Card and bundle
Price: £320 inc VAT
Best Price: http://pricebomb.co.uk
Aside from cost and availability there is little to differentiate one Radeon 5870 from another. They all use the same Batmobile-inspired cooler; offer almost the same bundle and identical clock speeds. Asus is aiming to change that by offering a feature unique to its own brand of cards – the ability to tweak the GPU voltage without any need for hardware modification. Today we are going to be evaluating the card’s overall capabilities and testing to see just how much of an advantage this unique “Voltage Tweak” feature provides when overclocking.
As has become the norm for Asus video cards, the EAH5870 is supplied in a monolithic box, much of which is devoted to empty space. Nevertheless, you do get some goodies for your £300. In addition to the mandatory driver disk Asus has also provided a DVI to VGA adaptor, a Crossfire connector, a Molex to PCI Express power lead and a manual. You also get Asus’ SmartDoctor software which allows you to monitor temperatures, change clock speeds and adjust the GPU voltage. The final icing on the cake is a free copy of Colin McRae Dirt 2. This is provided as a voucher code that can be redeemed with Steam online.
Physically, the Asus EAH5870 is identical to any other reference 5870 card with the same double slot cooler and an identical circuit topology. Asus has added a little visual flair in some markets by giving the card carbon fibre effect stickers, which is a nice touch. At the rear of the card you’ll find two DVI connectors, an HDMI port and a single DisplayPort connector. Those hoping to use the card to run multiple displays should be aware that a maximum of three are supported at a time and one of these has to be a DisplayPort. You cannot, therefore, run a triple desktop by using two DVI ports and HDMI all at the same time. As with the rest of the HD 5000 range this card supports an Eyefinity configuration, whereby three screens are linked to produce one gigantic gaming display.
Two 6 pin PCI Express power connectors are required by the Radeon 5870 so you’ll need a high spec PSU. Something along the lines of a quality 650W unit will be fine, but you can forget about using something dodgy that came free with a cheap case. At 28cm in length (11.1”) you’ll need a capacious case to hold the 5870; if you only just managed to shoehorn in an existing 8800GTX card you’ll certainly be in trouble here.
The Asus EAH5870 features a default GPU clock of 850MHz and a memory clock of 1.2GHz. This is identical to the frequency of the ATI reference card and just about every other 5870 on the market. This hardware is kept cool by ATi’s excellent stock cooler, designed to exhaust heat directly out the back of the case. At idle the cooler is very quiet, though not quite as smooth as owners of ultra-quiet rigs might prefer. It’s unlikely to be the loudest component in any “normal” PC, however.