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Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5970 Review

Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5970 Review

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Radeon HD 5970 Features

On the last pages we looked at the 5970 hardware configuration, now it is time to take a look at the features that consumers will use on a daily basis.

Shader Model 5
Shader Model 5 provides a new instruction set with an architecture which is unified across all shader types (Vertex, Hull, Domain, Geometry, Pixel and Compute). The new instructions add features which benefit end users as well as developers. For example SV_Coverage provides edge detection for optimised anti-aliasing and Flexible Gather gives us faster shadow filtering and ambient occlusion.

DirectCompute 11

DirectCompute 11 is one of the major features in DirectX 11 and the Radeon 5970, it applies to gaming/productivity and enhances the performance of both. In productivity related scenarios it allows the GPU to perform processing of items such as video effects. Using Cyberlink’s PowerDirector 8 as an example we can apply effects such as Radial Blur with the processing completing significantly faster than the CPU alone.

In a gaming scenario the system is able to better use multiple cores on CPUs to enhance Physics and AI but visual improvements are also present. One example is Order Independent Transparency. Using ATI’s Mesh demo as an example, the traditional Alpha Blending and sorting performed when rendering the item requires multiple passes, 64 in this case. When DirectCompute 11 is applied the operation can be completed in a single pass with perfect results.

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Click Image To Enlarge – 1.16MB

The same theory can be applied to Smoke, fire, hair, foliage, fences and grates and so this feature has the potential to be heavily used in future games.

Through use of two new shaders (Hull and Domain) included in Shader Model 5/DirectX11 the 5970 includes improved Tessellation. Through use of this improved tessellation games have the potential to include characters, objects, clothes and terrain with additional detail. Essentially the GPU can break up the scene into a huge number of sections, far more than is easy to process in DirectX 10 and with every section the level of detail increases. The following example shows the two approaches.

DirectX 10
DirectX 11
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Click Image To Enlarge – 1.16MB
Click Image To Enlarge – 1.11MB
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Click Image To Enlarge – 0.98MB
Click Image To Enlarge – 0.98MB

Render Post-Processing

High Definition Ambient Occlusion and contact hardened shadows are two features which we should also see making their way into games, in fact EA’s BattleForge already uses the former though the effects are very subtle in that engine. HDAO looks at the geometry of a scene and darkens areas dependant on their depth. CHS sharpens edges at the contact point with the object casting the shadow and makes them increasingly blurry as they fade into the distance.

New anisotropic filtering algorithm and render back end.
As with the release of previous generations ATI has put effort into optimising the display quality of their new hardware. For the 5970 series this means the implementation of a new AF algorithm which eliminates angle dependence with no performance impact. For anti-aliasing the redesigned render back end reduces the performance hit when applying the various levels of anti-aliasing.

For those interested in the display quality of the ATI card, here is a scene from World in Conflict Soviet Assault which was captured at 2560×1600 with 4x anti-aliasing, 16x anisotropic filtering and maximum ingame detail.

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Click Image To Open – 4.55MB
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HD Playback

The 5970 series of GPUs use an enhanced version of the ATI Unified Video Decoder, this new version can decode dual 1080p HD video streams. ATI have also improved the configuration options within the Avivo section of CCC to include Video Gamma which is independent from the desktop setting, blue stretch processing for brighter colours and configurable dynamic video range.

In addition to this Blu-Ray playback with Windows Aero enabled has been implemented in Windows 7.

Both the 5800 and 5700 support three displays at 2560×1600 however this may not be enough for some people and as a result ATI will launch the Eyefinity version of the 5870. The Eyefinity Edition will support up to 6 DisplayPort monitors with a theoretical maximum resolution of 8192×8192 (67.1 Megapixel). For the 5970 cards the display configuration is 2x dual-link DVI and a single DisplayPort giving a maximum resolution of 7680×1600.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

Stuart Davidson is Senior Editor at HardwareHeaven having joined the site in 2002.