A lot of the time, much flurry and noise is made over the new technology AMD and Nvidia release in their flagship graphics cards. Those monstrosities cost upwards of R5000, but as time goes on things trickle down into the budget space, and what was previously premium stuff now ends up in the mid-range bargain bins in shops at the end of the year.
My Oldie But Goodie today is AMD’s Radeon HD5670.
It’s not much to look at in the grand scheme of things. It’s a card that doesn’t require a powerful PSU and fits into all manner of chassis with ease. It doesn’t produce much heat, so it’ll gel well with the HTPC crowd as well. Being a mid-range card reduced to a low-end budget beater gives it more value as well, and you can expect most if not all of the wonderful goodies AMD stuffed into their flagships.
The HD5670 is remembered for bringing a lot of new features to its price point. The main ones bandied about at the time were DirectX 11 and AMD Eyefinity, as well as better adherence to standards that allowed true Blu-Ray playback over HDMI. There were a handful of surround-sound technology improvements as well, but that mostly appealed to DIY HTPC enthusiasts who had been struggling with getting DTS-HD working with their high-end surround systems through software hacks. The HD5670 also brought hardware acceleration for apps like Adobe flash and decoding HD content for peeps that needed the extra grunt but didn’t want to stump up too much cash. The HD5600 series, then, was a bargain for most, but what was most surprising was how well it kept up with the big boys.
Slipping into the market as a HD5870 chopped into four blocks, it hung easily with the Geforce 9800GT in many games, and was generally faster than the competing Geforce GT240. I actually owned both competing cards, and the only reason why there’s a GT240 sitting in my mom’s PC right now is because it lasted the longest out of the two. Once overclocked it was generally faster than a stock 9800GT with exception to games that were released under the TWIMTBP label (a funny way of saying that the games were designed for the best performance on an Nvidia card because Nvidia provided all the dev tools and hardware they needed to make it run better). At most, Nvidia was the better choice only if you were interested in enabling Physx in the games that could run it. While the HD5670 was capable of gaming at 1080p resolution, it was more suited to 19” and 20” single-monitor setups for best performance.
The HD5670 also brought Eyefinity to the masses. Early cards had a dual-link DVI port, one HDMI-out and a full sized DisplayPort. Back in 2010 DisplayPort was launched on Radeon HD5000 cards because there wasn’t enough bandwidth to support Eyefinity 1.0 on three HDMI or DVI ports. DP solved the problem of bandwidth and space issues very neatly, but even today it’s still a fledgling connection standard, just like Apple’s proprietary Thunderbolt. Many more users today require a multi-monitor setup and in the past those would have costed thousands when using available Matrox cards. For enthusiasts who didn’t have that much money, SLI or Xfired cards would have to do, even if they were low-range ones, and that still necessitated a more expensive motherboard with two PCI-E slots.
In a word, AMD’s HD5600 series changed the budget market forever, so much so that they rebranded the cards as the HD6600 series, with a few minor changes here and there. It has earned its right as the budget king and occasionally gets sold online with big price cuts to both models (original and rebranded). Old card, but a great bargain – that’s why it’s my Oldie But Goodie today.