HIS sent us not one, but two of their brand new 7850 iPower IceQ Turbo 4 GB cards. I find the combination of 4 GB of RAM and a 7850 to be a bit odd as a single card has little hope of driving enough monitor to need more than 2 GB. A pair of cards on the other hand, have a chance. In Crossfire (and SLI) the GPU RAM is not added together, a pair of 2 GB cards still gives you 2 GB. Thus for high resolution (or extremely high detail) use, two 2 GB cards might not cut it. Enter the 7850 4 GB cards! Inexpensive enough to crossfire (I hope), plenty of RAM for top end tasks. The main question is, does a 7850 core have enough guts to push that many pixels? I aim to find out.
Features and Specifications
The following was brutally separated from HIS’s Product Page by the sneaky forces of copy/pasta.
First, a chart!
|Model Name||HIS 7850 iPower IceQ Turbo 4 GB GDDR5 PCI-E 2xDVI/HDMI/2xMini DP (UEFI Ready)|
|Chipset||Radeon HD 7850 PCIe Series|
|ASIC||RadeonTM HD 7850 GPU|
|Manu. Process (Micron)||28nm|
|Memory Size (MB)||4096|
|Engine CLK (MHz)||1000MHz|
|Memory CLK (Gbps)||4.8 Gbps|
|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|
|DVI||Dual-link DVI-I + Single-link DVI-D|
We get a nice high stock clock speed of 1GHz, which is a meaningful boost over the reference 860MHz clock speed. The memory runs at 1200MHz (or 2400MHz, or 4800MHz, depending on how you want to look at it), and is GDDR5 on a 256bit bus. The memory size is the real kicker though, 4096 MB of GDDR5! That’s a lot, there are only a few cards above 3 GB, putting these 7850’s in fairly rarefied company. The power supply requirement assumes that you have a pretty lousy PSU. I’ll do power measurements to find out the actual full system draw in the Testing section.
Let’s add some pretty pictures to our specs from here on out.
A lot of the above comes with any AMD 7xxx card, but not all of it. iPower for instance is all HIS, as is the IceQ cooler. The ports vary by card too. I’m not sure what Retail Pack is advertising.
While more voltage does generally allow overclocking, extra phases don’t give you more voltage. I’m all for a second six pin PCIe power plug and Dr. Mos MOSFETs (though I thought MSI trademarked that name). The extra PCIe plug may help OCing, and the Dr. Mos MOSFETs run cooler than the equivalent discreet MOSFET arrangements generally speaking. An extra power phase is nice too.
How current output equates to speed I really have no idea. Not when the reference board is being rated at 120 amps to the core. That is, at 1.25 V (a reasonable OC voltage level) 150 W. Now that I’ve calculated that number, I have to wonder where the 120 amps came from. Having 200 amps on tap may or may not help OCing, but it’s definitely not going to make a 66% difference in much of anything.
Higher clock speeds, however, can make a very big difference. Not generally a 50% gain though, I question the data behind the 3d11 graph.
Rear exhaust GPUs are the way to go in my opinion, venting heated air inside the case to recirculate has never struck me as an especially brilliant idea. Especially for crossfire use. I find the concept of a Black Hole Impeller to be highly amusing, does it fling black holes? Is air sucked in and never seen again? Is it a massive radiation hazard? Regardless, being able to get air from both sides is a nice feature, and I’d certainly hope that it runs cooler than the stock cooler. Lastly, the fan lifespan being rated at 42,000 hours is promising, that’s a low enough number that it might actually be realistic. We’ll look at the fan in detail later.
Here’s a teaser though! If the picture is even close to realistic this cooler looks like it belongs on a 7970. That’s promising from a noise standpoint! The picture says the fan’s good for 50,000 hours. Make up your mind!
Overclocking software varies in ease of use, we’ll see how this goes. I’m also curious to see what kind of OC the iTurbo button gives us.
“Solid state” (polymer, really) capacitors are definitely nice, though not unique to this card. I haven’t seen an electrolytic cap on anything but extreme-budget cards in a long time. The stiffening bracket is very nice to see, between that and the cooler this card shouldn’t have any sagging issues.
This is quite the concept for video conferencing. Whether any other cards can do this I don’t know, but it’s a pretty awesome feature in my opinion.
Now that I’ve abused you with a lot of pictures of text and pictures, let’s move on to pictures of a box with text and pictures on it! Sounds great, right?
