Gigabyte HD7870 Overclock Review (Windforce 3X)

Today we are looking at the latest card from Gigabyte, the HD7870 Overclock Edition which is supplied with a custom cooler, comprising not two, but three fans. This is the first custom cooled HD7870 we have looked at since the launch of the reference card on March 5th. Gigabyte claim the card is almost silent thanks to a proprietary ‘anti turbulence’ fan design.

There are certainly no shortage of buzzwords in the graphics sector from all the leading manufacturers. Gigabyte are promoting their ‘Windforce 3X’ cooling solution which is a triple fan solution with patented anti turbulence inclined fans and twin copper heat pipes. We already tested the reference HD7870 and our results highlighted that it didn’t produce a significant amount of heat.
Gigabyte have opted for this hardcore fan design clearly to try and reduce noise emissions to a minimum. They say their ‘Triangle Cool’ Technology (another patent pending) ensures that heat is dissipated as quickly as possible.

Product AMD HD7970 AMD HD7950 Gigabyte HD7870 Overclock Edition
AMD HD7850
Core Clock speed 925mhz 800mhz 1000mhz (1,100mhz) 860mhz
Transistors 4.31 billion 4.31 billion 2.8 billion 2.8 billion
Stream Processors 2,048 1,792 1,280 1,024
Compute Performance 3.79 TFLOPS 2.87 TFLOPS 2.56 TFLOPS 1.76 TFLOPS
Texture Units 128 112 80 64
Texture Fillrate 118.4 GT/s 89.6 GT/s 80 GT/s 55.0 GT/s
ROPs 32 32 32 32
Pixel Fillrate 29.6 GP/s 25.6 GP/s 32.0 GP/s 27.52 GP/s
Z/Stencil 128 128 128 128
Memory Type 3GB GDDR5 3GB GDDR5 2GB GDDR5 2GB GDDR5
Memory Clock 1,375mhz 1,250mhz 1,200mhz 1,200mhz
Memory Data Rate 5.5 GBps 5.0 Gbps 4.8 Gbps 4.8 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 264 GB/s 240 GB/s 153.6 GB/s 153.6 GB/s
Gigabyte have increased the core clock speed from 1,000mhz to 1,100mhz. A significant increase.

Our review sample didn’t ship in a retail box, but Gigabyte sent us over official artwork as shown above. They seem to be focusing on a neon style ‘eye’ for the front image, which is unusual but surprisingly effective.

Gigabyte include a driver disc, Crossfire connector a quick installation guide, and a power converter cable.

The Gigabyte HD7870 Overclock Edition is built around a blue PCB, and the massive 3 fan cooler is longer than the PCB underneath. The fans look black from a distance, but they semi transparent. The cooler is all made from durable plastic. Our reference card was built around a black PCB.

The card is Crossfire capable in 2 way configurations. If you want 3 or 4 way Crossfire you need to budget for a 79xx series card.

The card is a dual slot design with a full sized DVI and HDMI port and two mini DisplayPort connectors. It is Eyefinity capable. This card can simultaneously output multiple, independent audio streams from the HDMI and mini Displayport connectors at the rear of the card.

The Gigabyte board adheres to the reference AMD specifications, requiring two 6 pin PCI E power connectors.

The cooler is formed around two very thick copper heatpipes which run along the length of the card as shown above, into aluminum fins on either side of the copper base. The board uses 2GB of Hynix GDDR5 memory.

A basic overview of the hardware which we discussed earlier in the review. The Pitcairn GPU is manufactured on 28nm technology and this specific card features 32 ROPS and 2GB of GDDR5 memory which is connected via a 256 bit memory interface. The core clock is increased from 1,000mhz to 1,100mhz and the memory 1,200mhz (4.8Gbps effective). The card has 1,280 shaders.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit Kitguru.net as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.




To test today we are using our long standing Core i7 970 system, which is overclocked. We have a variety of hardware benchmarked on this system within the last couple of months which will make for an interesting market comparison.
Main Test System:
Processor
: Core i7 970 @ 4.6ghz
Graphics: Gigabyte HD7870 OC Edition
Cooling: Coolit Vantage
Motherboard: MSI X58A-GD65
Chassis: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Memory: 6GB ADATA @ 2133mhz 9-10-9-32
Storage: Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB Gen 2 SSD (Storage) / Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB (OS boot)

Comparison Cards:
MSI R7970 Lightning Edition
HD7970
HD7950
HD7870
HD7850
HD6990 (880 core)
HD6970
HD6950
HD6870
Sapphire HD7770 1GHZ OC Edition
XFX HD7770 Black Edition S CFx
HD7770 CFx
HD7770
Sapphire HD7750 Ultimate Edition
HD6790
HD6770
HD6670
GTX590 SLi
GTX590
GTX580 SLi
GTX580
GTX570
Monitors: Dell U3011
Software:
Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
FurMark
Games:
HomeFront
Alien V Predator
Dead Island
Tom Clancy HAWX 2
Resident Evil 5
Far Cry 2
F1 2011
Total War: Shogun 2
All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform generally under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests games across five closely matched runs and then average out the results to get an accurate median figure. If we use scripted benchmarks, they are mentioned on the relevant page.
Some game descriptions are edited from Wikipedia.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
We use the following settings: 1920×1080 resolution. Anti Aliasing off. Anisotrophy 4, Tessellation normal. Shaders High. Stereo 3D disabled. API: Direct X 11.


