Sapphire Radeon HD5770 FleX Edition reviewed

Product: Sapphire Radeon HD5770 FleX Edition
Price: Around £140

One of the more attention-grabbing headlines when ATI launched the 5 series of GPUs was the introduction of their Eyefinity multi monitor technology, which, depending on which card you bought, supported up to six displays. However, the fly in the ointment was that to use any more than two displays you needed to use the DisplayPort output on the card, either to power a DisplayPort monitor or to support an active DisplayPort dongle, neither of which were cheap options.

Now, thanks to Sapphire’s latest card, the HD5770 FleX Edition, you can power three DVI displays in an Eyefinity setup straight out of the box, without having to search around for a DisplayPort-equipped monitor or a dongle. But it doesn’t stop there, should you already have the aforementioned monitor or dongle then you can use the DisplayPort output from the card to power a fourth screen in an Eyefinity setup.

But there are a couple of important points to bear in mind about what the HD5770 FleX can and can’t do. A quick look at the back plate reveals two DVI ports, an HDMI port and a DisplayPort. A closer look shows that one of the DVI outputs is coloured Grey and is in fact a single-link DVI port, which means that it only supports up to 1920 by 1200 resolutions at 60Hz. This means that you can’t power three very-high-resolution screens, like, for example, Dell’s high-end 27-inch (2560 x 1440) and 30-inch (2560 x 1600) panels, as only the second DVI port (coloured white) -which is dual link - and the DisplayPort support such high resolutions.

What you can do however is power three 1920 by 1200 (60Hz) DVI monitors which would give you a resolution of 5760 by 1200. To test the card in a triple-screen setup we could only lay our hands on three 22-inch Samsung T220 monitors (1680 by 1050) which gave a resolution of 5040 by 1050.

At the heart of the HD5770 Flex is a Juniper core with the engine clocked at the reference speed of 850MHz while the 1GB of GDDR5 memory (in the shape of eight Samsung K4G10325FE HC04 chips) is also clocked at the reference 1,200MHz (4.8GHz effective).

Keeping everything cool is a dual-heatpipe cooler which uses copper for the heatpipes and the GPU contact plate, while the cooling fin block is made from aluminum. At the centre of the fin arrangement is an 80mm cooling fan. The whole unit works efficiently and quietly and is covered by a new design of plastic shroud.

As you might expect, with standard clock speeds the HD5770 FleX Edition performs the same as the standard HD5770; 58.67fps average in FarCry2 at a 1680 by 1050 resolution with all in game details set to their highest and no filtering and 55.71fps in Just Cause2’s Black Tower in-game benchmark and a 47.88fps average score in DiRT2.

The more important thing is how it performs when in Eyefinity mode, well not as bad as you may think given the price of the HD5770 and the fact it's working at a very high resolution. When tested at a 5040 by 1050 resolution in FarCry 2 we got an average of 32.41fps, a 25.20fps average in Just Cause 2 and 31.48fps in DiRT2, and while these frame rates are barely playable, its worth remembering that these games were testing with all the in game details set to their highest, dropping these settings down a notch or three should achieve more playable frame rates.

What we THINQ
While it would be great to see Sapphire adding its FleX support to cards higher up in the food chain where it would appeal more to the gaming community, the HD5770 FleX Edition works well and offers easy and straightforward multi-screen support straight out of the box at a great price, without the need for expensive monitors or active dongles.

But if you have a DisplayPort monitor or the correct active dongle already you can go the whole hog and have a four-monitor setup, but don’t expect much in the way of games action if you do.