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Sapphire Radeon HD 6870 1GB Video Card Overclocked

We try and see what tricks we can pull with Sapphire's TRIXX OC software on the Sapphire HD 6870.

Manufacturer: Sapphire
14 minutes & 36 seconds read time

Introduction and Package


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Over the past few days there have been some issues with the HD 6850 and the 1120 Shader dilemma. The good news is that there's no such problem with the HD 6870 and today we'll be checking out the overclocking potential of the new top mid-range GPU from AMD, the HD 6870.

Today is the first time we get a look at the Sapphire HD 6870 we're using for this article, so before we get into the specifics of the overclock we achieved, we'll quickly cover the Sapphire HD 6870 1GB as per our normal review coverage.

So let's check out the package that Sapphire has put together, take a closer look at the card itself and then see what kind of overclock the card is able to achieve.

The Package

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There's a fair bit to the Sapphire package actually. We've got the normal bits and pieces like paperwork and driver CD. In the cable department we've got two Molex to 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors, DVI to VGA connector and Crossfire cable to round off the normal ones we expect. Also included is a HDMI cable and mini DP to DP cable.

Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the card, you're not going to see anything you didn't see already with the reference AMD one we looked at, except for a sticker that Sapphire has opted for. Across the top we've got the two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors along with a single Crossfire connector.

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Connectivity is in the form of a Dual-Link DVI, Single-Link DVI, HDMI and two 1.2 Mini DP connectors. It's great to see that Sapphire has included a mini DP to DP connector so you can use that option straight away if you've got a monitor that supports the connector.


Out of the box the Sapphire HD 6870 1GB carries the reference clocks that we saw on the AMD model. That's a 900MHz core and a 4200MHz QDR memory clock. That's a bit boring, though, so let's see what we can do with TRIXX when increasing the voltage to 1.299v.

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We managed to get the core up to 1035MHz which is over 100MHz from the stock speed. As for the memory, we pushed that 100MHz or 400MHz QDR which equates to a total speed of 4600MHz QDR; a really nice overclock.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

We'll be looking at the overclocked Sapphire HD 6870 1GB against a number of other cards with the main one being the AMD HD 6870 which is at the stock clocks. We've also got the stock clocked Sapphire HD 6850, and we've noted that it's the 1120 SP model.

We've also got the HD 5870 which as we know is still slightly faster than the new HD 6870. Just for good measure, we've also included the ECS Galaxy GTX 460 Black Edition which we've included in most of our HD 6800 content.

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.

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Straight off the bat we see that Vantage gets a really nice boost in performance at both presets. Here we see it still lags behind the HD 5870, though.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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.

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Heaven sees a nice little increase and it comes as no surprise that the card is faster than both the GTX 460 1GB OC and HD 5870, with the latter not having the greatest Tessellation performance.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

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

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.

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Resident Evil 5 is already giving us good numbers across the board, but we can see a nice increase at all resolutions with the card overclocked.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.

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

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X is an arcade-style flight simulator video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iPhone OS.

The fundamental gameplay mechanics are similar to those of other console-based flight series. Players take on enemies with over 50 aircraft available. Each mission is at real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first person, and third person view are selectable. The third person view gives the player an external view of both their plane and the target.

Set above the skies of a near-future world, increasingly dependent on private military companies with elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States.

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H.A.W.X. performance is good when we're overclocked and we can see it actually manages to beat out the HD 5870 at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

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

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Across the board we see some really nice gains. On a whole the model still lags a little behind the stock HD 5870, but not by far. It's going to be interesting to see what the HD 6900 series brings to the table.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Checking out LP2, while we don't see anything positive at 1680 x 1050, we see a nice little FPS jump at 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600. Unfortunately our FPS on a whole is still quite low across the board.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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AVP really sees some good gains; more importantly you can see the overclock manages to boost our 1680 x 1050 performance into the 60s which is exactly the kind of thing we want to see when overclocking.

Benchmarks - Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Elezen (Male)
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Final Fantasy XIV, also known as Final Fantasy XIV Online, is the fourteenth installment in the Final Fantasy series. The game is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game and is developed and published by Square Enix. The game takes place in a land called Hydaelyn, mainly in a region named Eorzea, which will have a contemporaneously aesthetic blend of science fiction and classic fantasy elements.

