XFX’s Radeon HD 7850 and 7870 Black Edition graphics cards

We’re already well acquainted with AMD’s Radeon HD 7870 and 7850 graphics cards. We studied them, and the Pitcairn graphics processors that dwell within them, about three weeks ago. In that initial encounter, we learned that these cards have all the makings of successors to the popular Radeon HD 6800 series: similar-sized GPUs and memory interfaces, with lower power requirements. The newcomers are quite a bit faster, too. Thanks to a new 28-nm chip fabrication process and a revised graphics architecture, dubbed GCN, they even outpace the old Radeon HD 6900 series cards, which are based on larger chips.

Unfortunately for bargain hunters, AMD has priced the Radeon HD 7850 and 7870 at $249 and $349, respectively, well above the $180-240 price range the 6800 series occupied when it arrived in October 2010. Whispers around the industry suggest the higher prices can be attributed the limited supply of 28-nm wafers coming from TSMC, the Taiwanese foundry that manufactures chips for AMD, Nvidia, and other firms like Qualcomm. Nvidia charges a pretty penny for its freshly released GeForce GTX 680, too, which has a smaller GPU and the same memory interface width as the GeForce GTX 560 Ti yet sells for twice as much.

In a nutshell, the 7800-series Radeons deliver only slightly better performance per dollar than the prior-gen Radeon HD 6900 cards, though they have the potential to be much cheaper. Not much of a consolation prize, I know.

The new Radeons therefore have to play up their other advantages in order to seduce prospective buyers. One of those advantages is a rather substantial amount of overclocking headroom. Our reference Radeon HD 7870, which came to us directly from AMD, had no trouble climbing from its stock 1000MHz clock speed all the way up to a blistering 1275MHz. We were able to overclock its memory from 1200MHz to 1375MHz, as well. Those settings yielded substantial performance gains without huge increases in power consumption.

Unsurprisingly, board makers have jumped on the opportunity to serve up customized, higher-clocked versions of the Radeon HD 7870 and Radeon HD 7850. (Such cards are sometimes referred to as “overclocked in the box,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer, since no overclocking actually takes place. The cards ship with the higher clocks and are fully supported by the manufacturer.) Today, we’re looking at a couple of hot-clocked cards, both hailing from XFX.

Behold, the XFX Double D HD 7870 Black Edition and Double D HD 7850 Black Edition:

Which one is the 7850, and which one is the 7870, you ask? Well, have a look at a couple more pictures, and see if you can guess:

Yes, the only identifiable difference is the writing on the top of the cards. The two products otherwise look identical, with the same board-and-cooler length (9.76″), the same number of six-pin PCI Express power connectors (two), and the same cluster of display outputs (dual DVI, dual mini DisplayPort, and a single HDMI port). Both cards also feature the same cooler, whose four copper heat pipes make direct contact with the GPU and spread out into an array of aluminum fins. The whole shindig is kept chilly by a pair of “dust-proof” fans. In this case, “dust-proof” means dust shouldn’t get inside the motor, not that you won’t have miniature dust bunnies collecting on the fan blades after a few months. XFX claims its cooler design enables lower temperatures and noise levels than the competition.

XFX uses a similar shroud on its Double D HD 7970 Black Edition, which performed exceptionally in our testing, but the underlying coolers are actually quite different. The 7970 features a vapor-chamber heatsink with a copper base and, from what we can tell, more aluminum fins. XFX’s Double D branding seems to refer to the presence of dual fans and not to a specific cooler design.

XFX touts the card’s other perks, such as solid-state capacitors, ferrite iron core chokes, and a circuit board containing two ounces of copper. And it offers lifetime warranty coverage, provided you register the cards on its website within 30 days of purchase; otherwise, the warranty drops to two years.

Those are the similarities. Now for the differences: the Double D HD 7870 Black Edition runs at 1050MHz, and its memory ticks away at 1250MHz for an effective transfer rate of 5000 MT/s. That’s a step above the GPU and memory speeds of the reference AMD card, which are 1000MHz and 1200MHz, respectively. The difference between the Double D HD 7850 Black Edition and the reference Radeon HD 7850 are greater: the Black Edition runs at 975MHz with a 1250MHz memory speed, while the AMD card is clocked at 860/1200MHz.

The 7870 and 7850 Black Edition otherwise have the same internal resources as their reference counterparts: 1280 ALUs and 80 texture units on the 7870, and 1024 ALUs backed by 64 texture units on the 7850. Both are complemented by 2GB of video RAM.

As you’d expect, those clock speed increases don’t come free of charge. XFX prices the 7850 Black Edition at $279, about 30 bucks above stock-clocked cards. The 7870 Black Edition will set you back a cool $389, which is equivalent to a $40 markup over vanilla models. XFX is asking a fair bit for speed increases that, based on what we’ve seen, may be easily attainable with cheaper offerings and a little manual tweaking. However, the XFX cards have fancy coolers and might have further overclocking headroom in store. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Our testing methods

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median results. Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Intel Core i5-750
Motherboard Asus P7P55D
North bridge Intel P55 Express
South bridge
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Kingston HyperX KHX2133C9AD3X2K2/4GX

DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz

Memory timings 9-9-9-24 1T
Chipset drivers INF update 9.2.0.1025

Rapid Storage Technology 10.1.0.1008

Audio Integrated Via VT1828S

with 6.0.1.8700 drivers

Hard drive Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB

Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB SATA

Power supply Corsair HX750W 750W
OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Edition

Service Pack 1

 

  Driver revision GPU core

clock

(MHz)

Memory

clock

(MHz)

Memory

size

(MB)

Asus GeForce GTX 560 Ti DirectCU II GeForce 295.73 830 1000 1024
Asus GeForce GTX 570 DirectCU II GeForce 295.73 742 950 1280
Asus Radeon HD 6870 DirectCU Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 915 1050 1024
XFX Radeon HD 6950 Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 830 1300 1024
Asus Radeon HD 6970 DirectCU II Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 890 1375 2048
Radeon HD 7850 Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 860 1200 2048
Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 1000 1200 2048
XFX Double D HD 7870 Black Edition Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 1050 1250 2048
XFX Double D HD 7850 Black Edition Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 975 1250 2048

Thanks to Asus, Corsair, Kingston, Intel, Samsung, and Western Digital for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. AMD, Nvidia, and the makers of the various products supplied the graphics cards for testing, as well.

