The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST - Tahiti LE
Are you looking to buy an AMD Radeon HD 7870 video card? If you are then you've likely noticed that there is no shortage of companies that offer them as Newegg alone has 18 different models to pick from. Most of the cards range between $229 to $249 after rebate and come with Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider game coupons thanks to the AMD Never Settle Reloaded game bundle promotion that is taking place right now.
We noticed that all of the cards that are available with the exception of two are AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition cards, which means that they have clock speeds over 1000MHz. When you are buying a video card and are looking for the best performance it would make sense to look for the ones with the highest core clock speed, but you might be missing out. That is because in recent months, AMD has introduced the Tahiti LE GPU core, which is a neutered version of the same GPU found on the AMD Radeon HD 7950 and 7970 video cards. AMD has allowed video card manufactures to use these new cores in AMD Radeon HD 7870 video cards rather than introducing a new card called the Radeon HD 7930 or something like that. That would have been too easy right? Now you got some Radeon HD 7870 Tahiti LE (TLE) video cards floating around the market, but do gamers really know they are available due to the poor product naming?
|GPU||Radeon HD 7950
|Radeon HD 7870 TLE
|Radeon HD 7870
|GPU codename||Tahiti Pro||Tahiti LE||Pitcairn XT|
|Base GPU Clock (MHz)||800||925||1000|
|Boost Shader Clock (MHz)||925||975||NA|
|GFLOPS (inc. Boost)||3,315||2,995||2,560|
|Memory clock (MHz)||5,000||6,000||4,800|
|Memory bus (bits)||384||256||256|
|Max bandwidth (GB/s)||240||192||153.6|
As you can see from the chart above, the AMD Radeon HD 7870 Tahiti LE video cards have 1536 shader processors, 24 compute units, 96 texture units, and 32 ROPs. The end result here is that it has more of the good stuff and as a result it will be faster than the Pitcairn XT powered AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition cards, but use more power as it has a higher TDP.
We've spent the past week testing out the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST 2GB, which features the 'new' Tahiti LE GPU core. It is available for $249.99 shipped and features a 975MHz core clock with 2GB of GDDR5 memory running at 1500MHz (6.0Gbps). A typical AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card features a 1000MHz core clock and 1200MHz memory clock (4.8Gbps), but we know that doesn't mean much as the cores are entirely different. Which one wins when it comes to gaming performance? That is the question that we set out to answer today to make sure you aren't missing out on a sleeper card that you dismissed because it wasn't an AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition card and you thought it was slow due to just the core clocks.
The PowerColor PCS HS7870 MYST features looks like a typical video card with the usual red/black color scheme, but it uses an all metal fan shroud! It is also triple black, so you have a black PCB, black fan and black fan shroud. The copper heatpipes and chrome PCI bracket help break up the all black and add a needed splash of color.
As you can see from the photo above, the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST use a dual-slot cooler with a single cooling fan located in the middle of the card. The PCB is custom made and features part number LF R19FE version 1.1 on our test sample.
With the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST. video card flipped over you can better see the black. The board measures 266.65mm x 111.2mm x 38mm and as you can tell there is not a back plate. None of the memory chips for the 2GB of GDDR5 memory are located on the back of the card, but they can be seen on the front and they are Elpida branded. The GPU Cooler uses 53mm mounting holes, so you you plan on changing the GPU cooler or adding a water block you easily can.
The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST video card is kept cool by a single 92mm 4-pin PWM cooling fan. We'll talk more about the noise level of this fan later on in this review. The GPU cooler has a SSU shaped direct touch heatpipe design that utilizes a pair of S shaped heatpipes and a single U shaped heatpipe to better transfer the head from the GPU to the aluminum cooling fins of the cooler.
The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST has one CrossFireX interconnect, which means that you can run CrossFire with another card if you wanted to boost performance. This card does not have the 'Dual BIOS Toggle Switch' that is found on the Radeon HD 7900 series cards nor any fan buttons or anything like that.
The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST has a pair of 6-pin PCI Express power connectors located at the end of the video card. PowerColor recommends a 500W or greater power supply for this video card. You can also see the three copper heatpipes that are on the top of the card at this angle. Two of these heatpipes continue on and come out the bottom of the GPU cooler as well.
PowerColor stuck with the AMD Radeon HD 7870 reference design when it comes to the video outputs. You have a pair of mini-DisplayPort 1.2 outputs, a full size HDMI 1.4a output and a dual-link DVI-I output. With full support for 3GHz HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.2 HBR2, this card can easily power 4K monitors. All the video outputs are located on one side of the dual slot card, so the other side of the PCI bracket is just for exhausting the hot air from the GPU.
Let's take a look at the retail packaging and move along to testing!
PowerColor 7870 Myst Retail Box and Bundle
The retail box for the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST video card lists the some of the key features of the card and features a number of colors to get your attention on store shelves. One of the stickers on the card also highlights the fact that this video card comes with a full UEFI vBIOS for full Windows 8 compatibility.
Turning the retail box over, we see even more marketing text that goes into pretty good detail about the features of the card.
