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Gigabyte HD 5870 1GB Super Overclock Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Dragon Age: Origins (DX9)

Dragon Age: Origins (DX9)


To benchmark Dragon Age, we used a simple walkthrough coupled with a short combat sequence. The benchmark run begins with a walk through one of the most demanding scenes we have come across in the game so far: the walk over the bridge and through Ostagar. This is followed by a combat sequence outside of the fortress itself. In total the runthrough takes about 6 minutes.

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

HD5870SOC-52.jpg


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2560 x 1600

HD5870SOC-54.jpg


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SKYMTL

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Far Cry 2 (DX9)

Far Cry 2 (DX9)


HD4890-24.jpg

Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 5 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates


1680 x 1050

HD5870SOC-57.jpg


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1920 x 1200

HD5870SOC-59.jpg


HD5870SOC-60.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD5870SOC-61.jpg


HD5870SOC-62.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,841
Location
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Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Far Cry 2 (DX10)


HD4890-24.jpg

Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 5 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates


1680 x 1050

HD5870SOC-63.jpg


HD5870SOC-64.jpg


1920 x 1200

HD5870SOC-65.jpg


HD5870SOC-66.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD5870SOC-67.jpg


HD5870SOC-68.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


There has been a lot of buzz about Metro 2033 which has mostly centered on its amazing graphics coupled with absolutely brutal framerates on even the best GPUs on the market. For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 5 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.


1680 x 1050

HD5870SOC-70.jpg


1920 x 1200

HD5870SOC-71.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD5870SOC-72.jpg
 
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SKYMTL

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Unigine: Heaven v2.0 (DX11)

Unigine: Heaven v2.0 (DX11)


Unigine’s Heaven benchmark is currently the de-facto standard when it comes to simple, straightforward DX11 performance estimates. While it is considered a synthetic benchmark by many, it is important to remember that no less than four games based on this engine will be released within the next year or so. In this test we will be using a standard benchmark run with and without tessellation enabled at three resolutions,


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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8x MSAA Testing (BF: BC2 / DiRT 2)

8x MSAA Testing (BF: BC2 / DiRT 2)


In this section we take a number of games we have tested previously in this review and bring things to the next level by pushing the in-game MSAA up to 8x. All other methodologies remain the same.

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)
Note that 8x MSAA is enabled via the game’s config file for the NVIDIA cards since it is not a selectable option within the game menu

HD5870SOC-42.jpg


DIRT 2 (DX11)

HD5870SOC-49.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
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8x MSAA Testing (Dragon Age / Far Cry 2)

8x MSAA Testing (Dragon Age / Far Cry 2)


In this section we take a number of games we have tested previously in this review and bring things to the next level by pushing the in-game MSAA up to 8x. All other methodologies remain the same.

Dragon Age: Origins (DX9)

HD5870SOC-56.jpg


Far Cry 2 (DX10)

HD5870SOC-69.jpg
 

SKYMTL

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Core Temperature & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Core Temperature & Acoustics


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped. For this test we use the 3DMark Batch Size test at it highest triangle count with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled and looped it for one hour to determine the peak load temperature as measured by GPU-Z.

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Vista desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.


HD5870SOC-75.jpg

Gigabyte claims the Super Overclock card achieves great temperatures and we have to agree with them on this one. The only card that was able to best it was XFX’s custom cooled HD 5830 which should say a lot about Gigabyte’s high-end cooling solution. Acoustics was a bit touch and go in our books but subjectively this card was slightly louder than a reference card but not to the point of being audible over normal case fan noise.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.

HD5870SOC-73.jpg

We ran and reran the power consumption tests again and again but every time the same results reared their ugly heads. We’re not sure if our card somehow has one of those mythical high leakage chips or if Gigabyte’s component choices were made for performance rather than efficiency but these are some ugly numbers. After fiddling with the Gigabyte OC Guru software in the “Saving” mode (more on that in the next section) but that didn’t stop it from setting record-breaking –for a HD 5870- consumption numbers.
 
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SKYMTL

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Gigabyte's OC Guru Software & Overclocking

Gigabyte’s OC Guru Software


Gigabyte has long been using their own proprietary overclocking and monitoring software for their video cards to varying degrees of success. Their newest OC Guru aims to take things to the next level with the software that ships with their HD 5870 Super Overclock.

HD5870SOC-19.jpg

What you see above is what OC Guru looks like when all of its “tabs” are opened. However, finding exactly where those tabs are is a lesson in frustration since the actual interface is so cluttered with needless design elements that everything seems to meld together. To make matters even worse, the information Gigabyte supplies in its Help menu is anything but complete and gives only the bare necessities of pointers.

One of the main problems with OC Guru is the fact that its interface is too complicated for its own good. At the top we have indicators for GPU temperature as well as GPU usage which are perfectly fine in our books but following these are bits of information no self-respecting enthusiast would give a damn about. Current (in Amps) as well as GPU power consumption as well as energy savings are listed and in our opinion show completely out of wack numbers considering the overly high actual numbers we received in our testing. To add insult to injury, there is absolutely no way to actually log any of these seemingly arbitrary numbers.

Below this is where all the fun happens but you have to access the Adjustment tab by first clicking on an almost-hidden button and then clicking on one of the Profile buttons on the right to be able to make any changes. Once you jump through those loops, it is relatively easy to increase core and memory speed as well as adjust voltages to a maximum of 0.10V over standard.

Honestly, we are not fans of this interface at all. It makes simple tasks needlessly difficult and it feels like you are fighting it from start to finish.


Overclocking Results


While we can harp all we want on the OC Guru interface, the fact of the matter is that it allowed some impressive overclocks from the SoC. We will be dividing these into two categories: what we could achieve without any voltage increase and speeds once voltages were increased to the maximum allowable by the software (+0.10V)


Final Clock Speeds (Stock Voltage)

Core: 989Mhz
Memory: 5076Mhz (QDR)

On stock voltage, the results were quite encouraging with the core topping out at a mere 11Mhz away from that magical 1Ghz mark. Even the memory got in on the act by allowing an increase of another 76Mhz (QDR).


Final Clock Speeds (+0.10V on memory + core)

Core: 1040Mhz
Memory: 5240Mhz (QDR)

The real test came with a bump to the memory and core voltages and in our opinion; this card was really able to fly. Not only does this prove that the OC Guru software actually works when it comes to fine tuning voltages but shows that our card had a significant amount of headroom left in the tank.

HD5870SOC-18.jpg
 
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SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion


This Gigabyte card had a lot to live up to considering the pedigree shown by the previous two iterations in the Super Overclock family of GPUs. Ever since it was first shown to the press at CES in Las Vegas, there have been some small leaks but never all that much in the way of bona fide information about clock speeds and a host of other things. There is little doubt that the HD 5870 Super Overclock had big shoes to fill within an extremely competitive market and in our opinion it accomplished its stated goal and then some.

As it stands, even though Gigabyte’s flagship card isn’t pre-overclocked to that magical (and some would say unattainable) level of 1Ghz on its core, the performance benefits it brings to the table are impressive at the very least. The combination of a significant amount of overclocking to both its core and GDDR5 memory does have an impact on in-game framerates even though the vast majority of applications just won’t see an a huge difference in playability. Games that were unplayable on a stock-clocked HD 5870 remain so on the Super Overclock but the increased speeds do improve the fluidity in certain cases.

Many people will look at this card and wonder why Gigabyte didn’t equip it with 2GB of memory. In our opinion, the HD 5870 isn’t limited by 1GB of GDDR5 in any of the resolutions most enthusiasts play at. Adding more memory would have only added to the cost of the SoC which is already an expensive card at $500.

The heatsink itself is also something to behold since it is able to keep the core’s temperatures under control regardless of the 100Mhz bump in clock speeds. Granted, the naked memory modules will probably raise the hackles of a few intrepid overclockers but Gigabyte thought ramsinks wouldn’t be needed due to the modules’ proximity to the fans. We tend to agree with them.

Unfortunately, there was one area which we found needs some serious polish. The OC Guru software is a complete disaster in terms of usability and accessibility. What should have been a quick and easy interface basically turned into a an overly flashy affair that makes simple tasks next to impossible to perform as you wade through hidden tabs and utterly pointless (and many times inaccurate) controls. It’s an ugly, hair-encrusted mole on the otherwise supermodel-like visage of Gigabyte’s HD 5870 Super Overclock. So much so that we would recommend a competitor’s product –MSI’s Afterburner- over the UI facepalm that is OC Guru. On the plus side, once you navigate through the labyrinth of menus it does allow you to eke a bit more performance from the card with voltage tweaks.

Another thing that we found a small problem with was the power consumption at both idle and load which was far above that of a stock HD 5870. Even with Sapphire's overclocked and 2GB-equipped Toxic Edition we saw increases which were more than acceptable but the Super Overclock breaks all records for us when it comes to pre-overclocked HD 5870 cards. Granted, installing the OC Guru software did lower the idle power consumption so it was more in line with what we expected but it barely budged the peak power consumption. However, two questions remain: why should users need to install yet another piece of software in order to control idle power consumption and are enthusiasts willing to sacrifice their electricity bills for performance? In response to the second question, we believe so.

All in all, the Gigabyte HD 5870 Super Overclock is an absolute winner in our books since it offers stunning performance coupled with quiet operation and significant overclocking capabilities. The overall experience was clouded a bit by the absolutely horrid OC Guru software but this is something which is easily avoided by never installing it in the first place. So if you are looking for one of the best HD 5870 cards available on the market today, you should look no further than the HD 5870 Soc.


Pros:

- Great performance
- Extremely good temperatures
- Absolutely insane overclocking limits...if you can put up with OC Guru
- Voltage read points will come in handy for some


Cons:

- VERY high power consumption for a HD 5870
- Totally unintuitive software
- Slightly louder than the reference design



 
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