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HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X

The HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo is a factory overclocked card that deserves to be called one of the fastest HD6870′s currently available. Add to that a silent and efficient cooler and we have a winner.

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INTRODUCTION

We recently reviewed the HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo X and found it to be an excellent overclocker with an impressive cooler. Today we are looking at a similar card, this time using the HD6870 GPU. HIS markets the HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo as “The World’s Fastest HD6870″, a claim we need to test.

 

On paper, it is easy to see why HIS makes these bold claims: the card comes pre-overclocked to 975 MHz (GPU) and 4600 MHz (memory). This is a 8-10% overclock over the stock frequencies. To give a little perspective, the PowerColor PCS+ HD6870 is overclocked to 940/4400MHz. However, the specs aren’t the only thing that HIS increased on this card: the price also is higher. At launch these cards can be found for around $260 (US) / 2000 SEK, which is around $40 more expensive than the regular HIS HD6870, and in the same ballpark as a pre-overclocked NVIDIA GTX560 Ti.

Is it worth the extra cash? Read on to find out.

FEATURES & SPECIFICATIONS

By now, most readers know what the HD6870 can do. If not, feel free to read our overview of the HD6850 and the HD6870.

While the name implies that the HD6870 is intended to replace the HD5870, AMD decided to change the naming convention. The HD6950 and HD6970 are intended to replace the HD5850 and HD5870. The HD6870 is therefore a mid-range card aimed at users that want great performance but do not want to pay through the nose for it.

 

Feature/Specification HIS 6870 1GB GDDR5 HIS 6870 IceQ X Turbo  X 1GB GDDR5
Cooler

Fan

IceQ X
GPU

HD6870

HD6870
Core Clock

900

975
Memory

1024 MB
DDR5

1024 MB
DDR5

Memory Speed 4200 4600
Memory interface

256 bit

256 bit

Stream Processors

1120

1120
ROPs 32 32

The HIS HD6870 IceQ Turbo X runs at 975/4600 MHz. That is an 8% overclock of the GPU out of the box.

Special HIS features

The main HIS feature of this card is the cooler. The HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X has the latest version of the IceQ X cooler. It promises to not only cool the card better, but also run at a lower noise level.

So what other features do we get with the HD6870?

DisplayPort 1.2

AMD continues using DisplayPort, and has updated to version 1.2, which offers double the bandwidth of DisplayPort 1.1 and easily can support a multitude of display timings combining high resolutions, high refresh rates and high color depths. One of the cooler new features of DisplayPort 1.2 is the support for Multi-Stream Transport, or MST. What this means is that users can drive several display devices through one DisplayPort connector. It is also referred to as daisy-chaining displays. This of course needs display hardware that supports it, and we won’t see those displays until later in 2011.

Upgraded Eyefinity

While the original Eyefinity only supported 3 monitors on the regular HD5xxx cards, the HD68xx cards now support 4 monitors: two over the DVI-connectors (only one is dual-link, the other is single-link) and two from the mini-DisplayPort connectors.

HDMI 1.4a

AMD has also upgraded to HDMI 1.4a from 1.3. This means it supports HDMI 1.4a frame packing for stereo 3D.

HD3D

Yes, AMD does indeed support 3D although it mainly is via 3rd Party stereo 3D middleware software. This year we will see at least one game that supports 3D natively (the new Deus Ex game). For those who are interested in 3D HIS has a nice offer: get the software TriDef 3D for 50% of the retail price.

PICTURES & IMPRESSIONS

The HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X comes in a small but sturdy box that protects the card well. Our review sample was shipped in this box from Taiwan and arrived in perfect shape, so it should arrive well protected and intact from online stores.

Since this is the second card we have tested that carries the IceQ X cooler, we are getting used to the turquoise color HIS has chosen this time. It is still quite ugly, but it is starting to grow on us a bit. We are still happy HIS did not feel the need to put LEDs in the cooler.

The fan sits in the middle of the card, whereas on the reference design, the fan is located towards the rear of the card. Since the GPU itself is located in the middle of the card, this feels like a more logical place to put the fan. The fan has small hooks at the end of the blades, which we surmise is to improve the airflow while keeping the fan silent.

The card needs power from two 6-pin PCI Express connectors, drawing 150W of power.

We get two mini-DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI 1.4a connector and two DVI connectors. It would have been nice for HIS to include a mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter, since few monitors use mini-DisplayPort connectors.

TESTING & METHODOLOGY

 

Hardware Test Setup
CPU

Intel Core i7 2600K @ 4.7 GHz

Motherboard

ASUS P8P67 Pro

Memory

8 GB DDR3 Kingston

Boot disk

OCZ Vertex 2

Video Cards HIS HD6850
HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo
Reference HD6870
Reference HD6850
Gigabyte GTX460 1 GB OC
MSI GTX560 Ti OC
PSU

Thermaltake GRAND 750W

OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit with SP1
Video drivers AMD cards: Catalyst 11.4 beta
NVIDIA GTX460 1 GB: 266.58
NVIDIA GTX560 Ti: 266.66

 

Benchmark: Settings:
3DMark Vantage

DX10, “Performance”

3DMark 11

DX11, “Performance” and “Xtreme”

Formula F1

DX11, “Ultra” preset, 8xAA

Just Cause 2

DX11, 8xAA/16xAF, Everything set to max except NVIDIA specific settings which are turned off. Dark Tower and Sunrise benchmark.

