If you ask for advice on picking a video card whether it be at your local PC shop or online, you're going to get a number of recommendations. If it's the PC shop, they'll likely push something on the shelves. If it's online, you'll get some suggestions before it quickly turns into an ATI vs. nVidia fanboi fest. And, nothing is more counter productive than a "my card pwns your card" contest. Around here, we look for the best all around features, design and performance worthy of the price tag. Call it, perspective, if you will.
Some cards are designed for video and basic PC use. Other cards are designed for gaming. The difference here is that the performance based gaming card tends to offer both sets of features, thus the loftier price tag. We'll be taking a look at one of those performance based video cards based on ATI's HD 5870. GIGABYTE puts their own spin on it and gives it some tweaks.
Features and Specifications
As you may or may not know, ATI was the first to make the evolutionary jump to the 40nm fabrication process. They didn't come off the bench swinging desperately for a big hit. Resourceful engineers got the GPU where they wanted and it evolved into the current HD 5800 and 5900 series GPUs. What this simply means is a smaller die, less power consumption, more performance in areas graphics lovers can appreciate and DirectX 11.
DirectX 11 adds a feature called, Tessellation, to the graphic experience. In a nut shell, Tessellation is the rendering of much smaller details on top of the current DX10 experience. For example, this new process adds new detailed effects to facial features or items you interact with in a game. We're interested in how much of a performance hit the frame rates will take when this enabled. We'll show you that later in testing.
Our particular HD 5870 GV587UD-1GD video card is one of three available models. Aside from the reference design GV587D5-1GD-B model, our test sample looks very similar to the brand new GV587SO-1GD which is the "super overclocked" card. The SO just has fancier stickers and higher than stock frequencies. What makes this one not so reference you ask? Here's the simple answer.
Beginning with the obvious, our GV587UD-1GD sports the newly designed "Inclined Cooling Fan" aftermarket heat pipe cooler. It offers dual cooling fans that are slightly tilted away from each other most likely so that warm air is pushed outward, rather than towards the GPU. The copper based heat pipe cooler will easily manage temperatures much better than the reference card design. Given how poorly reference coolers perform, this is a very welcomed improvement and sets this card apart from others.
GIGABYTE adds in their Ultra Durable VGA (UDV) technology which includes the use of a 2 ounce copper PCB, solid state capacitors, lower RDS MOSFETs, Ferrite cores with metal chokes. Simply put, the components are intended to provide and manage power more efficiently, which can improve power use and sometimes even overclocking.
The GV587UD-1GD also offers ATI Eyefinity Technology. Gamers and graphics enthusiasts alike can enjoy up to three monitors from the single card. The big deal about this feature is that it's hardware based compared to the competition. There are 2 x DVI, 1 x HDMI, and 1 x Display port built into this card.
What's In The Box?
While GIGABYTE has created their own spin on the reference design, they didn't do a whole lot with the included bundle. Inside, you'll get the manual, a software DVD, DVD to VGA adapters, some four pin molex to 6 pin adapters, and an extra CrossFire bridge in case you end up ponying up for two of these puppies for CrossFireX action. It would have been nice to have seen some more customization in the bundle which may include some games, or even some benchmarks.