Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

GIGABYTE HD 6870 Super Overclock Video Card Review

Would you be better served by a feature rich HD 6870 or a plain-Jane HD 6950? The GIGABYTE HD 6870 Super Overclock certainly has features of plenty with an improved three fan cooling solution, factory boosted frequencies and high quality components. Enough to trump a reference Radeon HD 6950 for the money?

Introduction

GIGABYTE is familiar to most PC hardware enthusiasts. Most don’t know however that they were founded in 1986 by a team of eight electronics engineers. At first, they specialized only in motherboard design. In a few short years, they expanded their product lineup to include graphics cards, notebooks, communications equipment, network servers, computer chassis', and bunch of other PC components.

Today we are going to be taking a look at GIGABYTE's ultimate version of the Radeon HD 6870: the GIGABYTE HD 6870 Super Overclock.

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AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series

On October 21, 2010 AMD released a new generation of video cards for the mid-level market. The two new video cards, the Radeon HD 6870 and 6850, are based upon an evolved version of the 5800 series. With this architecture, AMD has managed to improve performance while reducing transistor count and die size. All of this together means more performance with less heat and power.

The AMD Radeon HD 6870 has a core clock speed of 900MHz and 1120 stream processors. There are 32 ROPs and 1GB of GDDR5 on board. The Radeon HD 6870 has its memory clocked at 4.2GHz . Prices have fallen dramatically lately on the Radeon HD 6870. Currently you can find a Radeon HD 6870 for as little as $167.99 after rebate. This represents one hell of a deal being able to get such a powerful video card for under $170.


GIGABYTE HD 6870 Super Overclock

The GIGABYTE HD 6870 Super Overclock is GIGABYTE's elite offering for those looking to pick up an overclocking friendly Radeon HD 6870. GIGABYTE has even started the process for you and boosted the GPU frequency by 50MHz and the memory frequency by 50MHz. This represents a decent boost these days when some companies are labeling video cards "Overclocked" with a mere 10MHz GPU increase and the memory being left a reference frequencies. Kudos to GIGABYTE for giving us higher core and memory frequencies.

GIGABYTE hasn’t stopped there though, GIGABYTE has also made a few other improvements to the HD 6870 Super Overclock. In fact GIGABYTE has a made a secondary site devoted to the Super Overclock brand. There on the HD 6870 Super Overclock page are links going over in detail the features. These include Ultra Durable VGA+ (better components), GPU Gauntlet (cherry picked processors), OC Guru (overclocking utility), Windforce 3X (improved cooling solution), and Voltage Read Points (so you can double check your voltages).

Box Shots

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The front of the box has no gimmicky fantasy character just a black background with huge Super Overclock logo in the middle. On the bottom right are three logos: GPU Gauntlet, Ultra Durable VGA+, and a little graph showing that the performance in 3DMark11 was 11% more than a reference HD 6870. Above those logos is a 3 year warranty logo.

The back of the box goes over each of the video cards features in detail. The left most section goes over the Ultra Durable VGA+: better capacitors, thicker copper in the PCB, high quality memory, ferrite core/metal chokes, and low RDS MOSFETs. The middle section is dedicated to GPU Gauntlet and how cherry picking the GPUs can lead to a more efficient video card.

This leaves the last third of the back to go over the remaining three features. First up OC Guru which is GIGABYTE's own overclocking you utility that not only allows you to adjust the GPU and memory frequencies but also allows you to adjust their voltages. Next up is WindForce 3X (the cooling solution) which promises 14.4% lower temperatures along with "Ultra quiet PWM Fans". The final feature is Voltage Read Points and the promise of them being "Extremely User-friendly". That last part seems like a bit of a stretch to us especially since the picture on the box with the nicely labeled read points are not on the video card but more on that in the next section.

The Video Card Pictures

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The GIGABYTE 6870 Super Overclock has a triple fan cooling solution. It is using what GIGABYTE is calling Windforce technology which basically inclines the fans so that each one points in a different direction in hope of reducing air turbulence. This has one big negative effect though, since none of the air is truly directed out the back of the case it means almost all of the hot air will stay in your case.

There are three heatsink incorporate into the main cooling solution, one for each fan. The left most heatsink is mainly fed by one of the three GPU heat pipes. The center heatisnk is attached to the giant heat spreader that covers the GPU and memory. The right heatsink uses the remaining two GPU heat pipes and it hovers over a fourth auxiliary heatsink for the power circuitry.

All together it is one complex cooling solution. We do however like seeing that they have covered the memory modules and are actively cooling them. Besides our grip with the hot air not being vented out the back of the case the only other complaint we have is that the whole thing is only held on by four bolts around the GPU. This means we had to be careful when handling the video card as not to torque the cooling solution off of the PCB.

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Are you wondering why we are showing you ten open solder points in the pictures above? Well these poorly marked solder points are actually the supposedly "Extremely User-friendly" voltage read points. It is a far cry from what the neatly labeled points looked like on the box. There are ten which only confuses the matter further, since including ground, there should only be five points for the PCI-E, memory, GPU I/O, and GPU Core voltages. To add to it these points are not covered in the included manual and even after reading Voltage Read Point webpage it still a question of which point goes to what. To us this is not extremely user-friendly.

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The back of video card is left uncovered and you can see that only the four bolts around the GPU to hold down the entire main cooling solution. It comes with a manual, a Driver CD, a DVI to HDMI adapter, two 2 4-pin to 6-pin power adapter, a CrossFireX bridge, and a HDMI cable.

Focus

At $219.99 the GIGABYTE HD 6870 Super Overclock is one of the more expensive HD 6870s. It is over $50 more (after including a rebate) than the cheapest HD 6870. In fact for $209.99 after rebate you can buy a HD 6950.

This begs the question is it better to get a feature rich HD 6870, or will you be better served with a HD 6950? So today we are going to be using four video cards in our test. We will include a reference Radeon HD 6870, to see if the GPU and memory frequency boosts add any gameplay advantages. We will also be using the HD 6870’s main competitor the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. Finally we will throw in a reference Radeon HD 6950 to see if the GIGABYTE HD 6870 Super Overclock can actually live up to its price.