Photos Part One: The Box
Logos abound. We’ve already seen the interesting parts.
Let’s open this thing!
HIS seems to like the idea of MetaBoxing, which other companies have also been doing. This box is big, too.
The accessory pack is fairly limited – we get a crossfire cable, a DVD, a sticker, and a DVI to VGA adapter. No Molex-PCIe power connectors, interestingly. The card is bloody huge for a 7850.
Photos Part Two: The GPU
I like the port selection. According to the box you can attach four monitors to this thing, just don’t try to game across them all with a single card. Massive cooler and GHz clocks or not, it’s still a 7850. Do note how the PCIe power plugs are overlapped by the cooler, if you have thick fingers you’re going to have an entertaining (to someone watching, anyway) time getting the plugs out.
Photos Part Three: Tearing It Apart
This is probably my favorite part.
If this PCB looks familiar it’s because it is a slightly modified reference 7850/7870 PCB. The only difference I can find is that there is space to double up on all the RAM power bits. Other than that, it’s essentially a 7870 PCB. The reference 7850 uses the same PCB, but only has four core power phases.
The vGPU bits consist of a CHiL 8225 controller (5 phase brother of the 8228 8 phase chip on the 7970 reference cards) and phase “Dr. MOS” Driver MOSFET power phases. The Driver MOSFETs combine the high side and low side MOSFETs with the MOSFET driver, this reduces EMF/EMI, heat production and PCB space consumed. All together it’s a nice setup.
The RAM and the PLL are both run by single phases using conventional MOSFETs. Nothing special here. As mentioned above there is PCB space to double up on the RAM power bits. Oddly the added parts would be running in parallel, rather than acting as a second phase. That’s a new one on me.
The thermal glop looks like a pad, but it isn’t. It’s a fairly thin consistency. It was making excellent contact. The heatsink itself looks much like aftermarket heatsinks I’ve seen. We’ll look at the cooler in more detail next.
The cooler is very nicely designed, I especially like the scoops on the fan hub for cooling the motor, very cool. What I don’t like is that none of the MOSFETs have any cooling. The fan setup puts a decent amount of air across the core power MOSFETs, but I’d rather see a heatsink on them. As you can see, the fan can pull air in from both sides, in theory this will help in crossfire. While most of the cooler is a two slot operation, the fan tilts out into the third slot, making this somewhat of a hybrid. You can easily fit a one slot card between this card and another, as long as it doesn’t extend more than an inch past the end of the PCIe slot. If it does, you’ll have issues.
Performance and Overclocking
- Biostar TZ77XE4
- G.SKILL RipjawsX 2133MHz 2×2 GB
- Western Digital 1TB Green
- Intel i7 3770K Processor @ 4.0 GHz
- Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme (TRUE)
- Thermaltake Smart-M 750 W PSU
- HIS 7850 iPower IceQ Turbo 4 GB GDDR5 GPUs
- AMD Catalyst 13.2 BETA5 Drivers
- Hacked to hell ancient ATX case benching stand.
Since June of last year, we have been using our new Updated Video Card Testing Procedure. If you are not yet familiar with it, click the provided link to learn more. Below is the down and dirty version of the new procedure.
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run using the “extreme” setting
- Aliens vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- 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, VSync OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, VSync off, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation set to high, Extreme Detail Level, PhysX Off
Additionally I’ll be running Futuremark’s new 3DMark Fire Storm benchmark, because it’s new and shiny and shiny and new.
iPower Overclocking Software
HIS includes their iPower overclocking software on the DVD, here’s what it looks like in “advanced” mode:
The slider limits are nice and high for core and RAM clocks, well higher than the GPU can actually manage. The power limit goes up to 20%, and the voltage slider will go up to 1250 mV (1.25 V). You get five profile slots as well, they save to disk and are easy to save to and load from. Additionally, there is a fan control screen where you can select between auto, full manual, and custom fan profiles. The custom profile only gives you two data points to work with and the software has to remain open for custom control to function. That said, it does work well, so I approve. You can save fan settings to the “Quieter” and “Cooler” buttons if you want, which is nice.
I tested a couple alternative pieces of software in case they were willing to speak to the 8225, one of ’em was able to go up to 1.3 V on the core, but didn’t have the power slider. That’s a bit of a wash. I wouldn’t recommend more than 1.25 V for daily OCs anyway. As always, don’t forget that OCing, and especially messing with the voltage, is inviting Murphy into your hardware, it may well kill it!