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following test applications:

Some further notes on our methods:

  • We used the Fraps utility to record frame rates while playing a 90-second sequence from the game. Although capturing frame rates while playing isn’t precisely repeatable, we tried to make each run as similar as possible to all of the others. We tested each Fraps sequence five times per video card in order to counteract any variability. We’ve included frame-by-frame results from Fraps for each game, and in those plots, you’re seeing the results from a single, representative pass through the test sequence.

  • We measured total system power consumption at the wall socket using a P3 Kill A Watt digital power meter. The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet, so its power draw was not part of our measurement. The cards were plugged into a motherboard on an open test bench.

    The idle measurements were taken at the Windows desktop with the Aero theme enabled. The cards were tested under load running Skyrim at its Ultra quality preset with FXAA enabled.

  • We measured noise levels on our test system, sitting on an open test bench, using a TES-52 digital sound level meter. The meter was held approximately 8″ from the test system at a height even with the top of the video card.

    You can think of these noise level measurements much like our system power consumption tests, because the entire systems’ noise levels were measured. Of course, noise levels will vary greatly in the real world along with the acoustic properties of the PC enclosure used, whether the enclosure provides adequate cooling to avoid a card’s highest fan speeds, placement of the enclosure in the room, and a whole range of other variables. These results should give a reasonably good picture of comparative fan noise, though.

  • We used GPU-Z to log GPU temperatures during our load testing.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Batman: Arkham City

To warm up this latest batch of Radeons, we grappled and glided our way around Gotham, occasionally touching down to mingle with the inhabitants.

We tested at a 1080p resolution with DirectX 11 effects enabled, normal tessellation, high FXAA antialiasing, and everything else cranked up. Those settings seemed to yield the best compromise of image quality and smoothness on the 7870.

We should preface the results with a little primer on our testing methodology. Along with measuring average frames per second, we delve inside the second to look at frame rendering times. Studying the time taken to render each frame gives us a better sense of playability, because it highlights issues like skipping, stuttering, and microstuttering that can all occur—and be felt by the player—within the span of one second. Charting frame times shows these issues clear as day, while charting average frames per second obscures them.

For example, imagine one hypothetical second of gameplay. Almost all frames in that second are rendered in 16.7 ms, but the game briefly hangs, taking a disproportionate 100 ms to produce one frame and then catching up by cranking out the next frame in 5 ms—not an uncommon scenario. You’re going to feel the game hitch, but the FPS counter will only report a dip from 60 to 56 FPS, which would suggest a negligible, imperceptible change. Looking inside the second helps us detect such skips, as well as other issues that conventional frame rate data measured in FPS tends to obscure.

We’re going to start by charting frame times over the totality of a representative run for each card. That should give us an at-a-glance impression of overall playability, warts and all. (Note that, since we’re looking at frame latencies, plots sitting lower on the Y axis indicate quicker cards.)

We can slice and dice our raw frame-time data in three ways, as you’re about to see. By the way, we should caution that none of the graphs below can be construed as self-contained scoreboards; instead, they each show a different facet of the cards’ performance, and they should be viewed as a whole along with the raw frame-time plots above.

Our first graph shows average frames per second. Though this metric doesn’t account for irregularities in frame latencies, it does give us some sense of typical performance.

In our second graph, we’re demarcating the threshold below which 99% of frames are rendered. The lower the threshold, the more fluid the game. This metric offers a sense of overall frame latency, but it filters out fringe cases.

Our last graph tells us how long each card worked on frames that took longer than 50 ms to render. Ideally, the result should be “0” for every card. That’s because the illusion of smooth motion is likely to begin breaking down once frame latencies rise into that territory. (For reference, 50 ms frame times would work out to a 20 FPS average.) In a nutshell, this metric tells us how badly each card skips during gameplay, if it does at all.

Well, our XFX cards are off to a nice start. The 7870 Black may not be a great deal faster than its reference counterpart, but the 7850 Black edges out the vanilla 7850 by a big margin—especially in our “time spent beyond 50 ms” metric. Lower scores there indicate fewer latency spikes and thus more fluid overall gameplay.

Battlefield 3

We tested Battlefield 3 by playing through the start of the Kaffarov mission, right after the player lands. Our 90-second runs involved walking through the woods and getting into a firefight with a group of hostiles, who fired and lobbed grenades at us.

The game was run at its highest detail preset, Ultra, which couples MSAA and FXAA antialiasing as well as snazzy DX11 effects and tessellation.

Things get a little strange here. The 7870 Black continues to do well, but the 7850 Black actually falls slightly behind the reference 7850. The difference amounts to less than half a frame per second, so for all intents and purposes, we can say the two cards perform identically. But that doesn’t make sense—the Black Edition is clocked 115MHz above the reference card, and its memory is 50MHz faster.

We re-tested, tweaked PowerTune settings, checked for overheating, and poked and prodded trying to find the source of the problem, but nothing seemed out of order. We even tried clocking the XFX card at the same speeds as the vanilla 7850, and performance declined further. Suspecting a memory latency difference, we called XFX for comment. The company said that, save for clock speeds, the Black and reference cards should be identical at the firmware level. Any straightforward explanations for the performance discrepancy were suddenly ruled out.

Later that day, the company got back to us again. They’d spoken to another reviewer, and guess what? The 7850 Black’s higher-than-normal clock speeds didn’t seem to “do anything” in some cases, he said.

