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ATI Radeon HD 5870 Overclocked Round-up
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Date: May 06, 2010
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Mathew Miranda
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Introduction

Enthusiasts are passionate about their hardware. While mainstream consumers target products with the best price to performance ratio, there is still a strong market for computer components that hold nothing back. For proof, look no further than Intel's latest Extreme Edition 980X processor, sporting six cores and twelve threads of pure awesome. Only a handful of applications can make use of that much processing power, but its available and ready to take on whatever you can throw at it. In the same way, the recent explosion of solid state drives has commanded a lot of attention for performance benefits that leave traditional hard drives in the dust. These products carry high price tags that have most consumers on the outside looking in, except for the niche market of enthusiasts and early adopters that pounce on cutting edge tech the millisecond it hits the shelves.  And of course, high-end graphics cards are no different in this respect, with a slew of manufacturers ready to amp things up just to draw interest from hardened performance enthusiasts...


Today we're looking at a trio of videocards that have their sights set on the enthusiast market. Factory overclocked Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards from HIS, MSI, and Gigabyte have landed in our lab and its time for another round up. Some might glance over these products and wonder what the big deal is. Any time a new series of graphics cards are launched by ATI or NVIDIA, it is common for add in board (AIB) partners to tweak various features so that consumers have even more attractive options to choose from, beyond the original reference design. The graphics cards we have setup for testing here come with increased GPU and memory speeds, promising improved performance right out of the box. In addition, the heatsinks have been redesigned to provide improved cooling in order to handle the increased frequencies that are set for their graphics engines. Read on to find out how these speed demons perform when compared to one another, and if one of them has what it takes to be your next upgrade.

Overclocked ATI Radeon HD 5870 Rumble
Let's Get It On!
Gigabyte Super Overclock HD 5870
950 MHz Core / 1250 MHz Memory
$499*
HIS iCooler V Turbo X HD 5870
900 MHz Core / 1225 MHz Memory
$499*
MSI Lightning HD 5870
900 MHz Core / 1200 MHz Memory
$479*

                 * Current street pricing

Each company has taken the Radeon HD 5870 recipe that ATI originally designed and spiced it up. While the reference cards check in at 850 MHz core and 1200 MHz memory, these overclocked models sport increases up to 100 MHz on the GPU and 50 MHz for memory frequency. How much does the extra horsepower translate into gaming performance? And will the performance bump be enough to justify the extra cheddar they demand? Let's take a closer look at each one to see how they differ and how much of a boost you can expect to see from them in various benchmarks.

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Gigabyte Radeon HD 5870 Super Overclock

The first HD 5870 is from Taiwan based hardware manufacturer, Gigabyte Technology. Well known for their motherboards, Gigabyte has expanded their product line up to include cases, coolers, power supplies, notebooks, and peripherals as well as graphics cards. During the past couple of years, we have seen a steady stream of reference and overclocked versions of videocards from both ATI and NVIDIA featuring Gigabyte logos. And here we get our hands on the latest release from the Super Overclock line.  


Gigabyte HD 5870 Super Overclock Graphics Card

 Gigabyte Super Overclock
 Specs and Features

Model
GV-R587SO-1GD

Core Clock
950 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
1250 MHz / 1 GB

Ports
Two DVI
One HDMI
One DisplayPort
Accessories
OC Guru Overclocking Utility
User Manual
Crossfire Bridge
DVI to VGA Adapter
Two Molex to 6-pin PCIe Power Adapters

Warranty
3 years based on serial number

Price

$500

Gigabyte offers three different models based on the HD 5870, the fastest being the Super Overclock model. This card holds the title of being the fastest HD 5870 in production. It achieves this milestone by raising GPU core clock frequency to a blazing 950 MHz, with memory at 1250 MHz. With respect to GPU speed, the Super Overclock is 50 MHz faster than the other two cards in this round up. We fully expect it to take the pole position in the benchmarks for this reason alone.



The Super Overclock HD 5870 features a dual slot cooler with two fans angled away from one another. Gigabyte claims this design aids in heat dissipation and provides a quieter environment. In addition, four copper heat pipes carry heat from the center of the heatsink to other areas. Like the reference design, this card requires two 6-pin PCI Express connections from the power supply.  


