AMD ATI Radeon HD 5970 Review

November 18, 2009 | 12:06

Tags: #11 #atm #benchmarks #buy #card #comparison #cost #crossfire #crysis #directx #dx #fast #free #gold #live #performance #result #review #testing

Companies: #amd #ati

Availability

One thing that we've had to come back to is this card's availability - it's not great. Many retailers are listing availability dates ranging from days to weeks, with only a few cards in stock to buy right now. Pricing also seems to be a little bit uncertain too - Overclockers UK appears to be the best guide with the most stock, with cards starting at around £520 (inc VAT). Meanwhile, eBuyer has a number of cards on pre-order - these are cheaper, at just under £500, but they're not going to be available until the end of the month.

Novatech has the HIS ATI Radeon HD 5970 listed, with five due today, but they're priced at an astronomical £575 (inc VAT). This is despite HIS giving a recommended retail price of around £490 inc VAT.

Scan, has only the two XFX cards on pre-order. Both are at a reasonable price (£470 or $800 inc VAT), but there's no ETA on when Scan will get stock.

Aria, Advancetec, MicroDirect, CCL and others haven't even listed the Radeon HD 5970 yet, which suggests that volume is massively low. In comparison, the Radeons HD 5870 and HD 5850 launched with tens of thousands of cards in the channel, and were stocked everywhere.

Conclusion

The Radeon HD 5970 has a huge amount of potential (as the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. testing showed) but, more often than not, we found that the card failed to fulfil all of that potential. On paper, it's undoubtedly the meanest and highest performing graphics card on the planet, but the reality is quite different. With most retailers asking for more than £500, and with supply so low, we wonder why ATI bothered to release this card at this time. After all, it has the luxury of a DX11 monopoly at the moment, and a few more weeks of driver dev time wouldn't have gone amiss.

ATI's Eyefinity and the possibilities it opens up for multi-screen gaming might give it some edge. Even on a 30in screen with a load of AA, the HD 5970 fails to comprehensively distinguish itself from the current high-end cards, but possibly it will do great things when asked to power three 24in panels. There were number of occasions where we bumped into a CPU limitation on a single screen (even a 30in one), so Eyefinity should help to give the HD 5970 more purpose.

With that said, there are still some outstanding issues with the Radeon HD 5970, without testing Eyefinity, and most of them revolve around software. The HD 5970 failed to unlock anything like its full potential in four out of five of our test games, with the low minimums and high averages in Call of Duty: World at War and Dawn of War II strongly indicating that ATI needs to spend more time refining the driver for the HD 5970. While the monthly Catalyst updates do tend to bring new features and updates, there's no guarantee that a new driver will fix your favourite game, or that it won't lower performance in favour of a fix for another game.

Overall, we're very impressed with the Radeon HD 5970's S.T.A.L.K.E.R. performance, which we take to be example of just how fast the HD 5970 can be. However, we have to judge the card on its performance in all our test games, and it just doesn't stand up to that scrutiny. As such, we wouldn't buy a Radeon HD 5970 card at the moment, even if we could afford it, fit its 11.5in 12.2in length in our case, and find one in stock.

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