PowerColor Makes The Radeon HD 7870 Devilish

The PowerColor Devil 13 HD 7990 video card was a force to be reckoned with when it came out in 2012 and is still one of the fastest video cards that money can buy. Not everyone could afford that dual-GPU behemoth since it cost $1000, but fear not an affordable card has come to dark side. This month PowerColor announced the Devil HD7870, which has proven to be a great mainstream graphics card.

This video card comes clocked at 1100MHz on the 1280 stream processors of the Pircairn XT GPU and 1250MHz on the 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition reference card comes clocked at 1000MHz core and 1200MHz memory, so the PowerColor Devil HD7870 is 10% faster when it comes to core clocks and ~4.2% faster on the memory. You also get a custom PCB that uses a 7+1+1 phase Digital PWM, a custom three fan cooler with four heatpipes and a backplate. The kicker is that the PowerColor Devil HD7870 runs $259.99 plus $6.14 shipping from Newegg, while the PowerColor AX7870 2GB based off the reference design runs $164.99 shipped after rebate. This means you are talking about over a $100 price difference between a stock Radeon HD 7870 card and one that has been dressed up and factory overclocked. Jacking the price up over 61% over your base model card is hard to justify, so let's take a look to see what they have done.

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As you can see right off the bat, PowerColor stuck with the black and red infernal color scheme. The original PowerColor Devil 13 (Radeon HD 7990) used a three fan cooling solution and it looks like PowerColor wants to stick with that design as  the Devil HD7870 is also equipped with a similar triple fans setup. This GPU cooling solution uses four copper heat pipes that are attached to aluminum cooling fins that sit under the triple fans. PowerColor says that this design keeps things 25% cooler and 18% quieter than the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition reference card.

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PowerColor placed a backplate on the Devil HD7870 that helps keep the PCB (Printed Circuit Board) straight, dissipates some heat and also protects the back components from being damaged during installation or removal. Most people would agree that makes the card look better and we certainly agree that it helps the aesthetics.

powercolor-7870-devil

The PowerColor Devil HD7870 2GB is a fairly long graphics card and to make things worse the GPU cooler hangs over the right side of the PCB.  On our card the 2GB of GDDR5 SGRAM is made up of Elpida W2032BBBG-60-F memory IC's. This came as a bit of a shock to us as these memory ICs are rated at 6.0Gbps at 1.6V, but this card comes factory overclocked to just 5.0Gbps on the memory.  This means there could be a pretty high overclocking potential on this card due to the use of these memory chips.

powercolor-7870-devil-back

When it comes to dimensions, you are looking at 10" on the PCB length and nearly 11.25" in total length due to the GPU cooler overhang. The official measurements on this card are 285mm x 135mm x 45mm. The image above better shows how the GPU cooler extends over the end of the PCB. Notice that this card has one AMD CrossFire interconnect, so it supports dual-GPU Crossfire setups.

 

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When it comes to video outputs on the PowerColor Devil HD7870 2GB GDDR5 video card you have dual mini-DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4a, a Dual-Link DVI-I and a Single-Link DVI-D. There is a small grill for some of the fans hot exhaust air to be removed from the chassis.

You might have noticed that the fans used in the triple fan cooler are different sizes. The middle fan is 9cm and the two outer fans are 8cm. The four heatpipes are 6mm in diameter in case you were wondering that as well.

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The PowerColor Devil HD7870 2GB features dual 6-pin PCIe power headers. PowerColor suggests that you use a 500 Watt or greater power supply with two 75W 6-pin PCie video card connector for proper operation.

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PowerColor says that the Devil HD7870 comes with the Platinum Power Kit that increases the overall stability and reliable power delivery to GPU. This means 7+1+1 phase Digital PWM, Super Capacitors and other components have been beefed to handle what overclockers and enthusiasts will be doing to this card. PowerColor also backs the Devil HD7870 with a 2-year warranty should anything go wrong. 

Let's move along and take a look at the PowerColor Devil HD7870 retail package and bundle!

Retail Box and Bundle

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The PowerColor Devil HD7870 retail packaging looks amazing. The Devil HD7870 comes in a red and black retail box that looks and feels awesome with all the embellishments and finishing touches that they did to it. The front of the box simply says PowerColor Devil HD 7870 and nothing more. We love the faux-wax looking stamp on the front though as it looks like this box came straight from Lucifer himself!

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The back of the box goes into more details about the card and pretty much everything is covered with the exception of the cards clock speeds. You seldom see exploded diagrams on the retail packaging that highlights all the key features of the card within, but we like it and hope PowerColor sticks with it.

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When it comes to the accessory bundle you get a DVI-to-VGA video adapter, mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter, owners manual and a driver disc.

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But Wait, There's More! PowerColor also includes a rather nice gaming mouse pad. Usually 'free' mouse pads are complete junk and go straight to the trash, but this one is really thick and well made.

