HIS Radeon HD 7870 IceQ Turbo Overclocked Video Card Review

We look at the brand new HD 7870 IceQ Turbo from HIS and see how the latest generation IceQ cooler goes when overclocked.

Manufacturer: HIS
15 minute read time

Introduction and Package

HIS Radeon HD 7870 IceQ Turbo Overclocked Video Card Review 02

Outside of the HD 7970, we've seen companies jump straight on the upgraded cooler bandwagon almost instantly since the launch of the HD 7000 series. Of all the brands there are a few key coolers that stand out to us, though, and the popular IceQ series from HIS is one of them.

The latest card to get the IceQ treatment from the team over at HIS comes in the form of the HD 7870 IceQ Turbo. When it comes to HIS cards, this is a model that carries our two favorite words. "IceQ" that lets us know we're dealing with a new cooler and "Turbo" which lets us know we're dealing with a pre-overclocked card.

While we'll get into more details on the overclock soon, because the Turbo clock on offer from the HIS card was similar to that of the PowerColor PCS+ HD 7870 we've just looked at, we figured we'd fire up some overclocking software and see how the new HD 7870 goes in the overclocking department; an area we haven't looked in yet.

Of course before we cover all that we need to do a few things first. We'll start by checking out the package HIS are offering us today before we move on to the card itself. Once we've done that we'll take a look at the default clocks and then also what we overclocked the card to.

From there it's time to look at our testbed, check out some of the other cards we'll be including in our graphs today and finally get into the performance side of things to see just what we can get out of this card from HIS. The main question we want to answer today, though, is how does this mid $300 card go against its big brothers sitting in the HD 7900 area.


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The box doesn't hold any surprises, but the content of it does. To be honest this is a really light package for what we would consider a top end mid-range video card. We've got the normal paperwork and driver CD along with a DVI to VGA connector, CrossFire Bridge and the new "Weight Lifter" that HIS have started to bundle.

What we're not seeing, though, is any MiniDP convertors or even a HDMI one. A lot of people might not have any use for these and if HIS are able to come in at a slightly more aggressive price point, then we don't mind. In the end we're sure they're going to let the card do the talking more than the bundle.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the card the first thing we notice is the sweet looking color change on the IceQ cooler which has been traditionally clear / white. The black looks awesome, though, and especially against the HIS blue and copper heatpipes. It would've been awesome to see a black PCB to just complete the whole look.

The cooler does just look overall very mean and one of the best things about the HIS design is they stick to the same kind of fan design as AMD which sees the air get pushed out the back of the card. Throw in some massive heatpipes and we should have an awesome performing cooler.

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Moving around the card we've got the typical two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors. Looking at the cooler and the placement of the connectors I thought it would be really annoying to install our PCI Express power connectors. Fortunately there's quite a large gap present making sure that the installation and removal of the connectors is easy.

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Closer to the front we've got a single CrossFire connector and while the cooler is overall pretty large, it doesn't hinder the CrossFire connector at all.

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Looking at the I/O side of things we've got a fairly standard setup with a single Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI port and two MiniDP connectors. Across the top we've got the vents and because of the way the cooler is designed they're going to be useful in pushing the air straight out the back of the case.


Being a Turbo model means that the HIS offering here comes overclocked out of the box and looking below you can see it's a decent overclock with the core going from an even 1000MHz to 1100MHz while the 2GB of GDDR5 stays at the default 4800MHz QDR.

HIS Radeon HD 7870 IceQ Turbo Overclocked Video Card Review 01

Since the PowerColor PCS+ card we looked at came in at 1100MHz / 4900MHz QDR there didn't seem like much reason to retest the HIS card at what is almost the same clock speeds. So we decided to do some overclocking via MSI Afterburner and you can see we pushed the core to a massive 1275MHz and the 2GB of GDDR5 to 5600MHz QDR.

This is a huge overclock; from the default 1000MHz core clock, 275MHz on top of that equates to a percentage increase of 27.5%. That's just a massive increase in performance. Combined with the higher memory clock we should really see some strong performance out of the card here today.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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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, ASUS and Corsair.

When it comes to our testbed you can see all the information above into our X79 rig that we've been using for all our video cards since launch of the AMD Radeon HD 7000 series. Before we get into the performance side of things we want to quickly run over the cards we've got here today.

We've got a bunch of cards in our graphs today and we want to find out how our overclocked HIS HD 7870 IceQ Turbo goes today against a number of them. Not only do we want to see how our massive overclock goes against the reference clocked AMD HD 7870, but we also want to see how it goes against the overclocked PowerColor PCS+ HD 7870 which carries very similar out of the box clocks to the HIS HD 7870 IceQ Turbo.

