PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 6870 Review

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AMD Radeon HD 6870 cards aren’t anything new to the market, but non-reference, overclocked versions are still coming out. PowerColor was kind enough to send over one of their PCS+ HD 6870 cards for us to put through its paces. It comes pre-overclocked but hopefully there is still room for us to squeeze out even more fun.

PCS+ HD 6870

PCS+ HD 6870

Opening the Box

The overall presentation of the card is excellent and what you’d expect from buying a high-end graphics card.  This isn’t the top of the line card currently, but the box helps convey that this is a quality piece of hardware. On the inside, the packaging is just as neat and holds everything in place perfectly. As for the included accessories, I’ve seen better but I’m glad the did include one DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, one DVI to VGA adapter, and one Crossfire Bridge at the very least.

Front of the box

Front of the box

Back of the box

Back of the box

It's a box inside a box

It's a box inside a box

Our new toy!

Our new toy!

The accessories

The accessories

Specifications and Features

The most notable feature of the PCS+ HD 6870 is that it comes from the factory with the core and RAM overclocked to 640 MHz and 1100 MHz, respectively.  The stock HD6870 cards are running 600 MHz core and 1050 MHz RAM speeds. Also, the fan and heatsink is a much quieter design than the reference AMD cards.  That might not make much of a difference when you are gaming with headphones on and your computer buried beneath your desk, but it is a very noticeable difference when in an otherwise quiet room.

The core

The core

What lies beneath the heatsink

What lies beneath the heatsink

Bottom of the heatsink

Bottom of the heatsink

Purposely left with ridges and swirls

Purposely left with ridges and swirls

Bottom of the card

Bottom of the card

Another bottom angle

Another bottom angle

The large, quiet fan

The large, quiet fan

Another view of the fan

Another view of the fan

Plenty of connection options

Plenty of connection options

Since Hokiealumnus reviewed the AMD HD 6870 a few months ago and this card is nearly identical except for the speeds, I’m only going to show an abbreviated features table. The best thing to take away from the features of this card is where it sits with respect to other 6870’s in Powercolor’s line-up.

HD 6870 PCS+ HD 6870 PCS++ HD 6870
Part Number AX6870 1GBD5-2DH AX6870 1GBD5-PP2DH AX6870 1GBD5-P22DH
Graphics Engine RADEON HD6800 RADEON HD6800 RADEON HD6800
Video Memory 1GB GDDR5 1GB GDDR5 1GB GDDR5
Engine Clock 900MHz 940MHz 975MHz
Memory Clock 1050MHz (4.2Gbps) 1100MHz (4.4Gbps) 1150MHz (4.6Gbps)
Memory Interface 256bit 256bit 256bit

Test System

  • Processor: Intel i7 2600k
  • Motherboard: Biostar TP67XE
  • Memory: Patriot Sector 5 Viper II 2x2GB DDR3 @ 2100 MHz
  • Power Supply: NZXT Hale90 850W
  • Heatsink: Zalman CNPS9900-LED
  • Hard Drive: Seagate 7200.11 1.5 TB SATA

Overclocking

Without any voltage adjustments, I was able to complete most benchmarks at 980 MHz core and 1250 MHz RAM, which is higher than PowerColor’s PCS++. Unigine forced me to lower the core clock to 975 MHz. Also, those speeds are faster than Hokiealumnus did with the reference card without any voltage tweaks. So, even though I didn’t break any records, this card did overclock relatively well. Unlocking the core voltage would have helped get this card past 1000 MHz on the core but I could not find a way to do that, unfortunately.

PCS+ 6870 running 980/1250

PCS+ 6870 running 980/1250

I was able to pair the PowerColor with the reference 6870 and run crossfire, but I had to turn the clocks down and even then I had to run different settings for most benchmarks.  Unigine and STALKER would pass with the two cards clocked at 945/1195 but 3DMark 11 would pass at 950/1115 and 3DMark Vantage would pass at 955/1115.

Unigine with Crossfire, cards overclocked

Unigine with Crossfire, cards overclocked

Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks

Overall, there wasn’t anything too odd when testing the PCS+ 6870 and comparing it to the reference AMD 6870.  However, the reference card did beat the PCS+ at stock speeds running Unigine. I don’t have any guesses as to why, but the two scores are less than 1% away from each other so it is statistically insignificant. Another interesting statistic from the graph above is that Unigine seems to love these cards in Crossfire while 3DMark 06 couldn’t care less.  Crossfire was released a few months before 3DMark06 so I’d think it would scale a little better even with the technology in its infancy.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any other graphics cards on hand to compare to, but it is easy to see on HWBot that the 6870 competes well with cards like the Nvidia GTX 460 and 465. While HWBot might not be the most scientific of places to compare hardware performance, it can still be used to get a quick and dirty sense of relative performance.

Conclusion

Out of the box at it’s stock settings, this card isn’t anything to shout about. However, once you push the card a little further, it begins to show it’s worth.  Newegg shows the stock PowerColor 6870 being sold for $209 and the PCS+ being sold for $219. For a difference in $10, I’d gladly pay for the PCS+ for the small bump in speeds as well as the quieter fan. Overclocking the card further is also possible which makes that $10 even more worth it. If you are comparing this card to the Nvidia camp, then you might actually be better off with a GTX 460 which looks like it is slightly beating the 6870 in recent games.  Still, in the pool of HD 6870s the PowerColor PCS+ is an exceptional value and I’m marking it Overclockers Approved.

– splat

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Discussion
  1. Just read this review on the 6870. It's a very good card under the radar. For the money you can't go wrong with any of the 6870's!
    Excellent review as well!
    wickedout
    Just read this review on the 6870. It's a very good card under the radar. For the money you can't go wrong with any of the 6870's!

    I have a couple of the 6870's in crossfire and have no complaints. Seem to OC really easy, and stay cool while doing it.