The battle and job systems will be different from the one previously used in Final Fantasy XI, which utilized experience points and level-based progression. Final Fantasy XIV is being designed to utilize a skill-based progression[15] system similar to that of Final Fantasy II. Character races will resemble and allow players to create avatars similar to ones in Final Fantasy XI. Group play has been de-emphasized, and now solo and group play have been balanced. Weapon use will alter "character development".

Note: Final Fantasy XIV gives us a score and not a normal FPS rating, our understanding is that anything around 2000 points or above is considered playable.

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In both presets we really see FF XIV performance get quite the boost. At the lower resolution we see it manages to overtake the stock HD 5870.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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SF IV already sees big numbers and the overclock just helps those numbers become a bit bigger at all resolutions.

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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Far Cry 2 sees some nice boosts across the board in both the minimum and average department. Here we again see the HD 5870 actually falls back to second place.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

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.

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Batman AA already sees very good performance. When overclocked the HD 6870 performance becomes a bit stronger and really lines up with the HD 5870 with it coming ahead at some points and lagging a little behind in others.

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.

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We really see some good gains when we crank up the AA. The stand out would have to be Far Cry 2 performance; we see the minimum is boosted to over 30 FPS which is exactly what we want to see.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Like the HD 6850 we see that the card really warms up when we pump some extra voltage through that GPU.

Sound Test

Sound Tests

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).

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Overclocked the HD 6870 from Sapphire is more audible. This isn't much of a surprise as we found that the HD 6850 from HIS was also louder when we overclocked. It's clear that the fan is working a little harder.

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 SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal 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.

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Overclocked we see that power draw really jumps a bit. With that said, the levels aren't at anything a decent power supply won't handle.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and ATI are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark Vantage, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Final Fantasy XIV, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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Overclocked the HD 6870 offers us a good performance increase; you can see it manages to overtake the GTX 460 at 930MHz which is good for AMD. As for who it sits behind, we're on the tail of the HD 5870 and even an SLI GTS 450 Super OC setup. All in all, we're seeing some pretty good numbers from the HD 6870.

Total Value Rating (TVR)

Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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Value really jumps with it coming equal fifth with a number of other cards.

Final Thoughts

The whole HD 6850 Shader issue has become quite a large pain as it's made it hard to really know where the HD 6850 stands internally due to both our models carrying the increased Shader amount. We'll have adjusted results for the model as soon as possible and all will be right in our graphs again.

Of course, if it works out that you're able to unlock the HD 6850 to 1120 Shaders then we're just ahead of the curve. We can hope, can't we? Today, though, it's all about the HD 6870 and its overclocking ability. We figured with voltage, 1GHz on the core wasn't going to be a problem, and sure enough it wasn't.

At the results we ended up with, 1035MHz on the core and 4600MHz QDR on the 1GB of memory, the overall performance was very strong. It does come at the cost of a bit more noise and a little more heat, but we can see in some situations the overclock managed to boost performance from unplayable to playable; and for us that's the most important aspect of overclocking. Getting extra noise and heat and in turn pushing your FPS from 220 to 250 is really pointless. Moving from a 27 FPS minimum to a 32 FPS one, though; this is going to really make your gaming that little bit more enjoyable.

Getting into specifics of the card, the Sapphire HD 6870 is what we would've expected out of a HD 6870. What's particularly nice is that Sapphire has thrown a good little bundle together that carries with it some extra cables, which some users are really going to appreciate.

While the HD 6870 isn't going to be an upgrade from a HD 5870 and not much of an upgrade from a HD 5850, it's an upgrade from a lot of other models and that's important to know. Overclocking adds a nice boost in performance and TRIXX from Sapphire is looking the goods with the software being used twice now in our HD 6800 series content.

For the most part the Sapphire HD 6870 doesn't really hold any surprises. At the moment that's not a bad thing as the HD 6870 on a whole is a good product with excellent scaling when it comes to Crossfire.

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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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