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

5900-Series: Eyefinity/CrossFire Tech Preview

In our original Radeon HD 5870 coverage, I was surprised to learn that ATI’s beta driver didn’t yet support Eyefinity in CrossFire. If ever there was a reason to buy a pair of powerful single-GPU boards that’d otherwise be CPU-bound in most single-monitor setups, it’d be taking advantage of this awesome new triple-output display technology. Two months later, Eyefinity and CrossFire are still not yet compatible on 5800- and 5700-series cards.

But ATI says it is working on a public driver that’ll enable Eyefinity resolutions with CrossFire’d boards.

More important, the company has a technology preview of its two flagship technologies working together on the Radeon HD 5970. It’s a very limited release that includes 21 titles, only works on the 5970, and is limited to landscape display configurations. But it’s Eyefinity. And CrossFire. Finally.

So, I bought a mini-DisplayPort cable needed to use the board's trio of display outputs, set the 5970 up with our three Dell U2410s, and started in on testing...

Game Benchmarks, Single Radeon HD 5870 @ 5760x1200 (No AA / No AF), in FPS
Single Radeon HD 5870Radeon HD 5970
Far Cry 254.1282.44
Left 4 Dead81.04105.12
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky28.837.05
World in ConflictCrashNot Compatible
Resident Evil 5Not CompatibleNot Compatible
Grand Theft Auto IV29.61Not Compatible

Four of the 21 titles on ATI's list are in regular rotation here, and in those four games, performance in Eyefinity mode increases notably. All of the titles, save S.T.A.L.K.E.R., now play smoothly, and getting better frame rates out of Clear Sky is a matter of dialing down the details from Extreme to something more conservative. This is truly the combination I was so excited about when Cypress launched. As the chart suggests, there's still a lot of work to be done, though.

While this isn't the comprehensive support we were hoping for back when the Radeon HD 5870 debuted and we ran a pair of the cards in CrossFire, it's a solid step--and absolutely imperative for a card like the Radeon HD 5970 that's supposed to enable transparent multi-GPU rendering capabilities. Hopefully, now that ATI is selling a dual-Cypress card with Eyefinity "half-working," the software engineers (who've done wonders to improve the company's reputation for well-built drivers) will prioritize getting such an integral feature fully-implemented.

Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.