Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

ASUS EAH5870 Video Card Review

Today we look at ASUS’s brand new, voltage tweakable and highly overclockable EAH5870 based on AMD’s new ATI Radeon HD 5870. With the ability to increase the core voltage we cannot wait to see how high it will go, but first we must see how it compares to its rivals in some of the latest and most demanding games.

Introduction

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. is one of the largest and most successful computer hardware manufacturers in the world. A Taiwan-based company, they manufacture a wide variety of computer hardware, including motherboards, video cards, optical drives, notebooks, networking equipment, barebones desktop, and server systems, among many others. In 2008, they sold over 24 million motherboards, grossed 8.1 billion U.S., and won 3,056 awards from various enthusiasts and IT related outlets.

Today we are going to be evaluating the ASUS EAH5870. The entire product model is "EAH5870/G/2DIS/1GD5," but we are just going to refer to it as the ASUS EAH5870 in this evaluation.

"Welcome to the world of DX11!"

  • Exclusive Voltage Tweak Technology to increase up to 17% performance!
  • Hottest DX11 Game Bundled: DiRT 2
  • Gigantic 1GB DDR5 for Incredible Gaming performance
  • HDMI & DisplayPort output support

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AMD’s ATI Radeon HD 5870

AMD and their add-in-board partners have been very busy this past month launching and stocking the shelves with no less than four new next generation video card models. The current flagship, the ATI Radeon HD 5870 launched first on September 22nd and was later followed by its brother the ATI Radeon HD 5850 on September 30th. On October 12th their cousins the ATI Radeon HD 5770 and ATI Radeon 5750 launched.

Today we will be focusing on the ATI Radeon HD 5870, the single GPU double slot successor of the ATI Radeon HD 4870 and HD 4890. At first glance, the Radeon HD 4890 and Radeon HD 5870 look similar on paper with both sharing a GPU frequency of 850MHz and 1GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus. However, as our mothers always told us not to judge a book by its cover, taking a closer look reveals a different story. There have been many improvements with the new Radeon HD 5870, and as is often the case, merely looking at frequencies alone fails to shed light on the whole story.

To put is shortly AMD has "doubled everything." The ATI Radeon HD 5870 has 1600 Stream Processors (vs. 800), 80 Texture Units (vs. 40), 32 ROPs (vs. 16), 2.1 billion transistors (vs. 959 million), and on a 40nm process (vs. 55nm). They have also worked hard to reduce power requirements, and while everything has been "doubled", the maximum board power has been reduced to 188 Watts. To our joyous surprise the idle power requirements have also been slashed by more than half! Now it uses only 27 Watts were as before the HD 4890 used 60 Watts at idle. The one downside to the Radeon HD 5870 is that it measures 11" in length; 1.5" longer then a Radeon HD 4890, so make sure you have enough clearance in your case.

ASUS EAH5870 and SmartDoctor

The ASUS EAH5870 is ASUS’s first model video card released that is based on the new ATI Radeon HD 5870. That being the case, this is basically a "reference" video card: the GPU is clocked at 850MHz, the memory at 4.2GHz, and it uses the reference dual slot cooling solution. The EAH5870’s one notable distinction from this bland reference crowd is ASUS’s Voltage Tweak, which allows you to set the Vcore by using the supplied SmartDoctor utility. This gives the ASUS EAH5870 an advantage over other similar Radeon HD 5870 based video cards and should provide greater room for overclocking potential, thus better performance for hardware enthusiasts.

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ASUS’s SmartDoctor not only allows you to adjust the Vcore but also the GPU frequency, memory frequency, and the fan speed. You can also monitor the GPU temperature and the fan RPMs. Our first screenshot above is the initial screen, which shows the GPU temperature and in the second image is the other tab showing the fan speed.

On the bottom of both images are three sliders, which allow you to change the Vcore, the GPU frequency, and the memory frequency. The Vcore can be set from 0.95 to 1.5 volts but anywhere over 1.35 volts is in ASUS’s red/orange/yellow zone. The default stock Vcore voltage for this video card is 1.15 volts. SmartDoctor also allows the GPU to be set up to 1.2GHz and the memory up to 5.6GHz, which should leave plenty of room for overclocking. For those who prefer to use the familiar ATI Overdrive it also has the same upper frequency limits, however in order to set the voltage you must use SmartDoctor.

In the next four screenshots is SmartDoctor’s advanced setup menu. In the first tab is where you can set the monitor polling interval and enable overheat protection. The next tab allows you to adjust the point in which the GPU temperature and fan speed alarm go off. The third tab lets you set the fan at a specific speed, enable it to auto adjust based on specific temperature, or just use the standard auto fan. The final screenshot has to do with HyperDrive, which allows you to change the overclock based on what you are doing. For more information about SmartDoctor and HyperDrive refer to this webpage.

In our evaluation we are using SmartDoctor version 5.46 which is the latest version available from the ASUS website.

ASUS EAH5870 in Pictures

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To be honest, the ASUS EAH5870’s retail box is what we have come to expect, few specifications and a lot of marketing. The highlights of the box specifications are that there is 1GB of GDDR5, no memory frequency given, there is no GPU frequency given, but the video card requirements are given. The ASUS EAH5870 requires at minimum a 500W PSU with two 6-pin auxiliary power connectors. The only two notable things on the box are the Voltage Tweak icon and the Dirt 2 icon, and the Voltage Tweak capability is poorly explained on the box as to what it actually does.

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The ASUS EAH5870 uses the reference double slotted cooling solution provided by AMD. This generation, AMD is using a fully covered card design that is reminiscent of the NVIDIA GTX 260/280/285 shiny black brick design. However, AMD has decided to add a few curves and some red accents along with a matte finish to the design. ASUS has added their logo to this quite elegantly, and chose to forgo the gaudy theme sticker thank goodness.

On the front bracket of the video card are two dual-link DVI ports, a HDMI port, and a DisplayPort. On the tail end of the video card are the two six-pin auxiliary power connectors and two vents that don’t work and are actually only there to "look cool." Along the top are the crossfire connectors and few more vents that will actually push hot air into your case.

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In the first and second pictures, you can see the almost completely covered back with only the reverse side of the GPU exposed and a label. The video card comes with the basics: a Driver CD, a manual CD, a speed setup guide, a DVI to D-sub adapter, a two 4-pin to 6-pin power adaptor, and a crossfire bridge.

As noted on the box, the video cards also comes with a coupon for DiRT 2 which will take advantage of DX11 and use tessellation to improve the water, cloth, and crowd animations. Look here for a DiRT 2 Tech Demo. The included coupon will get you DiRT 2 distributed on Steam.