ATI has revealed a critical engineering decision that led to the successful production of its Radeon HD 5970 graphics card.
"When we were first designing the 5970, we came to a crossroads surrounding the board's power consumption. We had two major options available to us," explained Hemlock product manager Devon Nekechuk.
"On one hand, we could cap ourselves at 300W and stay within the PCI Express specification. In doing so, we would stay compatible with the majority of the high-end power supplies in the market with 6-pin and 8-pin power connectors. On the other hand, we had the potential to fill a 400W power budget with performance, so we were considering using two 8-pin connectors and pushing this thing to its limits."
Ultimately, the team chose a hybrid approach by selecting a 6-pin + 8-pin power connector and using the components from the 400W board design.
"We squeezed as much performance as we could out of the 300W and left all the rest of the headroom as overclocking potential for you [overclockers]," said Nekechuk. ??"It's kind of like our Black Edition CPUs, where the premium chips are picked and shipped with unlocked multipliers so that you guys can overclock the @#$* out of them."
Nekechuk noted that ATI had included a number of components "purely" for overclocking purposes, such as:
"We've built all of this headroom into the board itself, and we're also doing some special stuff in the software as well. The bar in the ATI Overdrive utility goes higher than ever before, and we're working with some of our AIB partners on software that will unlock even more overclocking potential through voltage tweaking applications," added Nekechuk.