Want to purchase a Radeon HD 5870, but can’t find one in stock? One alternative to consider is instead purchasing two Radeon HD 5770′s to take advantage of CrossFireX. Not only does this solution save you up to $80 at current pricing, but it proved in our results to offer even better performance in select titles, such as with Modern Warfare 2.
When I first sat down to benchmark the Radeon HD 5770 in CrossFireX, I admit that I didn’t expect what I saw. Of course, the HD 5770 is theoretically one-half of an HD 5870, and based on that alone, I assumed what I’d see for performance. But what I really saw was much, much better. The slimmer 128-bit memory bus didn’t prove to be much of an issue at all, and thanks to the combined 2GB of memory, we surpassed the performance of the HD 5870 in most of our tests. That’s impressive.
Looking at things here from all angles, it’s hard to discredit running this card in CrossFireX. As mentioned in the intro, HD 5870 cards are hard to find in stock, and when you do, they retail for $400 or more. But here we have the same performance, if not better, for $320. Oh… and unlike the HD 5870, there’s actually ample stock of the HD 5770, so finding the cards from pretty-well any vendor isn’t going to be a problem. If you want to look at another potential bonus, because most HD 5770 cards include a voucher for Dirt 2, you’d essentially get a second one free, to give to a friend or family member. The perks just keep piling on.
The downsides here are few, but there are a couple to mention. The first and most important is the issue we saw with Crysis Warhead, and its minor tearing. The effect I saw isn’t so harsh that it makes the game impossible to play, but it wasn’t exactly stellar, either. While I believe some may put up with the issue, I don’t really think it should exist to begin with. Again, in my search around the Web, I couldn’t find another report of this, so I’m hoping that it’s exclusive to me, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Power consumption and temperatures are two other minor downsides. Overall, the HD 5770 in CrossFireX draws 19W more than an HD 5870, but in all seriousness, that’s not much at all. This setup costs $80 less than a single HD 5870, and over the course of the life of the card, that additional 19W would never add near that much to your bill. Consider the fact that most light bulbs draw much more power than this difference, so the issue is minor. The temperatures issue is a little more important, but as these cards are designed to work under heat, it’s not a major issue. If you have a really cramped chassis, though, you may want to think twice, or at least optimize for efficient airflow.
That brings me to my final downside… the room that will be taken up in your chassis. Two cards obviously take up more volume than one (although the difference is much less than 2x, since the HD 5870 is much longer), so in your particular case, you’d have to consider the fact that installing two cards might render a PCI slot useless. This will vary from board to board, so before purchasing two of these cards, I’d recommend doing some quick research to make sure you won’t run into a show-stopping issue.
Aside from our Crysis Warhead issue, which I’m still hoping was rather exclusive, two of these cards in CrossFireX is undoubtedly impressive. In most cases, we outperformed the HD 5870, and all for $80 less. There are pros and cons to each solution, but the fact is, if you want an HD 5870, but can’t find one in stock, you have a real option here, and it’s one that will actually save you some money.
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