Size, Noise and Heat
The Radeon HD 5870 is a large card. It measures no less than 28 cm, so you'll have to make sure your computer casing is big enough to house it. Its double-decker cooler is also fairly heavy, bringing the weight up to 960 g, that's 200 g heavier than the previous generation of cards.
Noise levels have improved, though you couldn't exactly call the cooler quiet. At 39.7 dB(A) in 2D, it's audible, though fairly muffled and not too annoying. In 3D, however, the fan ramps up and levels reach a high 56.7 dB(A). Forewarned is forearmed: it may be a nuisance for the people around you.
The overheating problem has been greatly improved since the 4000 series. The chip remains lukewarm at idle (35°C) and heats up to 88°C under full load.
This model has really done wonders in this department. With an 93-watt power draw at idle, it's 50 watts more efficient than the previous generation and 10 watts more efficient than the GeForce GTX 285, which is already a very economical card. And the performance holds up, with only a 327-watt draw during 3D activity. That's quite an accomplishment considering the card's high framerates during gameplay. Note that this graphics card uses two 6-pin PCI-E connectors.
Although it's getting quite old now, the Radeon HD 5870 can still hold its own compared with new generations of graphics card. In terms of performance, it's comparable to the NVIDIA GTX 560 Ti or the Radeon HD 6950.
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This card's performance levels are good enough for breezing through 2011 games without too much trouble, even on a high-definition monitor.
Graphics Cards: Performance Index Tables