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XFX Radeon HD 7870 Black Edition 2GB Video Card Review

We check out the new Black Edition HD 7870 from XFX and see if the new series continues to impress.
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Published Mon, Apr 2 2012 1:07 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: XFX

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 28 IMAGES

The Black Edition series from XFX has served us extremely well since the launch of the new HD 7000 series this year. We saw XFX come out strong with the HD 7970 version which was then followed up with the HD 7950 version.

After that we saw the HD 7770 get the same treatment, but unfortunately the HD 7770 on a whole hasn't been our favorite model due to the current price point it hits at. Today it's time to check out the HD 7870 version of the Black Edition card and see how it goes.

So far the HD 7870 has impressed us and we've got our fingers crossed that the XFX version today will be able to do the same thing. As always, though, there are a few things we need to do before we get into the performance side of things.

The first thing we'll do is take a quick look at the bundle XFX is offering us. Once we've done that we'll take a closer look at the video card and also see what kind of overclock is on offer from this Black Edition version. Once we've done that we'll quickly look at our testbed, run over the cards we'll be using in our graphs today and then get stuck into the performance side of things.

Package

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You can see we've got a lot of paperwork, a sign to hang of your door knob, CrossFire bridge and that sweet XFX case badge that we see in the Black Series cards.

There's nothing too much going on in the cable department, for some that will be fine, for others, there might be a particular cable you need when buying the card, so just remember that.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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The overall look of the Black Edition card is very similar to what we've seen before out of XFX with the dual fan design going on. It's a good cooler that has proved itself a number of times already. Looking quickly around the card you can see we've got two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors up towards the back while closer to the front we have a single CrossFire connector.

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On the I/O side of things we've got a typical setup which gives us a couple of DVI connectors, full size HDMI port and two Mini-DP connectors to round everything off. You can also see the sweet XFX artwork here on the I/O panel.

Specifications

Being part of the Black Edition series mean that the card comes overclocked out of the box. Looking below you can see that the core comes in at 1050MHz which is 50MHz up on the default 1000MHz clock speed we see from reference cards.

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As for the 2GB of GDDR5 that's also been bumped up from the stock 4800MHz QDR to a more round sounding 5000MHz QDR. Overall this is a nice bump in clock speeds and should bring with it some nice overall performance.

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.

Looking above you can see our testbed and here you shouldn't see anything out of the ordinary. As for the video cards we've included today we've got a bunch starting with the HD 6950 and HD 7770.

From there we start to move up and see both HD 7800 series cards and both HD 7900 series to round out the AMD offerings. As for the NVIDIA side of things we've got the GTX 560 Ti, GTX 570 and finally the GTX 580 to round off the complete line up.

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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Straight away we can see a nice little performance gain from the overclock with the Performance preset breaking that 7k mark.

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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Moving onto Heaven we can again see a nice boost in performance that is seen at both resolutions.

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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Getting into H.A.W.X. 2 we've again got a nice little performance bump and just some really strong performance numbers overall from this model.

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 follows the trend with some nice performance gains across the board. The best is of course seen at the highest resolution as the extra couple of FPS help move us further away from that 60 FPS average we aim for to provide a solid gaming experience.

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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While 2560 x 1600 continues to struggle we can see some nice gains at the lower resolutions where the 1920 x 1200 performance numbers help us move from a 62 FPS average to a more comfortable 68 FPS average in this super intensive game.

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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While the HD 7870 continues to struggle at the highest resolution, we can see at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 we've got some good performance and some nice little gains can be seen.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.2

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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We continue to see these nice little gains thanks to the overclock as we move to Just Cause 2. Unfortunately it's not quite enough at the highest resolution to break that 60 FPS mark. We're close at 57 FPS, though, so a slight overclock or detail drop will bring the number up.

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 over to Metro 2033 we see some nice gains again that give us some very playable numbers at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050.

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 continues the trend with some strong numbers at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 with some nice little gains over the reference clocked cards.

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 as you expect seems gains across the board. Of course it comes as no surprise that we've got playable numbers at every resolution, though.

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 we see that Aliens vs. Predator still struggles, we can see some nice little bumps under Mafia II and Far Cry 2 that makes sure our gameplay is silky smooth.

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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Looking at the temperature side of things it comes as a little surprise that the XFX HD 7870 runs a bit warmer than our other cards here.

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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One of the main reasons we could see it run warmer is because the video card runs quiet.

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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On the power draw side of things we don't see anything out of the ordinary at all.

Final Thoughts

We're already a big fan of the AMD Radeon HD 7870 and just the HD 7800 series on a whole so with that said it was going to be hard to be disappointed in what XFX was offering us here today. We like the new model from AMD and the Black Edition series from XFX has been going strong with the latest crop of AMD based cards.

Due to that it came as no surprise that we found ourselves happy with what XFX is offering us here today and while it hasn't shown up on Newegg just yet, we should see it come in at around that $359 price tag, which is so strong for AMD.

The only thing that we would've liked to have seen from the XFX card was that it ran a bit cooler. You can see off the noise numbers, though, that the company has opted for a cooling profile that leans on the side of being quieter than anything else and we end up with a really quiet running HD 7870 because of that.

XFX have come to the table offering us a great version of a model that we really love. If you're a fan of the Black Edition cards from XFX or just a fan of XFX period, you shouldn't find yourself disappointed with what XFX has put together here today.

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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.

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.

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