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Michael Brown Jul 02, 2010

HIS iCooler V Turbo Radeon HD 5870

At A Glance

Polished

Good performance; bundled Modern Warfare 2; runs cool under load.

Tarnished

Slightly noisier than reference-design cards; expensive.

HIS delivers a factory-overclocked Radeon HD 5870

When a new GPU launches, most manufacturers ship videocards that look disturbingly similar. That’s because they’re either based on the GPU manufacturer’s reference design or, in the case of the initial Nvidia 480 GTX release, are actually built by the GPU manufacturer.

As time goes by, board makers become more comfortable with the GPU’s strengths and weaknesses and gain a better understanding of such issues as how memory clocks match to GPU clocks, which voltages work best for performance and/or product longevity, and so on. While all this is going on, the GPU maker either respins the chip or nails down the manufacturing process. And after a few months, we typically see a spate of custom card designs, often factory overclocked, as vendors seek to distinguish their product from the competition.

So it is with the HIS iCooler V Turbo Radeon HD 5870. That big mouthful of product name (let’s just call it the iCooler HD 5870) is built with a non-reference cooling system on top of a blue printed circuit board. Like the stock Radeon HD 5870, HIS’s card offers two DVI ports, one DisplayPort connector, and HDMI.

The cowling over the heatsink and fan is emblazoned with the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 logo, and you’ll find a key for downloading a free copy of that game from Steam inside the box, along with a CrossFire X connector, power adapters, and a VGA-to-DVI adapter.We compared the iCooler Turbo V’s performance to two other cards: the factory-overclocked XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX Edition and a conventional Radeon HD 5870 .

As you can see from the spec chart, below, the HIS and XFX cards are pretty similar: HIS pushes the core clock 25MHz higher than XFX, but runs the memory 25Hz slower. According to our benchmark results, these margins don’t matter much—at least not in terms of frame rate. The two cards’ temperatures at idle and under load, on the other hand, tell a different story.

In order to push the GPUs on both cards as hard as we could, we ran the Heaven benchmark at 1920x1200 resolution, with 8x AA and extreme tessellation. The GPU on the XFX card warmed to 67C, while the heatsink and fan on the HIS card kept its GPU about 10 percent cooler at 61C.

While neither temp endangers the GPU, the XFX card was noticeably quieter—at least while the PC was opened up: Even with its GPU running full throttle, the XFX fan never spun higher than 28 percent of maximum, while the HIS fan spun up to 50 percent. Once we closed both sides of our PC’s case, however, the difference in noise levels was negligible.

The difference in street prices for the two designs is not negligible: The going price for the HIS iCooler V Turbo X HD 5870 is $490, while the XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX Edition can be had for $60 less. XFX uses a stock cooler and doesn’t bundle a game, but it does provide an excellent warranty and you can buy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2—or just about any other new-release game—for 50 bucks.

The bottom line is that HIS has shipped a great card that pushes the Radeon HD 5870 about as hard as it can go with standard power connectors. But they’re charging too much for almost no performance gain over the competition.

THE VERDICT

HIS iCooler V Turbo Radeon HD 5870

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