We are pleased to find an overclocking utility with the Gigabyte card. Called OC Guru, the software program provides three profiles for quick configuration: Gaming, Standard, and Power Saving Mode. In addition, you are allowed to modify core clock, memory clock, GPU voltage, memory voltage, and fan speeds independently, along with the ability to save up to two profiles. OC Guru also displays GPU temperature and allows for OSD adjustments.

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HIS Radeon HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo X

Hightech Information System (HIS) is a first tier ATI add-in board partner that focuses mainly on desktop graphics. The company claims to provide "faster, cooler, quieter" products that give them an edge within the market. In addition to reference design models of the latest Radeon cards, HIS releases overclocked versions featuring upgraded cooling solutions, like the iCooler Turbo V graphics card we have here.


HIS iCooler V Turbo X Graphics Card

HIS iCooler Turbo V
Specs and Features

Model
H587FNX1GDG

Core Clock
900 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
1225 MHz / 1 GB

Ports
Two DVI
One HDMI
One DisplayPort
Accessories
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Coupon
User Manual
Crossfire Bridge
DVI to VGA Adapter
Molex to 6-pin PCIe Power Adapter

Warranty
2 years

Price

$500


Although its not the fastest card in this roundup, the iCooler V Turbo X is the top of the line Radeon HD 5870 within the HIS line up. With speeds of 900 MHz core and 1225 MHz memory, it is overclocked well beyond the reference specification and provides a performance boost for enthusiasts looking for an edge. With the card, you also get a game coupon for Modern Warfare 2, a user's manual, Crossfire bridge, VGA adapter, and PCIe power adapter. Like Gigabyte's Super Overclock HD 5870, the Turbo X will cost you $500. Unfortunately, it only comes with a 2 year warranty, while the other products in this roundup cover up to 3 years.



Besides sporting a peculiar name, the Turbo X employs a dual slot cooler that draws air to the middle of the heatsink and transfers heat out the front and rear of the card. Its worth noting that HIS decided to go with a single fan for cooling duty while the others have two fans working in tandem. In addition, this particular model features a Modern Warfare 2 decal that spans the length of the heatsink shroud. 

During our research of this product, we came across this page in the support section of HIS' website. It asks consumers who own an overclocked 58xx series card to update the BIOS in order to improve performance. The website does not state what issues the new BIOS addresses, but provides a few steps to follow in order to download the fix. First, you must verify the serial number on your card falls within the range of numbers provided. This step alone is confusing because the list of numbers do not appear to be in numerical order. Once this is verified, you must take a picture of your card which clearly shows the serial number, and email HIS customer support with the image. After verifying the card's serial number falls within the range of affected products, HIS will provide a link to download the new BIOS. Again, please note this BIOS update affects the 5850 Turbo, 5870 Turbo, and 5870 iCooler V Turbo X models and more information can be found here


The Turbo X did not come with a overclocking utility so we had to rely  on ATI's Catalyst Control Center as an overclocking tool. After poking around a bit, we found that RivaTuner and ATI Tool were not compatible with the Turbo X. We even gave OC Guru and Afterburner a shot, but neither allowed us to modify the settings of this HIS card. Unfortunately, CCC offered very little overclocking headroom on the GPU core, which maxed out at 920 MHz.

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MSI HD 5870 Lightning

Micro Star International (MSI) manufactures a variety of computer hardware components. Established in 1986, they originally focused on the motherboard and graphics card market, but now produce a variety of notebooks, barebone systems,and wireless networking devices. The Lightning product line represents the fastest models that MSI produces and the one we're looking at today is arguably perhaps the sexiest graphics card they've ever made.


MSI Lightning HD 5870  Graphics Card

 MSI Lightning
 Specs and Features

Model
R5870 Lightning

Core Clock
900 MHz
   
Memory Clock / Size
1200 MHz / 1 GB

Ports
Two DVI
One HDMI
One DisplayPort
Accessories
MSI Afterburner Utility
User Manual
Crossfire Bridge
DVI to VGA Adapter
HDMI Cable
Two 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe Power Adapters


Warranty
3 Years Parts / 2 Years Labor

Price

$500


The R5870 Lighting features a core clock of 900 MHz and memory at 1200 MHz. The bundle includes a user's manual, MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility, Crossfire bridge, VGA adapter, HDMI cable, and a couple of PCIe power adapters. Its warranty will cover parts replacement for three years, and labor costs up to two years. At $500, it is the at the same price point as the Super Overclock and Turbo X video cards.