In other words, we may be looking at a bizarre, presently unresolved bug with this particular card. Maybe the bug lies in the drivers, or maybe it’s some hidden firmware kink. The question is, does it rear its head in other games?

Crysis 2

We tested Crytek’s latest shooter by running and gunned through the game’s rendition of Battery Park, sticking to the same path through the level to avoid drastic differences between samples.

The game was set to run at a 1920×1080 resolution with the “Extreme” detail preset. Both the DX11 “ultra upgrade” and high-res texture pack were installed, and both were enabled.

The 7870 Black tops the charts yet again, but the 7850 Black is in a similar position as in Battlefield 3: its substantially higher clock speeds don’t seem to help very much, if at all.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Our Skyrim run involved running around the town of Whiterun, starting from the city gates, all the way up to Dragonsreach, and then back down again.

Like BF3 and Bulletstorm, Skyrim‘s detail settings were maxed out. We selected the Ultra preset, which includes 8X MSAA, and then we enabled FXAA in the advanced options for good measure.

The 7850 Black makes a comeback in Skyrim, where it nips at the Radeon HD 7870’s heels (and actually pulls off slightly lower 99th-percentile frame times). That leaves us with two games where the card behaves as it should, and two games where it’s no better than the reference model. Hmm.

Power consumption

The XFX cards’ higher clock speeds don’t impact idle power consumption. Only under load do they draw more power, and not by all that much. The Radeon HD 7870 Black still consumes less power than the old Radeon HD 6870.

Noise levels and GPU temperatures

We weren’t terribly thrilled with the coolers on the reference 7800-series Radeons, which are a little loud under load. The XFX cards take care of that problem rather nicely—they’re wonderfully quiet under load.

Unfortunately, the lower noise levels come at a cost: higher temperatures. The 7870 Black runs a whopping 15°C hotter than its reference cousin.

Overclocking

Superclocked as they might be, these XFX cards surely have some headroom left under their hoods. Rather than bore you with a verbose description of our overclocking attempts, I’m going to paste my notes verbatim. I overclocked using AMD’s Catalyst Control Center application, tweaked voltages with MSI’s Afterburner utility, and tested stability with Kombustor, another MSI app. (XFX doesn’t provide its own overclocking tools for these Radeons.)

Ready? Here’s how the 7850 Black Edition fared:

Core:

1000MHz — OK after 5 min burn-in

1025MHz — OK after 5 min burn-in

1050MHz (max) — OK after 5 min burn-in

Memory:

1250MHz — 6506 kombustor — stock

1350MHz — 6925 kombustor — ok after 5-min burn-in

1400MHz — 6690 kombustor — reverted

1375MHz — 7072 kombustor — ok after 5-min burn-in

Overvolt: no go. afterburner hard-locks system

Max: 1050/1350 (vs 975/1250 stock).

Temperature around 75C during kombustor burn-in.

And here are my results with the 7870 Black Edition:

Core:

1200MHz — OK after 5 min burn-in

1300MHz — crash

1275MHz — crash

1250MHz — display coruption

1225MHz — crash

Memory:

1250MHz — 6721 kombustor — stock

1350MHz — 7194 kombustor — OK after 5 min burn-in

1400MHz — 6959 kombustor — reverted

1375MHz — 7354 kombustor — OK after 5 min burn-in

Max at stock voltage: 1200/1375 (vs 1050/1250 stock).

Temperature around 87C during kombustor burn-in.

Overvolt:

1300/1375MHz — 1.300v — crash

1275/1375MHz — 1.300v — overheat

1250/1375MHz — 1.300v — overheat (over 105C in kombustor)

These results are a little disappointing. Neither card seemed to tolerate overvolting; the 7850 Black froze when we launched MSI Afterburner to tweak voltages, and the 7870 Black overheated quickly, with its GPU getting hot enough to boil water and subsequently shutting down. We’d excuse that behavior if the settings we tried had been particularly daring, but our reference Radeon HD 7870 handled itself just fine at 1250MHz with 1375MHz memory and 1.30V.

Clearly, the AMD cooler is better equipped to handle high overclocks than its XFX Double D counterpart. Our findings suggest the difference may hinge on the amount of metal under those cooling shrouds. Fan control didn’t appear to be an issue—the XFX 7870 ramped up its two fans without fault as temperatures climbed, hitting a speed of 73% at 95°C and 100% at 101°C. After that point, though, the card started throttling itself to stay cool, even with the fans pegged.

Happily, when overclocked by hand, the 7850 Black emerged out of its torpor in Battlefield 3. It outran the reference-clocked 7850 handily, nestling itself not far below the Radeon HD 7870. Load power consumption only increased by about four watts, as well, which is negligible.

As for the 7870 Black, even though its overclock didn’t match that of our reference card, it still put on a good show. The temperature we measured in our Kombustor burn-in (87°C) makes us a little wary of applying the same overclock in a cramped PC build, though. Honestly, if you’re going to overclock a 7870 at all, we’d recommend getting one with a more capable cooler than what XFX provides.

Conclusions

Up for a couple of value scatter plots before we call it a day? As is our custom, we’ve laid our performance results (based on the overall average performance from our game tests) along the Y axis and the cards’ pricing (obtained from Newegg, when possible, or from the manufacturer’s suggested e-tail price) along the X axis. The most desirable offerings will be the ones closest to the top left of the plot. The least desirable ones will be at the bottom right.

We can also compile a value scatter plot out of our 99th percentile frame time data. For consistency’s sake, we’ve converted the frame times to frame rates, so desirable offerings are still at the top left.

No doubt about it, XFX demands a sizable premium for somewhat modest performance increases—perhaps not in the case of the 7850 Black, which underperformed due to a potential bug that’s probably temporary, but definitely for the 7870 Black. $40 is a lot to pay for such a small jump over stock performance, and the fact that the card doesn’t overclock as well as the reference model makes it even harder to recommend.

