Final Words

Being in the business of producing video cards is often not an easy feat, as a GPU manufacturer’s partners only have limited control over the resulting product. At the end of the day most of the performance of a GPU is dictated by its design and fabrication, so partners need to find ways to differentiate themselves not only from each other, but to meaningfully differentiate themselves from the reference products.

This is why AMD’s partners are so happy with the 7000 series. The overclocking headroom in Cape Verde, Pitcairn, and even Tahiti translates into room for them to play with factory overclocks, allowing them to create cards that are meaningfully different from the reference cards in performance. So long as partners can sell all of their GPUs, both high clocking and not, then factory overclocked models are a textbook upsale that lets them grab some more profit in what’s otherwise a cutthroat business. Coupled with a chance to further differentiate themselves based on coolers, and the 7000 has given partners a chance to stand out in a way they couldn’t on the 6000 series.

As far as today’s cards are concerned, both HIS and PowerColor stand out in different ways. PowerColor’s PCS+ HD7870 is a rather straightforward upsell: for $20 (6%) more PowerColor will sell you a 7870 card that gets 5-7% more performance than a stock 7870. And because of their custom open air cooler, it can do this while being a bit quieter than AMD’s reference design. As has been the case with factory overclocked cards in the past this is really an individual decision – based on our limited data, it looks like most 7870s should be able to hit PowerColor’s factory overclocks – but if you just want a bit more guaranteed performance for a bit more money, PowerColor is happy to sell it to you. If nothing else the performance gain is large enough to justify considering it in the first place.

HIS on the other hand makes things a bit more interesting, and a lot less clear. For their IceQ Turbo 7870 their upsell is $40 (11%) for roughly the same 5-7% performance improvement, and if all you care about is stock performance then it’s not a good deal. The real differentiating factor is the IceQ cooler; it’s simply leaps and bounds ahead of any other 7870 we’ve seen so far, though it gets there by using an extra slot in width. If for some reason you need its impressively effective cooling – say for overvolting in the future – then it’s a great candidate. Otherwise without with the prospect of overvolting it’s effectively limited by the AMD PCB and what Pitcairn can do on stock voltage, in which case its temperature advantage likely won’t translate into any material benefit. But then this is the advantage of the GPU partner system for consumers – a company like HIS can go out and create an overcooled card, even if it's for just a niche market.

Overclocking: Gaming Performance
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  • Tator Tot - Monday, March 19, 2012 - link

    On the first page, you make an error in the table saying the PCS+ is Triple Slot while the IceQ Turbo is Dual Slot; obviously this is backwards based on the photos. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    How about the biggest error of all... no mention of the near paper launch - we get a pretend scenario that the 7870 and 7850 are somehow populating retail channels... no mention in the entire article of the terrible near non supply.
    Instead we get the reviewers wined and dined at Cebit and or GDC, where they are treated to the "unveiling", then handed special overclocked models, then we all get to pretend you could buy it up as of yesterday...
    Nope, egg had 2, one sold and the buyer commented that made 1 available (7870). Same thing earlier. 7850 wasn't any better.
    So AMD gets a giant pass on their near pure paper launch.
    Is that free weeks long yearly for 500 'reviewers/reporters' AMD posh Island Vacation bribe coming up soon or what - did they just get back from it ?
    Reply
  • blanarahul - Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - link

    What is the use of scheduling? Is it only useful for compute or does it have usefulness in graphics also? Reply
  • warmbit - Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - link

    Here is the link to an interesting overview performance 7870 and 7850 of 5 Web sites competing Nvidia cards - GTX580 and GTX570 and penalties of the previous generation AMD - 6970 and 6950.

    Analysis of the results of the Radeon 7870 and 7850 in 12 games and 5 resolutions:
    http://translate.google.pl/translate?hl=pl&sl=...

    You will know the relationship between average interest rates these cards and you will find out in which graphics card is better in the game and resolution.
    Reply
  • LuxZg - Monday, March 19, 2012 - link

    You've put tripple width and 390$ for PCS, while you say otherwise in article. Tripple width and 390$ is mentioned in part about HIS card, so I believe you've mixed up the columns.. or at least part of data, as memory OC seems to be correct for both cards in table. Please review and correct as not to confuse readers.. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - link

    I see this 7870 is virtually the same as the GTX 570, and when I check the prices a GTX570 is $260-$289 and the 7870 is $369 minimum.
    This card at it's current price is no value at all.
    Reply
  • Zebo - Monday, March 19, 2012 - link

    For comparison sake you should throw a $309 GTX 570 Classified in there. (which will beat it) But OC to OC is only fair. Reply
  • medi01 - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    If 7870 is overpriced, then what is GTX 580? Reply
  • Zebo - Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - link

    Cheaper than these cards and faster!
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...
    Reply
  • nevertell - Monday, March 19, 2012 - link

    On the 4th page:
    Numerous times before we’ve seen loud & cool cards, but it’s rare to come across a loud and quiet card.

    You should give the article to other editors before you publish it. Happens to myself all the time.
    Reply

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