HIS have kindly supplied their 6870 IceQ for us to put under the magnifying glass. Some of you that read Overclockers.com regularly may be scratching your heads a bit saying ‘Didn’t Overclockers.com already do this?’. You would be right, more or less. This version, however, has HIS’s monster IceQ cooler strapped to the top of this upper mid-range card and features different stock clock speeds. So let’s give this one a look, shall we?
Product Specifications and Features
We are not going to spend much time dwelling on the specifications of this card: the 6870 has been out for a long time at this point. You can see from the image below that HIS has chosen to bring this card out with a 900 MHz core clock and a 1050 MHz (4.2GHz) memory clock, which are the reference clock speeds. Yes, that’s right: not a single MHz overclocked from the factory! Below are the remainder of the high level specifications/requirements for this card.
Below you can see some of the features of this card. Beyond the typical DirectX 11 and HDMI 1.4 support and Eyefinity features, you can check out what is under the hood of the large cooler that used to be found only on the 6970. I’m hoping that, with a seemingly larger cooler which exhausts most of the air out of the back, this card should keep cool, quiet, and hopefully overclock better than its previous review brethren.
Here are the shots of the card in all its IceQ cooled glory! The first shots are of HIS’s IceQ packaging, a white box with blue/purple ice-like coloring featuring, as per usual, a list of the major features this card provides for the user.
Inside is a box-in-box packaging with the included accessories (DVI to HDMI adapter, driver/utility disk, Molex to 6 pin connectors, CrossFireX ribbon) and the card which fits nice and snugly into the formed ‘clam shell’-like plastic and and supporting foam inserts.
Now we get to see the card and this robust cooler. You can see from the pictures that this cooler hangs over the edge of the PCB. This will not be a problem for cases that can fit an ATX motherboard as the length is just as wide as a standard ATX motherboard. Notice that on the back of the card there is a black ‘spine’ to aid in supporting the cooler and preventing the PCB from bending. I think this is a really nice addition to this card, or any card with a heavier heatsink on it. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not a fan of the sagging/warped PCB regardless of whether it can damage the card or not, so kudos to HIS for the support.
In the last picture, you can see the four large copper heatpipes sticking out of the top of the cooler, which I think looks rather good.
Lastly, we look at the I/O panel on the card. You can see that it has HDMI, two DVI, and two mini DisplayPort outputs on the card, representing plenty of options for a single monitor as well as supporting Eyefinity. I personally wouldn’t game in Eyefinity with this card, unless it was in CrossFireX, as the 6870 just doesn’t have enough power to support such massive resolutions by itself while having graphics options turned up in games. Not to mention, it ‘only’ has 1 GB of memory. There are better choices for Eyefinity setups, like two of these or a single higher-end card.
Performance and Overclocking
- Intel i7-2600K CPU (Overclockers.com Intel i7-2600K Review)
- MSI Z68A GD65 Motherboard (Overclockers.com MSI Z68A GD65 Review)
- G.Skill 2×2 GB DDR3-2133 7-10-7-27 @ 1.65v RAM
- OCZ 60 GB Vertex 2 SSD
- Seasonic X750 PSU
- HIS 6870 IceQ (Overclockers.com 6870 IceQ X Turbo X Review)
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- Catalyst 11.10 drivers
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Alien vs. Predator was run at its default setting, and the highest it offered (4x AA, textures set to “3″)
- Hawx 2 was run at a resolution of 1920×1080 with 8x AA and every setting at its highest
- Dirt 2 was run at a resolution of 1920×1080 with 8x AA/16x AF and all settings at their highest
- Stalker:COP was run at a resolution of 1920×1080 using Ultra settings, 4x AA with tessellation enabled using the Sunshafts portion of the benchmark only
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run with the “extreme” setting
Due to the 6870 IceQ’s much lower stock clock speeds (900/1050 MHz) when compared to the IceQ X Turbo X (975/1200 MHz), you can see that its performance at stock comes in a bit lower across the board, as to be expected. The same holds true for the overclocked tests as this specific card didn’t quite make the 24/7 clocks the Turbo did, coming in around 975/1200 MHz (the stock clock speeds for the Turbo X). However, this card holds its own in the mid-range performance segment.
We achieve the same sort of results here for the games as you see in the synthetic tests. At stock and overclocked, this card laggs a bit behind its much higher clocked counterpart. Again though, all games were playable even at the highest settings with this card.
Pushing the Limits
After a bit of tweaking, I really wasn’t able to get this card to overclock quite as far as did the IceQ X Turbo X sample. That’s not to say that this card was a slouch in the overclocking department: with core clocks reaching over 1000 MHz and memory eclipsing the 1200 MHz mark, this sample reached a respectable 24/7 clock speed. With the IceQ cooler it remained pretty quiet on the stock profile around 50%. I ramped up the fan to 100% which kept the temperatures down to about 57 °C under load.
HIS has stated that this cooler is capable of cooling the GPU up to 24 °C lower than the reference cooler, as well as being 10 dB quieter. The IceQ cooler sports four copper heatpipes protruding out of the top of the video card starting down at the core area and ending up inside the dense fin array. The IceQ cooler has HIS’s own “Black Hole Impeller” at the rear which takes in cool air from both sides of the fan, sending it through the heatsink and exhausting most of it out of the rear of the card and case when installed.
So how did it do? Sadly, as for the prior 6870 IceQ X Turbo X review we did not have a reference cooled card for comparison, but in comparison to the IceQ X cooler, it did pretty darn well. The fan isn’t as quiet as the IceQ X cooler, though that is to be expected from that type of impeller fan and its speeds compared to the 92 mm fan on the IceQ X cards. This was more of a wind noise than it was a whine and far better than the reference cards I have heard.
The temperatures during stock benchmarking and gaming hit just a bit over 60 °C which was at 40% fan speed (ambient of 22 °C). At those fan speeds, it was barely audible. After some heavy overclocking and adding voltage, this card only ramped up a few degrees more and went up to 65 °C with the default profile on MSI Afterburner. When running it at 100% through these tests, the card barely broke 55 °C. Not bad at all. Though to be honest, I did expect a bit more as those are the same results I found with a much more powerful card with the same cooler, the 6970 IceQ.
The big draw for this card is supposed to be the monster IceQ cooler keeping things below a boil under the hood. I’m not sure why, but this cooler, in a slightly cooler room, was still a bit warmer than with this same cooler strapped to a much more power hungry card (an AMD 6970). That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s not close to that, as it cools notably better than reference coolers while being quieter as well. One of the better things, however, about this cooler vs the IceQ X coolers are the majority of heat exhausts outside the case. Personally, I would prefer that and sacrifice a degree or two of temperature on the card.
As far as performance, this model comes in with the reference clocks of the 6870 so out of the box, it did perform slower than its much higher clocked fraternal twin the 6870 IceQ X TurboX, but that is to be expected. The performance difference really wasn’t much at all, I’m sure you noticed. It also comes in around $30 less than the Turbo X (newegg.com $199.99 with $15 Mail in Rebate) making it a better buy than 6870 IceQX Turbo X.
Overall, the card fits in its mid-range segment quite well in performance as well pricing, landing right in the middle of each essentially. As far as choosing between all the 6870’s on the market and this one, the 6870 IceQ from HIS should be a front-runner to buyers due to its superior cooling, quieter operation, and good price point, especially when compared with the reference models.