The XFX 7870 does have a couple of redeeming features. Its cooler, though ill-equipped for high overclocks, is much quieter than AMD’s design at stock speeds. That might sweeten the deal for folks who care about noise levels—although we should point out that other cards with large, dual- or triple-fan coolers can be had for as little as $360. We haven’t tested those, however. Also, there’s the lifetime warranty to consider. XFX is one of very few vendors to offer that particular perk.

Nevertheless, considering our past experience with XFX’s Black Editions, I must confess to being a tad disappointed by these two cards. Even if you don’t mind paying a premium, there are deal breakers in both cases: the 7870 cooler’s inadequacy when it comes to overclocking, and the 7850’s weird performance issues, which negate the benefits of its higher clock speeds in Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, and perhaps other titles.

If XFX can resolve the latter, the 7850 Black could be a tantalizing choice. We’ve seen in Arkham City and Skyrim that it comes awfully close to the stock Radeon HD 7870—and we’ve also seen that it overclocks effortlessly at the stock voltage, without its power consumption increasing a whole lot. $279 may not be cheap for a 7850, but it’s definitely not bad for a card that can come so close to the $349 Radeon HD 7870. If it weren’t for the (admittedly minor) performance issue we encountered, the 7850 Black would be an Editor’s Choice for sure.

Comments closed
    • rjseo
    • 7 years ago
    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    TDR/BSOD issues with latest round of ATI drivers. My first ever Windows 7 BSOD, it had been so long.

    I’m adding ATI to OCZ as companies I’m blacklisting for a while.

      • Arclight
      • 8 years ago

      Add nvidia to the blacklist cause they got TDRs issues also.

      • clone
      • 8 years ago

      Add Nvidia to that list, ongoing thread regarding TDR and BSOD issues….. you may want to stick with Intel integrated video.

      LOL!!!

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      Are you sure it is not hardware related?

      The vast majority of BSODs with Vista/7 are hardware related. Most of your GPU related issues just cause CTDs or display driver resets.

    • markymark5005
    • 8 years ago

    Bah! And I waited for these specific cards too… just like I waited for AMD’s FX chips… already 4 months past when I was originally planning a new build. Figures.

    Guess that means it’s time to wait until the video card price drop and/or mid-range kepler. Possibly even until Ivy Bridge comes out… *shudder*

    [url<]http://goo.gl/Lc0j4[/url<]

    • gamoniac
    • 8 years ago

    Nah… I am a bit disappointed with XFX. I just got my Sapphire HD7850 (factory OC to 920Mhz/1250Mhz) and it overclokcs better than this one. Temp is lower and fans are whisper-quiet. I think HD7850 is a bit overpriced. Then again, it’s a $260 card that performs like a $320 GTX570. Not bad at all.

    The only problem I have is with BSOD in Win7 SP1 64-bit with the latest driver. According to memdump, it’s the ati driver that caused it. I hope the next driver update will fix it. I wonder if anyone else with an HD7850 has the same issue?

    Edit:
    My wish came true – CCC 12.3 was made available today. My Sapphire card seems to be stable with the new driver @ CPU 1050Mhz and GPU 1400Mhz(5.6Ghz), which is not much more than the XFX HD7850 Black, to correct myself. However, my temp never went above 65C in MSI Kombustor Burn. Fans are silent @ 39%.

    • tbone8ty
    • 8 years ago

    You didn’t test against a gtx 580….??? Fail

    • moose17145
    • 8 years ago

    Did anyone else notice that the cards actually registered a LOWER dB level while idle than with the monitor turned off? I mean the results are close enough it likely doesn’t matter and is within margin of error… never the less I still found that kind of interesting / amusing.

    • moose17145
    • 8 years ago

    Quick spelling / grammar / whatever you wanna call it check…

    Bottom of page 3 (the batman bench)

    [quote<]Well, our XFX cards are off to a nice start. The 7870 Black may not be a great deal faster than its reference counterpart, but the 7850 Black edges out the vanilla 7850 by a big margin—especially in our "time spent below 50 ms" metric. Lower scores there indicate fewer latency spikes and thus more fluid overall gameplay.[/quote<] I believe you mean "time spent BEYOND 50 ms" ... not time spent below 50 ms... not trying to be a grammar nazi or whatever... just figured it was worth pointing out...

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      Fixed. Thanks.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    Wow, disappointing for sure. Thanks for the headsup.

    • Elsoze
    • 8 years ago

    Bah! And I waited for these specific cards too… just like I waited for AMD’s FX chips… already 4 months past when I was originally planning a new build. Figures.

    Guess that means it’s time to wait until the video card price drop and/or mid-range kepler. Possibly even until Ivy Bridge comes out… *shudder*

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      You must not really have a need to build if you’re waiting for all that stuff. The biggest thing you should wait for is the need to build.

    • Rza79
    • 8 years ago

    The Catalyst 12.2 driver (8.950.0.0000) was released three weeks ago. Why did you stick to the old driver? I would think that with a new architecture, a lot is to be gained from drivers.
    Actually the GeForce 295.51 driver was released around the same period (give or take a couple days). What’s more, the 8.95.5-120224a driver was the Radeon HD 7800 series launch driver for reviewers. So surely you must have had those since februari.

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      The Catalyst 12.2 release didn’t support Radeon HD 7800-series cards. Only the 7700 and 7900 series.

        • Rza79
        • 8 years ago

        You’re right Cyril. I overlooked that fact. But the 8.95.5-120224a driver was still available.

          • Cyril
          • 8 years ago

          Actually, it looks like I got version numbers mixed up on the testing methods page. I did use the 8.95.5-120224a drivers with the AMD cards, and I tested the GeForces with the 295.73 WHQL drivers.