The overclock helps push the HD7870 right up to the same performance level as two HD7770′s in Crossfire.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.


The overclock translates to just over 1,200 points more than the reference solution and gives the Gigabyte card enough power to drive past the HD7770 1GHZ in Crossfire.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.


Great performance, around 200 points less than the overclocked XFX HD7770 Black Edition cards in Crossfire.
HQV Benchmark 2.0 is an updated version of the original tool and it consists of various video clips and test patterns which are designed to evalute motion correction, de-interlacing, decoding, noise reduction, detail enhancement and film cadence detection.
There are two versions of the program, standard definition on DVD and high definition on Bluray. As our audience will be concentrating on HD content so will we.
This has a total of 39 video tests which is increased from 23 in the original and the scoring is also up from a total of 130 to 210. As hardware and software gets more complicated, the software has been tuned to make sure we can thoroughly maximise our analysis.
Read our initial analysis over here

Gigabyte HD7870 Overclock
Dial
4
Dial with static pattern 5
Gray Bars 5
Violin 5
Stadium 2:2 5
Stadium 3:2 5
Horizontal Text Scroll 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5
Transition to 3:2 Lock 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 0
2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCAM Video
5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video
5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FOS Vari-Speed
5
5:5 FPS Animation
5
6:4 12 FPS Animation
5
8:7 8 FPS Animation
5
Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)
5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)
5
Random Noise: Sailboat
5
Random Noise: Flower
5
Random Noise: Sunrise
5
Random Noise: Harbour Night
5
Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Text Pattern/ Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Luminance Frequency Bands
5
Chrominance Frequency Bands
5
Vanishing Text 5
Resolution Enhancement
15
Theme Park
5
Driftwood 5
Ferris Wheel
5
Skin Tones
7
Total 196
A score of 196 points is class leading right now, the ideal solution for high definition media playback on a big screen.
F1 2011 is the newest Direct X 11 racing game from industry pioneers CodeMasters. The 2011 Formula One season is the 62nd FIA Formula One season. The original calendar consisted of twenty rounds, including the inaugural running of the Indian Grand Prix before the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Pirelli returns to the sport as tyre supplier for all teams, taking over from Bridgestone. Red Bull Racing are the reigning Constructor’s Champions. Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel is the defending Drivers’ Champion, one of five World Champions appearing on the grid.


A great game and one that plays well on a varied cross section of AMD discrete hardware. The Gigabyte HD7870 OC Edition averages 72 frames per second.
Homefront’s PC version was developed by Digital Extremes, a Canadian developer responsible for numerous Unreal Tournament games and Bioshock ports. It received mixed reports, although Kitguru really likes the single player aspect of this title. The engine isn’t the most demanding on the market, but it requires decent partnering hardware for solid frame rates at 1080p.


Perfectly smooth performance throughout, maintaining an average frame rate over 60, and dropping to 45 fps a few times during more intensive sections of the environment.
Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today.
To test the cards we used a 1080p resolution with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occulsion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on. We use this with most of our graphics card testing so cards are comparable throughout reviews.

This Direct X 11 engine favours AMD hardware and the overclock allows the Gigabyte HD7870 to outperform the reference clocked GTX580 by 3 frames per second.
Dead Island is a first person horror action-adventure video game developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows. It is centered on the challenge of survival on a zombie-infested open world island with a major emphasis on melee combat. It is rather good fun, for a short while, but it becomes repetitive.


The results are impressive, only 8 frames per second slower than the more expensive HD7950.
Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. After the events of the first game, the H.A.W.X squadron is sent to Middle East, where a high level of violence is being registered, and the appearance of various insurgents leaders in various hotspots. The team also has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Russian nuclear weapons. The player will be controlling three groups: one American (Hunter), one British (Munro) and one Russian (Sokov), each with its own pilots and supporting characters. There will also be references to other characters in the Tom Clancy universe.
We are testing in full DX11 mode with all settings to maximum.

The Gigabyte Overclocked HD7870 card performs at almost identical levels to the bigger reference clocked HD7950, averaging 107 frames per second.
Resident Evil 5, known in Japan as Biohazard 5, is a survival horror third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on March 5, 2009 in Japan and on March 13, 2009 in North America and Europe for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A Windows version of the game was released on September 15, 2009 in North America, September 17 in Japan and September 18 in Europe. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Within its first three weeks of release, the game sold over 2 million units worldwide and became the best-selling game of the franchise in the United Kingdom. As of December, 2009, Resident Evil 5 has sold 5.3 million copies worldwide since launch, becoming the best selling Resident Evil game ever made.


