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Guest ziporama

ATI 5870 - first impressions

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Guest ziporama

I just received my Sapphire 5870 to replace my Nvidia 8800 Ultra that decided to die with horrible red dots on the screen December 24. I borrowed a 9600GT from another computer, to see a 3FPS drop in performance across the board, and a computer without a video card. I went for the 5870, primarily because I was looking for a good all around card, and price wise, the ATI made sense given that it came bundled two other games (Dirt2 and Battleground Pacific), and had the features I was looking for all around - chiefly, 1Gb of memory and DX 11 support. I decided not to wait for the dual GPU as I have had a previous foray with a dual card SLI setup (dual 7900GTs) a few years back, and came to the conclusion that it created more performance and setup problems for me than it solved. Outside of the few benchmarks that had a clear advantage to dual GPU setups, I'm happy with anything above 24 FPS, a personal choice.The ATI is a large card, and heavy (about 1 kilogram - 2 lbs), and 30cm/1 foot long. It fit in my case but I had to reroute some wiring because that all got snagged up in front of the two intakes in the back of the card. Not only do you need a large case, you also need long cables to get around that. My Gigabyte motherboard has several connectors below the space where the card sits, and while there is clearance, this is a mammoth card.I was unable to get the computer to boot after I switched cards - POST failed, the fail safe kicked in and reset the BIOS to default for the PC to boot normally. I have an overclocked FSB of 400MHz, and it became very obvious that the video card / bios combination didn't agree resulting in a no-boot situation. While I will need to go back and revisit exactly what happened, I have for the moment toned down my FSB back to 333MHz and instead bump the multiplier on the CPU a couple of notches to get back to where I was gigahertz wise (4). That is quite stable at the moment, although I have many hours ahead of me to spend to optimize this new setup. What I found interesting is that neither the 8800 Ultra or the 9600 GT had problems with a 400MHz FSB. The 5870 didn't like that a bit, although it can very well be the combination of another component on my motherboard that caused the issue. The important thing is that I was back in business.Once I had the hardware figured out, the next step was to setup a profile for FSX. Most of the features in NHancer (which are in essence profile based driver flags in a pretty and extremely convenient interface) are in fact in the Catalyst control panel, similar to what Nvidia has in theirs (except ATI does provide the ability to overclock the video in their default control panel - Nvidia requires a separate tool).As far as FSX goes, I'm now always pegged at my 24 FPS frame limiter, even at KSEA, at the same settings where the 8800 Ultra was at 16-17, and the 9600 GT was at 12-15 at my detail settings and my test aircraft (DA Cheyenne). My O/S is Windows 7 x64. I also need to point out that my sound crackling issue with the 9600 GT are also gone (I had a latency problem with the 9600, but not the 8800 and apparently, not the 5870 either). That's nice.With other games, the card is absolutely stellar at max settings on default driver setup. It's like I have a new computer all over again. I did run into an issue with a beta version of BattleGround Europe, which has been reported to the devs, and they are looking into with ATI as far as a possible driver issue that impacts FPS on this OpenGL title. As with many new cards, it seems we have once again the issue of good hardware waiting for the drivers to catch up and respond to the myriad of configurations out there.I have not applied tweaks, settings or optimized anything yet, so there are a few more things to try out (that will take a few weeks...), and I'll report back here when I find that out. I'm thus far quite pleased with the result, and quite frankly, I'm really not seeing much difference in terms of graphical quality with my Nvidia gear for the options I have, except I seem to have gained quite a bit of overhead room.

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Guest UlfB
I just received my Sapphire 5870 to replace my Nvidia 8800 Ultra that decided to die with horrible red dots on the screen December 24.
Could that be Santa slowly arriving? Did you test the card the 25th?I hope my GTX285 will keep up the good work until the GTX3xx cards arrive.Thanks for an interesting report!

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Guest ziporama
Could that be Santa slowly arriving? Did you test the card the 25th?I hope my GTX285 will keep up the good work until the GTX3xx cards arrive.Thanks for an interesting report!
Actually, I ordered and received the card last week, and FSX's sound crackled and popped during the entire holiday season with lower FPS on a more recent card. It would appear that memory on the video card makes a significant difference with bus latency - bufferpools didn't do a thing on the 9600GT to fix the sound crackling related to autogen trees, and this is with optical (SPDIF) sound mind you - the processing is actually done off-motherboard. It seems that more memory does help FSX quite a bit (the 8800Ultra has 768Mb, the 5870 has 1Gb, the 9600GT 512Mb).One other observation: When Dirt2 is fired up, the gargantuan fan on the 5870 spools up and it isn't particularly quiet, more 747-esque in fact. What's interesting is that it doesn't appear to speed up as much when running FSX, underlying that the card really isn't used that much, or at least, doesn't get that much of a workout. I need to pull some charts with ATI Tools on the thing and do some comparisons.

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That's because FSX doesn't push the card nearly as much as Dirt2. The reason being the DX11 codepath of Dirt2 uses virtually every aspect of the chip whereas FSX of course uses the texturing and pixel rendering hardware exclusively, leaving the tesselation and shading aspects of the chip untouched.

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