Right now there is also a limited time offer taking place that gives you a very nice gaming bundle courtesy the folks over at AMD. When you buy this card right now you'll get Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider! This game bundle has a retail value of $109.99, that is a nice added bonus. Please note that this promotion is dependent on the etailer, so make sure they have coupons left if you want the bundle. It appears that Newegg is out of coupons already, so it might be tricky finding this promotion.

Test System

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:

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

test-system

Test System Settings

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

 

Component

 

Brand/Model

 

Live Pricing

 

Processor

 

Intel Core i7-3960X

 

Motherboard

ASUS P9X79 Deluxe

 

Memory

16GB Corsair 1866MHz

 

Video Card

 

Various

 

Solid-State Drive

 

OCZ Vertex 3 240GB

 

Cooling

 

Intel RTS2011LC

 

Power Supply

Corsair AX1200

 

Operating System

 

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

PowerColor HD7870 DEVIL 2GB GPU-Z Information:

 77870-devil-gpuz

77870-devil-idle

 

 

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

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 Screenshot

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.

bf3
 

Benchmark Results: The PowerColor Devil HD7870 performed pretty well in Battlefield 3 and was found to be just slightly faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 graphics card at 1920x1080 and 2560x1600. We were able to stay above 30FPS on our single 30-inch display setup, but when we went to the three panel 5760x1080 setup we dropped down to the low 20's. The PowerColor Devil HD7870 doesn't have the power for an Eyefinity setup when using Ultra image quality settings, so if you plan on going that route be prepared to lower the IQ. Notice that this factory overclocked Radeon HD 7870 is unable to keep up with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 reference card. This is a key card to look at as both are available in the $250-$260 price range.  

Bioshock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games. BioShock Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series, and though it is not part of the storyline of previous BioShock games, it does feature similar gameplay concepts and themes. BioShock Infinite uses a Modified Unreal Engine 3 game engine and was released worldwide on March 26, 2013.

Bioshock Infinite

We tested BioShock Infinite with the Ultra game settings.

bioshock

Benchmark Results: The PowerColor Devil HD 7870 was 7FPS slower than the GeForce GTX 760 at 1920x1080. Being 9.5-percent slower and costing more money isn't exactly the best case scenario for this video card sku.

Far Cry 3

Farcry3 Game Screenshot

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.[11] After a vacation goes awry, player character Jason Brody has to save his kidnapped friends and escape from the islands and their unhinged inhabitants.

FarCry 3 Quality Settings

FarCry 3 Video Quality

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. 

farcry3

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 once again beat down the PowerColor Devil HD7870 by being 22% faster at 2560x1600 and 7% faster at 1920x1080. 

Metro Last Light

Metro: Last Light is a first-person shooter video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features action-oriented gameplay with a combination of survival horror elements. It uses the 4A Game engine and was released in May 2013.

Metro: Last Light

Metro Last Light was benchmarked with Ultra settings

metro

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 was again faster than the PowerColor Devil HD7870 in Metro: Last Light.  This time we found the GeForce GTX 760 being 13.9% faster at 2560x1600 and 11.77% faster at 1920x1080.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

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.

Tomb Raider Settings

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.

tombraider

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 was just 4.4% faster than the PowerColor Devil HD7870 in the latest installment of Tomb Raider.

3DMark 2013

3Dmark Fire Strike Benchmark Results - For high performance gaming PCs

Use Fire Strike to test the performance of dedicated gaming PCs, or use the Fire Strike Extreme preset for high-end systems with multiple GPUs. Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine to test DirectX 11 hardware.

3DMark Fire Strike

 

Fire Strike Benchmark Results:

firestrike

 

Benchmark Results: 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark has the PowerColor Devil HD7870 scoring 5391.

Fire Strike Extreme:

firestrike-x

Benchmark Results: 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme benchmark found the PowerColor Devil HD7870 scoring 2612.

Catzilla

Catzilla is a relatively new benchmark that is made the Polish demoscene group Plasticis. something we are using for that reasonis being produced in collaboration with Polish post production company, Plastige. Plastige is the company that worked on Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition and some of the developers there were behind the PlayStation Network game Datura. The benchmark uses a parallel graphics engine that takes advantage of multi-core CPUs. This isn't a benchmark being made in some kids basement and it doesn't appear to be bought off by any companies yet, so it should be a good benchmark to use.

catzilla-benchmark

While this benchmark is in beta phases, we still have found that Catzilla is a good cross-API benchmark. You also can't go wrong with a benchmark that has a giant animated cat nuke cities with its laser eyes as you do. You can watch a video of the benchmark in action below.

We purchased Catzilla Advanced and ran the full Catzilla benchmark at 2560x1440.  This 1440p benchmark is designed for high-end computers, which is perfect as that is where these video cards are going to end up!

catzilla

Benchmark Results: The PowerColor Devil HD7870 scored 3326 points in the 1440P catzilla benchmark.

Temperature & Noise Testing

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 Devil HD7870 video card.

PowerColor Devil HD7870 Idle Temperature:

77870-devil-idle

The PowerColor Devil HD7870 had an idle temperature of 27.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F) and the fans were spinning at 888 RPM.

EVGA GeForce GTX 760 Superclocked w/ ACX Gaming Temperature:

77870-devil-gaming

When playing Far Cry 3 and Battlefield 3 for about 30 minutes each, we hit 65C on the GPU and did not get any hotter than this.  The VRM temperature was just 70C! The triple fan cooler on the PowerColor Devil HD7870 does a great job keeping the AMD Pitcairn GPU and the digital PWM on the board cool. Notice the fan speed went from 888RPM at idle to 1770RPM when gaming. You really can't hear the card with it in your system at idle, but when you start gaming you can hear the fan a bit.

temperatures

The good news is that running at 65C when gaming is very low. The bad news is that we've seen lower on the MSI GeForce GTX 760 Gaming OC card, which costs the same and has higher gaming performance.

Power Consumption

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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 ran three games at 1920x1080 and averaged the peak results seen on the power meter.

power-consumption

Power Consumption Results: The PowerColor Devil HD7870 isn't a power hog by any means and as you can tell the recommended 500W power supply should be more than enough for most gamers. When at an extended idle our test platform was just using 97 Watts of power and when gaming we had an average peak Wattage of 327. Not bad and just slightly lower than the three NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 load numbers.

PowerColor AX7870 DEVIL Overclocking

To take a quick look at overclocking we fired up AMD Catalyst Control Center and used AMD Overdrive to overclock the PowerColor AX7870 DEVIL 2GB video card. PowerColor has the Powerup Tuner utility available for free, but we wanted to see what you could get without installing anything or tinkering with the voltages. 

amd-overdrive

The PowerColor Devil HD7870 2GB comes clocked at 1100MHz on the core and 1250MHz on the memory. You can go up to 1400MHz on the core and 1450MHz on the memory in AMD OverDrive.

overdrive-oc

We were easily able to overclock the PowerColor AX7870 DEVIL 2GB video card to 1265MHz on the core and 1450MHz on the memory. The card was rock solid in games and we were able to leave the fan control on auto.

77870-devil-OC

Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark scores with the Fire Strike preset to see what happens with performance when the card is overclocked.

PowerColor Devil HD7870 at 1100MHz core and 1250MHz memory:

devil-stock-3dmark

PowerColor Devil HD7870 at 1265MHz core and 1450Hz memory:

devil-oc-3dmark

The 3DMark Fire Strike score went from 5391 to 6020, which is a performance improvement of 11.7 percent!

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The PowerColor Devil HD7870 is one wicked little video card. We love the cards devilish theme, factory overclocking and custom PCB and GPU cooler. When it comes to gaming performance the PowerColor Devil HD7870 worked best on single monitor setup and is ideal for those gaming at 1920x1080. It even overclocked like a bat out of hell with no voltage tuning required!

All is well until you go to purchase this video card. The PowerColor Devil HD7870 runs $259.99 plus $6.14 shipping from Newegg, while the PowerColor AX7870 2GB based off the reference design runs $164.99 shipped after rebate. This means that you are paying 61% more for all the bells and whistles. That alone makes it hard to justify!  Who wants to lay down another Benjamin when the core architecture is the same? A $10-$30 price premium for a custom version of a card is one thing, but charging $101.14 more is ludicrous!

The real death blow to the PowerColor Devil HD7870 is the fact that any NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 reference card can be picked up for $249.99 shipped and will perform better. Heck, you can even buy the MSI GeForce GTX 760 Gaming OC for $249.99 Shipped After Rebate and get a custom cooled and factory overclocked card that is much faster. We had that card in on performance comparison charts, so you can see the difference!  Even without the rebate, you can buy custom cooled and factory overclocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 cards for just $10 more than the cost of the reference designs. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 owns the Radeon HD 7870 when it comes to performance.

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The PowerColor Devil HD7870 is a great card, but it is just late to the game. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition came out in March 2012 and the PowerColor Devil HD7870 just came out in July 2013. If this card would have come out in 2012 or before the GeForce GTX 760 arrived it would have done well. Other brands came out with Radeon HD 7870 cards with identical clock speeds back in March 2012 (ie: Gigabyte GV-R787OC-2GD). The PowerColor Devil HD7870 is honestly late to the game and to make matters worse it is overpriced. That is tragic as it is likely the best looking Radeon HD 7870 ever to be made and it has solid performance for what it is. Where was this card in 2012?

 

Legit Bottom Line: The PowerColor Devil HD7870 is an awesome card, but Powercolor released it 16 months too late and missed the window of opportunity!