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ASUS Maximus III Gene Motherboard

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ATI Radeon HD 5670 Review  

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Introduction

Several months ago ATI took the performance lead from Nvidia when they launched their 5800 series of GPUs and then launched a mainstream range (the 5700 series). Some may be puzzled by the launch of the 5670 now but it fits in nicely with ATIs product differentiation strategy and fulfils two key criteria. Firstly, the Radeon 5670 comes in at below the crucial $100 mark which is very significant psychologically and also presents a viable upgrade path to users with older systems as it does not require additional power from a PSU other than that supplied by the PCI-E motherboard slot. ATI are also quick to point out that less than 10% of PC users have 1920x1080 or higher displays and tat 66% of the market have graphics cards costing less than $100 making this a significant contributor to profitability. Next month will see the launch of the 5500 series and the 5450 (low profile with passive cooling - ideal for HTPCs) giving ATI a complete range of DirectX 11 solutions across all market segments.

ATIs strategy has been so successful that low end success has allowed them to challenge at the high end and now ATI graphics cards offer the best performance as well as the cheapest entry points. Nvidia have no answer until their much speculated “Fermi” product is released some time this year. ATI now have come full circle in an attempt to sweep away any vestiges of resistance from Nvidia based on price in certain categories. Will this be the final nail in the Nvidia coffin?

 

Specifications

Here are the specifications of this new card (subject to customisation by some manufacturers)

 

It is immediately apparent that the 5670 is about half the feature set of a 5770 which in turn was half that of a 5870. This is a good specification for a mainstream card aimed below the $100 mark so let's see where this fits in to the existing ATI product range:

 

For an extra $30 it is possible to purchase a 5750 which on paper will give a substantial boos to performance but ATI are adamant that the two reasons mentioned in the Introduction are big enough to make the market for the 5670 a huge one. GDDR5 memory should make up for the narrower memory bus width when compared to the 4800 series.

 

The Architecture

Given the savings in real estate over the 5700 series and the 40nm process we can assume that costs are low enough to give ATI significant room to maneuver should Nvidia come out with a competing product at the $100 mark. The main current competitor seems to be the GT240 and we will focus on this during our testing.

 

The GPU

Gone is the shroud of its bigger siblings in favor of a small (and actually very quiet) cooler and the power requirements are such that no external power is required from the PSU beyond what the motherboard can provide. It is a single slot card and weighs very little.

 

The back is very plain and the cooler does not extend to a back plate.

 

Here we can see the reason why air is not vented out the back of the card - there is simply no room in a single slot card with 3 connectors! ATI have not skimped in this area and the 5670 has the same connectors as cards in higher ranges, including Eyefinity support for 3 displays.

 

Test Setup

Test Configuration

System Hardware

CPU

Intel Core i7-870 (2.93 GHz, 8MB Cache

AMD Athlon 2 X4 630 (2.8 GHz, 2MB Cache)

Motherboard

ASUS Maximus III Gene

ASUS M4A79T Deluxe

CPU Cooler

Corsair H50

Corsair H50

RAM

Kingston KHX2133C8D3T1K2/4GX 4GB 2133MHz DDR3 Non-ECC
CL8 (Kit of 2) Intel XMP Tall HS CAS 8-8-8-24

Kingston KHX1600C8D3T1K2/4GX 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 T1 Series Non-ECC
CL8 DIMM (Kit of 2) XMP CAS 8-8-8-24

Graphics

ATI Radeon 5670 HD

ATI Radeon 5670 HD

Hard Drive

Maxtor 300GB SATA-2

Maxtor 300GB SATA-2

Sound

SupremeFX X-Fi built-in

Realtek® 1200 8 -Channel High Definition Audio CODEC

Network

Gigabit LAN controller

Realtek® 8112 Gigabit LAN controller

Chassis

Antec 902 Midi Tower Case

Antec Sonata Elite Ultra Quiet Case

Power

Antec TruPower 750W

Antec TruPower 750W

Software

Operating System

Windows 7 Professional

Windows 7 Professional

Graphics

ATI Catalyst 9.11

ATI Catalyst 9.11

Chipset

Intel P55

AMD 790

Applications

  • SiSoft Sandra 2009

  • 3DMark Vantage Pro

  • CPU-Z

  • Far Cry 2

  • HAWX

  • Resident Evil 5
  • SiSoft Sandra 2009

  • 3DMark Vantage Pro

  • CPU-Z

  • Far Cry 2

  • HAWX

  • Resident Evil 5

Given the budget nature of the Radeon 5670, we decided to use our AMD system for running tests as it is closer to what we would expect the purchasers of this card to use (if someone can afford an i7-870 then they are likely to pick a Radeon 5800 series card or at least a 5700 series one).