          I think I looked in the wrong driver directory when writing up the testing methods and mistakenly pasted the version numbers from the Cape Verde test setup. My mistake.

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    I just noticed that the prices shown in the conclusion for some of the cards are totally wrong.

    EVGA GTX 570 can be had for $290 before rebates but TR shows it at $350.

    GTX 560 Ti can be had for $215 before rebates but TR shows it about about $250

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 8 years ago

    Can we get some discussion on this next podcast please?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      Here’s the discussion: don’t buy these.

      • flip-mode
      • 8 years ago

      What about it? Is there some nuance that needs explaining?

        • ssidbroadcast
        • 8 years ago

        *shrug* well seeing as how it’s AMD’s next gen performance-range class of cards, yeah I see it meriting discussion just as Techreport podcast has always talked about any mid-upper range class of cards. SORRY, GEEZ. >:/

    • alwayssts
    • 8 years ago

    Very nice review Cyril.

    If I may offer a suggestion:

    While I understand overclocking is a wildcard between chips (their respective leakage), I question the overall feasibility of using 1.3v as the testing bar. Yes, it sucks the original cooler could handle it and this can’t which should be noted as a knock against the over-all ability of the cooler.

    That said, it has pretty well documented across the web that in many cases anything above 1.25v often results in diminishing returns, and above ~1.275 is fairly useless. Around or slightly above these values cards (even at a decent temp) have been shown to have issues. With the normalized max returns hovering around 1v=1ghz or slightly less, and max results on a 70 (higher-quality sku) or 680 hovering around 1250+- 50mhz, this notion has been repeatedly backed up with results and the correlation is pretty solid.

    If cards are going to be tested at a higher voltage, which I think they should be and glad they are on this site, may I suggest one of those settings if using a single static value across reviews?

    That way time can be saved on your part, most cards should be stable, the potential of the process will be tapped without waste, and we can still get an idea of the efficiency of each vendor design.

    Thanks for the consideration and keep up the good work.

    • ish718
    • 8 years ago

    These prices are sh%$.
    Lets blame 28nm cost and yield again.

    • flip-mode
    • 8 years ago

    Bottom Line: 6870 embarrasses them all.

      • juampa_valve_rde
      • 8 years ago

      Barts cards still have a lot of punch 🙂 I’m happy to see that my 6850oc still can keep the pace

      • dpaus
      • 8 years ago

      I hope so; I’m going to pull the trigger and get one of those small-form-factor XFX ones for my new home system, before they’re unavailable.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    You know, after all these years you think graphics card companies would’ve had an engineer design a heatsink/shroud for them that is actually aerodynamic and maximizes heat dissipation.

    I can’t help but look at something like this and see the double fan design and think what a terrible idea it is. There aren’t two outlets and both fans blow into the same chamber, so the fan closer to the exit is actually working against the fan closer to the shroud entrance. Unless the double fans are just put on the card for looks and make people more likely to buy it (people like things that spin).

    With the exception of water cooling already attached to the card, coolers like this are usually just gimmicky. Maybe they put a better fan on it manufactured by a reputable fan company rather then ACME, but other then that they don’t really do anything with their cards to actually improve heat dissipation. They just attach more bling and buzzwords to try and sell it.

    Seriously, there is tons of research being done on aerodynamics and thermal conductance at a lot of major universities. Drop the money on some R&D, add a patent to the mix and I’m sure they’ll give you something that not only looks cool (coolers that intrinsically perform well usually look really cool to geeks, like heatpipes), but also performs really well. Then you can overclock the stuffing out of the card, sell the coolers separate, generate a lot of buzz, differentiate yourself as a company, increase sales, and mark up your products.

    This is actually right up the alley of work for grad students and interns.

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      I think you’re right here, mostly.

      While I’m an advocate for stock coolers that fully exhaust heat out of the case and cases that provide positive airflow to the cards, these aftermarket coolers do work exceedingly well in cases that have open, turbulent airflow patterns. In those enclosures, these coolers (this XFX pair being an exception) provide quieter performance while allowing for greater thermal dissipation than the stock coolers.

      And I’m with you 100% on hoping for better ‘blower’ style coolers as opposed to solutions like these that keep the majority of the heat dissipated inside the enclosure.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        If they recycle the air inside the enclosure they continue to heat it up. There is only so much brute force cooling can do unless they switch right to liquid, but even then it’s still moving the heat outside of the case. Even if the air inside is turbulent they can still benefit from rear-exhaust designs as the heat will be moved outside of the case and in general cool all the components inside the case, also cooling the card as the air inside will be cooler.

        There is a reason AMD and Nvidia switched to blower style coolers instead of their original open style coolers. They may not have a thermal engineer working for them (or they may), but they’re smart enough to test out a new design and see that it works better.

        It’s like card manufacturers don’t even test out these coolers before slapping them on a card. They just add another fan, a couple more heat pipes, and call it good. At least Zalman has an industrial artist of some kind working for them to make pretty heatsinks (yes I said pretty).

          • Arclight
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<]If they recycle the air inside the enclosure they continue to heat it up. There is only so much brute force cooling can do unless they switch right to liquid, but even then it's still moving the heat outside of the case.[/quote<] How much recycling are we talking about? What cases are you using for your "theory"? Cases this days (i mean the good ones that cost over 20$) usually support 1 or 2 front intake fans, 2 top exhaust fans, 1 rear exhaust plus 1 or 2 fan location on the side panel to be used as desired all supporting 120mm fans or higher. How could you think a case like that would recycle the air? This is not 2002 it's 2012....if you buy a damn card over $200 you might as well have the insight to buy a decent case. You might think...."Oh but cases with more than 4 fan locations would certainly cost $100 or more!" Think again, here are just a few examples: [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146078[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146084[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146083[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146081[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146080[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119233[/url<] CM 690 II has support for up to 10 fans [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811119216[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811139011[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811124138[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112354[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811352010[/url<] [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811352007[/url<] etc.... Oh look an open test bench sub $100 [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112287[/url<]

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            Erm… how did my post yield such a reply? :l

            It was a hypothetical discussion on coolers that just blow air around inside a case vs ones that blow it out the back. All else being equal recycling air inside the case is worse then blowing it out the back unless you have all your fans set to blow air out every orifice (creating a negative pressure system).