Overclocking for Daily Use
There are two flavors of overclocking: Daily use, and Benching. Daily use overclocking is aimed at exactly what the name implies, daily use. It needs to be stable as BSODs on a daily use computer are annoying at best and disastrous at worst. This means you can’t really toe the absolute limits of the card. This is the level that the “Overclocked” benchmark results will be run at, a level that I could run 24/7 with this card.
Benching overclocking is very different! For benching all that matters is that the benchmark is completed and the computer doesn’t crash before you save a screenshot. This is an overclocking level that you simple can’t run 24/7, as it is lucky to make it all the way through the benchmark, but has no hope of actually making it through a gaming session. This is the level of overclocking that the Overclockers.com Benchmarking Team does on a regular basis, and is what you’ll find in the Pushing The Limits section of this review. Benching type overclocking has been known to be rather hard on hardware, emulate it at your own risk.
In this case the 24/7 stable clocks turned out to be 1207 MHz on the core (at 1.25 V) and 1402 MHz on the RAM, not a bad bump from 1000/1200 stock.
These 7850s are looking pretty good here, they’re beating the 7870s and matching or beating the 660 depending on the bench. OC’d a single HIS 7850 4 GB is even lose to a 7970 in 3d03. Two of the 7850 4 GBs wins easily across the board.
Here we see evidence of the new AMD drivers that came out between the 7870 results and today’s results, mostly evident in the 3D11 scores as AMD spent a lot of effort on 3D11 performance. Heaven wasn’t changed nearly as much. Meanwhile the crossfire results kill everything with fire and domination. Note that the 7970 results are with the new, snazzy, drivers. That’s a clean win for the 7850 crossfire setup.
Here we see a similar story. The 660 gets stomped, the 7870 falls prey to the new drivers (and, I expect, how far the HIS 7850’s overclocked), and the 7970 can’t quite keep up.
For whatever reason these cards rule in Civilization 5. I didn’t believe it and re-checked and re-set the graphics settings, the results are real. I guess it likes having a ton of RAM to work with. In Dirt3 the 7970 makes a good attempt at keeping up, but fails. The CFX 7850s actually manages a playable average frame rate in Metro, though the minimum was 6.8 FPS.
3DMark Fire Strike
I don’t have any comparison data for Fire Strike, so here are the result screenshots:
Not epic, but not bad either. OCing makes a nice big difference. Next up, Crossfire!
Power Consumption and Core Temperatures
Lastly, we have power and temperature graphs. Please note that the power numbers are for the full system and are at the wall numbers. They’re with an 80+ Bronze PSU, running in the 20-35% range of capacity, so approximately 85% efficiency. To get the actual system numbers (excluding the theoretical PSU efficiency) multiply by 0.85. For the temperature numbers, the fan profile was left at default. Better OCing was had with a noisier profile, but once the profile has been messed with temperature numbers are useless.
Yes, adding a second card really does add a laughably small three watts. We also get to see something approaching the real wattage consumed by the second card by comparing the two wattage numbers in Heaven. 120 watts. That’s impressive. So is 7970 type performance and a total system draw from the wall 50 W higher than just a single, stock, 7970 TDP.
Thankfully, this chart’s labels arrived intact. As you can see, the cooler on this card is best described as Epic. Admittedly, it is built for a 250 W TDP card. Also note that having two cards in CrossfireX doesn’t impact the temperatures much. Cranking the VCore from 1.137 V to 1.25 V has a rather large impact of course. Temperatures were taken from the hottest card, which in practice was the card in the primary position. Ambient temperatures were read at the fan intake (but not the fan itself, as the hub generates heat that will skew results!) and normalized to 25 °C. That is to say, if you have a 25 °C ambient your temps should look something like this.
The fan is extremely quiet at idle and low loads. With a sustained 100% load, the fan starts to spin up. Unfortunately, it has a fair bit of mechanical noise. Given the temperatures we get, I’d prefer that they ran the fan slower, though that might require MOSFET heatsinks. At full load the cards are quieter than most squirrel cage fan cards, it’s just the mid range that is noisier. The noise starts at around 55-57 °C core temps.
