The Radeon 5xxx series of graphics cards look pretty tempting, both from a specifications and a price perspective. But you might want to hold off on taking the plunge while some recently problems are sorted out. Tom’s Hardware is reporting that “a significant amount of ATI users have taken to the AMD user to user forums to complain about grey screens, crashes and colored-striped hangups.”
Jane McEntegart writes that these reports are appearing in a number of forums, but that AMD's is the best populated, with 40 pages of reports, accompanied with possible solutions. Ultimately, it’s not clear what’s behind all these issues, but the problems seem confined to the HD 5xxxx series (although there are a few mentions of 4xxx cards).
AMD’s response to one user complaint was pretty standard. First, the problem was blamed on a Windows 7 update. Second, ATI is working on the problem. And third, perform a clean reinstall of your graphics drivers. Posters to the forums aren’t convinced, as the problems seem to occur with XP and Vista. Others are suggesting it’s a motherboard issue, possibly related to RAM settings, a voltage problem, or maybe “bad system alchemy.”
In an update McEntegart says: “we're seeing the following model numbers crop up again and again: 4770, 4850, 4870, 5770, 5850 and 5870. The cards seem to be coming from all different companies; the following are the ones we've seen crop up more than a few times from different users: XFX, Sapphire, Diamond, ASUS and HIS.”
All-in-all a little patience for card owners might be in order. AMD's last word on the topic: "As with any issue of this kind, we are testing to determine under what conditions the issue manifests itself, at which point we will be able to determine how to fix the problem if it is related to the graphics card or driver." Translation: stop your whining, we'll get it fixed when we get it fixed.
UPDATE: ATI contacted us today with the following message regarding a fix: “In some instances, systems with ATI Radeon™ HD 5800 and 5700 series graphics may intermittently display a grey screen or vertical banding. We are aware of the issue and have documented it in the ATI Catalyst™ 10.1 release notes. Initial tests indicate that a driver hotfix resolves the issue. We expect to make the hotfix available shortly.”