            • Arclight
            • 8 years ago

            BS

            stock fans that blow air outside perform way worse then custom ones that dump the air inside. That’s the rule, there are exceptions, but that’s the way it works. Look at DirectCu and MSI’s Twin Frozr, look at after market coolers from Thermalright, Arctic and Zalman. The temp and noise difference is huge and vastly favours coolers that dump heat inside.

            And with my previous post i explained that the heat dumped inside can be easily dealt with by modern cases with good airflow.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            …if you’re going to call BS on a hypothetical, how about posting some links to reviews that prove what you’re talking about?

            I have seen after market coolers like what you’re talking about. That being said, they usually increase the airflow, use better conductive materials, or use better fan designs.

            There are quite a few biases here – apples to oranges. We’re looking specifically at dumping heat back inside the case vs venting the air outside. A good way to check this would be to simply remove the shroud from the graphics card and see what happens with a fan on the heatsink. Doesn’t seem fair does it?

            The case point is moot, you can put a box fan on the side of your case to generate adequate airflow. Why do you think liquid cooling is superior to normal blown air? It doesn’t just deposit the heat back in the case.

            • Arclight
            • 8 years ago

            You can search for the reviews yourself, but come to think of it i’d like TR to do an extended article about it and test various configurations, different airflow directions, postive, negative and neutral pressure, with tower cooler with both orientations and other with WC all in ones.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            That’s just the lazy mans answer to saying you have no sources to back up your claims.

            You don’t even really need to dig up sources on this… Why do you think water cooling is better then air cooling? Why is it quieter? Why do you need less fans in your case?

            You shove hot air in a case you need to remove it with a certain amount of ventilation. The more hot air in the case, the more ventilation that is required to remove it. A fancy case or a better heatsink doesn’t change a law of thermodynamics (I’m not a engineer, but I at least know one of them). Heat doesn’t just disappear magically.

            • Arclight
            • 8 years ago

            I have been known to take the lazy man’s way but that doesn’t mean i don’t have facts:

            HD7970 Lightning (using the TwinFrozr design): 63 degrees celsius during load at 38 dBa
            Source:
            [url<]http://www.guru3d.com/article/msi-radeon-hd-7970-lightning-review/11[/url<] ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme 7970 Cooler: 68 degrees Celsius during load at 31.3 dBa Source: [url<]http://www.kitguru.net/components/cooling/zardon/arctic-accelero-xtreme-7970-cooler-review/7/[/url<] Arctic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo 6990 Cooler: 71 degrees during load (20 degrees better than stock) at 33.4 dBa Source: [url<]http://www.kitguru.net/components/graphic-cards/zardon/arctic-cooling-accelero-twin-turbo-6990-cooler-review/5/[/url<] Thermalright spitfire small video presentation: [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYWSWqeQzZM[/url<] etc....

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            That’s great you actually got sources to make your point, but you’re still comparing apples to oranges. There are a lot of other elements that compromise a like comparison between a stock cooler and a third party cooler besides the exhaust method as I noted before.

            In order to make a apples to apples comparison you would have to have a video card with the same heatsink blow air into the case and then blow air out of the case. You would have to use the same exact case and the same thermal paste. An example of which would be taking the shroud off of the stock heatsink, attaching a fan to it, and covering the exhaust port compared to how the cooler functions normally. Preferably you would have to get a similar CFM fan as the stock cooler as well.

            If you look at the first link you posted, the card still has slotted bracket for exhaust, even if it’s not very functional at all. That’s what I meant in general about having a thermal engineer design a heatsink in general. You can totally tell that exhaust port does little to nothing, yet it’s still there.

            • Arclight
            • 8 years ago

            I agreed with you on the “we need more reliable test” and as a result i said:
            “You can search for the reviews yourself, but come to think of it i’d like TR to do an extended article about it and test various configurations, different airflow directions, postive, negative and neutral pressure, with tower cooler with both orientations and other with WC all in ones.”

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      “(people like things that spin).”

      We don’t when it comes to our technology. The fewer moving parts the better.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        People implying most users that know what a video card is… Not everyone is utilitarian or smart about their tastes… >>

        • CuttinHobo
        • 8 years ago

        *Cue the video* “They spinnin’!! They spinnin’!!”

        • Haserath
        • 8 years ago

        They see me spinnin’. They hatin’.

          • Arclight
          • 8 years ago

          [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPz78YHndKc[/url<]

      • thermistor
      • 8 years ago

      Two fans ‘sideby’ is not bad from an air handling standpoint.

      They won’t necessarily ‘fight’ each other for air flow. Many HX manufacturers use multiple small, direct driven fans for large process or engine cooling, with large round tube flat fin radiators.

      The fans do have some shrouding around them and are far enough apart to not have issues.

      The design challenge is that the card is long and slender – they can’t exactly make it square to precisely fit a single fan over all items that need cooling. Design is about tradeoffs, and this one is OK. Additionally, dual fans rule of thumb for noise is add 3 dB when going from 1 to 2, so additional noise is not great.

      • Chrispy_
      • 8 years ago

      I have a masters in engineering; I spent a year studying thermodynamics and fluid dynamics (yes, air is a fluid) and most computer heatsinks make me facepalm.

