Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB GHz Edition (GV-R787OC-2GD) Video Card

HD7870 Profile View

Let me start off by saying that I had a bad experience with an ATI based video card many years ago.  I made the switch to NVIDIA and never thought about giving ATI/AMD another chance.  When I was offered the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870 2GB GHz Edition video card for review, I was apprehensive.  Gigabyte has a reputation for making great motherboards.  I have heard that the AMD Radeon HD graphics cards had become much more stable and that the more well-known manufacturers had increased the quality of the components from when I last tried them, so could my mind be changed to support AMD Radeon cards after a bad experience years ago?  It's hard to say, but I was willing to give it an honest look to see how it would do on my setup.

Gigabyte HD7870 Front

The Gigabyte HD7870 features three ultra quiet fans with a blade diameter of 76mm (7.6cm), more commonly called 80mm fans, cooling the heatsinks and three 8mm heat pipes.  The HD7870 has a black color scheme that should look good in virtually any system.  The fan shroud doesn't have any markings but does have a high gloss finish.  This card currently sells for around $189.99 at Newegg under the part number GV-R787OC-2GD.  While the sample we received is an OEM white box, purchasing this at retail will not only will you get a pretty box, but a CD with software, two power adapter cables, a Cross-Fire bridge, and a 3 year warranty.

HD7870 Video Connections

Here we can see the video connectors for the Gigabyte HD7870 video card. From the left, it has a pair of mini-Display Port, HDMI and a DVI-I.  Above the video connectors is a vented expansion port cover as this card will take up two expansion slots.

HD7870 Back of Card

 Not much is expected to be on the back of the video card, we can see a few of the mounting screws for the heat sink but nothing else that would get anybody excited.  The blue PCB is 9.5" in length, and should fit in almost every case; however the heatsink extends past the PCB taking the total length necessary for installation to 10.25".  Gigabyte states the dimensions of the card are 42.5mm x 280mm x 134mm(H x L x W).  With one CrossFire connection, it'll support two cards in CrossFire mode.

HD7870 Top Edge

The top edge of the card has a nice metal support arm that has the Gigabyte name on it; this is a great place for it as it'll be easily seen once it is installed in the case.  On the right edge there are two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors, for the HD7870, Gigabyte recommends a minimum power supply of 500W. 

HD7870 Heatsink

Gigabyte's Windforce 3x with Triangle Cool technology keeps the card running cool.  This system has the fins on the heatsink inclined to reduce air turbulence, and to help with heat.  The Triangle Cool technology refers to the combination of angled heatsink fins, and a clip module.  Gigabyte says this increases the efficiency of heat dissipation and makes the air flow more efficient.  For more information you can check out Gigabyte's Windforce 3x microsite.

Gigaybte HD7870 Key Features

Chipset Gigabyte Radeon HD 7870
Digital max resolution 2560 x 1600
Analog max resolution 2048 x 1536
Process Technology 28 nm
PCB Form ATX
Core Clock 1100 Mhz
Memory Clock 4800 MHz
Memory Size 2 GB
Memory Bus 256 bit
Card Bus PCI-E 3.0
Memory Type GDDR5
DirectX 11.1
OpenGL 4.2
Multi-view 4
I/O HDMI * 1 DVI-I * 1 Mini DisplayPort * 2
Card size H= 42.5mm, L=280 mm, W=134 mm

 

An AMD 7870 reference card comes clocked at 1,000MHz core speed and 1,200MHz memory speed.  While the Gigabyte HD7870 comes clocked at 1,100MHz core speed, and 1,200MHz memory speed.  This comes to a 10% factory overclock on the core.  Purchasing a video card based on the Radeon reference design, such as the PowerCooler AX7870, currently selling for $164.99 after a $25 rebate; a $45 difference in costs, for a 10% factory overclock, and a triple fan cooling system.

Test System

Before taking a look at the benchmarks, let's take a look at the test system that was used.  All testing was done with a fresh install of Windows 8 Pro x64, no additional software was running during the tests.

Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:

Intel Z77/LGA1155 Platform

Z77X-UP5 TH CPUZ Screens

The Intel Z77 system used to test the video cards was using the Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 TH motherboard, with the F11 BIOS from 09/03/2012.  Installed for memory was 16GB Kingston Hyper-X Blue 1866MHz, running at the rated speed with 9-11-9-27 2T timings.    An Intel 520 series 180GB SSD was used for the OS and benchmarks.  Testing was completed in a room with an ambient temperature of 67F.

The Intel Z77 Test System

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor Intel Core i5-3570K  Click Here
Motherboard Gigabyte Z77X-UP5-TH  
Memory 16GB Kingston Blue 1866MHz  Click Here
SSD Intel 520series 180GB  Click Here
Cooling Zalman CNPS9900 MAX  Click Here
Power Supply Lepa G650-MAS  Click Here
Operating System Windows 8 Pro 64-Bit  Click Here

 

Gigabyte HD7870 GPU-Z Information:

HD7870 GPUZ Screen

HD7870 GPUZ Sensors Idle

GPU-Z is reporting that while the HD7870 is idle, the card is put into a power saving mode which downclocks the card.  While the card is clocked at 1,100MHz. in power saving mode it is at 300MHz, which in turn lowers the temperature down to 26C.  Not to mention the power used for the card is greatly lowered.

HD7870 GPUZ Load

Once the card is pushed to being fully loaded, things are different.  Here everything is as it should be, the core clocked goes from 300MHz to 1,100MHz.  Memory clock jumps from 150MHz to 1,200MHz.  Temperature and power usage jumps as well.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Gets ‘Epicenter’ Multiplayer Disaster Map in Aftermath DLC

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Electronics Arts.  It is several years old being released in October 2011, and support both DirectX 10 and 11.  With the Frostbite 2 engine it can present the destruction of buildings and the environment very realistically.   Setting the video quality to Ultra should push the test cards. 

HD7870 Battlefield 3 Configuration

As there is no pre-determined benchmark for Battlefield 3, we will be playing the first mission, Operation Swordbreaker for two minutes.  In order to get some explosions, and shooting, FRAPS will be started when we leave the garage, through that portion of the mission.

HD7870 Battlefield 3 FPS

Benchmark Results:  Both cards seem to be near equal when looking at the maximum framerate.  However, the average framerate shows a different story.  The HD7870 easily surpasses the GTX 560Ti; by almost 38%.  Even the minimum framerate got close to a 53% bost in performance. 

Bioshock: Infinite

First ‘BioShock Infinite’ DLC Released along with Burial at Sea Trailer

Bioshock: Infinite is another first-person shooter, this time it was developed by Irrational Games.  Released in March, 2013 it uses a modified Unreal 3 engine.  The developers included a nice little built-in benchmark system.  This makes it a prime candidate for an apples to apples comparison.  When starting up the benchmark, we will be using option 3, the Ultra DirectX 11 settings.  In addition, we will be running at a resolution of 1920x1080.HD7870 Bioshock Infinite FPS

 

Benchmark Results:  As expected, the Gigabyte HD7870 outperformed the ASUS GTX 560Ti.  Taking a close look at the average FPS, a 48% performance difference between the two averages is pretty significant.

FarCry 3

Far Cry 3 Co-Op Mode Trailer Released!

FarCry 3 is a popular first-person shooter developed by Ubisoft.  Being released in December 2012 using the Dunia Engine 2, which is based on the CryEngine.  There is no built-in benchmarking utility, so using one of the built-in missions we will attempt to keep it as similar across the tests.  Setting the graphics quality to Ultra we begin the testing.

Gigabyte HD7870 FarCry 3 Video

Gigabyte HD7870 FarCry 3 Video Quality

 At Ultra settings the FarCry 3 looks incredible, the Dunia engine pushes most mid-level cards, and at these settings both cards are able to play the game very smoothly.

 HD7870 FarCry 3 FPS

Benchmark Results:  With a 56% performance boost, the ASUS GTX 560Ti can't match the Gigabyte HD7870.  This is to be expected though, comparing a card that is a generation behind the other, and with half the memory.

