Maximum PC Staff Nov 02, 2012

XFX Radeon HD 7870 Black Edition Review

At A Glance

Seven Samurai

Seriously fast for its price; low power usage at idle; 2GB frame buffer.

The Last Samurai

No monitor adapters in the box.

Recaptures the crown in the $350 category

AMD’S MARKETING pitch for the new Radeon 7800‑series GPUs suggests that “serious gaming starts here.” Built on AMD’s Graphics Core Next, the 7800 series, previously code-named “Pitcairn,” offers impressive performance for less than the price of AMD’s 7900 series. Let’s take a quick look at key features, as compared to the Radeon HD 6870 and 6950 GPUs, AMD’s previous players in the midrange.

The 7870 has 1,280 stream processors—more than the 6870, but fewer than the 1,408 in the Radeon HD 6950. The 7870’s 1,000MHz stock clock speed is 11 percent higher than the 900MHz of the 6870, and twice the 6950’s 500MHz clock. In the Black Edition HD 7870, XFX boosts the core clock an additional 5 percent to 1,050MHz. The 7870 ships with the same 2GB of 256-bit GDDR5 as the 6950—double the 1GB of the 6870.

The Black Edition ships with XFX’s semi-custom dual-fan cooling solution. As with past cards in this class, the HD 7870 requires two 6-pin power connectors. One disappointment: XFX is continuing its policy of leaving out monitor adapter connectors, so if you don’t have a DVI, HDMI, or DisplayPort connector on your monitor, then you’ll need to shell out a little extra for one. It’s mostly not a problem for single-display users, but people with multiple monitors may need to acquire adapters.

XFX’s HD 7870 is equipped with HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort—sadly, adapters for other connectors must be purchased separately.

The downside: Radeon HD 7870 cards, including the XFX Black Edition, will be priced in the $350 range. The Radeon HD 6870 cost around $250 to $270 when it first shipped. So is the XFX Black Edition HD 7870 worth the price? Let’s look at performance compared to MSI’s seriously overclocked Radeon HD 6950 and Asus’s GTX 570 Direct CU II. We’ll also toss in numbers for the older XFX Radeon HD 6870, but it’s really no competition for the new 7870.

We ran our standard suite of benchmark numbers, reporting the scores for 1920x1200 with 4x AA enabled where possible. The XFX Radeon HD 7870 crushes all comers in its class, with one exception: the heavily tessellated HAWX 2 benchmark. That answers the pricing question: The XFX HD 7870 is the king of the hill in its class at the moment. Power usage at idle is impressively low, as well, and the card’s noise levels don’t get too annoying under load.

The bad news for AMD is that Nvidia now has its Kepler machine rolling, so it’s likely that AMD and XFX will have some competition in this price range in the near future. But for the time being, you can’t pick up a better card for $350


Radeon HD 7870
Radeon HD 6870
Radeon HD 6950
Stream Processors
Geometry Engines
Core Clock
Memory Clock
Memory Type2GB 256-bit GDDR51GB 256-bit GDDR52GB 256-bit GDDR5
Texture Units8056



XFX Radeon HD 7870
Asus GTX 570 DirectCU II
MSI Radeon HD 6950 Twin Frozr IIIXFX Radeon HD 6870
3DMark 2011 Perf
3DMark Vantage Perf
Unigine Heaven 2.5 (fps)
Shogun 2 (fps)343129DNR*
Shogun 2 (1080p, fps)61
Dirt 3 (fps)72
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)11410910283
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)14315410197
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)43373627
Just Cause 2 (fps)56524337
Batman: Arkham City61605546
Metro 20332222224
Core / Memory Clocks (MHz)1,050 / 1,250742 / 950850 / 1,300900 / 1,050
System Power @ idle (W)119127126121
System Power @ full throttle (W)299310273254

*Shogun 2 benchmark at 1920x1200 with max detail and 4x AA will not run on cards with only 1GB of frame buffer. Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus P979X Deluxe motherboard with 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 and an AX1200 Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA unless otherwise noted.


XFX Radeon HD 7870 Black Edition

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