      The worst offenders are those gimmicky southbridge/PWM circuitry heatsinks on motherboards which are little more than artwork and brand-recognition billboards.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, my friend is going for his PhD in mechanical engineering and he was telling me about how normal heatsinks should be sucking air through heatsinks instead of blowing down onto them (the old style heatsinks with a 60mm fan simply attached to the top), as it creates more noise and is less efficient supposedly.

        It really is easy to tell how nonfunctional some designs are, the PWN/NB heatsinks are the worst like you’re saying.

      • clone
      • 8 years ago

      what surprises me is that after doing their own benchmarks, measurements, testing…. after seeing the results they decided to release this series.

      was their temp sensor mis-reading, did their in house overclocks reach higher, was it snowing that day and the testing done outside of the case outside of the testing lab?

      did anyone review the results?

      in an industry full of very good coolers that are also quiet why did these get released?

    • glacius555
    • 8 years ago

    “..coolers on the reference 7800-series Radeons, which are a little loud under load. The XFX cards take care of that problem rather nicely—they’re wonderfully quiet under load.”

    From what I can see, results from XFX card systems are around 40.5 under load, while only HD7870 hits 44 dB – HD7850 is still around 41.5 dB. Doesn’t that qualify reference HD7850 to be ‘wonderfully quiet’?

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      I have to wonder about this too- I think that the HD7870 might be quiet, but still have an annoying pitch to it, as is possible with the squirrel cage fans.

      Beyond that though, I’ve found that putting the stock-cooler equipped cards in a an enclosure with positive airflow tends to keep them quieter under load due to the intake fans ‘pushing’ air through the card’s cooler and out of the case, something that these aftermarket coolers would impede.

    • Aussienerd
    • 8 years ago

    I am looking at the HD7870 but here in Australia we are being screwed with prices, eg the HIS HD7870 being the bottom of the line here in OZ,is $403.00 from an online store. Considering that $1AU is worth $1.09US this doesnt make sence.

    Still I will stick with my 6850 until these are $350 here.

    Good review Cyril….

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      Go check out how much they cost in Europe in $US :).

        • Aussienerd
        • 8 years ago

        True I will shut up…. 🙂

          • stupido
          • 8 years ago

          Actually who is deciding on the prices for EU/Australia/Canada?
          I mean why there is such a big difference, while the cards are mainly manufactured in the east?

            • Firestarter
            • 8 years ago

            Maybe because the US prices we see are [b<]before[/b<] sales tax, and others are after sales tax? It seems pretty standard for Americans to refer to the prices before tax because sales tax differs from state to state (right?), while Europeans refer to the prices after tax because most of the time that's all we see.

            • UberGerbil
            • 8 years ago

            Not only do sales tax differ from state to state, but they can differ from one county to the next within the same state, and from one city to the next within the same county, since local governments can impose additional sales tax on top of the state sales tax. (In fact, it’s possible for different neighborhoods within a city to have different sales taxes in some cases — there’s a “stadium taxation district” within a few blocks of the sports stadiums in Seattle, for example, and hotel rooms and food/drink purchases in that area have additional taxes over what they would have a few blocks further away). Moreover there are states where there are no sales taxes, and if you buy something on the internet from a company that has no “presence” in your state you don’t pay any sales tax either (at least until that loophole is closed). For example: I live in Seattle so if I want to buy a video card locally I’ll pay 9.5% sales tax; I would also pay that if I ordered from Amazon because they have [url=http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_468512_which?nodeId=468512#which<]presence[/url<] here. On the other hand, if I drove a few minutes out of town I could find one of many surrounding municipalities where the tax rate is as low as 8.6%; drive out to a neighboring county and I might find a rate as low as 7.6% (for this reason some of the small towns in outlying counties have surprisingly large car dealerships -- you might not go out of your way to save 3% on a $300 video card, but you might for a $30K car). Or I could drive for about 3 hours to Portland, Oregon, where there is no sales tax whatsoever. Or I could order from NewEgg, which has no presence in the state of Washington, and I wouldn't pay any sales tax either. Here's the [url=http://dor.wa.gov/Docs/forms/ExcsTx/LocSalUseTx/LocalSlsUseFlyer_Quarterly.pdf<]breakdown[/url<] of all the various tax rates in the state of Washington (this quarter). (Not only does it change over time, but it can be even more complicated as most states have certain "classes" of good that are exempt from sales tax or are taxed at different rate. The developer of a Point of Sale system once told me that the code for correctly calculating taxes was the largest single chunk of code in the entire system).

    • revcrisis
    • 8 years ago

    I wonder when the AMD price cut will come. They need to cut the 7970 price ASAP to at least $500 if not $475. I’m hoping the 7850 and 7870 see a trickle down price cut as well…

    • UberGerbil
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]XFX's Double D branding seems to refer to the presence of dual fans[/quote<]Yeah...[i<]that's[/i<] what they expect your first association to be...

      • Arclight
      • 8 years ago

      They expect you to think of breasts, but to save face they say DD is short for double dissipation.

        • willmore
        • 8 years ago

        Bull in a china shop.

          • Arclight
          • 8 years ago

          Was it a woosh for me? Don’t quite get that expression.

            • indeego
            • 8 years ago

            “Tread carefully”

            • Arclight
            • 8 years ago

            If he was reffering to me saying breasts…..he’d be a hypocrite. Far more foul words/ expressions have been used both here and on the forum. Just saying.

            • flip-mode
            • 8 years ago

            I’m a little embarrassed for you.

            • Arclight
            • 8 years ago

            …ok someone just embarass me. This is getting weird. e-peenis is fine to say but not tits? o_O

            • flip-mode
            • 8 years ago

            OK, I’ll spell it out: UberGerbil’s first post was sarcastic. He was implying that “Double D” was an obvious reference to breasts. Read it:

            [quote<]Yeah...[i<]that's[/i<] what they expect your first association to be...[/quote<]

            • gamoniac
            • 8 years ago

            Agree. I thumbed you up 🙂

    • trek205
    • 8 years ago

    $350 was already too pricey for a mid range card and $390 is laughable. all AMD is giving us for this generation are faster cards at even higher prices. 7970 was 45% faster than the 6970 and costs 50% more than the 6970 launched at. a 7870 is about 45% faster than the 6870 and costs over 45% more than the 6870 launched at. what a joke and that’s not even looking at the much much lower street prices the 6870 can be had for.