 

Test Results - DX10

Firstly we will start with DX10 testing and move onto DX11 in the next section (the range of DX11 games is still limited at present although many are in the pipeline for release this year).

 

The 4670 is now effectively obsolete (something which will be apparent in all the benchmarks we are showing in this article) but will probably be discounted in price until stocks run out for those who can't stretch to a 5670 and/or are unwilling to wait until the 5570 is available next month. The GT240 with GDDR5 memory provides significantly more competition than its DDR3 version (another theme that will run through our benchmarks) but not enough to come close to the Radeon HD 5670.

 

The situation is repeated at the high settings.

 

And also at the extreme setting (we will see if games are playable at high settings and determine the "sweet spot" for this card).

 

Our first real game and is perfectly playable at all resolutions.

 

Which is not the case for Battleforge as no card can manage the elusive 30 fps needed for smoothness. A glitch prevented our 4670 from completing its run at 1280x1024.

 

The game itself cannot hit the 30fps mark with any card but the Radeon 5670 comes closest.

 

The Radeon 5670 effortlessly manages 60+ frames per second at all resolutions.

 

Only the Radeon 5670 can manage 30+ fps at all resolutions. We will come back to STALKER when we look at our DirectX 11 testing.

 

This is a game that does not really strain modern cards and there is little to choose between the contenders in this benchmark.

 

Both ATI cards outperform the GT240 here and both manage over 30fps at all resolutions.

 

Test Results - DX11

Moving on to DX11 testing we will see how it compare with DX9, DX10, DX10.1 and what sacrifices have to be made to activate the new features of hardware tessellation and contact hardening shadows.

 

Those games that support DirectX 11 do show a very real increase in performance over the DirectX 10 settings. Do bear in mind that this is with the extra "eye candy" features of DX11 turned off so that we can do a like for like comparison.

 

Turning on the two key features shows that there is a slight performance penalty in DirectX 11. Given the increase in realism afforded we consider it to be a price well worth paying. For historical comparison we can see a much bigger hot going from DX9 to DX10 and DX11 but no-one would go back to DX9 after being spoilt with the benefits of DX10 and now DX11 unless on a very low end system facing unplayable frame rates.

 

Analysis and Other Benefits

The Radeon 5670 is not just about playing faster and ATI want to emphasize the quality benefits their new technology brings to the mainstream. One of these is hardware acceleration in video playback and they illustrate this with Adobe's upcoming Flash player with support for hardware acceleration.

 

The difference is startling and shows how important this feature can be if widely implemented. Let's hope that ATI keep pestering the relevant software developers until they all have this level of support by default.

The real purpose of this review is to see DX11 and the benefits that are unique to the ATI 5XXX series. It’s tricky to test to see how much of a speed difference DX11 makes as there are few reliable DX11 benchmarks but as a showcase of DX11 quality the situation is much better. We used Unigine’s Heaven Benchmark and can only convey the quality to our readers via YouTube.

 

The improvement in quality is apparent for all to see.

 

 

 

This next video shows the effects of Hardware Tessellation. The technical white paper on this feature is enough to send the most avid technophile to sleep but there's no denying the benefits of the end result.

If you have a DirectX 11 card then you can download the demo for yourself at http://unigine.com/download/

 

Conclusion

Another key milestone has been reached by ATI and they now have a DirectX 11 offering in the largest graphics card market segment, much to the chagrin of Nvidia who seem to have taken a dive and are waiting for the count to reach 8 before standing up - a dangerous strategy considering that any miscalculation may result in them being counted out before they can respond.

So how does the Radeon 5670 fare? It wins hands down against the Nvidia GT240 which is its competitor at that price point and it remains the only DirectX 11 solution in its category. The 4670 can be picked up for around the $70 mark at present (while stocks last) and will be an option for those unable to afford the 5670 until the 5570 is released in a few weeks time.

More significantly, a Radeon 4850 can be picked up for $99 and is actually faster than the Radeon 5670 which presents a bit of a conundrum for buyers. Do they go for performance alone or should they opt for the cutting edge feature set? Ultimately it is a choice of personal preference but studies are already showing that the rate of adoption of DirectX11 over DirectX10 far exceeds that of DirectX10 over DirectX9 so if something more than a stop-gap solution is required then we would recommend the Radeon 5670.

The Radeon HD 5670 is an important step in ATI's top to bottom marketing strategy and is a powerful force on its own merit but given the fact that it has no competition (other than perhaps some ATI cards reaching their end-of-life) it really is the only logical choice for new budget systems and for upgrades to older systems. Most importantly, it brings DirectX11 to the masses and serves the consumer by tipping the balance in the "chicken and egg" situation that stifles software developers from taking advantage of new features until they become mass market.

 

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