MSI took the Lightning and dipped it in a bucket of bling. Twin Frozr II is the name of MSI's cooling system--you can see it emblazoned on the heatsink's fan shroud. It's here we find two 80mm fans on top of the Lightning's dual slot cooler. They circulate through a series of aluminum fins that transfer heat from four shiny chrome heat pipes that measure 8mm in diameter. Unlike the other 5870's in this article, the R5870 features two 8pin connectors, making more power available to the card to aid in overclocking.

MSI includes the Afterburner overclocking utility with the Lightning HD 5870. The program interface looks very sleek and polished. Users can adjust core voltage up to 1.3V, core clocks to 1350 MHz, and memory speed to 1560 MHz. But there is a catch. The program found on the utility disk might not work correctly. We ran into this issue while overclocking the R5870 Lightning and did some research. Luckily, we came across a fix on a user forum. In order to use Afterburner with this card, you will need to download the latest version (1.6) and edit the MSIAfterburner.cfg file found in the MSI Afterburner directory. Here are the steps:

1. Download Afterburner 1.6 and Kombustor here
2. Edit MSIAfterburner.cfg
3. Change AllowCaptureVoltageDefaults from 0 to 1
4. Run Kombustor in Windowed Mode in order to place a load on the videocard
5. Select the Afterburner window by clicking on its window
6. Press <Ctrl> + <Alt> + <Shift> + <V> to capture voltage
7. Change AllowCaptureVoltageDefaults from 1 to 0
8. Finished

We found that performing these steps allowed us to overclock the card to higher frequencies than our first attempt. This is likely due to the fact that the voltage adjustments we made in Afterburner were not truly occurring. For more information on this issue, go here.

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Test System and Cinebench R11.5

How We Configured Our Test Systems:  We tested the graphics cards on an EVGA X58 Classified motherboard powered by a Core i7 980X six core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3-2000 RAM. For this article, we decided to overclock the processor in order to minimize the possibility of a CPU bottleneck during testing. At 3.33 GHz, the Core i7 980X is currently the fastest consumer chip on the market, and we made it even faster by overclocking it to rock solid stable 4.3 GHz. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. We used Windows 7 Professional x64, downloaded the latest updates, and installed necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware Test System
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 980X (4.3GHz)

EVGA Classified 760
(X58 Express)

ATI HD 5870
HIS HD 5870 iCooler
MSI HD 5870 Lightning
Gigabyte HD 5870 Super Overclock


6GB OCZ Blade DDR3-2000

Crucial M225 128GB SSD

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Professional x64
ATI Catalyst v10.3

Benchmarks Used:
Cinebench R11.5
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
3DMark06
SiSoft SANDRA 2010
FarCry2
Batman: Arkham Asylum
H.A.W.X.
Unigine Heaven v2.0
Dirt 2
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

Cinebench R11.5 64bit
OpenGL Performance


Cinebench R11.5

Cinebench R11.5 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D from Maxon. The benchmark goes through a series of tests that measures the performance of the graphics card under real world circumstances. Within Cinebench, graphics card testing makes use of a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase which measures the performance in OpenGL mode. Results are given in frames per second; the higher the number, the faster the graphics card. 


Cinebench test results only displayed a 2% performance delta between the fastest and slowest cards in our comparison group, less than 1 fps. We expected to see more separation, considering the range of GPU core clocks represented by these cards. All three overclocked cards were a hair faster than the stock card, with Gigabyte's version grabbing the highest score.

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3DMark Vantage and 3DMark06


Futuremark 3DMark Vantage
Synthetic DX 10 Gaming Performance


3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is specifically bound to Windows Vista-based systems because it uses some advanced visual technologies that are only available with DirectX 10, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. With the latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, in addition to support for the latest PC hardware.  We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark Vantage's Performance preset option, which uses a resolution of 1280x1024.

 

Gigabyte's SOC videocard flexed its muscles during our 3DMark Vantage testing. With a 50MHz core clock advantage over the HIS and MSI 5870s, it fetched over 500 more 3DMarks, which is a 3% difference in performance. When compared to the reference HD 5870, it offers 13% more.


