It's hard enough to be a video card manufacturer that embraces both sides of the fence, let alone one that only specializes in one of the two major producers of GPUs. Companies like PowerColor, Sapphire and HIS need to really have stand out versions of popular models. The good news for these companies is that half the work is done; ATI have managed to produce a great line-up of models for us to choose from.
Now it's up to the partners to make what is a good card a great one. PowerColor have actually gone a bit crazy lately; they've got a number of really stand-out models in the series which include models from the 5600 series all the way to the 5800 series.
In a testbed that's been filled with mid range and low end cards, it's nice to have something that packs a real punch go back in there. The HD 5870 we're looking at today is part of the PCS+ series and as soon as you pull it out of the box, the card screams at you.
It's great to see a new PowerColor card arrive in the labs and even better that it's a part of the HD 5800 series. Before we have a closer look at the card and its specifications, we'll have a quick look at the bundle first up.
Looking at the bundle, we've got everything we would expect out of a high end model including Dirt II, a game which makes use of DirectX 11 and will give you the ability to make good use of the power that's on offer from the HD 5870.
Having a look at the card, the first thing you notice is the fact that the cooler is different to the standard HD 5870 one. That is the main feature for the PCS+ series, so it doesn't come as a real surprise. What does come as a surprise, however, is just how mean the cooler looks, starting with the massive fan in the middle and moving to the heat pipes that protrude out the top of the card.
Outside of the fan and heat pipes, there's not a whole lot else to look at. We've got the PowerColor logo embedded on the right side and a couple of vents which really round off the cooler.
Looking around the card some more, we haven't got any real surprises. Sitting across the top but towards the back we have two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors. Staying across the top but moving closer to the front, we have our two CrossFire connectors. While one of the heat pipes does hang ever so slightly over one of the CrossFire connectors, it doesn't prevent you from using the technology thanks to the CrossFire connector being quite flexible.
Looking at the connections, we don't see any surprises at all. We've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors along with a single HDMI and DisplayPort connection to round off everything while giving us support for Eyefinity.
Though we haven't mentioned it yet, the HD 5870 PCS+ from PowerColor is actually a pre overclocked card. Looking below, you can see that they've bumped the core slightly from 850MHz to 875MHz.
As for the 1GB of GDDR5 memory, that's also had a small bump from the stock 4800MHz QDR clock to 4900MHz QDR. It's not a major overclock, but it's nice to see that PowerColor have taken the time to bump both the core and memory.
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 Kingston Hyper X PC3-16000 2000MHz DDR CL9 (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital 300GB Velicorapter (Supplied by Western Digital)
Operating System: Windows 7
Drivers: ATI Catalyst 10.1
When it came to comparing the HD 5870 PCS+ OC from PowerColor to something, we didn't think there was a better option than the stock HD 5870 we have on hand from Sapphire. We'll see how the overclock helps overall performance while also finding out how the PCS+ cooler is better over the stock one.
Let's get started!
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
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.
In our first test we can see the extra MHz on both the core and memory do a good job of giving some extra points with us being only a few points away from a P19k score and the overclock managing to fly past the X9k mark.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark (DX10 & DX11)
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Version and / or Patch Used: 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//
New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.
Note: If a card doesn't support DirectX 11 the benchmark will be left out, if it does it will be included along with the DirectX10 results.
While the performance increase isn't huge, it's still noticeable across the board in both DX10 and DX11 at both resolutions. It's clear that those extra MHz on offer give us a nice little performance increase.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
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).
CINEBENCH doesn't make use of an overclock, so it comes as no surprise that the two cards perform very close to each other.
Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5
Resident Evil 5
Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/
Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Under RE5 we see big numbers from the HD 5870. Comparing the stock and OC models, there's not a whole lot of difference between the two cards under this test.
Benchmarks - Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
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.
Across the board we can see a bump in performance from the overclocked PowerColor HD 5870. While the increase isn't game changing with us already breaking the 30 FPS minimum at all resolutions, it's always handy to have that extra FPS or two, especially when we're gaming at 2560 x 1500.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 22.214.171.124
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
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.
We again see across the board a bump in performance with the minimum at 2560 x 1600 on the PowerColor PCS+ OC HD 5870 cracking that all important 30 FPS mark; something the stock clocked card just fell under.
Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum
Batman Arkham Asylum
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.
Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.
Note: With support for PhysX NVIDIA based cards will be tested with the technology on and off, ATI cards will be tested with the technology off due to it not being supported on their cards.
We already see big numbers out of Batman AA, but when it comes to comparing the two cards you can see the overclock comes in handy as we move up the resolution table with the best gains being seen at 2560 x 1600.