After pulling everything out of the box we laid it all out and took a bundle picture for you. When you buy a PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST Edition video card this is everything that comes with it. You get a quick installation guide, drivers CD, a mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter and that is it. When you buy a retail card you also get the AMD Never Settle: Reloaded Bundle right now. That promotion states that if you purchase any qualifying Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition or 7850 series GPU you will receive an email within 7-10 business days with a download code for a free download of "Bioshock Infinite" and "Tomb Raider." This card isn't a Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card, but it does qualify for this game bundle promotion.
When you fire up the driver DVD that comes with the card you'll find a User Guide written by AMD for the AMD Radeon HD 7800 series in general and drivers for the video card. The drivers on the disc are AMD CATALYST 12.11, which came out on October 23rd, 2012. These drivers are nearly five months old and won't be used by us as we are using AMD CATALYST 13.3 beta 3 drivers that we downloaded this week. The usefulness of a software disc is very questionable in this day and age as it adds cost and usually never gets used because it is usually dated by the time it ships.
Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.
Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:
- AMD Catalyst 13.3 Beta 3
Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform
The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0305 that came out on 12/25/2012. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.25.
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
Intel Core i7-3960X
ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
16GB Corsair 1866MHz
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST Video Card GPU-Z Information:
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.
Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.
Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.
Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.
Benchmark Results: The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was found to be 8% faster than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition graphics card at 1920x1080!
Borderlands 2 is a space western first-person role-playing shooter video game that was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to 2009's Borderlands and was released for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Borderlands 2 was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games on September 18, 2012 in North America.
Borderlands 2 runs on a heavily modified version of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3. We tested Borderlands 2 with vSync and depth of field disabled. We increased the general image quality settings and turned on 16x AF. PhysX effects were set to low to keep things fair as possible between AMD and NVIDIA cards. FXAA was enabled.
Benchmark Results: The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was nearly 9% faster than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition video in Borderlands 2 at 1920x1080.
Dirt: Showdown is a video game published and developed by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was released in May 2012 in Europe and in June in North America. It is part of the Colin McRae Rally game series.
Dirt: Showdown removes several of the gameplay modes featured Dirt 3, and introduces new ones. Gameplay modes can be classified as Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan or Party. We ran the built in Benchmark at Ultra settings to get a true feel of what this engine has to offer!
It is very important to note that Global Illumination and Advanced Lighting have massive performance penalties when enabled, something not seen in other titles in the Dirt series. We disabled this setting.
Benchmark Results: The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was just 3.3% faster than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition video in Dirt Showdown at 1920x1080.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is an open world first-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sequel to 2008's Far Cry 2. The game was released on December 4th, 2012 for North America. Far Cry 3 is set on a tropical island found somewhere at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. After a vacation goes awry, player character Jason Brody has to save his kidnapped friends and escape from the islands and their unhinged inhabitants.
Far Cry 3 uses the Dunia Engine 2 game engine with Havok physics. The graphics are excellent and the game really pushes the limits of what one can expect from mainstream graphics cards. We set game title to 8x MSAA Anti-Aliasing and ultra quality settings.
Benchmark Results: The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was 6.3% faster than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition video in Far Cry 3 at 1920x1080.
Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.
This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to 'Very High' quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX and DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was 7% faster than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition video in Metro 2033 with the DOF disabled at 1920x1080.
Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. The game was released on August 14, 2012, for Microsoft Windows. The game uses the Havok physics engine.
We used the Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark tool to benchmark this game title to make sure the benchmarking was consistent. We tested with 'High' quality setting at 1280x1024 and 1920x1024 resolutions.
Benchmark Results: The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was 8.1% faster than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition video in Sleeping Dogs with the 'High' preset at 1920x1080.
On March 5th, 2013 Square Enix released Tomb Raider, billed as a reboot of the franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. In contrast to the earlier games Croft is portrayed as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.
The game has been built on Crystal Dynamics's game engine called the "Crystal Engine" and the graphics look fantastic. AMD and Crystal Dyanmic's worked on a new technology called TressFX Hair, which AMD describes as “the world’s first in-game implementation of a real-time, per-strand hair physics system” for this game title. We set the image quality to ultimate for benchmarking, but we disabled TressFX Hair under the advanced tab to be fair to NVIDIA graphics cards that don't support the feature.
Benchmark Results: With 'Ultimate' image quality settings and TressFX Hair disabled we found both AMD Radeon HD 7870 powered cards were able to run the game fine, but the PowerColor PCS HD7870 Myst was significantly faster than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition reference card.
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.
3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition reference card scored P7757 3DMarks and the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST scored P8241 3DMarks. This makes the PowerColor card 6.2% faster than the reference design despite having a lower clock speed. It's all about the memory clock speed here folks!
3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition reference card scored X2264 3DMarks and the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST scored P2515 3DMarks on the Extreme Preset.
For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while four game titles at 1920x1080 by averaging the peak results recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter for the gaming results.
Power Consumption Results: At idle with the PowerColor PCS HD7870 2GB MYST Edition video card in the system the entire system was pulling 101 Watts from the wall. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition video card used a little less power at idle. When it comes to power consumption during gaming we were shocked to see that the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST uses 348W or 21% more power than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition reference card. Why?
