Today we have an opportunity to look at another HIS video card…or two. This time they have given us a chance to review their newest version of the HD 7850, the HIS IceQ Turbo. This version sports the IceQ cooler and a sizable factory overclock, which among other things, sets it apart from other models. It’s time to see how well she performs in our testing.
Specifications and Features
First we will take a look at the specifications on this card. Looking at the list below, you can see the HIS HD 7850 IceQ Turbo comes in at 1000 MHz on the core, and utilizes 2 GB of GDDR5 1200 MHz memory (4800 MHz effective) supported by a 256-bit memory bus interface. On the back end, the card has 64 texture units and 32 ROP’s, along with 1024 Shaders sporting AMD’s effective GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture. This card is part of HIS’s “iPower” series supporting “Increased Power supply input for more voltage for overclocking! The extra PWM phase for core voltage provides extra power stability, lower temperature for power components!”
This card has the ability to run up to a 4096×2160 display using the display port outputs, and 2560×1600 using the Dual-link DVI. HIS recommends using a 500 W PSU or greater, with two available PCIe 6-pin connectors. That recommendation is probably based on the TDP, which is supposed to be around 130W in stock form. Using the Power Limit slider (up to 20%) and overclocking, that value should be around ~155W or so. Every time I see such low values, I can’t help but think where we were just a couple of years ago and how much more performance per watt we are getting now… good times for all.
Here are the specifications as provided by HIS.
|HIS HD 7850 Turbo Specifications|
|Model Name||HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo 2GB GDDR5 PCI-E DVI/HDMI/2xMini DP|
|Chipset||Radeon HD 7850 PCIe Series|
|ASIC||RadeonTM HD 7850 GPU|
|Manu. Process (Micron)||28nm|
|Memory Size (MB)||2048|
|Engine CLK (MHz)||1000MHz|
|Memory CLK (Gbps)||4.8Gbps|
|Memory Interface (bit)||256bit|
|Power Supply Requirement||500 Watt or greater power|
|Max. Resolution||4096×2160 per display (DisplayPort 1.2)
2560×1600 per display (Dual-link DVI)
2048×1536 per display (VGA)
|Bus Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16|
|Mini Display Port||Yes|
Below you can see an image representation (Courtesy of the HIS website) of the features this card utilizes. You have: GCN architecture, OpenGL4.2, Open CL 1.2, SM5, UVD for decoding acceleration with the GPU, PCIe 3.0, as well as Eyefinity to name just a few.
Next up are some details about the IceQ X cooler with HIS stating that the card is “below 28db when watching movies, surfing Facebook, working”. Through marketing terms, they are saying with normal desktop type usage the cooler is quiet, even for HTPC users.
The other items mentioned below are the hardened features of this card, such as Dynamic Phase Control PWM IC (energy savings), all solid state capacitors and chokes (high quality and more durable), all of which make this card more formidable when compared to GPU’s that do not utilize such hardware (think reference designs).
HIS has also gone a step further with this card and made some changes from the reference design. They added another power phase (bringing the total up to eight), added more copper to the PCB (from 1oz to 2oz), and adding a second 6-pin PCIe power connector. This helps with getting additional stable power to the parts that need it, with the end result being potentially higher overclocks. With this, the HIS HD 7850 IceQ Turbo matches their highest factory overclocked card in this series, coming in at a GPU clock speed of 1000 MHz core with memory coming in at 1200 MHz (50 MHz less than the IceQ X TurboX).
|HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo||AMD 7850 Ref Board|
|Copper Layer||2 Oz||1 Oz|
|Mosfet||Dr. Mos||Original Mos.|
Next up is the cooling technology used with this card, the IceQ cooler. This design features an open back to the 57mm ‘black hole impeller’, which allows cool air to easily reach the components. This holds true even in a CrossfireX setup where space between the cards may be limited. The heat is whisked away by a fairly dense fin array with two 6 mm and two 8 mm heatpipes. Another great feature of this cooler is that it exhausts the vast majority of heated air outside the case, which help keeps the inside of your case cooler than a card that does not exhaust externally.
Photo Op – Meet the HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo
Before we take a look at the card, we have to get it out of the retail packaging. Anyone who has purchased a HIS card, at least since the 6 series, will surely recognize the packaging. On the front of the box, it of course names the card. Also mentioned is the amount of GDDR5 RAM it contains, its ability to run quad HD resolutions, as well as showing the overclocking software iTurbo (more details later). Finally, there is branding related to the IceQ cooler and Turbo features. Turbo meaning its overclocked from HIS.
Jumping around to the back of the box, one can see the same marketing I listed above. HIS again mentions the cooler, quieter, and faster features, as well as the Eyefinity choices. Finally, some of the many approvals/awards given to HIS for their GPUs are printed here too. There isn’t much to see on the left side of the box outside of the type of connection it is (PCIe of course). The right side shows the card supports PCIe 3, the amount of ram (2 Gb), and the included accessories that we’ll detail below.
We have reviewed many HIS cards from the entry level HD 7750 reviewed by Lvycote, all the way on up, so the black box inside the retail shell should look familiar to most. The HIS HD 7850 IceQ Turbo GPU rests inside its own custom fit foam quite snug, so there is very limited movement of the card and thus is well protected. Below the card and its foam surround, are where the accessories reside.
The accessories included are the iTurbo and driver disc, CrossfireX bridge, and DVI to HDMI adapter. This should get users going out-of-the-box. As always, I suggest you go the AMD website and download the latest drivers. The 12.11 drivers showed significant performance gains for a lot of games and benchmarks (more information on this later in the review).
A Closer Look
Ok, we finally get this little screamer out of the box and see what she looks like. You can see the black IceQ cooler with its impeller and some of the heatpipes sticking through the top. There is a sticker on the front naming the card model and showing the minimized version of the iTurbo software. The card measures a little over 11.6″ long and 5.5″ tall, while being a dual card solution at only a bit over 1.5″ wide. No massive triple slot cooling here!
Flipping her over the first thing one may notice is the spine on the back to prevent the PCB from sagging or bending. Liking things in order and balance (some may say I’m a bit Obessive Compulsive in that way) I do like this added support. I don’t think its needed, as graphic cards have been fine for years without them, but still a nice feature to have. You can see this card supports CrossfireX with the plug up top. The other thing to note back here is that it only takes four screws to remove the IceQ cooler, so TIM/cooler changes take no time at all.
Moving around to the output area of the card, you see a typical offering of two mini-DisplayPorts, one HDMI, and a dual link DVI. This card has the ability to run four different monitors with this configuration.
In the last picture, we see the top of the card showing three heatpipes, but most importantly, the two PCIe-6 pin connectors this card requires. Take note this is different than the AMD spec of one 6-pin PCIe adapter and gives the card a total of 225 watts to play with, including the PCIe slot.
Here we took the heatsink off the card to show you how this thing keeps the card cool, and the bare card itself. You can see in the second picture the four heatpipes listed in the specifications, and the dense fin array I mentioned earlier. The GPU core is cooled with a copper base that moves to the fins. The ram is also cooled by this heatsink by way of contact through thermal pads. The thermal pads make good contact, as you can clearly see by the impressions left on them.
The “black hole impeller” fan on this unit moves a fair amount of air at all RPM’s. Under 60% the fan noise levels are perfectly tolerable. Above that, the impeller does make a fair amount of noise, but nothing that wouldn’t be drowned out by case fans or CPU fans for sure. Cranking it up to 100%, it does start to move even more air and get louder. A good thing during gaming was that this GPU (in a 21 °C room) never broke 53 °C. This was with the the default fan speed profile, which only ramped the fan up to 53%.
Next up is a shot of the core; not too much to look a there, just a normal Pitcairn core used on the HD 7850. Sliding over to the ram, HIS has chosen to use Elpida ICs (#W2032BBBG) rated at 1250 MHz. Here’s to hoping we have some overclocking headroom!
Again I register a note here with HIS, please somehow make more room for fingers so users can easily remove the 6-pin PCIe power plugs on this type of cooler. I don’t have sausage fingers, more like sticks, but I still have to force my fingers in there to get enough pressure on the clip to remove it. Just a little more space please!
Last are a few extra pictures of the card and board for your viewing pleasure.
