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Test notes
We've tested the 5970 against a handful of other high-end solutions in some of the very latest games. I should note that we wanted to include a few things, such as Dragon Age: Origins and the Heaven DX11 benchmark, that don't yet have CrossFire profiles. In the interest of exploring the 5970's true potential, we've skipped those applications for now, but we may come back to them in the future.

The card you see above is Asus' version of the Radeon HD 5870, a true retail product that's replaced the AMD reference cards on our test bench. Asus ships this card with a Steam coupon for DiRT 2 and a three-year warranty that, blessedly, does not require registration of the product within a certain number of days.

The thing that makes this Asus card interesting is that it comes with a voltage-tweaking tool, much like what AMD expects its partners to offer for the 5970.

Asus' Smart Doctor tool offers voltage control

I've not yet pushed this 5870 to its limits, but I should note that the voltage slider tops out at a somewhat scary 1.5V.

Also, one must look at the screenshot above and ask: Really, AMD? You want to entrust the designer of this interface with the 5970's crucial overvolting feature? Really?

Our testing methods
As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and we've reported the median result.

Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Core i7-965 Extreme 3.2GHz
System bus QPI 6.4 GT/s (3.2GHz)
Motherboard Gigabyte EX58-UD5
BIOS revision F7
North bridge X58 IOH
South bridge ICH10R
Chipset drivers INF update
Matrix Storage Manager
Memory size 6GB (3 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Dominator TR3X6G1600C8D
at 1333MHz
CAS latency (CL) 8
RAS to CAS delay (tRCD) 8
RAS precharge (tRP) 8
Cycle time (tRAS) 24
Command rate 2T
Audio Integrated ICH10R/ALC889A
with Realtek drivers
Graphics Radeon HD 4870 X2 2GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.663.1-091105a-091227E drivers
Asus Radeon HD 5870 1GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.663.1-091105a-091227E drivers
Radeon HD 5970 2GB PCIe
with Catalyst 8.663.1-091105a-091227E drivers
Asus GeForce GTX 285 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 195.39 drivers
Dual Asus GeForce GTX 285 1GB PCIe
with ForceWare 195.39 drivers
GeForce GTX 295 2GB PCIe
with ForceWare 195.39 drivers
Hard drive WD Caviar SE16 320GB SATA
Power supply PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 Watt
OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Edition RTM
OS updates DirectX August 2009 update

Thanks to Corsair for providing us with memory for our testing. Their quality, service, and support are easily superior to no-name DIMMs.

Our test systems were powered by PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750W power supply units. The Silencer 750W was a runaway Editor's Choice winner in our epic 11-way power supply roundup, so it seemed like a fitting choice for our test rigs.

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.