Well, it’s about time… Tahiti and Pitcairn has been out for a while now, so it’s time for partners to start getting out non-reference versions, at least with their own cooling. HIS has done so with their Pitcairn line with the 7870 IceQ X Turbo X version of the reference 7870. Let’s see if this card can manage to run cooler, quieter, and achieve some solid clocks.
Specifications and Features
Below we will see an excerpt of specifications and features from the HIS website. You will see this card comes it at 1100 MHz core and stock 1250 MHz memory speeds. Up from 1000 MHz on the core. 1100 MHz is the highest stock overclock available at this time (that honor shared with another card).
Next up is what GPUz 6.0 tells us this cards is…and not surprisingly, it matches up with the specifications from HIS.
Below you will see just some of the major features of this HIS Iceq X Turbo X card from the HIS website.
Obviously, this is a lot of marketing to take in, but the bottom line to take away from the features listed above is that the Ice Q cooler in their testing cooled 17 °C better than the reference cooler and was 3 dB quieter. HIS has also come out with their own overclocking software called iTurbo to compete with the likes of MSI Afterburner, or EVGA Precision(X). We will discuss that a bit later.
Okay, let’s see what is going on with the retail packaging… As anyone that has bought a HIS card recently, this packaging really hasn’t changed much outside of name and feature updates. Per usual some high level features up front and more details on the back. What this box is missing are some attractive female ninjas, I think.
Again we see the box in box packaging typical of HIS cards. The 7870 fits nice and snug inside its form fitting foam helping to prevent any shipping damage. Below the foam is a cardboard partition under which the accessories reside.
Taking a look at the accessories you see the usual suspects in your driver disc, DVI to VGA adapter, as well as a CrossFireX bridge and one different item. That item is called a “lifter” and its used to support the graphics card. I have seen these included with cases (HAF-X to name one), but never with a video card before. Thing is, this card doesn’t appear to be that heavy/large especially when compared to the other cooling solution HIS has for these cards so it’s a peculiar addition. Regardless, if you are worried about your card sagging, this card has some support for it!
Taking a look at the front of the card you see a black cover hiding the heatsink with the heatpipes sticking out of the top. To either side of the 92 mm blue fan are hexagonal chrome (plastic) shapes giving the card, in my opinion, a bit better look than an understated all black cover.
Flipping the card over we don’t see anything worth mentioning outside of noting there is a one CrossFireX connection point to run two of these together (see results of CrossFireX below).
Looking at the output section (from L to R), there are two mini DisplayPorts, one HDMI port, as well as DVI-D. You can see in this angle the plate has holes cut in it to at least let some of the warm air out of the case though most of it is blown inside the case.
The last picture in this grouping shows the two PCIe 6-pin connectors for this 120 W TDP card.
After taking off the heatsink of the card to expose the PCB and underside of the heatsink, one can see how this card ticks. We have a pretty good TIM application showing adequate coverage and not gratuitous overflow which is good to see. The heatsink runs about 3/4 the length of the card and uses four heatpipes spread throughout the fin array starting from the copper base. The base is not polished but has a brushed look to it.
After wiping off the factory TIM, you can see the 7870 core as well as the Hynix H5GQ2H24MFR – T2C vRAM which specs out to 1250 MHz @ 1.5 V for default…which is exactly where this card sets them at (like a couple others I reviewed lately).
Performance and Overclocking
- Intel i7-2600K CPU (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- Asrock Z77 Fatal1ty Pro
- G.Skill RipjawsX 2 x 4 GB 2133 MHz CL7 @ 1.65 V
- OCZ Vertex 3 SSD (Overclockers.com Approved!)
- Seasonic X560
- HIS HD 7870 IceQ X Turbo X (Stock – 1100/1250 and 1200/1375 overclocked)
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- Catalyst 12.3 (8.950.0)
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Alien vs. Predator was run at its default setting (textures high, no AA), and the highest it offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Hawx 2 was run at a resolution of 1920×1080 with 8x AA and every setting at its highest (DX10)
- 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
HIS has come out with their own overclocking software name iTurbo to compete with already established GPU overclocking utilities. The first shot you see below is the application just after start up. Looks like an iPod disc doesn’t it? From this display, you can control fan speed (Quieter/Cooler) get information about your setup which pops open the ‘full’ version of iTurbo, or click on advanced to get to all the options this application has to offer.