Pushing The Limits
Limits are best pushed with the most power possible, hence I used both cards in Crossfire. I also spent a bit of time brutalizing the driver settings and generally applying benching team know-how to the poor unfortunate things. The CPU was bumped up to 4.6GHz and the RAM up to 2133-7-10-7-27-1t. The GPU was bumped up as high as it’d run the benchmark in question.
3DMark doesn’t appreciate tessellation being disabled much, on the other hand I don’t appreciate tessellation much. Yes, the 10014 is crudely copy/pasted into there from the 3DMark.com link, the software doesn’t show a score if it thinks you’ve prodded too hard. It’s legal for HWBot though (editing screenshots less so, don’t do that! Seriously, you’ll get banned). In this situation you provide the validation link and submit the SS with the score missing from the main window, so whatever. 3D11 isn’t as touchy about tweaks, and Vantage doesn’t care at all. These cards pushed pretty nicely! That 14.5k is right up there with tweaked, overclocked, fast CPU 7970 results. Nice!
Final Words and Conclusion
Here we are at the end, we kicked off by wondering if two 7850s had enough combined juice to warrant 4 GB of RAM. Now that testing has been completed I can safely say “Sometimes”. Aren’t I useful?
Let’s start with the price, then we know what we’re comparing these to. Currently these cards are available for $280. That’s a bit rich for my tastes, even with 4 GB of RAM. A single 7850 core simply doesn’t have the power for multiple 1080P or 1440P displays on high enough settings to eat through 2 GB of RAM. This card is closer than I expected, for what it’s worth. The difficulty is that the HIS 7870 IceQ Turbo (same cooler as far as I can tell) runs $240, you’d best need 4 GB of RAM if you’re buying these cards. That brings us to CrossfireX. Two of these cards will cost you ~$560, and gives you the same core count (2048) as a 7970. A 7970 will generally run you $400 with 3 GB of RAM, two of these 7850s outperforms a single 7970 across the board. One of these 7850 4 GBs is definitely not worth the money, two however is closer to being worthwhile. I’d like to see them at the $250 price point, at that point they would be a solid value. At $280 each, they simply cost too much. To be fair they did just come out, that price may well drop in the near future.
The cooler itself is extremely effective, though louder than I’d like at mid range fan speeds. It works excellently in crossfire, though you do need triple slot spacing to use a pair. It looks pretty glorious too.
The PCB design is essentially reference, with the 5th phase usually reserved for 7870s populated. That’s definitely a plus.
The port selection is the same as the reference cards, which is excellent.
The iPower software works well, I have no complaints there. Starting off with iPod styling is a bit odd, I could do without that. I could do without the worldwide obsession with iWhatever, really. Still it works well and gives voltage control and plenty of frequency room, so I’ll ignore the iThing bits.
Getting the PCIe power plugs disconnected is rather difficult as the cooler overlaps the connectors. It’s doable, but if your fingers are much thicker than mine you’re going to need tools.
I was rather impressed by the overclocking these cards can manage, as well as the scaling with said overclocking. That two of them in crossfire overclock just as well as a single was a surprise, that made me happy.
Let’s condense this down into nice compact bullet points before I type another thousand words for the poor editors to pour over.
There are pros!
- Looks beastly, I love it.
- Very low temps, very effective cooler.
- Better-than-reference PCB.
- Comes with software that allows voltage control.
- 4 GB of RAM!
- Great temps in crossfire, too.
- Crossfired it kills a 7970 GHz edition.
There are cons!
- Expensive, $280/each is a bit much even with 4 GB of RAM, a monster cooler and 7970 eating CFX performance.
- PCIe plugs difficult to get to.
- Mechanical fan noise in mid range fan speeds.
- I find iStyle things annoying. Apple is not god, folks.
- I’d like heatsinks on the MOSFETs, even though they don’t really need more cooling.
All told it’s a bit of a mixed bag, the price is the largest issue by far, all the others are fairly minor issues. While I am going to mention the price a lot, I am also going to approve these cards. The crossfire performance, extremely low temperatures and 4 GB of RAM is enough to overcome the price in my opinion. If the price does drop I’ll be extra happy, but the HIS HD 7850 iPower IceQ Turbo 4 GB is a card worthy of consideration, and hence gets an official Overclockers.com Approved stamp.
Click the Approved stamp for more info on overclockers.com rating system.
–Ed Smith / Bobnova