Of course as always when it comes to overclocked cards we want to see how we go against the next model or series up. In this case we want to see how our HIS HD 7870 goes against the big boys; the HD 7950 and HD 7970. Along with that we've thrown in the HD 6950, HD 7850, GTX 560 Ti, GTX 570 and GTX 580 all for good measure.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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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Getting straight into our benchmarks you can see the overclocked HIS offering just shoot ahead of almost everything. The only card it falls behind is the $549 HD 7970. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come over our benchmark line up today.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

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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Heaven performance also shoots up massively. Not quite as high as 3DMark 11 as we see the score line up closer to the HD 7950 in this case, but still some massive performance gains are being seen across the board.

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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Across the board H.A.W.X. 2 performance is massive and in this case we manage to suppress the HD 7970. The card here only falls behind the NVIDIA GTX 580 which has done extremely well under H.A.W.X. 2.

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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Mafia II performance is also excellent and we're got some really nice gains compared to the reference clocked card. At 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 we can see performance is almost identical. It's only ay 2560 x 1600 it falls behind, but even in this case, we're almost 10% ahead of the HD 7950.

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 carries strong performance gains again and you can see that we move from 62 FPS on the HD 7870 at stock to 75 FPS here on our overclocked HIS offering. Unfortunately we're still a little behind the 60 FPS mark at the highest resolution.

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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The gains are strong under Aliens vs. Predator, but not as strong as they've been in other games. For the most part we see it trails a little behind the HD 7950 at each resolution.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Just Cause 2 sees strong numbers across the board as you'd expect with 1680 x 1050 performance being right on top of the HD 7970. As we move up in resolution we see the HIS HD 7870 start to fall back a bit, but at all times it stays ahead of the HD 7950 and more importantly, the overclock helps push our 2560 x 1600 average to over 60 FPS.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Moving into Metro 2033 we see performance is similar to that of the HD 7950 with some strong numbers at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. It's only at 2560 x 1600 we see our numbers hit under 60 FPS, but looking above you can see none of our setups are giving us a 60 FPS average.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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Dirt 3 performance is also really nice with silky smooth numbers at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. It's again only at 2560 x 1600 we struggle to hit that 60 FPS mark and as you can see above, the only card that is able to hit it is the HD 7970.

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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No surprise we see big performance under Far Cry 2 and in this case we're sitting at around the same numbers as the HD 7970.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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While all our games see some awesome performance gains; the super intensive Aliens vs. Predator continues to struggle to hit that 60 FPS mark. Like some of our other tests, though, we can see that only the HD 7970 is able to break that number we aim for.

Temperature Test

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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Considering the performance of the card, the massive overclock and the fact we're running extra voltage through the GPU, the cooling numbers on the card really are quite amazing.

We manage to sit 4c cooler than the reference HD 7870.

Sound Test

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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The low temperature doesn't come at the cost of extra noise either with numbers that line up with the reference cooler. Considering the performance increase we get over the reference card, this is just awesome.

Power Consumption Test

Using our 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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Power draw is as you'd expect coming in less than 400 watts. The new 28nm GPUs from AMD do awesomely well in the power and cooling department, even when heavily overclocked.

Final Thoughts

It's great to see the IceQ cooler back and it's even better to see it's attached to a video card that has the Turbo naming attached to it. What was really exciting today, though, was we got to give the AMD Radeon HD 7870 a chance to stretch its legs and see just what kind of performance we could get out of this GPU.

Normally when you start to overclock so much you expect that the cooler is going to struggle. Not only are you pushing the speeds of the core and memory up, you're also pumping more voltage through the GPU, which adds even more heat into the mix.

Considering all this and discovering that the HIS HD 7870 IceQ Turbo was running at only 58c during load making it the sixth coolest running card is simply amazing. Then doing that at the same noise levels as the reference HD 7870 cooler, but offering performance that lined up from anywhere between the HD 7950 and HD 7970, and you don't need to say anything else. The numbers really do all the talking.

A reference HD 7870 is going to set you back around the $349 mark. The HIS offering is of course going to carry a premium, but outside of it tipping over $400, there's just no way the premium isn't deserved. At the moment we expect the price to be around the $379 - $389 mark.

If there was anything lacking it would be the bundle which is a bit on the light side of things. Ultimately, though, the card itself is part of the bundle and that's the biggest highlight here.

We're still a few days away from the HD 7870 officially hitting the market. Come launch day the decision is looking to be pretty difficult as we see some awesome retail versions of the new Radeon HD 7870 come strong out the gate. Good luck!

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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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