When clicking in the “i” or “advanced” text, you will see the full version of the application pop up as pictured below. The interface looks like similar to TriXX with just a custom skin placed on top. Assuming that is true, I prefer this skin vs default one in TriXX, if that isn’t the case it still looks better!
The Information screen shows some details about the card including, core type, die size, the interface its on, memory and it’s bus width, ROP’s, shaders, driver version, clocks, and even the product ID. Everything you need to know. Looking at the overclocking screen, you have what is needed for overclocking magic on your GPU to happen such as, GPU clocks, memory clocks, and VDDC (core voltage). You are also able to save clock profiles on this screen. I was pleased to see this software versus MSI Afterburner showed MUCH higher limits on both the core and the memory (the MSIAB ‘unofficial overclocking’ did not work for this card for some reason). So, if you are extreme overclocking, this software would be what I use if only for the higher voltage and clock limits.
When looking at the Fan Control screen, you have the typical options of Automatic (which vary by temperature and a default fan profile), Fixed (where you set your fan constant speed), and Custom which is an extension of Automatic with the user creating the fan profile. Do you see the “Save as Quieter”, and “Save as Cooler” buttons? This is where you can set those static fan speeds for the ‘small’ version of this software making it a one button solution for the fan.
Overall, this is a solid product and does what it says it will do. It is a viable choice between other GPU overclocking applications available. One thing to note is that this application takes up a lot of screen real estate and I wish it was smaller on the screen. The sizes below are actual once you click on them.
Ahhh, enough of the really dry stuff… now some meat and potatoes in benchmarks. We start out with our oldie but good, 3DMark 03. This bench, though old, still responds quite well to GPU changes. You can see by looking at the graph the that slightly higher overclocked HIS 7870 IceQ X Turbo X comes out slightly ahead of Sapphire 7870 (labeled AMD here) in this benchmark as expected. Since this card was overclocked further for the “24/7” overclock, it beats the other card there as well.
3DMark 06 isn’t terribly interesting these days with the CPU at stock speeds as it shows VERY little difference across a wide range of cards. That said, this card scored slightly less than another 7870, but was within the margin of error. Nothing to see here, ‘ this is not the bench we are looking for.’
Okay, let’s look at some modern benchmarks that will show some good differences between GPUs. Starting of with 3DMark Vantage, the HIS card shows its overclocked might in this bench beating out its lower clocked competition as it should posting a score of 25.6k stock and 26.6k overclocked which falls short of the 7950 as expected.
3dMark 11 shows similar results in that the higher overclocked HIS 7870 beats out a lower clocked 7870 turning in a stock score of 7149 and overclocked at 7626 losing out 7950 and a highly overclocked GTX 580.
Last on the synthetic side of the house is Unigine Heaven (Hwbot version), where again things fall right in place here. The HIS scoring 1593 at stock speeds and 1721 overclocked.
Games games games… let’s see what these results have to show! The first game we will be looking at today is Aliens vs Predator which makes use of tessellation among other DX11 features. The HIS IceQ X Turbo X lands where it should beating out a lower clocked 7870 across the board in these tests. Granted its only by a frame or two and could be within the margin of error, but it was consistent across the testing.
Moving on to Stalker: Call of Pripyat one can see this card matching the other 7870 in this test at stock and pulling slightly away when overclocked. Again, due to the higher overclock on this card, we should expect that result.
Moving on to an ‘oldie but goodie’ arcade style Air combat game, Hawx 2, we again see this now consistent oddity (especially from the synthetic side of things) the 7870 matching or slightly beating the 7950. It does so in Hawx 2 by a few percentage points, but even with the high overclock, it still gets beat by the GTX 580.
The last game we mention results over is Dirt 2. This is an older game but still uses some DX11 features relevant to today’s games. With that out of the way, things fit perfectly in their holes here with the HIS card coming out on top of another 7870 by a couple frames per second coming in at 104 FPS stock and 113 FPS overclocked.
So now that we’ve pitted two 7870’s against each other, let’s see how well they can put their differences aside and work together in CrossFireX. Scaling here was solid in most cases outside of the older synthetic tests which require some CPU power behind it (03 and 06 especially). 3DMark 11 shows an almost 80% gain while Unigine Heaven and Aliens vs Predator show 90%+ scaling…amazing! When you get in to a much older game like Hawx2 scaling is almost non existent. I wonder if it even has a profile for the game.
With all results in mind, there are great gains to be had in most cases. Two of these together would be a monster to game with. Take a look at the ‘pushing the limits’ section below to see how these cards responded with some CPU horsepower behind it in the synthetic benchmarks.
Cooling and Power Consumption
As mentioned in a previous 7870 review, one of the differences between reference cards and aftermarket are the cooling solutions used. The HIS IceQ X Turbo X 4-heatpipe, single 92 mm fan setup. Using stock clocks, voltages, and fan profile, in a 19 °C room, at idle she hovered around 27 °C. Upon load it hit a relatively chilly 58 °C. At the overclocked speeds, temps only went up to 27 °C and 61 °C respectively. After pushing the limits (details below) running at 1.299 V and 1302/1402 clocks and 100% fan it idled around 25 °C (gotta love their idle clocking!) and loaded to 64 °C.
As far as power consumption, with the system fully overclocked at 5.2 GHz (4c/8t) 1.5 V on the CPU, and 1302/1401 MHz @ 1.299 V on the GPU, the system peaked at 322 W in 3DMark 11 combined test. In the Graphics Test 4, it peaked around 303 W. For the CrossFireX results, with the same CPU speed of 5.2 GHz (4c/8t) 1.5 V and GPU clocks at 1200/1375 MHz @ 1.299 V, again in 3DMark 11 combined test, the system managed to peak at 564 W with ‘averages’ of 540 W or so.
Pushing the Limits
Let’s take a look below and check out the results. You can see some pretty impressive scores here. I was able to push this card with 1.299 V to 1302/1402 MHz. The core was in the same ballpark as a previously reviewed 7870, but the memory fell short a bit. That said, pushing the CPU and GPU together yielded some great results. This card is a horse and when its gets whipped in the final straight away (with many furlongs to go) there is plenty left in the tank.
Pushing the limits in CrossFireX
Listed below are the results from CrossFireX two 7870’s with an overclock of 1200/xxxx MHz and 5.2 GHz on the CPU. You can see from the 3dMark 06 results that more CPU is needed to properly push these things at that low of a resolution without a lot of advanced features happening on screen. You can see however that 3DMark Vantage, 3DMark 11, and Unigine Heaven scaled quite well.
I wanted to talk briefly about power consumption here. On a personal level I have been waffling as to keep the GTX 680, or to rock two of these cards on my 2560×1440 monitor. My quandary was that I only have a 560 W PSU (Seasonic X560). Let me tell you that it wouldn’t be a problem. During the combined test, I peaked at 511 W while hovering just over 490 W throughout most of the testing. Note that was with a 5.2 GHz CPU, and BOTH cards overclocked to their wits end in CrossFireX. As you can tell by the graphs above, performance of the 7870’s handily beat out the 680 and 7970 in single card form (while costing more).
That aside, let’s see how they did when pushed together:
The pricing this card is MSRP of $389.99 which puts this as the most expensive 7870 on the market at Newegg.com by around $15. I can’t say the card is worth that much, as there are other cards out there with aftermarket cooling for less. Are they as effective or quiet? I don’t have any idea, but in the interest of fairness, we need to put all the information out there for the consumer to make the best decision for him/herself.
Taking a look at the big picture of the HIS 7870 IceQ X Turbo X, we see great things from this card. A superior heatsink versus reference in every way (performance and sound), and this sample was a solid overclocker as well. Regardless of it being the most expensive, this card is still Overclockers.com approved!
~ Joe Shields (EarthDog)