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      [b<]No Sh**![/b<] There are hundred-page rants on various forums concerning the pricing of the latest generation of GPUs. It's nothing new, and it's not permanent.

      • MrJP
      • 8 years ago

      Here’s why:

      [url<]http://www.extremetech.com/computing/123529-nvidia-deeply-unhappy-with-tsmc-claims-22nm-essentially-worthless[/url<] 28nm chips aren't going to get cheaper to make than equivalent 40nm chips until later this year. With supply currently constrained, AMD and Nvidia have little to gain from dropping prices.

        • NewfieBullet
        • 8 years ago

        Sadly, it looks like these prices are the new normal. I’ll be skipping this generation but I don’t hold out any hope that prices will improve in the next generation.

    • WillBach
    • 8 years ago

    The color scheme reminds me of the Normandy SR-2. I don’t care how they perform, I wish I could put ten in my case!

    Update: Cyril, could you please put a black boarder around the little red diamonds demarking the HD 7850 and 7870 Black in your value scatter plots? It would make it a little easier to see where the new products fit into the line up. Thanks for the review 🙂

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      Man I love TR’s scatter plots, but you’re right- there needs to be more differentiation in them. I could do with even a different shade, a la Anandtech.

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    Wow, epic FAIL. But come to think of it even the stock cards are overpriced, even though they handle OCing better then the BE……

    • Synchromesh
    • 8 years ago

    Looks like I’m keeping my dual 6950s for another year.

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      After shoving mine into a case with positive airflow (and filters! no dustbunnies!), I think I’ll be keeping mine for a while too. At least until AMD updates their cards again and Nvidia rolls out Big Daddy Kepler, and after supply has increased so that both companies have an opportunity to compete on price.

      (corrected the spelling of [i<]Kepler-with-an-E[/i<])

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 8 years ago

        It’s [i<]Kepler[/i<]. [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Kepler[/url<]

          • dpaus
          • 8 years ago

          A group of famous physicists were playing hide-and-seek. Einstein covered his eyes and began counting. While the others scattered, Newton simply drew a box around himself on the ground, 1 meter on each side. Einstein finished counting, opened his eyes, and said ‘Aha! Got you, Newton!’

          ‘No,’ said Sir Isaac, ‘what you found is one Newton per square meter. Technically, you just found Pascal.’

            • stupido
            • 8 years ago

            haha 🙂 good one!
            thx 🙂

            • Synchromesh
            • 8 years ago

            Nice! Stealing this one! 🙂

    • GTVic
    • 8 years ago

    I’d like to replace my 4850 but I’m hoping NVidia’s midrange cards cause these to drop by $50. But I’m guessing that is a ways away. With the short supply on both brands, it doesn’t matter how good NVidia’s cards are, AMD will not drop the prices right away.

      • Palek
      • 8 years ago

      I just replaced a 4850 with a 6870. It was a steal at about $150, and if you look at the graphs in the article it’s still a perfectly serviceable card in newer games.

        • alwayssts
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, I <3 my 6870.

        As time evolves and the salvage gk104’s square off against the 7950 and 7870, eventually gk106 against 7850, and whatever comes in-between or follows slightly after (7950 1.5gb, 1536sp 7890, maybe a AMD refresh with a kepler-like perf/mm/watt methodology) the stage is set for 7870 to be a repeat of that awesome value. While it will probably come down to a 670 non-ti (6 SM) with 150w tdp that can go over 150w and overclock to the same performance level as 7870, if one can look past the extra pci-e connector the efficiency of the smaller die space of Pitcairn should allow low prices and awesome perf/w for slightly less coin (once 28nm ramp is complete and wafer prices stabilize).

        I project 7870 at $229 and 670 non-ti at $249 around the end of Q2. After big Kepler and the AMD refresh, it’s only going to get brighter in the value dept. until 20nm, and in my mind 7870 is going to be that weird part, small-enough to fit in most cases but with too-many power connectors; good-enough performance for the smallest entry fee despite it’s awkward placement and attributes.

        IOW, 6870 redux…eventually.

      • clone
      • 8 years ago

      is $50 really that much to you?

      I’m not saying these cards are priced right, tbh they aren’t but seriously $50 lower and you are in hands down no hesitation “man what a deal!!!”.

      if yes I recommend you buy now because $50 doesn’t buy a good meal with drinks… or that many drinks and your HD 4850 while a trooper is way outdated.

      personally I want to see the prices lower $150.00 and am disappointed by the entire line of HD 7xxx’s because they are overpriced.

      that’s not to say I care a whit about Kepler yet because so far while interesting none of the new AMD or Nvidia cards are compelling.

    • ultima_trev
    • 8 years ago

    Two 6-pins needed for the HD 7850 BE? Lame.

    • Meadows
    • 8 years ago

    A card designed for overclocking that does not overclock.

      • Airmantharp
      • 8 years ago

      Well, they [b<]are[/b<] overclocked, and they're also quiet- you might assume that unlike other cards (for whatever reason) you are expected to take these out of the box and run them virgin. Though I agree with the assertion that they should handle overclocking at least better than the stock cards.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 8 years ago

        It’s an interesting study in how samples of the same card all OC differently. It’s a little surprising and pretty unfortunate that the samples of these cards don’t OC well.

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    Damn. After XFX’s 8.75″ 6850, I was really hoping they’d come out with a comparably-sized 7850 to fit into my all-in-one HTPC/gaming system’s Cooler Master case.

    Damn.

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