ATI Radeon HD 5870: DirectX 11, Eyefinity, And Serious Speed

Heat And Noise

When you start talking about cutting edge graphics, you have to address heat and noise—the collateral damage of complex GPUs and high clock rates under the duress of synthetic 3D loads.

Heated air vents out the back and top of the card.

We’ll actually begin by touching on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 285, though. With one of these cards in a gaming machine, you’re probably in peachy shape. Toss a couple into an X58-based board like our Asus Rampage II Extreme (with its slots spaced just wide enough for dual-slot graphics cards) and you’re asking for trouble, though. We had to manually key in 100% duty cycles for both boards to keep them from crashing in games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R., since the fan couldn’t spin up fast enough. At full tilt we achieved stability, but at the expense of more than 54 decibels of noise.

It's not like the GeForce GTX 295 treated us much better. In fact, once we hit 99 degrees in FurMark, we stopped our acoustic testing for fear of frying the card (it was already pumping a special smell into the room). That board’s fan was generating 54.6 decibels up until we shut it down.

But a pair of Radeon HD 5870s was the loudest combination in our tests, generating 54.7 decibels from our plucky little Extech 407768. These cards actually did hit 100 degrees C, at which point they’d throttle, dip back to 99, and then hop back up to 100. What you really need to be careful with in a closed case, though, is a rising ambient. The Radeon HD 5870’s decked-out bracket doesn’t have a full slot’s worth of ventilation anymore, so half of the card’s air actually blows out the top back into your chassis.

Overclockers—especially those with the dosh to purchase more than one Radeon HD 5870—need to make sure they’re handling cooling, since the 5870 behaves a little differently than any of ATI’s other high-end boards (more like a GeForce GTX 295, which also exhausts super-hot air into your case).

At idle, a single Radeon HD 5870 is just slightly louder than its predecessor—on par with a pair of GeForce GTX 285s in SLI, but quieter than a single GeForce GTX 295. Most impressive is the Radeon HD 4870 1GB, which is noticeably less noisy than any of the other cards, despite the fact that it’s only .6 dBA away from the GTX 285.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • hispeed120
    I'm. So. Excited.
  • Can't wait
  • crosko42
    So it looks like 1 is enough for me.. Dont plan on getting a 30 inch monitor any time soon.
  • jezza333
    Looks like the NDA lifted at 11:00PM, as there's a load of reviews now just out. Once again it shows that AMD can produce a seriously killer card...

    Crysis 2 on an x2 of this is exactly what I'm waiting for.
  • woostar88
    This is incredible at the price point.
    Err... I thought I was going to see more for the price. Regardless, I think ATI missed the mark here. I am interested in playing games on my HDTV since me and my monitor don't care about these higher resolutions. Fail cakes... Nivida is undoubtedly going to rape ATI in performance with the 300 series. This is good news for mainstream prices however.... you can ptobably upgrade to a current DX10 board soon for a very good price, and then buy a 5850 for $100 in a year from now. Result? Don't but a 5000 series card yet until the price comes down? Heh, I bet the cards will be $100 less in December if the 300 series launches.

    This is not to say I am an Nvidia fan, just undoubtedly you would do well for yourself to hold off for a bit if you want to buy a 5000 series... as the price will come down for a good price/performance ratio soon enough.
  • tipmen
    wait, wait, before I look can it play cry... HOLY SHIT?!
  • viper666
    why didn't they thest it against a GTX 295 rather than 280??? its far superior...
  • cangelini
    viper666why didn't they thest it against a GTX 295 rather than 280??? its far superior...
    Ran it against a GTX 295 and a 285 and 285s in SLI :)
  • Annisman
    I refuse to buy until the 2GB versions come out, not to mention newegg letting you buy more than 1 at a time, paper launch ftl.