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Maximum PC Staff Jul 02, 2010

XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX Edition Review

Overclocked to be the fastest card you can buy today

We’ve never been major advocates of GPU overclocking, as the minor gains you achieve often don’t justify the added heat and instability. But there’s a clear difference between Billy Joe doing a maximum overclock on his GPU and a vendor overclocking the part at the factory.

So when XFX offered up its XXX Edition of the already-fast Radeon HD 5870, we were naturally curious. XFX pushes the HD 5870 to 875MHz (3 percent over the stock 850MHz) and juices the memory to 1,300MHz (8.3 percent over the stock 1,200MHz). At first blush, a 3 percent core overclock seems minimal. Given that the card costs about $430, versus about $405 for the stock XFX variant, is it worth the extra jingle?


Is an overclocked GPU worth the extra ducats?

To find out, we compared the performance of the XXX Edition to a standard XFX Radeon HD 5870 , which is a stock card in every respect. Save for clock speeds, the two cards are identical: memory (1GB), ports (two DVI, one DisplayPort, one HDMI), and the reference cooling system. Because of the speed bumps to the XXX Edition’s core and memory clocks, its system idle power usage varies from the stock card, reaching 148W versus 141W.

Our tests were run on a Core i7-975 Extreme Edition with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate. The PSU is a Corsair TX850W 850W unit. We ran the benchmarks at 1920x1200, eye candy maxed out, with and without 4x AA enabled. The scores look pretty much as we expected, given the slight core and more substantial memory clock boost.

Yes, the XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX Edition wins in all of the game benchmarks, but the margins, while consistent, are so small as to be almost meaningless. It is the first time we’ve seen a single videocard score greater than 100fps in Far Cry 2 at 1920x1200 (with AA disabled). On average, the XXX Edition yields a 4 percent gain in performance for a 6 percent increase in price.

For consumers who are worried about the long-term impact of an overclocked card, XFX’s warranty might reassure you. It’s simply the best in the business at five years, with the ability to transfer the warranty once, should the original owner resell the card. The card is definitely fast, and if you have to have the fastest GPU on the block, you may find the uptick worth it. But the standard card is a better deal in the end—almost as fast, more power-efficient, and lower-priced.

THE VERDICT

XFX Radeon HD 5870 XXX Edition

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