For the first time, AMD has launched their entire graphics card line-up, catering to all the segments in less than three months. Their usual strategy of waiting for at least six months before the launch of the mainstream and mid-range cards didn’t happen this time and we have a sneaking suspicion that Nvidia’s Kepler launch had something to do with that. AMD first launched the HD 7900 series based on the ‘Tahiti’ core, back in January and soon followed by the HD 7700 series based on Cape Verde core in early February. Now, rounding up the Southern Islands trilogy is the HD 7800 series that AMD launched in mid-March. The two cards, HD 7870 and the HD 7850 are based on the new Pitcairn core and uses the same GCN architecture of the rest of the group.
The PitCairn die
AMD messed up the naming scheme of their graphics cards after the launch of the HD 6800 series and once again, we see a disconnect in the new series. Logically, one would expect the HD 7870 and HD 7850 to replace the HD 6870 and HD 6850, respectively, but that's not the case here. The new HD 7800 series now take a new place in their line-up and don’t really replace any of their previous generation cards, instead, it will compete with Nvidia’s GTX 570 and GTX 560 Ti. AMD has priced these cards a little higher than Nvidia’s offerings, so let’s see if it has the performance to show as well. Asus have sent us the DirectCU II TOP edition of the HD 7870, so let’s see how it stacks up.
Design and Build
Unlike the monstrous HD 7970 and HD 7950 special edition cards from Asus, the HD 7870 has a modest dual-slot design, so installing it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Although the PCB is under 10 inches in length, the heatsink and the metal covering makes it appear longer, as it extends beyond the length of the motherboard. The card looks striking with an all-black PCB and the exposed aluminium heatsinks. The fan is cooled by copper pipes that extend to aluminium fins, which are then cooled by two fans. This cooling solution, although a bit extravagant, ensures lower operating temperatures and noise.
A more forgiving design for mid-tower chassis users
The rear ports, include two miniDP connectors, HDMI and a DVI-I port. Above it, we have plenty of vents for channeling hot air outside the case. The build and finish of all the components on the card are top notch and just the kind we’ve come to expect from Asus. The box includes a DVI to VGA converter, CrossFire cable, drivers and manual and a 6-pin PCIE power extender (not a Molex converter). It would have been nice, if Asus could have bundled a miniDP adapter or even a cable, as it would have added more value to the bundle. The HD 7870 requires two 6-pin power connectors to run.
This is the second card in AMD’s line-up to be termed as ‘GHz Edition’, so the core is clocked by default at 1GHz. Asus bumps it up to 1.1GHz out-of-the-box, allowing the user to push it further. The HD 7870 features 1280 shader units and 32 ROPs, which is double of what their HD 7700 series have. 2GB of GDDR5 memory is also now standard and you also get a full 256-bit memory bus. The memory is clocked at 4800MHz, effective speed. The card uses the same 28nm fabrication process and has full support for PCIE 3.0, DX11, CrossFire X and AMD’s HD3D technology.
Good set of connectors
Asus have added their own spin to the card with a custom PCB design and their famous, DirectCU II cooler. They also bundle along a very handy piece of software called GPU Tweak, which helps you get the most out of your GPU. Besides being able to increase the clock speeds, voltages and fan speeds, you can monitor the performance of the card and log various parameters that help when you're overclocking the card.
- Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.40 GHz
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE P67A-UD3R
- Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (4GB x 2) @1600MHz
- Hard drive: Intel SSD 520 240GB (Boot Drive), WD Velociraptor 300GB (Secondary Drive)
- GPU: Asus HD 7870 DirectCU II TOP
- PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit