ASUS Radeon HD 6870 DirectCU II 1GB Video Card Overclocked Review

Having looked at a few DirectCU II cards already from ASUS, we check out the HD 6870 version today.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, May 29 2011 10:40 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:02 PM CST
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Package


Introduction

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VIEW GALLERY - 31 IMAGES


While the HD 6870 has been around for a while, we've actually seen a few companies release new versions of the card. While the DirectCU II version from ASUS has been out for a little while now; after using it in our $599 AMD Gaming PC Built and Tested and it doing a good job of impressing us, we had to make some time to look at it in all its glory.

When we did our $599 AMD Gaming PC article we didn't have an in depth look at the card itself, so we'll be taking our normal approach to the ASUS HD 6870 DirectCU II 1GB today. We'll start by looking at the package and then we'll take a closer look at the card itself before having a look at the specifications.

Once we've done that, we'll get into the fun stuff and see how the card goes in our testbed. Because we've had a look at a few HD 6870s already and this one isn't part of the TOP series, we thought we'd take the time to do some overclocking ourselves and see how the DirectCU II cooler goes.

So with everything said and done, let's get into the package to see what ASUS has got going on.


Package

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The package hasn't got heaps going on; we've got a quick setup guide and two CDs (one carries a copy of the manual in a number of languages while the other has our VGA driver and another manual). Of course, as always, we recommend you head on over to the AMD website and grab the latest driver.

We've also got a dual Molex to 6-Pin PCI-E power connector, DVI to HDMI adapter and a CrossFire bridge. Nothing too major, but as usual everything you need to get up and running.

Card & Specification


Card Pictures

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The HD 6870 DirectCU II cooler isn't too crazy when compared to the HD 6900 series DirectCU II that is a triple slot one. The HD 6870 DirectCU II is a good looking card, though, with its all black PCB and across the top you can see a couple of heat pipes coming out the top.

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Taking a quick look around the card, we've got two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors towards the back of the card while closer to the front we see a single CrossFire connector in the normal position.

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Connectivity on the ASUS HD 6870 DirectCU II is a little different to other cards we've seen. We've got two DisplayPort connectors and two DVI connectors; one's DVI-I while the other is DVI-D. While there's no HDMI present on the card, connecting via HDMI is possible thanks to the inclusion of a DVI to HDMI connector in the package.


Specifications

Out of the box ASUS have done a little bit of an overclock with the core being bumped to 915MHz from the standard 900MHz. ASUS have left he memory clock alone, though, with that coming in at 4200MHz QDR.

Since it's not the highest overclock we've seen, we thought we'd mix it up a bit by overclocking the card. What we chose to do, though, was overclock without increasing the voltage which is something a lot of people like to do. Adjusting voltages is something that does scare some people off a little, so we thought we'd look at overclocking and the performance of the DirectCU II cooler without the extra voltage.

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You can see above in our GPU-Z screenshot we got the core running at a nice 950MHz while the 1GB of GDDR5 comes in now at 4800MHz QDR. This is a really nice overclock considering we haven't bumped the core voltage. Let's check out performance.

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 today with our testbed line-up; it's nothing you shouldn't have seen before. As for what we're comparing the HD 6870 DirectCU II from ASUS against, we've got some reference designed cards including the HD 6850, HD 6870 and HD 6950.

We've also got some representation from NVIDIA in the form of the MSI GTX 560 Ti 1GB Twin Frozr II.

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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Under 3DMark 11 we can see the kind of performance boost the ASUS card gives us when we've overclocked it. We get a nice boost in both presets and you can see, a clear increase in performance when compared to a reference card that carries with it the reference clock speeds.

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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3DMark Vantage manages to see a strong performance boost in both presets. Hopefully some of these strong gains are seen in our real world testing when we get into it.

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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Checking out Heaven, we can see some nice gains with the best being seen at the higher resolution.

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 away from some synthetic benchmarks and into some games, you can really begin to see some strong performance from our ASUS offering here. You can see performance is actually quite close to the more expensive reference HD 6950 which is impressive.

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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H.A.W.X. 2 doesn't see much extra performance when we're overclocked. This isn't unusual as we tend to find that H.A.W.X. 2 never really takes advantage of any kind of overclock.