Crysis: Warhead

DX10, “Enthusiast” preset, no AA and 4xAA

Power consumption

We measure the power draw at the wall both at idle and when running Furmark at 1920×1080. The resulting number includes all the components of the system except the monitor.

Temperature We measure the temperature after 30 minutes running Furmark at 1920×1080. 
Noise We measure the noise level using a noise level meter 1 meter from the rear of the card.

 

SYNTHETIC BENCHMARKS

Our first batch of benchmarks are synthetic benchmarks, which try to simulate a real life situation.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is still one of the most popular benchmarks even though it is getting a bit old now. It lets us benchmark the DX10 performance of the cards.

The extra horespower on the GPU does its job, and propels this card to ahead of both the regular HD6870 and the overclocked Powercolor PCS HD6870. The graphics score almost reaches that of the GTX560 Ti OC.

“3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the graphics performance of gaming PCs. Designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.”

In 3DMark11, the HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X manages to beat all the cards we tested, including the Gigabyte GTX560 Ti OC.

DX10 GAMING: JUST CAUSE 2

Just Cause 2 is an open world action-adventure video game. It was released in North America on March 23, 2010, by Swedish developer Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive, and was published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2006 video game Just Cause.

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak “Baby” Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.”

The HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X definitely uses its higher frequency well and gets 6-10 more frames per second than a regular HD6870, bringing it very close to the GTX560 Ti OC.

DX10 GAMING: CRYSIS WARHEAD

Crysis Warhead is the much anticipated standalone expansion pack to Crysis, featuring an updated CryENGINE™ 2 with better optimization. It was one of the most anticipated titles of 2008.

Again we see a serious increase in performance over the regular HD6870. Here, the HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X comes within spitting distance of the GTX560 Ti, especially as we enable 4xAA.

OVERCLOCKING

Considering the impressive overclocking we saw with the HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo X, we had some hope for this card. We used the Sapphire Trixx utility to alter the frequency of the CPU and the memory.

We tested each overclock by running the burn-in test in Furmark at 1920×1080 for 30 minutes. If this worked without any errors we increased the settings a bit more. When we found the highest overclock we ran the card through almost all our benchmarks. If the card could handle all this without crashing we would accept the overclock as stable.

We had some issues with getting a stable overclock for this card. At first we managed to get the GPU up to 1036 MHz, and it ran stable in Furmark, but it kept crashing in 3DMark Vantage or Crysis: Warhead. Next, we thought we had a good overlock at 1009 MHz, but when we tried to benchmark Crysis: Warhead it crashed at the end of the first run. In the end, the best stable overclock we could manage was 1006 MHz GPU / 1204 MHz memory, which is just 3-5% more than what we got out of the box. However, it seems senseless to complain about the lack of extra headroom in a product that is factory overclocked so highly, so users shouldn’t expect too much more.

While there still is some headroom left for some additional overclocking, the performance increase we see from it isn’t that big. Still, every little extra FPS helps.

TEMPERATURES

We have high expectations of this card’s IceQ X cooler, and while it does not work as well as the IceQ X cooler on the HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo X, it does manage to cool the card 7-9 degrees more than both a reference HD6870 and the PowerColor PCS HD6870.

POWER CONSUMPTION

Just as we saw with the HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo X, these pre-overclocked cards draw more power than the regular HD6870.

NOISE LEVEL

We had some issues measuring the noise level of the graphics cards alone as the whole system had to be on while we did the testing. In the system we also have a Noctua 140mm-fan and a Thermaltake GRAND PSU which both added to the noise level.

While the card does emit a bit more noise than the HIS HD6850 IceQ X Turbo X, it still is far more silent than a regular HD6870 or the PowerColor PCS HD6870.

CONCLUSION

HIS markets this card as “the fastest HD6870 card”, and while we haven’t tested every HD6870 card on the market, this card certainly is a lot faster than both a regular HD6870 and the overclocked PowerColor PCS HD6870. When also considering the silent and efficient cooler and extra overclocking headroom, it is clear that this must be one of the best HD6870 cards that money can currently buy.

The price for the card is around around $260 in the US, which is $40-50 more than a regular HIS HD6870 and around the same price as a pre-overclocked GTX560 Ti. It is a decent price, although the competition from the GTX560 Ti is fierce.

 

OUR VERDICT: HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo X
Performance 9
Value 7
Quality 9
Features 8.5
Innovation 8
We are using a new addition to our scoring system to provide additional feedback beyond a flat score. Please note that the final score isn’t an aggregate average of the new rating system.
Total 8
Pros Cons

Great performance that is quite a lot faster than a regular HD6870

Factory overclocked

Eyefinity support

Efficient and quiet cooler

Good price

Higher power consumption than a regular HD6870

Hgher price over a regular HD6870

Summary: The HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo is a factory overclocked card that deserves to be called one of the fastest HD6870′s currently available. Add to that a silent and efficient cooler and we have a winner. With a score of 8/10, the HIS HD6870 IceQ X Turbo earns the Bjorn3D Silver Bear Award.

 

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