Futuremark 3DMark06
Synthetic DirectX Performance


3DMark06

3DMark06 is a 3D rending benchmark that pushes a system and its GPUs to the limits. The test includes Shader Model 2.0, Shader Model 3.0, and HDR tests. To push the system, scenes are rendered with very high geometric detail and shader complexity, and with extensive use of lighting and soft shadows. The maximum shader length 3DMark06 supports is 512 instructions. The 3DMark06 Overall Score is a weighted average based on the SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0, and CPU scores.

 

3DMark06 testing reveals a tight race for supremacy. The Super Overclock HD 5870 still comes away with the highest score, but the Turbo X is only 126 3DMarks behind. In both 3DMark tests,we find the Turbo X is just a bit faster than the Lighting which can be attributed to their difference in memory speeds. 

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SiSoft SANDRA 2010


SiSoft SANDRA 2010
GPU Number Crunching


SANDRA 2010

SiSoft SANDRA is an information and diagnostic utility. It provides useful information about your hardware, software, and other installed devices. SANDRA gives you the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low level. The SiSoftware GPGPU processing benchmark performs single- and double-precision floating point arithmetic on the GPU and the results are reported in pixels/s, i.e. how many pixels can be computed in 1 second

Gigabyte's Super Overclock remains on top with total scores of 803 and 1170 in our SANDRA GPGPU testing. These results make it about 5% faster than the Lightning and Turbo X videocards.

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Battlefield Bad Company 2

Battlefield Bad Company 2
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Bad Company 2

Bad Company 2 is a wildly popular first person shooter that is the latest game in the Battlefield series. It features DX11 and can be brutally demanding on graphics cards, especially with eye candy turned up. With a resolution of 2560 x 1600, 8X MSAA, 16X Aniso, and all settings on high, we used FRAPS to monitor frame rates as we played through a chase scene within the game that featured snow, trees, gunfire, and explosions.


Even at high resolutions, Bad Company 2 was playable with every setting maxed out. Here we find Gigabyte's Super Overclock in the lead with an average frame rate of 36.2 FPS, followed closely by the HIS Turbo X and MSI Lightning at 35.9 and 35.3 FPS respectively.

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Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2
DX10 Gaming Performance


Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March 2010, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called The Dark Tower.  The test results shown here were run at a 2560 x 1600 resolution and with all settings at their maximum level.


With an extremely high resolution and equally demanding display settings, Just Cause 2 proved to be an exigent game for these videocards. With that said, there were no surprises in the performance results. The Super Overclock hit the highest average frames per second, followed by the Turbo X and the Lightning. Compared to the stock version, Gigabyte's card was about 6% faster.

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Dirt 2

Dirt 2
DX11 Gaming Performance


Dirt 2

Dirt 2 was released in September 2009 and provides a sequel to the original Colin McRae: Dirt racing game. Codemasters delayed the PC version of Dirt 2 so that they could enhance their Ego engine with DirectX 11 effects. The engine displays certain bleeding-edge rendering technologies like hardware-driven tessellation, which is used for a more detailed audience, tessellated clot as well as a more realistic water that has lifelike ripples, waves and splash effects. DX11 also affords the game more impressive post-rendering motion blur, filtered soft shadows and lighting effects. Dirt 2 is also a solid benchmark for multi-core processors since DX11 is designed to take advantage of multi-threaded system architectures.


Even with maximum settings chosen, we still pull smooth frame rates with these 5870 graphics cards. Here we find a 2% difference between the Super Overclock and the next fastest card, the Turbo X. The performance delta between Gigabyte's product and the stock card is more pronounced, at 10%.

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S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat

S. T. A. L. K. E. R. - Call of Pripyat
DX11 Gaming Performance


S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

Call of Pripyat is the third game in the STALKER series and throws in DX11 to the mix. This benchmark is based on one of the locations found within the latest game. Testing includes four stages and utilizes various weather conditions, as well as different time of day settings. It offers a number of presets and options, including multiple versions of DirectX, resolutions, antialiasing, etc. We conducted our testing with DX11 enabled, 2560x1600 resolution, and all options set to their maximum levels.


A quick look at the results show that these are definitely not playable frame rates. But our goal was to stress these cards as much as possible to measure performance, so we cranked up every setting this particular benchmark offered. And at this point in the review, you know which card tallied the highest FPS. Although. the large difference in performance between the overclocked models and reference card was surprising.