Crysis 3

Crysis 3 – 7 Wonders Episode 4 ‘Typhoon’ Super High Tech Gun Trailer

Crysis 3 is the last game we will be testing.  Like the others, it is a first-person shooter developed by Crytek, using their CryEngine 3.  Released in February 2013, it is well known to make even powerful system choke.  It has probably the highest graphics requirements of any game available today.  Unfortunately, Crytek didn't include a standardized benchmark with Crysis 3.  While the enemies will move about on their own, we will attempt to keep the same testing process for each test.

Gigabyte HD7870 Crysis 3 Graphics

HD7870 Crysis 3 Graphics Advanced Settings

While the other tests, we were able to use Ultra settings, Crysis 3 was pretty close to being unplayable on both of these cards at that setting.  As such, the graphics were backed down to the Medium settings so it would be playable. 

 HD7870 Crysis 3 Medium Graphics

 

Benchmark Results:  Seems to be pretty normal, a 65% performance boost on Crysis 3 looks to make the game a lot nicer to look at and much smoother.  Crysis 3 is still king at making video cards cry.

3DMark 2013

3DMark Trailer Shows Future of DirectX 11 Games – Fire Strike Demo

3DMark 2013 has several preset benchmarks, however the most demanding is Fire Strike.  Fire Strike is a DirectX 11 test that renders detailed graphics in real time.  This makes it the best one to use when testing a gaming system. 

 HD7870 3DMark Ice Storm

Ice Storm is the least intensive benchmark in 3DMark's arsenal.  Not a whole lot different, a 12% performance difference. 

HD7870 3DMark Cloud Gate

Cloud Gate is the next 3DMark test, here the difference gets a little larger, at 15%.  Not as impressive as the game benchmarks, but still double digit performance difference.

HD7870 3DMark Fire Strike

 Here we are again with a huge performance difference.  At close to 65% difference, Fire Strike really makes the cards work for DirectX 11 performance.

Benchmark Results:  If the games you play are only on DirectX 9 or DirectX 10, you can expect to get low double digit performance difference.  DirectX 11 is where the power of the HD7870 shows up, with 65% performance boost over the older GTX 560Ti

Heaven

Unigine Heaven benchmark was first released in October 2009, it is now on the fourth generation of the benchmark.  It is a benchmark that tests DirectX 11, the scores provided are 100% based on the GPU's performance.  Like most benchmarks, it has presets that can be customized for a specific test.  These presets makes it easy to get a good comparison of the results.  In addition to providing the FPS it also monitors the GPU temperature and clock; however that we will not be concerned with at this time.

Gigabyte HD7870 Heaven

With Heaven's presets being able to adjusted, they were set to the Ultra quality, Tesselation to Extreme and Anti-aliasing to x8. 

 HD7870 Heaven Overall Score

HD7870 Heaven FPS

Benchmark Results:  A 40% better overall score on the HD7870 is impressive for a new card that could be purchased at the same price point the other was originally. 

Temperature and Power Consumption

HD7870 GPUZ Load

When sitting in an enclosed case, the temperature of a card can impact the performance.  Let's spend a few minutes looking at how hot the HD7870 got.

  Asus GTX560Ti Gigabyte HD7870
Idle: 43C 26C
Load: 58C 52C
Difference: 15C 26C

 Taking a quick look at the temperature readings, we can see the HD7870 heats up quite a bit.  While the GTX560Ti is an older generation, going from idle to load its heat increased by 15C, while the HD7870 increased 26C.  However, the HD7870 was still below the GTX560Ti's maximum temperature of 58C by 6C.  Also, let's not forget to look at the idle temperature, a 17C temperature difference between the two cards is significant.

The temperature of the HD7870 is important because the fan shroud does not force the hot air out of the case, rather it allows it to remain in the case where it needs to escape the system by other means.

Power Consumption

For testing power consumption, a P3 Kill-A-Watt power meter was used.  The idle conditions were achieved by allowing the system to sit idle on the desktop for 30 minutes and took the reading. For the load conditions, 3D Mark 2013, Heaven and Crysis was run and the averaged peak results was tracked.