The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card officially uses the AMD's Pitcairn XT GPU. But this is not the case with this card, as the it uses the Tahiti LE GPU. The AMD Tahiti architecture is used on the AMD Radeon HD 7950 and 7970 GPUs, so this card has a stripped down version of the high-end GPU in it. That might not sound like a big deal, but the Radeon HD 7870 Tahiti LE core has 4.3 billion transistors versus just 2.8 billion on Pitcairn XT! You have to power all those cores and that is why the there is such a huge power difference. Both cards might be in the Radeon HD 7870 series, but they should be.
PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST Edition GPU-Z Details:
AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition GPU-Z Details:
Temperature & Noise Testing
Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST 2GB video card.
PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST 2GB Idle Temperature:
The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST 2GB video card had an idle temperature of 31.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F). Not bad temperatures at all for a card with a Tahiti LE core with over 4 billion transistors!
When it comes to temperature testing the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was on par with the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition at idle, but and is slightly hotter at load. Peaking at 73C during long gaming sessions isn't bad at all and it looks like the custom GPU cooler and 92mm fan get the job done. That said, we could hear the video cards fan when gaming!
We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.
When it comes to noise levels the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was very quiet at idle and comparable when gaming to the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card with the reference GPU cooler design.
Overclocking Tahiti LE
To take a quick look at overclocking we fired up AMD Catalyst Control Center and used AMD Overdrive to overclock the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST Edition 2GB video card.
The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST comes clocked at 975MHz on the core and 1500MHz on the memory. By using OverDrive in CATALYST Control Center (CCC) you can raise or lower the clock frequencies within the parameters set by AMD. For this card AMD set limits for this particular BIOS to 1425MHz on the core and 2000MHz on the memory.
We used CCC and found that with the power control settings maxed out at 20 we could hit 1235MHz on the core and 1600MHz (6400MHz effective) on the memory. The core clock speed can likely go higher and can if you install a 3rd party overclocking utility that allows voltage increases. We are very happy with this overclock as we are 260MHz over the boost speed of the card.
Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance.
PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST 2GB at 975MHz core and 1500MHz memory:
PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST 2GB at 1235MHz core and 1600MHz memory:
We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P8241 to P9697, which is a 17.7% improvements from the cards factory settings. Not a bad overclock and a significant performance increase for free!
We also noticed an 18.5% performance gain at 1920x1080 in Tomb Raider with the highest image quality settings possible!
It should be noted that when we overclocked the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST that we left the fan on auto and after running two passed of 3DMark11 we noticed the core temperature hit 78C. Not bad for such an overclock, but the fan was pretty loud when the card was at load and overclocked. Our sound meter showed we were hitting 62dB when the fan was running at 50% on auto.
If you manually set the fan to 100% you better have a pair of ear plugs! We were reaching just shy of 72dB at about 8 inches away from the cards 92mm fan! The cooling fan being used on this video card is certainly not quiet!
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST 2GB video card uses the 'new' Tahiti LE GPU core and it's a monster for $249.99 shipped. It features a 975MHz core clock with 2GB of GDDR5 memory running at 1500MHz (6.0Gbps) and it's significantly faster than the usual AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition graphics card. We personally feel that AMD should have called this card the AMD Radeon HD 7930, so it wouldn't get lost in the mix of Radeon HD 7870 cards, but they didn't. The lowest cost AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card is the PowerColor AX7870 for $204.99 plus $5.67 shipping. This makes the Tahiti LE card roughly $39 or 18% more expensive than a Pitcairn XT card. The Tahiti LE was found to be 3-12% faster than the Pitcairn XT when gaming at 1920x1080, so you are paying for that extra little boost. So, if you want to step up from the 7870 GHz edition to the Tahiti LE version it costs you $40 more and if you wanted to go from the Tahiti LE to the 7950 it will run you another $40. It looks like AMD now has $40 price increments between video cards right now in the $200-$300 price range.
- PowerColor AX7870 GHz Edition - $211
- PowerColor PCB HD7870 MYST - $250
- Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 - $290
The overclocking performance of the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was on par with other Tahiti based video cards that we have reviewed in the past. The card was able to overclock up to 1235MHz on the core and we were able to get an extra 100MHz out of the Elpida GDDR5 memory. The performance jumped up over 10% thanks to this large overclock and can help justify the higher price of this card if all overclock this good.
One of the downsides of the Tahiti LE core is that it has over 4 billion power hungry transistors that need to be feed and we noticed that when we measures power consumption, temperatures and noise levels. The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST uses 21% more power and was roughly 10% hotter than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition reference card when gaming. It also doesn't help that the 92mm cooling fan that PowerColor used in the PCS HD7870 MYST is fairly loud and can most certainly be heard when gaming or overclocking.
At the end of the day the PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST was found to be an excellent card with great performance thanks to the Tahiti LE core that it uses. The naming scheme for the AMD Radeon HD 7870 series is now fubar, but hopefully this review helped clear things up for you!
Legit Bottom Line: The PowerColor PCS HD7870 MYST uses the 'new' AMD Tahiti LE core that is found on Radeon HD 7900 GPUs and performs better than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition!