Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Overclocking Tests

We fire up Overdrive and see if we can get the sliders all the way to 900MHz / 5200MHz QDR up from the stock 850MHz / 4800MHz QDR setup!

Manufacturer: Game.AMD
7 minutes & 41 seconds read time


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We most always start articles like this one the same way. It tends to start with something along the lines of "why would you bother overclocking something that is already so fast?" - There's always a simple answer; because we can. With the recent launch of the card, however, we've seen a few people look at overclocking and at the moment we're a bit limited when it comes to utilities.

When it comes to VGA overclocking our instrument of choice tends to be Rivatuner. At the time of writing the software didn't support the HD 5870 so we were really out of luck there. The good news is we saw a while ago that ATI implemented their own overclocking utility into the Catalyst drivers.

On the bad news side of things, there was never a huge amount of moving ability when it came to adjusting the core and memory clocks. What overdrive offers us is the ability to possibly achieve a 900MHz core clock and a maximum memory clock of 5200MHz QDR. We've seen some cards only get around the 880MHz mark, though, so the question is, can we get to 900MHz? - Can the memory get to 5200MHz? The answer is.on the next page. Let's find out.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

Test System Setup

Processor(s): Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.8GHz (190MHz x 20)
Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P (Supplied by Noctua)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE EX58-UD5 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 3 X 2GB OCZ Technology PC-12800 DDR-3 8-8-8-24 (OCZ3G1600LV6GK)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1 64-bit
Drivers: ATI Catalyst Cypress Driver

With our trusty Sapphire HD 5870 in our testbed it was time to fire up the Overdrive function in the Catalyst driver suite. We were optimistic; we slid the core slider to 900MHz and the memory one to 1300MHz, hit the test button and was pleasantly surprised that the test passed. So, with our clocks achieved it was time to get straight into our benchmarking to find out just how much extra power we could squeeze out of the HD 5870.

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Overclocking Tests 01

Getting straight into it we can see a nice little gain in both the X and P preset. Hopefully this translates into real world games as well.

Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.

Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.

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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Overclocking Tests 03

While we tend to feel CPU limited at the lower resolutions under PT Boats with these high end cards, we can see that with the Sapphire HD 5870 overclocked we see a gain at the lower resolution which translates to almost 10%.

Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10


Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).

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It doesn't come as any surprise that there's no gains under CINEBENCH when it comes to overclocking.

Benchmarks - World in Conflict

World in Conflict

Version and / or Patch Used:
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10).

The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.

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At the lower resolution there isn't a whole lot more going on. As we climb to 2560 x 1600, though, we see a good jump in performance.

Benchmarks - Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead

Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Timedemo or Level Used: Airfield
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

Crysis Warhead updates and refines the gameplay of the original game through a sidestory plot involving Psycho, one of previous protagonist Nomad's allies. The game is a parallel story that follows Sergeant Michael "Psycho" Sykes, a character from the original Crysis, as he faces his own trials and challenges on the other side of the island during the time period of the first game.

It also showcases a new, enhanced and optimized version of CryEngine 2 using full DX10 extensions and is the first game developed by Crytek's Budapest studio.

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Across all resolutions we see a boost in performance, be it in the minimum or average department.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1GB Overclocking Tests 10

At all resolutions we again see the extra MHz on offer give us a boost. For the most part we're seeing gains of around 10% at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Clear Sky

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.5.07
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky, is the stand-alone prequel for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, a first-person shooter computer game by Ukrainian developer GSC Game World.[3] The game consists of a roughly 50/50 mix of new areas and old, remodeled areas from the previous game. The X-ray graphics engine has been updated to version 1.5 and includes DirectX 10 support (later patch 1.5.06 included DirectX 10.1). Additionally, the AI received an overhaul to accommodate the new faction wars feature.

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Clear Sky tends to do some weird things when it comes to overclocking and here is really no different with a drop in performance in the minimum department at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

Left 4 Dead uses the latest version of Valve's Source engine, with improvements such as multi-core processor support and physics-based animation to more realistically portray hair and clothing, and to improve physics interaction with enemies when shot or shoved in different body parts. Animation was also improved to allow characters to lean realistically when moving in curved paths.

Rendering and artificial intelligence were scaled up to allow for greater number of enemies who can navigate the world in better ways, such as climbing, jumping or breaking obstacles. Lighting has been enhanced with new self-shadowing normal mapping and advanced shadow rendering that is important to convey information about the environment and player actions.

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Left 4 Dead is no different as most of our other results here with a boost in performance in most areas.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

Far Cry 2

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We see a bit of movement here, more so in the average department than the minimum. Unfortunately we're still way behind the 30 FPS minimum in this test.

World In Conflict

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We've got a nice little boost in the minimum department that helps just move us a little bit further away from that 30 FPS minimum which is nice.

Left 4 Dead

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We've got a small gain here that translates into about 5%.

Final Thoughts

I was surprised when I first heard about the issues people were having when it came to overclocking. To be honest, the move to 40nm should bring with it the ability to achieve higher clock rates. Considering we were able to achieve 1000MHz on the HD 4890, we have trouble believing that this isn't going to happen on the HD 5870.

The best thing about this is that with the sheer amount of stream processors on offer from the HD 5870, every MHz is going to see a boost in performance and if we do see a 1000MHz card come out, the performance improvement should be very impressive.

At the end of it all, though, the overclock has really done little to affect our overall game play and really this is no one's fault. The bottom line is that for the most part the HD 5870 is able to offer the numbers we need to see at the resolutions we want at the default clock speeds.

Overclocking is handy in a situation where we have a minimum of 28 FPS. By bumping the clocks up slightly we can that minimum up to 31 to 32 FPS. What's happening with the HD 5870 is that we're already getting those 30 FPS minimums for the most part at all resolutions. And while it's nice to see a gain, moving from a 38 FPS minimum to 41 FPS really isn't going to affect your game play, especially when you consider we've already got our settings maxed out bar the addition of some AA until our final tests.

With that all said and done, we can't wait till companies like Sapphire release an Atomic model, ASUS give us a Voltage Tweak one, GIGABYTE work a bit of magic and hopefully bring the model into their Super Overclock line-up along with seeing other companies mix it up like HIS, too.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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