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 a nice boost in performance when we fire up Mafia II with some strong performance coming out of our ASUS offering. Unfortunately we don't have quite enough performance to pull in that 60 FPS average we like at 2560 x 1600, but we're not that far from it and you could get that average up with just a bit of a detail drop.

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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Across the board we can see a little boost in performance at all resolutions. Unfortunately Lost Planet 2 is so intensive that we see most cards struggle to get that 60 FPS average we want at 1680 x 1050, let alone other 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.

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Aliens vs. Predator like Lost Planet 2 is one of the more intensive games we test and you can see the reference HD 6870 does struggle to pull the 60 FPS average we want. Overclocked, though, you can see we're able to boost that average over 60 FPS at 1680 x 1050 and we continue to see nice boosts in the other resolutions. While still a bit low, a bit of a detail change and you could get some playable numbers at 1920 x 1200.

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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No surprise under SF IV that we've got some high performance, but you can again see the kind of increase we're able to get out of the ASUS HD 6870 DirectCU II when overclocked.

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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Far Cry 2 puts out some great performance across the board and while it's an older game, it still does a good job of putting pressure on cards. Fortunately, you're not going to have any problem playing Far Cry 2 at any resolution here.

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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Looking at Batman AA performance, it comes as no surprise that we've got some strong performance from the HD 6870 DirecrCU II again.

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, we get a really good idea of how the HD 6870 sits compared to a lot of other cards. Under something like Far Cry 2 and SF IV it has no problem. More intensive games like Mafia II and Aliens vs. Predator does have trouble.

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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Even with the card overclocked we've got some good numbers coming out of the HD 6870 DirectCU II running at 75c 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 DirectCU cooler, though, is the noise. You can just see the cards that sit at the bottom of the graph here; even with these DirectCU II cards overclocked you can see the noise levels are still outstanding.

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 surprises when it comes to looking at power draw with the card drawing a little over 300 watt when overclocked.

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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Performance compared against other HD 6870s is actually pretty strong. It's ahead of both the reference card and the XFX and compared to the HIS there's only a few points separating them. The only HD 6870 that really shows itself ahead is the MSI HAWK which is quite expensive and had voltage bumped in the core, AUX and memory department.

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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The value is extremely strong on the HD 6870 DirectCU II when overclocked. Surprisingly the ASUS option is one of the cheaper HD 6870s on the market; I say surprising because you just tend to see ASUS cards sit a little higher when it comes to price.

Final Thoughts




The ASUS DirectCU II series of cards are just a great option for people who are looking for something that offers a strong cooler, and while some of the recent ones we've looked at might not carry a three slot cooler like you see on their high end ones, the cooler that is used is designed very well for the model it's on.

One of the good things about the DirectCU II series is that ASUS do a great job of making sure the cooler they use accommodates the model well. While lower end models like the GTX 560 are part of the series, their cooler is quite different to the ones you see on the models above it.

Choosing to overclock without boosting voltage also means that not as much heat is generated, but a nice performance boost can be seen; we saw that today when comparing this card overclocked to our reference one. One of the best features of the card would have to be the noise levels, though, that are still extremely low even when overclocked.

ASUS do a great job of offering quiet cards that sit higher up the performance pyramid then a lot of other companies. This is obvious in our sound graphs which show the DirectCU II offerings sitting towards the bottom of the graph.

The other feature that stands out a bit is the connectivity with its two DVI connectors and two DisplayPort connectors. I like that ASUS have chosen to go for a full size DP connector instead of a mini one, it eliminates the need for convertors and means if you're using a DP monitor you can plug it straight in. While the card does lack HDMI on the PCB itself at least, ASUS have thought about it and chosen to include a DVI to HDMI connector in the bundle.

Throw this all together and slap a $199.99 price tag on it and it's a great buy. Throw in a $20 rebate at Newegg at the moment and at $179.99 the ASUS HD 6870 DirectCU II is one of the cheapest HD 6870s on the market. Considering the performance of the cooler, this is a great buy for anyone interested in a quality HD 6870.

At the end of it all, it comes as no surprise that ASUS have managed to produce another great quality card. What's a little surprising is the extremely strong price that's on it.

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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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