MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review

The first card to get the HAWK label from MSI in the new 6000 series is the HD 6870. Let's see if it deserves it.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Feb 14 2011 2:23 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package


Introduction

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 02 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 32 IMAGES


The HAWK series is one of my favorite, and that's mainly because it sits towards the top of the chart when it comes to what you can do with a card. At the bottom of the stack you've got your reference card. From there we introduce an overclock and over that you can start to look at custom cooling.

Once you get out of that area, you're into cards like the HAWK and Lightning which utilize custom PCBs. That introduces the ability to gain an even higher overclock than other models, and when combined with MSIs own overclocking software, Afterburner, we can really reach for the skies.

Unlike the Lightning series, though, the HAWK series name is more aimed around the midrange market with one of our most recent favorites being the GTX 470 HAWK. With the release of the GTX 560 Ti, though, a lot of pressure has been applied to the mid-range AMD models and today we intend to find out what the HD 6870 HAWK can bring to the party.

Before we look at the performance, though, we'll quickly look at the package and then the card itself. Once that's done we'll look at the default specifications along with what we overclocked the card to. After that the fun stuff begins and we pit the model up against a number of others to see what kind of performance we're able to achieve.

Because the focus on the HAWK series is much about the overclock and the out of the box overclock isn't the largest we've seen, we've decided to just skip out of the box performance today and instead overclock the card as high as we can while seeing how it compares to other cards in the AMD line-up and its new competition; the GTX 560 Ti.

The Package

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 03 | TweakTown.com


MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 04 | TweakTown.com


MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 05 | TweakTown.com


The standout items in the package would include the mini-DP to DP adapter and the three little cables that you can see towards the bottom of the last pic. These, with a volt meter, allow you to grab the voltage of the AUX, Memory and GPU with ease. It's not the first time we've seen them, so you should have a good idea of how they work. We'll see exactly where they go on the card in just a minute, though.

Card and Specifications


The Card

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 06 | TweakTown.com


The latest HAWK offering utilizes the Twin FrozrIII cooler which is the latest version of the Twin Frozr cooler. It's a dual fan setup and packs a bunch of heat pipes which can be seen towards the bottom of the card. It's only a dual slot cooler, so running two of these bad boys shouldn't cause any problems on most motherboards.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 07 | TweakTown.com


MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 08 | TweakTown.com


Across the top of the card we've got three highlights; the back offers two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors, while towards the middle of the card we've got three little connectors where you can plug in those cables we mentioned on the previous page. As we said, they allow for you to grab the voltage of the AUX, Memory and GPU when combined with a volt meter.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 09 | TweakTown.com


Closer to the front we've got a single Crossfire connector which means we're able to only run up too two of these cards together.

Connectivity on the HAWK consists of two DVI connectors; one Dual-Link, one Single-Link, a single HDMI port and two mini-DP ports.


Specifications

A reference HD 6870 will carry an out of the box core clock of 900MHz and the 1GB of GDDR5 will come in at 4400MHz QDR. While MSI have chosen to leave the memory clock alone, they've bumped the core up slightly to 930MHz. These cards are designed to be overclocked, though.

Firing up MSI Afterburner and bumping the GPU, Memory and AUX voltages all up, we managed to achieve a really nice overclock which can be seen below.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 01 | TweakTown.com


What we ended up with was a core of 1057MHz which is a big jump from that default 900MHz clock, while memory came in at a whopping 5020MHz QDR which is a very nice increase from that 4400MHz QDR memory clock that you get at default.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11


MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 99 | TweakTown.com


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.

Since we overclocked the card so much, we've included a bunch of AMD cards including the higher end HD 6900s. Apart from that we've also included the HD 6800s and the HD 5870. For NVIDIA we've got the MSI GTX 560 Ti which carries with it a slight overclock.

Let's get started!


3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 20 | TweakTown.com


Out the gate we can see strong performance which puts the model around HD 6950 performance.

3DMark Vantage




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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 21 | TweakTown.com


Looking at Vantage, we see the same kind of thing at the Performance preset. Unfortunately Extreme falls back a little. We do still see a very good gain over the reference card, though.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark




Version and / or Patch Used: 2
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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 22 | TweakTown.com


Heaven sees a small bump in performance, but it doesn't seem to be all that impacted by the overclock. Hopefully when it comes to gaming performance we see the kind of increases that we saw from 3DMark, and not these ones.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 23 | TweakTown.com


Across the board performance is very strong and you can see at all resolutions the card manages to outperform the HD 6950.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/




Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 24 | TweakTown.com


H.A.W.X. 2. Performance is exceptional and you can see it manages to even come in a little faster than the reference clocked HD 6970.