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Unigine Heaven 2.0

Unigine Heaven v2.0 Benchmark
Synthetic DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmark v2.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark, when run in DX11 mode, also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), and it also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.


At a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and all the eye candy turned up, this benchmark turned into a slide show. Consequently, we turned down anti-aliasing from 8X to 4X and were able to complete our testing while pushing the 5870's to the limit. Unigine Heaven results reveal all three overclocked cards perform very similarly, with less than one FPS separating their scores. We logged a 28% difference in performance between the Super Overclock and reference cards.

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Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum
DX10 Gaming Performance


Batmat:Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a third-person action game developed by Rocksteady and is arguably the best comic book videogame of all time. Cast as the Dark Knight, you track down the Joker and bring him back to Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. However, the Joker escapes and takes over the asylum filled with hundreds of villains, which you must battle in this dark and creepy world. Gameplay consists of fist fighting, attacking from the shadows, and exploration. We tested the game using the built in benchmark at 2560x1600 with no anti-aliasing, PhysX off, and every graphical options set to their maximum values.


We found that Batman was completely playable with maximum settings using a 30 inch monitor. And it also proved to be a strong point Gigabyte's Super Overclock HD 5870. With an average FPS of 111, it was 11% faster than the reference card. Again, the Turbo X finished behind it by a few FPS and MSI's Lighting came in third.

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FarCry 2

FarCry 2
DX10 Gaming Performance


FarCry 2

Like the original, FarCry 2 is one of the more visually impressive games to be released on the PC to date.  Courtesy of the Dunia game engine developed by Ubisoft, FarCry 2's game-play is enhanced by advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, high resolution textures, complex shaders, realistic dynamic lighting, and motion-captured animations.  We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a fully patched version of FarCry 2, using one of the built-in demo runs recorded in the Ranch Map.  The test results shown here were run at a 2560 x 1600 resolution with 8X AA enabled.


Another benchmark and yet another victory for Gigabyte's Super Overclock, albeit a small one. It just edged out the Turbo X in both average and minimum frame rates. Also, the Super Overclock displayed a 24% increase in performance over the reference HD 5870.

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H.A.W.X.

H. A. W. X.
DX10 Gaming Performance


H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. is an aerial warfare video game that takes place during the time of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter.  Players have the opportunity to take the throttle of over 50 famous aircrafts in both solo and 4-player co-op missions, and take them over real world locations and cities in photo-realistic environments created with the best commercial satellite data provided by GeoEye.  We used the built-in performance test at 2560x1600 with all quality settings set to their highest values, and utilizing DX10.1


HAWX has been around for quite some time, but it still provides a good platform for testing the latest cards. We find that all three factory overclocked  cards recorded identical frames per second, and showed a 12% improvement over stock. Its worth noting, this is the only benchmark we ran that Gigabyte's Super Overclock was not able to distance itself from the other two cards.

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking HD 5870 Videocards
Getting out what you put into it

Overclocking is not an exact science. For example, every GPU is different and just because your friend's HD 5870 hit 1000 MHz doesn't mean that yours will, even if using the same settings. Many factors can influence what a graphics card is capable of, including complementary components like power supply and cooling. Additionally, user experience comes into play while attempting to find a stable overclock. 


We expect the type of consumers interested in these products to get the most out of their investment. While it may seem outrageous for some, raising the frequencies on pre-overclocked cards could land you even more performance than already available. For this testing, made use of the overclocking utilities provided with the cards, except for the Turbo X which did not offer one. Instead, we brought up CCC and raised core clock there.

It seems Gigabyte conducted the most aggressive binning process in finding the GPU's with the most overclocking headroom. We were able to push the Super Overclock to a frequency of 1034 MHz, which is an additional 9% over its default speed. And once we finished with the Afterburner mod, the Lightning was able to hit 965 MHz. Admittedly, we expected more headroom from MSI's top card, considering the upgraded 8-pin power connectors and enlarged PCB design. At this point, we can only assume that extreme cooling will be able to unleash the overclocking potential of this product. Since the Turbo X was limited by CCC, it only reached 920 MHz. Until a third party utility us to modify the settings on the Turbo X, that is the highest we can go.
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Power Consumption

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

And finally, throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems consumed using a power meter. Our goal was to give you all an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics card alone.