Again, very close to the HD7950, but managing to outperform the more expensive card, by a couple of frames per second.
Far Cry 2 (commonly abbreviated as “FC2 or “fc2″) is an open-ended first-person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released on October 21, 2008 in North America and on October 23, 2008 in Europe and Australia. It was made available on Steam on October 22, 2008. Crytek, the developers of the original game, were not involved in the development of Far Cry 2.
Ubisoft has marketed Far Cry 2 as the true sequel to Far Cry, though the sequel has very few noticeable similarities to the original game. Instead, it features completely new characters and setting, as well as a new style of gameplay that allows the player greater freedom to explore different African landscapes such as deserts, jungles, and savannas. The game takes place in a modern-day East African nation in a state of anarchy and civil war. The player takes control of a mercenary on a lengthy journey to locate and assassinate “The Jackal,” a notorious arms dealer.
Far Cry 2 is still a popular game and the open world environment can be taxing on even the latest hardware available today.
Settings: 1920×1200, D3D10, Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(8x), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Ultra High), Vegetation(Very High), Shading(Ultra High), Terrain(Ultra High), Geometry(Ultra High), Post FX(High), Texture(Ultra High), Shadow(Ultra High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High).

Another game which runs well on Nvidia hardware, highlighted by the excellent GTX580 performance. The Gigabyte HD7870 Overclock Edition outperforms the Crossfired HD7770 cards at reference clocks, by a single frame per second. It falls in 2 frames per second behind the reference clocked HD7950.
Shogun 2 is set in 16th-century feudal Japan, in the aftermath of the Ōnin War. The country is fractured into rival clans led by local warlords, each fighting for control. The player takes on the role of one of these warlords, with the goal of dominating other factions and claiming his rule over Japan. The standard edition of the game will feature a total of eight factions (plus a ninth faction for the tutorial), each with a unique starting position and different political and military strengths.
We are using the built in benchmark which is available via the STEAM client for this game.



Shogun 2 is a demanding Direct X 11 title, especially at 1080p. Gigabytes HD7870 OC Edition has no problem at either setting, generating slightly more frames per second than the reference clocked HD7950.
We have changed our method of measuring noise levels. We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. We are using a heatpipe based passive power supply and an Intel SSD to keep noise levels to a minimum. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests.
Ambient noise in the room is around 20-25dBa. We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the closed chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation.
Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA - High Quality Computer fan
40dBA - A Bubbling Brook, or a Refridgerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum

Gigabyte have succeeded in creating one of the quietest performance cards we have tested in the last year. The 3 fans hardly spin at all, maintaining very low noise emissions, even when gaming. The fans are audible when dealing with the synthetic Furmark stress test, but it is still quiet.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.
Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test. All fan settings were left on automatic.


48c when gaming is incredible, 17c cooler than our reference card. When primed in Furmark, this rises to 53c. The three fan cooler is extremely effective regardless of the demand placed on the core.
To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. We measure results while gaming in Crysis Warhead and record the results.
In such an energy aware climate, AMD are making a big deal out of their new ‘ZeroCore Power’ technology. Many solutions today use power gating, clock gating and memory compression to reduce idle power requirements, but ZeroCore power technology can completely power down the core GPU while the rest of the system remains active.

Power consumption hasn’t risen, even with three fans and the overclocked configuration.
For the overclocking today, we are using Catalyst Control Center.


We managed to push the core to 1,230mhz which is an additional overclock of 130mhz. The memory seemed limited to 1,275mhz (5.1Gbps effective), translating to only a 6.3% increase.


The additional core and memory overclock generated another 600 points in 3DMark 11, pushing the card past the overclocked XFX HD7770 cards in a Crossfire configuration.
When AMD released their reference Pitcairn HD7850 and HD7870 early March, I was really impressed with the range. The price point for the HD7870 is around the £270-£280 inc vat mark, meaning it will target a wide audience of enthusiast gamers who don’t want to fork out the extra money for the HD7950 or HD7970. Both of these cards are really expensive … around £355 for the HD7950 and £470 for the HD7970.
Gigabyte’s HD7870 Overclock Edition is a memorable graphics card, particularly for the incredibly low noise emissions. The engineers deliberately opted for a triple fan cooler so they could spin each of the fans as slowly as possible, and the design really does deliver the goods.
When gaming in a moderately warm room, the card hovered just under 50c which is 17c better than the reference cooler.
It may seem like overkill, but for a media center with a primary focus on gaming, this Gigabyte card would make an excellent first choice. The overclocked core clock allows this HD7870 to perform at a level close to the more expensive HD7950 in the majority of games.
Pricing in the United Kingdom has yet to be confirmed, but we would expect this card to demand a small premium over the reference card. Gigabyte need to keep the price below £299 inc vat however, or it will be getting periously close to the least expensive HD7950′s. OCUK for instance have an offer right now for the HIS HD7950 at £335.99.
If you can find this card for under £270 inc vat, then we reckon you should snap one up, immediately.
Pros:
  • Excellent performance.
  • Almost silent.
  • cooler maintains a <50c threshold when gaming.
  • additional headroom for manual overclocking.
Cons:
  • The semi translucent black plastic might not appeal to some.
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