  ASUS GTX 560Ti Gigabyte HD7870
Idle 121W 80W
Load 227W 211W
Difference 106W 131W

Power Consumption Results: At idle, the Gigabyte HD7870 would idle at 80W and peaked at 211W.  That indicates it uses around 131W of power th the MSI N760 HAWK installed the entire system would idle at 99W and peaked at 345W when gaming. The MSI N760 GAMING peaked at 329W in games, which confirms MSI claim that the MSI N760 HAWK has a 15W higher TDP than the MSI N760 GAMING card as we measured a 16 Watt difference at the wall.

Gigabyte HD7870 Overclocking

HD7870 Castalyst Control Overclocked

Using the Radeon Catalyst Control Center to overclock the HD7870 resulted in a small overclock.  This tool allows overclocking in 5Mhz increments, I found it to be fully stable at 1,205MHz, a 105MHz overclock from the factory settings, and pretty stable at 1,225MHz.  Memory was also overclocked to 1,370MHz vs 1,200MHz factory setting.   The only thing possible was to use the power control settings options and try to adjust it that way.  The overclock was successful by increasing the power by 20%.

Gigabyte HD7870 Overclock 3d Mark

With the HD7870 overclocked, 3D Mark was re-run to see what the performance increase was.  3D Mark had to be run at 1,205MHz, 3DMark would error out when the HD7870 was running any faster than 1,205MHz.  At factory settings, Firestrike received a score of 5283, overclocked it received 5342, almost a 10% performance boost.

Gigabyte HD7870 Overclock Heaven

Pushing the card a little further to 1,225MHz I was still able to run Heaven without any artifacts, any further and the card would start the lock up.  Here the score went from an overall score of 658 to 717.  Once again, a small boost, approximately 9% performance boost at the maximum.  However, I found that at 1,205MHz I received a better score in Heaven, of 733, just over 11% performance boost. 

HD7870 Heaven Overclocked Best Results

Overclocking Results:  Getting double digit performance boost is always a good thing.  While the Core Voltage wasn't able to be adjusted, the simple overclock helps make it so anybody can overclock their card with a little patience.  The Heaven results show that sometimes getting the absolute best overclock doesn't always mean it'll be the best performing.  At 1,205 the card was perfectly stable, however at 1,225 Heaven was able to complete, but not 3DMark.  Lowering the clock allowed both to complete.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

HD7870 Profile View

When I started looking at the HD7870, I was concerned about driver issues.  The last time I looked at an ATI card, there were significant driver issues.  It took several installs to get it to work correctly and many games would have artifacts or other issues.  The drivers for the HD7870 installed without any issues and took a matter of minutes to be back up and running.  This was a good "first" impression.

HD7870 Installed

The HD7870 comes pretty much right to the edge of a standard ATX motherboard, however as previously mentioned the heat sink extends past the PCD by about 1/2".  With the power connectors on the top of the card, there shouldn't be any reason the card won't fit in any case designed for an ATX motherboard.

While running at stock speed, the fans were silent.  No sound meter was available to check the noise level, so just listening for the fans while sitting about 12" away from the cards, I was not able to hear the fans running.  When doing the overclocking tests, I was not able to hear the fans until they spun up to around 60% of their maximum speed.  During stock speed testing, the HD7870 never went above 40% fan speed.

When looking at video cards, many in the same price range will have similar performance.  A two generation old GTX 560Ti currently sells for around $140, a 660Ti for $200+ while a current generation 760Ti goes for $250 and up; the Gigabyte HD7870 sells for around $189.99 after rebate with $2.99 shipping and a 3 year warranty.  Sure some will out perform others, but it won't always be a huge jump.  Something to keep in mind is that for AMD Radeon HD 7870 cards, you also get two free games from AMD's Never Settle Forever promotion. 

Legit Bottom Line:  While the card used to compare the Gigabyte HD7870 is a couple generations old, this shows that the HD7870 is a worthy consideration for an upgrade.  With the performance and stability the HD7870 showed, I have to admit I'm impressed and won't have any issue recommending the Gigabyte HD7870 to people looking for a good, powerful mainstream graphics card.