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A New and Improved HD 5870?

When reference cards launch from nVidia or ATI, companies like GIGABYTE evaluate whether they can make their own improvements to the design. Even though the HD 5800 GPU isn’t by any means the hottest on the market, engineers opted to build a new GPU cooler. The card is not any heavier than the stock reference card. In fact, it probably shaved off a couple ounces without the heavy plastic shroud. It’s definitely much lighter than a geForce GTX285 which tops out at around one pound.

As mentioned earlier, the fans blow the heat away from the GPU, rather than into it. The cooling solution unfortunately negates the possibility of adding heat sinks of your own to the “kick ass” Tier 1 Samsung memory chips. That’s fine though since they are Tier 1 which tend to do just fine without extra cooling. Plus, the bulk of the performance gains come from overclocking the core clock and shader clock. If you’re that set on breaking some records, you should use liquid cooling anyways.

The one draw back to a heat sink design like this is that it means heat will be dispersed both inside (and outside) your computer case. We don’t think it will be a big issue for anyone unless you have really poor ventilation. On the plus side, if you have a side panel cooling fan blowing cool air directly on the video card, it will help cool those heat pipes which are carrying away the bulk of the heat. Again, we think this is a worthy trade off.

Taking a look at the PCI bracket side of the card, you get a better glance at the video out ports. The stacked DVI ports are actually a welcomed change over the nVidia cards. Big fingers don’t manage well with side by side DVI ports and large DVI connector cables. This is one time being different works. Both the HDMI and DisplayPort are side by side as well. It would have been nice to see them separated like the DVI ports though. Perhaps we’ll see this small idea implemented as some of the aftermarket HDMI cables are ridiculously thick. The little vent in the PCI bracket is actually pointless since it’s too small to make any difference with ventilation.

The Test System

Since we’re dealing with a DirectX 11 video card, it only seems fitting to use a fresh Windows 7 Ultimate installation. Sure, we got Pro too, it’s just that the DVD was on top and includes more of the software tools to support a little HD video and movie testing.

We realize that’s a lot of geForce(s) and hope to remedy that soon. However, with this particular little ATI build, we got ourselves one heck of a gaming system that thinks it’s a work station. I mean, there are three monitors on the desk and lots of DDR3 memory primed and ready. Onward with the benchmarks!

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