With mid-range cards being the bulk of consumer purchases, it's no surprise that almost every AMD add-in partner has their own version (and in some cases, multiple versions) of the Radeon HD 7870. We've taken five of the best custom edition cards from five brands and put them to the test to see which, if any, is deserving of your hard-earned cash.
ASUS' DirectCU II TOP HD 7870 uses a custom PCB and is factory overclocked to 1100MHz on the core with memory up to 5000MHz DDR - these clock speeds are among the highest of the lot. The familiar DirectCU II cooling system comprises of six copper heat pipes in direct contact with the GPU. Two of these heat pipes extend onto the heatsink directly over the GPU, while the other four extend to another elevated heatsink at the far end of the video card, which allows the dual fans to blow all the way across the cooling fins and exhaust heat more efficiently (or at least that's the idea). We'll put the cooler to the test in our temperature testing segment to see if the DirectCU II implementation is any good.
Current street price is listed at S$539.
Gigabyte has factory overclocked its HD 7870 to 1100MHz while leaving memory clockspeeds at the default 4800MHz DDR. The card uses a custom PCB with upgraded capacitors, ferrite chokes, and MOSFETs. It's also the only card in this shootout boasting a triple-fan cooling system - Gigabyte's Windforce 3X. Windforce 3X uses three fans to cool three copper heat pipes connected to three heatsinks, one directly over the GPU and two other elevated heatsinks.
The heatsink directly above the GPU has a unique "Triangle Cool" feature, which consists of a triangular internal structure, with the downward slopes designed to direct airflow from the fans towards the top and bottom of the video card for better heat dissipation.
The entire card is surprisingly slim for a three fan system, and is actually shorter and a bit lighter than the reference design.
The Gigabyte HD 7870 OC retails for S$510.
HIS' HD 7870 is also overclocked to 1100MHz on the core, with memory remaining at the default 4800MHz DDR. It uses the reference PCB design and the cooler is also probably the closest to the AMD reference design.
Like the reference card, HIS makes use of one large fan - although the HIS model is bigger and meaner looking - positioned towards the rear of the card to push air out the back of the case. Do take note that, at 300mm in length, this card is the longest in our shootout, and it might not fit in some of the more compact-sized cases out there. As a comparison, the rest of the cards all measure in at around 250-260mm in length.
The HIS Radeon HD 7870 IceQ Turbo retails for S$530.
MSI overclocks its HD 7870 to 1100MHz, with memory left at the default 4800MHz DDR, similar to Gigabyte and HIS above. The Hawk uses a custom PCB and also utilizes an aluminum backplate for extra protection. Its Twin Frozr IV cooling system utilizes five copper heatpipes connected to an array of cooling fins, with two fans providing plenty of airflow. The Hawk model also adds MSI's GPU Reactor which uses an additional PCB to provide extra voltage filtering to the GPU. It has been placed as close as possible to the GPU to maximize its effect.
The MSI Radeon HD 7870 Hawk currently retails for S$519.
In addition to the Hawk, MSI makes an overclocked Twin Frozr IV model without the GPU Reactor, and with a more modest overclock of 1050MHz (memory is again left at default). This version retails for a very affordable S$479, a full $11 below a reference card's SRP. We'll share with you later in the conclusion why we've highlighted this version in addition to the Hawk which is on test in this article.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 OC is overclocked to 1050MHz at the core with memory left at the default 4800MHz DDR. It uses the reference PCB design, with Sapphire's Dual-X cooling system, which is somewhat similar to both MSI and ASUS, with five copper heatpipes connected to an array of cooling fins, with two fans providing airflow.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 OC currently retails for S$485, making it the most affordable entry in our shootout, despite being the best option the company has. This makes it about $5 cheaper than a typical reference designed card.