Passively-cooled HD5670 is quiet as a mouse

Product: Sapphire HD5670 Ultimate Edition
Price: £119.99

Sapphire’s popular Ultimate Edition range of passively-cooled graphics cards has just got another member in the form of the HD5670 Ultimate, based on - surprise, surprise - ATI’s mainstream Radeon HD5670 core.

The HD5670 comes in two GDDR5 memory flavours, 512MB and 1GB and while the smaller 512MB version offers some of the advantages of ATI’s 5xxx series architecture to those on a limit budget, on paper at least it is harder to make a case for the 1GB version as it isn’t that much cheaper than the much more capable HD5750. But the devil is in the detail; it's more compact than the HD5750, doesn’t need any additional power other than what is supplied by the x16 PCI-E slot and many of the OEM cards have a quiet aftermarket coolers fitted. When you take all this into consideration, the HD5670 suddenly becomes a desirable card for a HTPC system.

With its Ultimate version of the HD5670, Sapphire has taken this one step further by getting rid of the cooler/fan combination completely and adding a passive heatsink and heatpipe cooling solution.

To get around the heat problems caused by getting rid of the cooling fan and associated heatsink hardware many manufacturers that offer passively cooled cards do so with reduced core and memory clock speeds; after all if you reduce the clock speeds, you reduce the heat. With the HD5670 Ultimate, Sapphire has kicked that idea into touch by offering exactly the same core and engine speeds of their 1GB fan cooled HD5670 for the Ultimate version: core clock running at 775MHz with 400 Stream processors running at the same speed, 1GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 128-bit bus at 1000MHz (4GHz effective).

Keeping all this cool is the neatly-designed passive heatsink and heatpipe system which comprises a large ridged aluminium cooling plate with a copper base that sits on top of the GPU and the memory chips, with two heatpipes that run through the plate taking the heat away from the GPU up to a another largish heatpipe block at the top of the card. There is another very small heatsink sitting on top of some of the power components.

It’s a very compact design that should fit in all but the very smallest HTPC cases and consuming just 13 Watts at idle is another point in its favour for this kind of application. With single Dual Link DVI port, DisplayPort and HDMI outputs you have enough options to output to a HD source, oh yes it also supports ATI’s EyeFinity so you can connect three monitors to the card to make up a large very high resolution screen.

Performance wise it’s not bad at all when you consider it’s a passive card aimed at the lower mainstream end of the market. We test games with all the in-game details set to the highest possible setting even so the HD5670 Ultimate gave a reasonably playable 41fps when tested with FarCry2 at a 1,280 by 1,024 resolution with no filtering although the frame rate dropped pretty rapidly as the resolution and filtering settings went up (12.57fps at 1,920 by 1,200) but at lower resolutions with the in-game details turned down a bit you should be able to play most of the popular games although something like Crysis Warhead may prove a little frustrating to say the least (20.41fps at 1,280 by 1,024).

THINQ Verdict
With a standard HD5670 going for around the ninety quid mark just paying a bit more for a card with the same kind of performance but doing it in total silence is a bit of a no brainer especially if you are putting together a quiet PC or a HTPC and want a bit more gaming performance than you can get from an integrated motherboard solution.