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Radeon HD 5870 Shootout - When Juggernauts Clash
By Kenny Yeo - 21 May 2010,7:11pm

Introducing the Cards

The ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum

To be honest, we haven't had the best of experiences with ASUS's ROG lineup of Matrix graphics cards. While they boast an extensive list of features, performance was often underwhelming and they are usually very pricey to boot.

The ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum is the company's flagship Radeon HD 5870. The card comes with the usual Matrix goodies such as ASUS' Super Hybrid Engine, which promises better performance, iTracker 2 overclocking utility and a customized cooler.

The card is also factory overclocked. The core is running at 900MHz – an increase of 50MHz – but memory clock speeds remain unchanged at 4800MHz DDR. That might not seem like a lot, but the card comes packed with a whopping 2GB of framebuffer. It'll be interesting to see if the extra framebuffer will have any impact on performance.

The ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum might look like a reference card, but underneath, ASUS has given it many goodies to make it an overclocking beast.

The ASUS card makes do with one DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. Note the "Safe Mode" button at the top left hand corner. It allows users to restore the card to its default settings should an overclocking attempt go awry.

The card displays different status lights to indicate how taxed it is. Red, for instance, means it is under heavy load. Here, it is showing blue because it is idling.

The iTracker2 overclocking utility is simple to use and boasts a wide range of parameters that you can play around with.


Gigabyte HD 5870 Super Overclock

Gigabyte has been somewhat quiet in the high-end customized graphics card scene but they are returning with a bang thanks to their latest offering, the HD 5870 Super Overclock. As its name suggests, the card is aggressively overclocked - 950MHz at the core and a full 5GHz DDR at the memory - making it the fastest card of the bunch in terms of sheer clock speeds out of the box.

To enable such high levels of specification, each GPU has been cherry-picked and specifically tested to endure the highest clock speeds. Furthermore, the Gigabyte HD 5870 Super Overclock also comes with a specially designed large dual-fan custom-designed cooler, top tier Samsung and Hynix memory, and Ultra Durable VGA components such as ferrite core chokes, solid capacitors and a 2oz copper PCB (following their successful formula on their motherboards business).

To be able to take full advantage of all these high-end components, the card also comes with the OC Guru software tuner which allows for easy tweaking of clock speeds and even the all important core voltage values.

With its dual fan coolers and thick protruding heat pipes, the Gigabyte HD 5870 Super Overclock looks nothing like a reference card.

The Gigabyte card gets twin DVI ports, and a single HDMI and DisplayPort.

According to Gigabyte, the odd curved shape of the cooler helps reduce air turbulence and allows for greater air flow and hence better cooling efficiency.

Gigabyte's OC Guro overclocking utility has a rather complicated user interface, but once you get the hang of it, you'll find that there's many aspects of the card that you can tweak.


HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo X

Known for their outstanding custom coolers, HIS is taking the Radeon HD 5870 up a notch with their latest iCooler dual slot cooler. The new iCooler promises not only better cooling efficiency but also lower noise operating levels.

HIS has a couple of Radeon HD 5870 cards that come equip with the iCooler cooler, but ours is the top of the line Turbo X variant, which means it also comes factory overclocked. Clock speeds 900MHz at the core and 4900MHz DDR at the memory – an increase of 50MHz and 100MHz DDR respectively.

To sweeten the deal, HIS has also included a coupon that allows buyers to redeem a copy of the popular Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game.

Like most custom-designed Radeon HD 5870 cards, the HIS one has its fan relocated to the middle, directly above the GPU core.

The HIS card gets the usual twin DVI ports, single HDMI port and single DisplayPort.

Numerous cooling fins help dissipate heat quickly and bring running temperatures down.


MSI R5870 Lightning

The MSI R5870 Lightning is no stranger to us, having reviewed it back in February this year, it is one of the earliest custom designed cards to be out in the market. You could say that the MSI R5870 Lightning became the card to beat and even to us, it is the benchmark for a well designed Radeon HD 5870 card on several aspects.

MSI's Lightning series of graphics cards are the company's best and the MSI R5870 Lightning lives up to its reputation. Armed with high-end components including highly conductive capacitors, solid state chokes, and multiple-phase PWM (pulse-width modulation) controller, the MSI R5870 Lightning is also factory overclocked.

That said, given the amount of fancy hardware it has, factory clock speeds are on the conservative side - 900MHz at the core and 4800MHz DDR. However, the previous time we tested it, the card was able to attain the magic 1GHz mark in our overclocking test, so it'll be interesting to see how it'll fare against newer opponents today.

The formidable MSI R5870 Lightning makes a return in our Radeon HD 5870 roundup. How would it hold up against new competitors?

The MSI card gets two DVI ports, a single HDMI and DisplayPort.

Twin fans and thick heat pipes help keep the card cool.

Developed in collaboration with RivaTuner, the MSI Afterburner is one of the cleanest and easiest to use overclocking utilities available today.

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