few surprises for the owners of this card.


The large cardboard package holds a LAN Party bag with room for two keyboards and two mice whereas the three side pockets will take plenty of gadgets, USB sticks, etc.





All the HD 5970 Black Edition cards come with their own serial numbers and in a special box that resembles P-90. The gun-shaped box was designed by the G8 team and proves that XFX has been carefully working on every aspect of these cards.


We’re talking about a limited number of cards (1000 units) with serious pricing, but we do believe that they will find their place. For US$1000 you get a HD 5970 4GB that’s different from the rest of the HD 5970 2GB/4GB pack by its six video outs (Eyefinity 6) and is a dual slot card, rather than a triple-slot one. XFX’s card is 30.8cm long, just like the reference card.


As you can see from the picture, the cooler is not the reference solution and should thus cool the two Cypress XT cores much better.

The distance between the cores on the PCB is bigger than on the reference card and the fan is placed in the center rather than at the end of the card.

Beneath the hood are two aluminum heatsinks sitting on copper GPU blocks with three copper heatpipes going.

HD 5970 4GB Black Edition is an Eyefinity edition card, meaning it comes with six video outs. We're talking about six mini-DisplayPort connectors but we'll talk more on Eyefinity soon.
XFX designed the card to run as fast as possible and crunching ultra high resolutions needs some serious overclocking. Compared to the reference card, the GPU runs 125MHz faster and the memory is 200MHz faster (800MHz effectively). The memory in question is Hynix H5GQ1H24AFR T2C.


The card comes with a CrossFire connectors, although it's a bit hard to imagine anyone buying two of these cards. Still, as our experience showed, you never know. Overclock and 4GB of memory spell higher consumption so the card is powered via two 8-pin connectors, unlike the reference card that uses 6-pin and 8-pin connectors.

It supports DirectX 11, OpenGL 4, ShaderModel 5.0, PCI-Express 2.0, DirectCompute 5.0, GPU video acceleration and 7.1 audio (including Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio).

Motherboard: EVGA 4xSLI
CPU: Core i7 965 XE (Intel EIST and Vdrop enabled)
Memory: 6GB Corsair Dominator 12800 7-7-7-24
Harddisk:   OCZ Vertex 2 100 GB
Power Supply: CoolerMaster Silent Pro Gold 800W
Case: CoolerMaster HAF X
Fan Controler: Kaze Master Pro 5.25"
Operating System: Win7 64-bit
10.9 CCC

Dirt 2 is not a problem for high-end graphics cards and all the cards, including the HD 5870, score a playable frame rate at 2560x1600. XFX HD 5970 4GB Black Edition outruns the reference HD 5970 by about 10% and the HD 5870 by up to 55%.



Aliens vs. Predator sees the XFX HD 5970 Black Edition outpacing the reference HD 5970 by about 15% and the HD 5870 by up to 81%. It appears that the XFX card's double amount of memory does more to improve the results in AvP than in Dirt2, where XFX ended up better by about 10%.



Metro 2033 also sees the XFX HD 5970 Black Edition come out on top by beating the reference HD 5970 by up to 15% and the HD 5870 by up to 80%.





TessMark settings:
  - 1920×1080 fullscreen
  - no AA, no Post-FX
  - duration=60sec
  - map set 1

Playing games with the picture spanning across more monitors can be done with Nvidia or AMD cards, but although both teams have made significant advances, we’d still refrain from calling them finished articles. In this respect AMD has done much better as cards from HD 5000 series will take up to three monitors (Eyefinity editions will take up to 6) whereas three screens on Nvidia cards require SLI. This means you need two graphics cards (except for the GTX 295 with two DVIs and HDMI) since each GPU can only handle two screens.

Not everything is as grand as it seems though, as AMD Eyefinity requires one of the three monitors to be a DisplayPort version. Naturally, DisplayPort monitors don’t come cheap but thankfully there are alternatives. For ultra high resolutions, the alternative is an active DisplayPort/Dual-Link DVI adapter ($100) whereas for resolutions for up to 1920x1200 you can do with an active DisplayPort/Single-Link DVI which is ($30). Sapphire is one of the first to offer this adapter and you can check it out here.

The active DisplayPort/Single-Link DVI adapter will allow for a resolution of 5760x1200 (landscape) or 3600x1920 (portrait).

XFX ships a few adapters with its HD 5970 4GB Black Edition card, among which you’ll find two passive MiniDP-to-Single-Link DVI, one passive MiniDP-to-HDMI and three miniDP-to-DisplayPort adapters. This means that although the card has six video outs, if your three (or all six) monitors only have DVI ins, you’ll have to look for additional active MiniDP-to-DVI adapters.


We tested with three 1920x1080 monitors (5760x1080) where one monitor had a DisplayPort video in .



Gaming at 5760x1080 is much more efficient with XFX HD 5970 4GB as the card not only runs overclocked, but it comes with twice the memory on the reference card.


Unfortunately, we must admit we expected better results in overclocking XFX’s HD 5970 Black Edition. We pushed the GPU from 850MHz to 890MHz, which is 40MHz higher than the card’s original clocks but 165MHz higher than the reference card’s clocks. After our overclocking, the memory ran at 1280MHz (5120MHz effectively), which is 1120MHz higher than on the reference card. Overclocking helped the card score from 4-10% higher on gaming tests.



As far as consumption goes, it goes without saying that an overclocked HD 5970 will consume more than a reference card, but at least idle consumption is identical. We measured our entire rig’s consumption (without the monitor). Note that our motherboard consumes quite a lot (in turn offering overclocking stability) so it is probably an overkill if you’re not using it to its full potential.


In idle operation, HD 5970 Black Edition is louder than the reference card. It runs a bit louder than the reference card during operation, but both HD 5970 are still too loud for our taste.

XFX’s custom designed cooling and PCB have paid off bigtime when it comes to thermals. In fact, thermals are much better than on the reference HD 5970, as you can see from the picture below.


The $1000/€1000 price, here, is serious dough and many of us would never splash out that much on a graphics card, despite the fact that XFX's HD 5970 4GB Black Edition is every gamer's dream. However, XFX didn't aim at the general masses with this card but rather at collectors and enthusiasts that like their graphics extra saucy. Indeed, XFX HD 5970 4GB Black Edition is one of the fastest cards around at the moment, not least helped by overclocking and the extra 2GB of GDDR5 memory.

XFX so far made sure that everyone knows what the company’s secret weapon is, and built a site that’s there to promote these beasts. You can check it out here.

Our hat is off to XFX for one of the most imaginative packages we’ve seen – HD 5970 4GB Black Edition comes inside a plastic package resembling a P-90 gun and comes with a specially designed LAN Party bag. This is not the first time XFX has managed to surprise everyone with quality of packaging, but what’s inside is capable of blowing anyone away.

Note however, that XFX’s HD 5970 Black Edition is much more than mere overclock of any HD 5970. Black Edition card comes with six video outs and, unlike the reference card with its three video outs, will take up to 6 monitors simultaneously. Thanks to the factory overclock, gaming performance is exquisite.

We were impressed with both the looks and performance, although we didn’t quite like the pricing and noise levels in idle and in 3D. However, XFX’s HD 5970 2GB Black Edition is the fastest card we’ve tested so far.

Last modified on 19 June 2012
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