With a higher core clock, Gigabyte's Super Overclock 5870 used the most power in our tests (413W load / 266W idle, total system power). Both the the Lightning and Turbo V cards displayed similar usage levels. For additional comparison, we included the stock HD 5870 results and found the overclocked cards increased required about 7 to 10% more power under load conditions.

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Conclusion

Performance Summary: Before running a single benchmark, it was easy to postulate the outcome of our testing. Now that the scores are in, Gigabyte's Super Overclock has established itself as the undisputed performance leader. It consistently racked up the highest scores in every benchmark we ran, except for Tom Clancy's HAWX, where it tied with the Turbo X and Lightning graphics cards. The additional graphics processing power and memory speed made a noticeable difference. We also dig the fact that Gigabyte's Super Overclock lived up to its name by achieving a speed of 1034 MHz, the highest overclock of the group.

Although the HIS Turbo X and MSI Lightning trailed in almost every benchmark we conducted, we have to underscore that the difference in performance was minimal at best. Will you be able to detect the variance between 34 FPS and 36 FPS during game play? Of course not. All three cards scream, and they do provide a measurable upgrade from the HD 5870 in stock form. Although their bundled game is appreciated, we wish HIS would bump their warranty coverage up to 3 years, in order to match the the industry standard. Also, we were let down by the Lightning's overclocking headroom, especially with the attention that MSI put into it in that regard. The MSI card's custom PCB, top quality components, and two 8-pin PCIe power connectors should have put the Lightning in a league of its own, but we did not see that.

The Recommendation:  We know these cards are fast and they all cost a premium over stock cards but you should also consider a few options. First, let's look at different models available within the HD 5870 family. They can be divided into three general groups: reference design cards, overclocked variants, and 2GB models. Stock 5870's are plenty fast and can be had for under $400 at various retailers. Although you can purchase one and overclock it on your own, higher frequencies are not guaranteed (nor supported under warranty), whereas these three Super Overclock, Turbo X, and Lightning models are binned and tested at their given speeds. Also take into consideration the factory overclocked cards in this article command a 25% price premium over the base model, while providing a 11% to 16% performance increase on average.

Next, let's examine the wide range of overclocked 5870's available at the market. There are several to choose from, but unfortunately, we could not get a hold of more for this roundup. Sapphire and XFX currently offer 875 MHz models, while Powercolor just released the PCS++ clocked at 950 MHz. Prices will vary but just remember that it usually is directly proportional to clock speed, since the higher you go in frequency, generally the fewer number of cards will yield that target speed.

Another choice available to you comes in the form of the 5870 with 2GB of memory installed, instead of 1GB. These niche products specifically cater to multi-monitor Eyefinity users, whose systems can utilize the added frame buffer memory. Eyefinity 6 models feature 850 MHz core clocks like the reference cards, but also sport six mini-DisplayPort connections, with 2GB of on-board memory. Our testing showed that on a single display, you would be hard pressed to see any performance gains comparing 1GB and 2GB 5870's.     


Gigabyte Super Overclock HD 5870 - The top card by a hair.

So which HD 5870 would we choose for our next build? From a performance perspective, the choice is easy. Enthusiasts consider the overall muscle of a product above all, followed by cost, design, and accessories. And that's why the Super Overclock is the logical selection. As the testing showed, it finished first in 10 of the 11 performance benchmarks we conducted, and is the most powerful HD 5870 available on the market. No need to search for a 5870 with higher clocks because there isn't one, at least currently.

Every card we looked at in this article will cost you about $479 - $499. Yes, the asking price is steep but that's the norm for a high end product, and especially true when we're talking about premium graphics cards. Also realize the Super Overclock costs about as much as a GTX 480. But judging by the 16% performance advantage it held over the reference 5870, it should compete more closely with NVIDIA's top card at roughly the same price point. Taking everything into consideration,if you are in the market for the best performing single Radeon powered video card money can buy, we highly recommend the Super Overclock HD 5870 from Gigabyte, with the HIS and MSI offerings here rolling up a close second.  

     
  • Dominating Performance
  • Superior Overclocking Ability
  • Useful OC Software
  • Relatively Expensive


MSI HD 5870 Lightning and
HIS Radeon HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo X


     
  • Top-Shelf Performance
  • Some Additional Overclocking Ability
  • Relatively Expensive


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