Performance and Overclocking
- Intel i7 3770K CPU @ 4 GHz (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- EVGA Z77 FTW (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- G.Skill RipjawsX 2 x 4 GB 2133 MHz CL7 @ 1.65 V
- 60GB OCZ Vertex 2 SSD (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- Seasonic 1000 W
- HIS HD 7850 IceQ Turbo (Stock – 1000/1200 and 1200/1400 overclocked @ 1.25v)
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- AMD Catalyst 12.10 Drivers
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run with the “extreme” setting
- Alien vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation HIGH, Detail Level: Extreme
- Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
- Dirt 3 – 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
- Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
- Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, Vysnc OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers’ Updated Video Card Testing Procedure
Below is a screenshot of GPU-Z 6.5 and what it shows about the card. As you can see, it agrees with the basic specifications listed from HIS, so all is well here. This screen capture was taken during the ‘pushing the limits’ stage thus why the 12.11 drivers are here. Again, all testing was completed on the 12.10 drivers with a supplemental graph showing the marked performance increases of 12.11.
HIS recently came out with their iTurbo software several months back. Not too much has changed in the software (version 1.2.1 is the latest at publishing). You still have the large display showing Home (advertising – not pictured), Info – showing clock speeds, bios version, driver version, shaders, ROP’s, etc., and the Overclock section- which allows one to add voltage, change both the core and memory clock speeds, and save profiles. The last item to mention is the Fan section which of course allows you to manually set the fan speed, or create two profiles (Quieter or Cooler). My only suggestion to HIS to improve this software is making the ‘maximized’ display a bit smaller, and perhaps adding graphing capabilities so one can refer back after gaming/testing to temperatures, GPU use, ram use, etc. Otherwise, the software works as it should and is a valuable tool when overclocking your HIS card.
Ahhh, here we go… where all reviewers hard work is put into a nice graph for you to chew on! Starting off with our synthetic benchmarks, we will first look at 3DMark 03. As is always mentioned, its a bit long in the tooth and pouring on the CPU speed helps, but still responds quite well to different types of GPUs. That out of the way, we see this HIS HD 7850 IceQ Turbo performing better than a lower clocked HD 7850 by a slim margin, scoring 115,905 3DMarks. We know Kepler isn’t good in this bench for whatever reason, so it smokes the GTX 660 (which is overclocked out of the factory) by almost 30% here. When put up against the reference Sapphire HD 7870 Flex (older drivers as well), you can see at stock clocks it keeps pace… impressive!
In 3DMark Vantage, we see another solid performance here by the HIS HD 7850. Its scoring of 23,894 marks beats out a reference clocked model. The Kepler based GTX 660 starts to show its might however, and pulls ahead by almost 10% in this benchmark. When compared to the HD 7870 here, its a mere 3% behind.
Moving on to 3DMark 11, the HIS card beats its reference clocked peer, but is still around 10% behind Kepler and 3% behind a HD 7870. Uningine Heaven shows a very similar outcome, but with the GTX 660 being around 6% faster in this benchmark.
Getting out of the synthetic world and in to actual gaming results, we will start with Alien vs Predator. Here the HD 7850 shines, losing only to the HD 7870 in this game and matching the GTX 660 at 43.7 FPS average. In Batman:Arkham City, we see an average of 56 FPS which falls a couple of FPS short of the GTX 660, and beating out a peer by two FPS. The last game in this graph is my favorite, Battlefield 3. In this case, in a game known to like Nvidia cards, the HIS HD 7850 IceQ Turbo puts up a solid showing coming in at 51.4 FPS. It fell just short of the HD 7870 and a couple FPS slower than the GTX 660.
Next up in our game benchmarks is Civilization V, another oldie but goody. Here we see a different result, and the HIS HD 7850 beats out all cards in this test, achieving 59.3 FPS at stock speeds. Next up is one of my favorite Rally racing games in Dirt 3. Here it’s within 2 FPS of both the GX 660 and the HD 7870, hitting 71.6 FPS at stock. Last up is the GPU killer, Metro 2033. In this benchmark the IceQ Turbo posted 24.8 FPS. It doesn’t sound like much, but it matched the HD 7870 and the GTX 660.
Overall the card performed quite well. It did tend to lag a bit behind an overclocked GTX 660 with these drivers, but I think you will find that story will change with the 12.11 driver set. That bad news is, being priced at $229.99 at newegg.com puts it towards the top of all the HD 7850 cards. The good news is that it has a far superior cooler than reference models, a souped up PCB and power delivery, and a high overclock out of the factory. That doesn’t lower the price, but to me makes it a bit more palatable.
