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MSI Radeon HD 7870 2GB TwinFrozr Overclocked Video Card Review

We check out the Twin Frozr based HD 7870 from MSI and see how it overclocks and performs today.
@TweakTown
Shawn Baker
Published Fri, Apr 20 2012 3:15 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 29 IMAGES

Being a mid-range model the recently released Radeon HD 7800 series from AMD has seen partners release own design models extremely quickly with most companies offering upgraded cooling and overclocks come launch day.

Today we're looking at a HD 7870 from MSI and it falls into the popular Twin Frozr series which has always stood out as a strong series thanks to the excellent cooling solutions on offer. The move to a 28nm fabrication process on the latest line up of HD 7000 series cards, though, means that we're seeing coolers perform better than ever.

Today it's time to see if the Twin Frozr can help follow the recent trend and perform strong on the HD 7870. Because we've already looked at a couple of overclocked HD 7870s, though, and the MSI one uses the Twin Frozr cooler we'll be checking out the overclocking capabilities of the video card using MSI Afterburner.

Before we look at the performance, though, there are a few things we need to do. First we'll start off by checking out the bundle that MSI has put together. Once we've done that we'll move onto the card itself, have a quick look over it and then check out both the default clocks of the card and what clocks we got out of it via overclocking.

Once we've done that we'll move onto the performance side of things to see just what the overclock brings to the table while also seeing how the cooler handles it. First let's quickly go over the bundle, though.

Package

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You can see we've got a flap that opens up and not only reveals what the card looks like and some of the main features that are on offer, but we also see the TweakTown Best Overclocking Award logo along with a quote.

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As for the actual bundle there's not heaps going on like most cards these days it seems. We've got the normal line up of paperwork alongside a driver CD. We've also got two dual Molex to 6-Pin PCIe power connectors, CrossFire bridge and a MiniDP to DisplayPort connector.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the card there's nothing to out of the ordinary when it comes to the overall design since we've seen the Twin Frozr III cooler before. You can see the dual fan setup and across the bottom you can see some of the heatpipes.

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Taking a quick look around the card doesn't hold any real surprises; we've got two 6-pin PCIe power connectors towards the back of the card and closer to the front you can see we've got a single CrossFire connector.

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Finally we move over to the I/O side of things and you can see we've got a Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI port and two MiniDP connectors. It's great to see that MSI chose to include a MiniDP to DP connector in the bundle as it means if you're using a DisplayPort monitor, you can get up and running straight away with it.

Specifications

Like most MSI cards we see this one comes overclocked out of the box and looking below you can see the 1050MHz core is 50MHz up on the default 1000MHz clock. As for the 2GB of GDDR5 that has been left alone coming in at 4800MHz QDR.

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Being an MSI card, though, we used our favorite overclocking program MSI Afterburner and as you can see above we pushed our core up to 1250MHz and the 2GB of GDDR5 up to 5600MHz QDR.

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.

Since we overclocked the MSI HD 7870 2GB Twin Frozr the main thing we want to look at today is what kind of performance we're getting out of this card verse the reference one which of course comes in at the reference 1000 / 4800MHz QDR clock speeds.

Of course outside of just the reference cards we've also got a number of other cards included today.

We've got the older HD 6950 and new HD 7770, HD 7850, HD 7950 and HD 7970.

We've also got a couple of cards from NVIDIA today that include the GTX 560 Ti, GTX 570 and GTX 580 to help round off our 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 in 3DMark 11 we can see the strong performance that comes out of our overclocked MSI HD 7870 which sees it come out only just behind the HD 7970 in both the P and X preset.

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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Getting into Heaven we see strong performance again, but this time we see it sit more behind the HD 7950 instead of between it and the HD 7970.

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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Moving into H.A.W.X. 2 we again see some very strong performance from the MSI HD 7870 overclocked that sees it actually come out ahead of both HD 7900 series cards in this benchmark.

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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Moving into Mafia II we continue to see the strong performance gains that are on offer here thanks to the overclock. Overall we again see performance that sits between the HD 7950 and HD 7970.

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 performance is strong and you see the overclock gives us a nice boost in performance.

Unfortunately we're still a little behind that 60 FPS mark we aim for at the highest resolution. Looking at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200, though, we've got some great performance numbers.

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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Moving onto Aliens vs. Predator we can see some nice gains overall and very strong performance at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. Under this intensive game, though, we do see the HD 7870 struggle at 2560 x 1600, even when heavily overclocked.

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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Loading up Just Cause 2 we've got some great performance with the overclock on offer and you can see it's enough to help push us over that 60 FPS average, something that the HD 7950 falls just short off.

It's when we see these kinds of gains that we really appreciate the overclock.

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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Looking at Metro 2033 we can see some nice gains again which put us at similar numbers to the HD 7950 in this case.

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 strong at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 with numbers that are ahead of the HD 7950. While we're also ahead of it at 2560 x 1600, we're unfortunately below that 60 FPS mark we always aim for that provides a solid gaming experience.

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 performance across the board is very strong and you can see some nice gains at every resolution that put our overclocked MSI HD 7870 again ahead of the reference clocked HD 7950.

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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Turning on AA and AF we continue to see the strong gains the overclock is giving us.

Unfortunately we're still below that 60 FPS average under Aliens vs. Predator.

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 numbers we can see the cooler offers us significantly stronger idle numbers when compared to the reference clocked card while the load number lines up exactly with the reference card which is good considering all the extra performance we're getting out of the card.

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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Looking at the noise levels we can see the performance is strong with the card sitting towards the bottom of the pack. A place you want to be when it comes to noise levels.

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 front we can see that the numbers sit where you'd expect the extra voltage and overclock we've got here.

Final Thoughts

MSI as you'd expect have put together a really nice HD 7870 that as always stands out for all the right reasons. Combined with the strong Twin Frozr cooler as well, we can see its strong performance helps achieve a really nice overclock that helps boost overall performance.

Priced at $369 the MSI HD 7870 Twin Frozr comes in $10 to $20 more than reference clocked cards. While the out of the box overclock is nice, the main feature you're paying for is the cooler and as usual, the Twin Frozr III cooler is worth it for anyone looking for something that is going to perform well.

Outside of the video card itself, we can see MSI have put together a nice little bundle here. It's nice to see them include a MiniDP to DisplayPort convertor in the box - something we're seeing more and more companies ignore.

The best thing for AMD at the moment, though, is that mid $300 price bracket is pretty open to them. With NVIDIA only just starting to bring the 600 series to us, we're still a little bit away before they offer a video card at this price level and while the GTX 680 is a fantastic card at a really good price point, the associated $500 price tag is a step up from this.

If you want to spend around that mid $300 mark the HD 7870 is a good choice and most companies are offering us some nice variations. The MSI one today is another one of those nice variations that stand out and you can see it's another HD 7870 that is able to offer some strong performance.

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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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