XFX Radeon HD 6870 1GB Black Edition Video Card Review

It's been a long time since we've seen a card from XFX, but we welcome them back with open arms as we slip the Black Edition HD 6870 into our testbed.

Manufacturer: XFX
14 minutes & 39 seconds read time

Introduction and Package


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Who would've thought we'd ever be looking at XFX cards based on an AMD GPU? It's been a long time since we've looked at something from XFX. Going through our content archive, it was August of 2007 and the victim was the 9800 GTX+.

So much has happened since then, though, and in that time we've seen the Black Edition series created from the company; a series that has had some of the best looking cards around. I say best looking as I haven't had the chance to look at one until today. Today we see if the Black Edition is all bark and no bite, or if its bark is just the entree to a menacing bite for main.

Before we look at the performance of the card, though, we'll first look at the package that XFX has put on offer. Once that's done we'll take a look at the card itself and see what exactly the Black Edition brings to the table from the outside, then we'll take a closer look at the clocks and what's on offer from this series.

Once all that's done, it's time to get into the fun stuff to see just what kind of performance XFX is able to offer us with the HD 6870 1GB Black Edition. Before that, though, let's get into the package.

The Package

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Looking at the package, it's very North America. That's not a bad thing; quite the opposite actually. Compared to what we see from most of our Asian counterparts that include really only the bare essentials, we more often see North America focused companies really amp it up in the bundle.

Sure, we've got the normal extras like some paperwork, driver CD and CrossFire bridge, but the extras like the unreal feeling Black Edition case badge, Do Not Disturb, I'm Gaming door hanger and sticker really separate this from a lot of other bundles.

It's really not a lot when it all comes down to it, but it's the little extras that you do get when buying the card that users will really appreciate.

Card and Specifications

The Card

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The cooler design that XFX has got on offer isn't anything too out of the ordinary when it comes to comparing what we've seen from some other companies. We've got a dual fan setup which underneath finds a bunch of aluminum and copper heat pipes to help keep the card as cool as possible. The dual fan setup is a popular one and we've found that it does an excellent job of cooling. Hopefully the XFX version continues to keep up that tradition.

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Looking around the rest of the card, we've got two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors up the back and a single CrossFire connector closer to the front. Connectivity comes in the form of a Dual-Link and Single-Link DVI Port along with a HDMI and two mini-DisplayPort connectors.


XFX has spent the time overclocking the card and we can see that the core has been lifted to 940MHz which is 40MHz up on the default 900MHz clock a reference card will carry.

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It's great to see that XFX hasn't ignored the 1GB of GDDR5 that now comes in at 4600MHz QDR, which is 400MHz QDR up on the reference 4200MHz QDR clock.

Let's check out our test system before we get stuck into the performance of the card.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11

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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.

No real surprises when it comes to the cards we're looking at in our graphs here today. We've of course got the HD 6870 Black Edition from XFX; we've also got reference versions of the HD 6850, HD 6870 and HD 6950. while also having the MSI GTX 560 Ti in for good measure.

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.

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, we can see a nice boost in performance when compared with the reference clocked card and just overall some good 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.

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We see the same here as we saw in our last test with a nice boost in performance and just overall some strong numbers.

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.

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Tessellation performance continues to lag a little with AMD cards, so the extra MHz on offer here helps boost that performance up a little which is always appreciated.

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.

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Getting into some games, we see strong performance across the board. At the highest resolution the extra MHz equate for almost a 10% boost in performance.

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.

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HAWX 2 doesn't benefit the most from overclocking and you can see there's really no difference in performance here. Fortunately, we've already got strong FPS at resolutions including 2560 x 1600, so we're not worried.

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.

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We continue to see that extra MHz on offer from XFX give us a nice little bump in performance across the board.

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."

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Lost Planet 2 doesn't really make use of the overclock here, but we're so far from the average we need here that it's quite irrelevant.

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.

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Aliens vs. Predator is an extremely intensive game and most of the time we see cards struggle to hit the 60 FPS average we aim for. While the HD 6870 is right on the edge of getting the performance we need at 1680 x 1050, the XFX Black Edition with its increased clocks is able to break it.

When we see these little barriers broken, we understand why you would buy a pre overclocked card.

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.

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We see some nice performance across the board and a good little bump. Not that it's really needed here, but it's always nice to see strong performance in a game.

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.

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Getting into Far Cry 2, we continue to see some strong performance here at all resolutions. Far Cry 2 was really the Aliens vs. Predator and Lost Planet 2 of not that long ago and to see these well priced cards offer these numbers across the board is just fantastic.

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.

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Across the board we see that the Black Edition HD 6870 helps improve on those already very good numbers.

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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Turning on AA and AF and placing more load on the card, we continue to see some strong performance. The most notable would be the increase seen under Far Cry 2 where we've got a great minimum of 40 FPS.

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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The XFX HD 6870 is a really cool running card; so cool it's actually the coolest running HD 6870 we've tested to date coming in at only 61c under load.

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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What's so great about the 61c heat, though, is the fact it's done with such low noise levels. Sometimes we see these cards that offer nice temperatures run quite loud; this isn't the case here, though.

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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No real surprises with the power draw at around 300 watt.

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.

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Overall performance is strong and you can see the extra MHz means the card indeed performs faster than the old HD 5870. Considering that the HD 6870 didn't replace the HD 5870, that's a pretty good effort.

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.

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Priced at $219 US makes for a very well valued product and considering all the little extras that are included in the bundle, we'd say it's a step above a lot of other cards.

Final Thoughts

It's good to see that the flavors of what was in popular series' like the XXX one that I looked at years ago still exist today in not only the Black Edition series, but also AMD cards. XFX has done a great job with the HD 6870 Black Edition and I've got to say it gets me legitimately excited to see what the company offers next from their line-up.

Like few other companies, I would say that XFX are ahead of the curve when it comes to putting some 'out there' products. The gun cased HD 5970 Black Edition is a prime example. It takes guts to step outside the box and it's good to see XFX is doing it.

Outside of the actual raw FPS numbers that the HD 6870 Black Edition gives us, there are a lot of other aspects of the card that really stand out too. The cooler design looks not only good, but performs exceptionally well in both cooling the card and running at low noise levels.

Then there's of course the bundle which is clearly ahead of most other manufacturers. Sure, it might not be for everyone; you might not have a use for the stickers or want to hang the sign on your door knob, and if you were paying so much more for this card over others I would say look at something else. But you're not; the card is priced extremely well at $219 USD.

If that wasn't an attractive enough offer, the fact that at the moment you can grab a copy of Shogun with it when purchasing at Newegg means you've got a real deal on your hands. There's not really much bad to say about the XFX HD 6870 Black Edition. There's not really anything bad to say about it period, actually. Overall, it's a very good iteration of the HD 6870 which offers strong value and a killer bundle. We have nothing to complain about here.

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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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