Benchmarks - Darkest of Days
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Product Homepage: http://www.darkestofdays.com/index.php
Darkest of Days takes the player through time into historic battles in an effort to save key individuals from certain death. The battles range from Custer's Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 to fighting in Pompeii as ash and fire rain down from an erupting Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Other locations include the battles of Antietam and Tannenberg, and a German World War II P.O.W. camp. There are different missions in every time period and the game takes about 4 hours to complete.
The game features over twenty weapons, both from the original time period as well as those brought back from the future. In addition, there are artillery weapons from different time periods to assist in battle.
Note: With the PhysX set to Medium or High Darkest of Days take advantage of the NVIDIA PhysX abilities. For that reason we will test ATI cards at the Low preset, NVIDIA based cards though will be tested at Low and High.
PhysX set to Low
When we deal with only averages, it becomes a bit harder for us to see the difference in performance. In this case we really only see 2560 x 1600 making use of the extra MHz on offer.
Benchmarks - BattleForge
Version and / or Patch Used: Auto Patched at Load
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.battleforge.com/
The Gods have disappeared and the old sun has died, letting a vile twilight engulf the world of Nyn. In exchange for all treasures the mortals possessed, the evil giants agreed to forge a new sun and hurl it into the sky.
But the deal was betrayed, the treasure stolen and now the mortals flee the wrath of the giants. Under the light of a new sun the mortals stumble into a world changed and twisted by an age of twilight. The long journey home has become a conquest of survival.
Note: Supporting DirectX 11 we have seperated the graphs for NVIDIA and ATI cards. While the numbers between the two brands can be compared you have to make note that ATI based HD 5000 series cards are running DirectX 11.
DirectX 11 (ATI HD 5000 Series Only)
Across the board we actually see quite a nice little bump in performance for BattleForge with a good couple of FPS being seen at all resolutions.
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.
Resident Evil 5
Turning on AA, we see a small bump in performance with the OC HD 5870 from PowerColor, but nothing too major.
Far Cry 2
The same is seen under Far Cry 2. We see a bump in performance, but again nothing that's really going to affect you.
World In Conflict
We see an increase in the minimum department, but unfortunately we're still below that 30 FPS minimum we want to see.
Temperature and Sound Tests
With the TES 1326 Infrared Thermometer literally in hand we found ourselves getting real-world temperatures from the products we test at load (3D clock speeds).
There are two places we pull temperature from - the back of the card directly behind the core and if the card is dual slot and has an exhaust point we also pull a temperate from there, as seen in the picture.
Looking at the temperature, it's a little disappointing to see that both cards sit at around the same level. Fingers crossed the new cooler does better in the sound department.
Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.
After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).
And it does with a healthy drop in dB when compared to the stock cooler that the Sapphire card we have here uses.
Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
Looking at power draw, there's not much at all between the two models; a little more at idle and a little less at load. Ultimately, though, it's nothing that is going to affect the decision in which power supply to buy.
As we'd already mentioned, it's been a while since we've seen something from PowerColor and it's great to see such a good product from them again straight out of the gate. The HD 5870 is already a great product offering some fantastic performance for the price; it's always nice to see companies mix it up a bit, though. PowerColor have done a great job of taking the model to another level with a fan that's quieter, cools just as well and offers us a bump in performance thanks to an overclock on both the core and memory.
It comes as no surprise that when it comes to the price you're going to pay more than a standard HD 5870. With $394.99 being the starting point for the series and $399.99 being the most common price, the fact that you're able to pick up the PowerColor PCS+ version which carries with it an overclock and better cooler for only $10 more at $409.99 is simply fantastic.
Really, for the most part unless your budget was so strict that you couldn't go past the $399 mark, we don't see why you wouldn't just spend the extra $10 and get this version. The fact that the card is only $10 more than the standard model and you get such a nice cooler and a little overclock actually makes us feel that this model offers us even better value than a standard card.
Being an ATI only partner is tough work; you've got to stand out from a pack of so many manufacturers. The good news is that PowerColor manage to do this and they manage to do it in style. Sure, the overclock isn't massive, but we really consider that a bonus more than anything else with the hero on the card being the cooler. That in itself is worth the extra $10. To be honest, it's probably worth slightly more, but we don't want to give anyone a reason to bump up their price.
The HD 5870 in itself is already a great model that represents some good value considering its performance. What PowerColor has done here, though, is added even more value to a card that's more expensive than the standard one thanks to only a small price increase bringing with it a bump in clock speeds, but more importantly an upgraded cooler that cools just as well, but manages to do it at lower noise levels.
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