Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition Video Card Review
With a factory overclock providing increased performance the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition looks to be a competitive buy for those on a budget. We will be using Battlefield 3 Multiplayer as well as a few other games to see how well this video card performs against a Radeon HD 6970 and GeForce GTX 570.
Sapphire Technology is a well-known company based in Hong Kong, China, and is recognized as the single largest supplier of AMD-based video cards. Since ATI began funneling graphics processors to AiBs in 2001, Sapphire has been at the head of the red-team pack. In addition to video cards , Sapphire also offers a series of motherboards, workstation class video cards, multimedia products such as TV tuners and Digital Photo frames, and mini PCs like the EDGE HD2.
On our test bench today is the Sapphire HD 7870 Overclocked Edition video card.
AMD Radeon HD 7870
AMD introduced its new Radeon HD 7870, code-named "Pitcairn," on March 4th, 2012. Pitcairn follows Tahiti architecture which represents a departure from previous architectures for AMD. It calls the new architecture "Graphics Core Next," or GCN. The Radeon HD 6000 series used AMD's VLIW 4 and 5 architectures. GCN features a smaller die at 28nm, compared to the 40nm process used for the previous generation.
Aside from the process shrink, GCN offers a number of features over previous generation GPUs. One particularly noteworthy feature is "ZeroCore Power." This feature disables unused GPUs (or portions of them) during long idle periods to save power and increase efficiency. This can save energy not only in terms of power consumed by the video card, but it can also lead to decreased heat generation, which can save money in terms of cooling costs.
The Radeon HD 7870 GPU itself is comprised of 2.8 billion transistors packed into 1280 stream processors with a clock speed of 1GHz. There are 80 texture units, 128 Z/stencil units, and 32 ROPs. That is a 14.3% increase in stream processors and 42.9% increase in texture units compared to the Radeon HD 6870. Compared to a Radeon HD 6970 this is 256 stream processors and 16 texture units less, but with the same number of ROP, increased clock speeds, and other optimizations it should still result in more efficient rasterization.
The Radeon HD 7870 is designed to be paired with 2GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus, running at 1200MHz for a 5.0Gbps data rate and a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 153.6GB per second. The typical board power is only 175 Watts which will provide more efficient and lower overall power consumption.
Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition
The Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition comes with effective base clock speed of 1050MHz and the memory set to run at 1250MHz. This is a small factory overclock compared to the reference Radeon HD 7870 design of 1GHz core and 1200MHz memory. The overall increase of 50MHz on the GPU's operating speed and 50MHz increase on the memory should provide improved performance Out-of-Box without the user having to change anything. The Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition is readily available at Newegg for $359.99, and currently has a coupon that comes with it to download Dirt 3 for free, a value of $50.
The Dual-X or Dual Extractor cooling system on the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition is very similar to the Dual-X cooling system outfitted on the Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition but with a few minor changes. The biggest difference is that the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition has four copper heat pipes instead of five. The four copper heat pipes are positioned directly over the GPU to absorb heat which is then transferred evenly across the heat sink. The heat sink has several fins on it which increases the surface area that the copper heat pipes can spread heat to. The heat sink is also elevated off the PCB which helps keep heat off of the board, and allows air to flow freely through the heatsink and off the video card. There is also a small black heat spreader directly touching the PCB around the GPU and the memory to reduce heat in one location. The Dual-X cooling system also features two thin, lightweight fans.
You can read more about the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition's specifications here.
Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition Pictures
The Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition video card arrived in a black and green box with a female soldier motiffe. The front of the box also mentions that the video card has 2GB GDDR5 memory and a factory overclock. The back of the box talks more about features relating to a Radeon HD 7870 and what it supports. There is no mention of Sapphire's TriXX overclocking utility or the video cards operating speed. The Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition came in a bubble wrapped anti-static bag which fits snug in the box which will keep it from bouncing around and being damaged while being transported.
The software bundle was relatively simplistic and contained a quick start guide, and a flyer for registering your product. The box and the website both say that a Driver CD comes with the video card, but we did not have one in this package.
Sapphire usually does an outstanding job of including several accessories that can save users money and did with the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition bundle as well. There is a CrossFireX Bridge, two 6-pin PCIe to Molex power connectors, a DVI to VGA Adapter, and a Mini-DP to DP connector. There is also an HDMI to SL-DVI Adapter and a 1.8 meter high speed HDMI cable.
The design of the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition is relatively simple but elegant. The components are mounted on a blue custom PCB which goes well with the plastic cover. The black cover is somewhat thick but also very light, but despite the light weight it feels very durable and does not flex much under pressure. The top of the video card has a sticker written in silver with the model of the video card "Sapphire HD 7870." You can also see the top of the heat spreader on top of the PCB extending from the GPU. The black cover also houses the two thin fans. On the bottom of the video card are the four copper heat pipes that come off the GPU and extend to different sections of the heat sink.
The rear I/O panel houses a Dual-Link DVI connector, and an HDMI connector. There are also two mini-Display Port adapters and a vent that runs the height of the card where hot air can be exhausted. On the top of the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition are the two 6-pin PCIe power connectors which "require" a 500 watt power supply to run correctly. The Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition measures 10 inches in length, 1.5 inches wide, and 4 and 1/8th inches in height.