For an entry-level video card, the ATI Radeon 5570 defies expectations by letting you enjoy most current games at a good level of visual quality.
By SHAUN A.NOORDIN
Any PC gamer would be familiar with the dilemma of setting up a decent gaming rig.
On one hand, you'd want some serious hardware to run your games.
On the other hand, you'd want enough left in your budget to actually purchase original games.
Fortunately for the gamer on a budget, AMD offers an excellent entry-level video card for about RM300 - the ATI Radeon 5570.
Although nowhere as pricey or bulky as the higher-end video cards, the Radeon 5570 lets users enjoy their games and videos at a surprisingly good level of graphics.
Let the games begin
Before we get to anything else, let's cut to the chase: What kind of games and what quality of visuals can a gamer expect from an ATI Radeon 5570?
We tested the video card on a 32-bit Vista PC running a 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad processor with 4GB RAM.
We picked a selection of four games, and each was set to play at 1,600 x 1,200-pixel resolution at "high" setting.
The two real-time strategy games we chose, Supreme Commander 2 and Dawn of War 2, looked great. We commanded our massive armies and enjoyed the spectacular particle effects and explosions that occurred throughout the battlefields without noticing any significant lag or choppiness.
SupCom2 and DoW2 had an average framerate of around 30fps to 40fps, which is reasonable enough to enjoy these games.
Wait, no - 30fps to 40fps at 1,600 x 1,200-pixel resolution and at high graphics settings is actually pretty good for a relatively cheap graphics card.
We were expecting that these games would only run that well on much lower resolutions like 1,280 x 1,024-pixels.
For those not keeping score, the rule of thumb is that any game that runs at less than 30fps will be pretty choppy or outright unplayable.
Anything above 30 provides a decent gaming experience, although any hardcore gamer will demand 60 frames hitting their eyeballs every second.
Similarly, the two first-person shooter games we selected, Bioshock 2 and Fallout 3, performed pretty well in our tests.
Bioshock 2 had an average frame rate of around 30fps to 40fps, which was quite surprising considering our best efforts to abuse the game's water-rendering effects.
The Radeon 5570 performed a little better on Fallout 3, with an average of around 40fps to 50fps.
It did dip to 30fps at one point in our travels across the wasteland - notably this was when we were traversing one particularly scenic route on the overland map.
Other than that, the video card rendered the scenery efficiently and beautifully, although Fallout players will understand that this is "beautiful" in the context of a radiation-blasted post-apocalyptic landscape.
The performance of the Radeon 5570 in the gaming department was significantly above our expectations, so long story short this video card will let you play current PC games in style without breaking your wallet.
For the power it dishes out, the Radeon 5570's pretty compact (it takes up the space of only one PCI-e slot, cooling fan and all) and consumes little power. AMD advertises that the card eats less than 45-watts when fully utilised, although we didn't personally measure this.
(We did ask our interns to poke their fingers into an active card to see if "it felt like 45-watts.")
We can, however, vouch for the fact that the runs relatively quietly. It's not ninja-silent, but you'll have no issues with the little noise it makes if you plan to use your PC as a media centre.
Why yes, a media centre - it's certainly a viable idea with the ATI Radeon 5570. The video card has three video outputs - a DVI port, an HDMI (with audio) port and, if you're feeling old-fashioned, a VGA port.
The HDMI port and the card's dual-stream 1080p playback support means that you can plug your PC into a HDTV, pop in a Blu-Ray disc, kick back and enjoy a movie in HD.
The ATI Radeon 5570 comes with a few extra features, although to be honest we're not entirely excited about them.
We feel that these features are more suited for a high-end video card with the power to make full use of them. It's like mounting a rear spoiler onto a Proton Saga; it doesn't exactly make it a race car.
First, the ATI Radeon 5000 series supports Microsoft's latest DirectX 11 technology.
DX 11 promises significantly improved graphics processing and visual rendering, but if you're the sort of person who really cares about the best quality of graphics possible then you're probably better off purchasing something higher in the Radeon line.
Besides, the few games of note that actually support DirectX 11 include the upcoming Crysis 2. And if you really believe that you'll be able run the latest game on a budget gaming machine then, sir, we have a bridge that we wish to sell to you.
Second, if you're a fan of plugging every opening available to you - we know we are -you can utilise all three of the card's video outputs using ATI's Eyefinity technology.
This is great if you have productivity in mind; sharing a single display across three monitors, side by side, gives you a significant amount of desktop space.
However, if you're planning to play a game that runs at, say, a 5,760 x 1,200-pixel resolution across three monitors, then we hope the game you have in mind isn't too intensive for this entry-level video card. Say, perhaps, Pacman?
(Actually, come to think of it, if you're buying graphics cards on a budget, where'd you get the cash to purchase two extra monitors?)
If you really can't be bothered making sense of the technical details, framerate comparisons and such, then the bottomline is this: The ATI Radeon 5570 is a great video card for its price.
It lets you enjoy most of the currently available PC games at a very, very reasonable quality, and it also has the capability to serve in a decent home theatre PC/media centre.
Now, go get the Radeon 5570 to finish building your gaming rig and use the savings to enjoy even more original games.
Pros: Excellent power for its price.
Cons: Nothing much.
Entry-level graphics card
CORE SPEED: 650MHz
MEMORY SPEED: 900MHz (DDR3)
CONNECTORS: VGA, DVI, DisplayPort /HDMI 1.3
OTHER FEATURES: ATI Eyefinity multi-display support (up to 3 monitors), ATI CrossFireX support (multi-GPU technology), HD Audio controller integrated with HDMI. 3D stereoscopic support.
PRICE: RM300 - RM350
Review unit courtesy of AMD Malaysia, (03) 2289-0612