Benchmarks - Mafia II


Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 25 | TweakTown.com


Mafia II performance is also very strong and we can see a nice gain over the reference card with numbers sitting around the same level as the HD 5870 and HD 6950.

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: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/




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."

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 26 | TweakTown.com


Lost Planet does manage to see some good gains, but unfortunately we're below that 60 FPS average we want at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator


Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 27 | TweakTown.com


Aliens vs. Predator sees some strong performance gains and in this case you can see we manage to climb over that 60 FPS hurdle at 1680 x 1050. At 1920 x 1200 you can see we're not all that far from it either.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV


Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/




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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 28 | TweakTown.com


No surprise we've got strong performance under SF IV, but again it sits between the HD 6950 and HD 6970 which is very impressive.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 29 | TweakTown.com


While we've got playable FPS at 2560 x 1600 on the reference clocked card, we're not all that far over that 30 FPS minimum we want. You can see here we manage to stretch our legs a bit more and get a good distance from it.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 30 | TweakTown.com


Batman AA sees some great performance that again sees the card sit around the same level as the HD 6950, especially at the higher resolution.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 31 | TweakTown.com


MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 32 | TweakTown.com


MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 33 | TweakTown.com


MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 34 | TweakTown.com


We've got some nice gains here with the most impressive being Far Cry 2 thanks to that 30 FPS minimum being broken.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 40 | TweakTown.com


Even with all this extra voltage running through the Core, Aux and Memory, the card manages to run at a very cool 67c. The Twin Frozr series of coolers have always been great and this one is really no different it seems.

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).

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 41 | TweakTown.com


Those low numbers for heat aren't coming at the cost of noise and for a lot of people that's very important.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 42 | TweakTown.com


At less than 300 watt power draw you're not going to have an issue running this card and overclocking it on just about any good power supply.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)


Total Performance Rating

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

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, 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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 50 | TweakTown.com


We can see here that clearly the MSI HD 6870 HAWK is able to separate itself from the other HD 6800 cards and be in throwing distance of the HD 6950.

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 Newegg.com. 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.

MSI Radeon HD 6870 1GB HAWK Overclocked Video Card Review 51 | TweakTown.com


Thanks to the overclock achieved, the value is very strong. It's indeed a tough fight for AMD, though, with the aggressiveness being seen on the GTX 560 Ti.

Final Thoughts




The HD 6870 is another great inclusion to the much loved HAWK series and you can see thanks to the extra effort that MSI has put into it that there's a fair chunk of performance on offer with the card quite often sitting between the higher end HD 6900 series.

The biggest problem for the HD 6870 HAWK, though, is the GTX 560 Ti. Due to the HAWK carrying a slightly higher price tag over the normal HD 6870, we find ourselves looking at around GTX 560 Ti pricing, and even overclocked we saw the model performs only around that of a slightly overclocked GTX 560 Ti.

The HD 6970 HAWK is still a very good card, though, and if you're more of an AMD fan you'll probably find yourself preparing this one. Outside of that, the HD 6870 HAWK is a lot more fun than any other GTX 560 we've tested to date due to the fact you get the benefit of adjusting those extra voltages which in turn allow for a higher overclock across the board.

Speaking to MSI as well, they've managed to achieve as high as 1100MHz on the core and if you could snap up a card that did that speed, you'd be laughing. For the most part a lot of the cards seem to be around the 1050MHz mark, though. Compared to a reference card, this is a great overclock and really, two of these in a machine would be fantastic. At over 1GHz on the core and 5GHz QDR on the memory, you'd have some killer performance.

Outside of just the overclocking ability we get from the model, there's also that cooler which is fantastic. It's quiet and keeps the card running extremely cool even when we've bumped 1.35v through the core. Drop the voltages back and you'd have even more attractive cooling numbers.

This is a fantastic model, but it's clear that NVIDIA really has AMD against the wall at the moment with the aggressive pricing of the GTX 560 Ti. Either way, though, this is a model that you wouldn't be disappointed in.

What do TweakTown.com awards mean? Click for details!

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

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.

Newsletter Subscription

Similar Content

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

Related Tags

Newsletter Subscription
Latest News
View More News
Latest Reviews
View More Reviews
Latest Articles
View More Articles