Last but not least is the new beta drivers AMD recently released in Catalyst 12.11. In this performance driver, AMD claims to have some substantial increases in many titles, including a solid increase in BF3. I will let the numbers speak for themselves, but holy cow do these drivers help things out. Kudos to AMD for giving such a significant kick in the arse to performance via driver optimizations.
Crossfire X results
HIS was kind of enough to provide two of these cards to put in CrossfireX, and below we have the results. These tests also used with the 12.10 drivers, so the comparison for scaling was as accurate as it could be. You see little scaling in the older, CPU hobbled synthetic benchmarks, especially in 3DMark 06 which showed almost no scaling due to the CPU. 3DMark vantage, and especially 3dMark 11, show significant scaling in CrossfireX.
Moving on to games, the solid scaling charges right across the board here. Nothing less than 72% and almost reaching 2x for Unigine Heaven! One thing to note here is just how close it is to the HD 7870 cards we used for CrossfireX testing (reference model).
Sadly, since we have changed our testing methods, we do not have a pair of HD 7870 cards available to compare the Crossfire X results against our new games. However, I ran through the tests to show what kind of FPS you can expect if you run the settings/resolution that we do. You can deduce from the results below that we saw some great scaling in all titles, except for Civilization V. This Crossfire setup, for just a little more than a single 7970, easily bests it with our testing. Quite a showing there.
|Batman: Arkham City||99.0|
Cooling and Power Consumption
Power consumption for this card is pretty good, especially when compared to the previous generations. In my test system the (semi) trusty old Kill-a-Watt showed 90 W idle with the card at stock speeds and 94 W overclocked (forced constant voltage). Banging on the GPU with 3DMark 11 at stock clocks, I managed 245 W at the wall. When using Unigine Heaven the wattage jumps a small amount to 249 W. In a gaming scenario (BF3) it peaked around 239 W. Overclocking the card had its peak usage jump to 289 W, and two cards in CrossfireX at stock speeds managed a paltry 347 W. Perhaps its time to stop recommending such monster PSUs these days if two cards like this can’t manage to break 400W!
Temperatures with the IceQ cooler were solid across all the tests, peaking at 61 °C. This temperature was with the custom fan profile slope you see in the iTurbo screenshot earlier in the review. The fan noise at this speed started to get noticeable, but note this is on an open test bench with 3 Yate Loons set to 800RPM (nearly inaudible). In the CrossfireX testing, I barely noticed a difference in temperatures, so that bodes well for HIS’ assertion of this HS/F combo pulling in fresh air (again, on a test bench, so within a case things will be different). For the Pushing the Limits section, I cranked the fan to 100%, the voltage to 1.34 (1.31 actual), and the clocks all the way up. The card peaked across all testing at 61 °C. That’s pretty impressive, but the fan was getting loud at that point at 61%.
Pushing the Limits
Below you can see what happened when we poured on some CPU (4.8Ghz), and pushed the card to its fastest stable (to complete the benchmark) speeds. You can see I was able to manage clock speeds of 1276/1502 in 3DMark11, while in 3DMark vantage, those clocks dropped a bit to 1243/1403. That was a surprisingly staggering drop, I am not sure what is going on there, driver issue perhaps in that benchmark with this card? Anyway, these were also completed with the 12.11 performance drivers.
…and CrossfireX pushing the limits.
So what do we think about the HIS HD 7850 IceQ Turbo? Overall I feel we have a solid card on our hands. Superior and quieter cooling over reference, a hefty overclock out of the box, and better power bits. As we listed above, pricing at Newegg.com for this model is $229.99. That price point puts it towards the top of all available HD 7850’s, but $40 below the highest priced model (Asus DCUII v2 @ $269.99 – now has free Far Cry 3). I have to admit I wish the price would be a bit lower as you can find models with aftermarket coolers for less that can produce a lot of the results this card can.
Outside of the pricing being a bit higher than I would like to see, the only ‘con’ I have with this card is the cooler, in that trying to remove the PCIe power plugs is not an easy task for me and my fingers (again sticks, not sausages!). Though it wont come apart, I feel a bit nervous removing them because some pressure is applied to the cooler, forcing it away from the PCB. More room around that area would be great to take that worry away.
Again, HIS has put a solid offering out in the mid-range segment with this IceQ Turbo HD 7850. Even though the price is higher than other models, with the cooler and better power parts than most models, it should be a consideration in the crowded mid range segment. This card is Overclockers.com approved!
Joe Shields (Earthdog)