ATI Radeon HD 5970 2GB: The World's Fastest Graphics Card

Know what really sucks? Developing a piece of hardware that everyone wants, and then not being able to make enough of it to go around. Of course, what happens next is a result of supply and demand. Suddenly your $249 Radeon HD 5850s cost $300—when they’re in stock.

Wouldn’t it follow, then, that a card with two of those über-valuable ASICs would do little to address supply issues of ATI’s Radeon HD 5800-series cards? According to the company, the exact reason it held off on launching its potent Hemlock board related to availability. Now, it says, there are enough Cypress GPUs to support sales of this…monster.

Clearly, Size Matters

Meet the Radeon HD 5970. Apparently, Radeon HD 5870 X2 too-conspicuously conveyed the dual-GPU nature of this card—an attribute that has not necessarily been celebrated in the past by those wary of scaling or stuttering issues.

Nevertheless, this is ATI’s dual-GPU, single-PCB follow-up to the Radeon HD 5870 (and answer to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 295—a card that, up until today, was the fastest discrete graphics board you could buy). Gone are all auspices of value. This thing is set to sell for $600. Almost ironically, though, the 5970 might end up being the way to go for anyone who was previously considering a pair of Radeon HD 5850s in CrossFire, which would add up to $600 today anyway.

ATI’s approach here looks a lot like what Nvidia did with its GeForce GTX 295 earlier this year.

1) Take two top-end GPUs. In Nvidia’s case, it was the GT200 with 240 stream processors. In ATI’s, it’s the 1,600-shader Cypress found in its Radeon HD 5870.
2) Drop clock rates a bit in order to keep power and thermals under control.
3) ???
4) Profit

The most significant difference is that, while Nvidia hacked and slashed the back-end of its GPU to match what you’d get from a pair of GeForce GTX 275s, cutting ROPs and 64-bits of the originally-512-bit memory interface, ATI’s Radeon HD 5970 sports a pair of uncut Cypress chips. Only the clocks are dropped (to Radeon HD 5850 levels), and for a fairly sensible reason that we'll get into shortly, too.

What results is a massive, single-PCB card that stretches a foot long—an inch more than the already-lengthy Radeon HD 5870 and an inch and a half longer than ATI’s Radeon HD 4870 X2. This will unquestionably be a sticking point for enthusiasts with cramped enclosures. Enthusiasts are a resourceful bunch, though.

More Sweet Spot Action

Hemlock represents the third of four projected launches based on the Evergreen family, first discussed in early September. The first, of course, was Cypress—the Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850. The second was Juniper—the Radeon HD 5770 and 5750. The next launch, after today’s, is expected in the first quarter of 2010 and will consist of the entry-level Cedar and Redwood components.

At least on paper, AMD’s Sweet Spot strategy is going off without a hitch.

In reality, the same availability issues that plagued the Radeon HD 4770 shortly after launch are taking their toll on Radeon HD 5870 and Radeon HD 5850 supply (the 5770 and 5750s seem to be a little more widely available). Blame, of course, is being directed at TSMC’s 40nm manufacturing node and its resulting yields.

Of course, that’s a shame since supply affects pricing. But ATI tells us that only the 5850 is being hit by a $50 price jump. The 5870 remains at its $399 price point (though you’ll see some vendors selling the card for more). Moreover, the Radeon HD 5970’s $599 MSRP is being set with already-known supply issues priced in—expect it to remain around that $600 level.

Now, let’s dig into more depth on what you’re getting for $600—$100 more than Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 295.

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  • adlertheman
    amd did it again! WOW,..aren't we all shocked! lets see something out of their cpu line now! Ati's a life saver!!!
  • tinnerdxp
    pity Toms forgot to include triple GTX285s
  • omegon
    If they include triple GTX285s they will include 2 5970 aswell.

    But the people who are gonna pay 1110$ for the gtx's or 1200$ for the dual 5970 really dont need the benchmarks, for them its a presitige to have this, so including them in this article is kinda useless.
  • staalkoppie
    All Hail ATi!!! :) What a huge piece of tech!
  • mi1ez
    Anyone else see the potential for a 5990 with GPUs shipped at 5870 speeds?
  • mi1ez
    it even has solder points to make the 6pin into an 8pin PCIe power connector!
  • Dandalf
    Can someone please explain to me why these graphics cards are referred to as 'discrete'? They're like the absolute least discrete components in my machine. Now that I mention it, why are they still called graphics cards and not graphics bricks??
  • Dandalf
    And another question... are AMD aware that this card is bottlenecked by their fastest CPU? That means they are pretty much forcing customers who buy this to Intel .... what were they thinking??

    AMD better put their foot down on those 6-core chips.
  • marney_5
    Awesome! cant wait to get my hands on one!
  • david__t
    And still Crysis cannot be played at full detail with Aliasing / Filtering on as well @ 1080p...
  • barney stinsen
    You know what is the best thing about this card? OMFG!!! 640 euros!! Now that, my friends, is the best feature AMD could have implemented!!!

    P.S :640 Euros = 957.95200 U.S. dollars. But wait, this card is 660 U.S. dollars = 440.940673 Euros.
  • obsidian86
    DandalfCan someone please explain to me why these graphics cards are referred to as 'discrete'? They're like the absolute least discrete components in my machine. Now that I mention it, why are they still called graphics cards and not graphics bricks??

    graphics mountains more like it
  • jimb06789

    You seem to be confusing "discrete" with "discreet".

    5970 is £574 at Novatech, I'm tempted but I'll wait for Nvidia's release.
  • jimishtar
    i wish i could buy it.
  • redkachina
    This beast make my GTX275 looks like little toy..*sigh* even a tri sli cant even be compared with it..time to break my piggy bank LoL
  • Dandalf
    Woop jimb you are right! My second point stands though :D
  • SpidersWeb

    dis·crete (d-skrt) adj.
    1. Constituting a separate thing

    dis·creet (d-skrt)
    1. Marked by, exercising, or showing prudence and wise self-restraint in speech and behavior; circumspect.
    2. Free from ostentation or pretension; modest.
  • SpidersWeb
    Oh and the 5970 seems amazing. Out of my budget though, but then I'm happy with my 4850 which is considered weak sauce compared to these!
  • Anonymous
    strictly for idiots.
  • vernoncougar
    I've got 2 HD5870's
    better than HD5970 right?