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AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB and HD 7850 2GB Pitcairn Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

GPU Testbed - Sandy Bridge-E, X79, New Games

For the Radeon HD 7970 3GB review (and all those going forward) we decided it was high time we replaced the somewhat dated Nehalem-based infrastructure (even though honestly, it was fast enough) with something a bit more current.  Obviously that meant going with the new Intel Sandy Bridge-E processor and X79 motherboard - by combining support for 40 PCI Express lanes and 3-4 full size GPU slots it makes for the perfect GPU base.

From this point on, our reviews will based around the following system:

  • Intel Core i7-3960X CPU
  • ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard
  • Corsair DDR3-1600 4 x 4GB Vengeance memory
  • 600GB Western Digital VelociRaptor HDD
  • 1200 watt Corsair Professional Series power supply
  • Windows 7 SP1 x64

The ASUS P9X79 Pro

The Intel Core i7-3960X gives us the fastest consumer-level CPU on the market to help eliminate the possibility of any processor-based bottlenecks in our testing (whenever possible).  There are still going to be some games that could use more speed (Skyrim comes to mind) but for our purposes this is as good as you get without getting into any kind of overclocked settings.  The ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard has enough space for three dual-slot graphics cards when the time comes for testing 3-Way SLI and CrossFire and 8 DIMM slots should we want to go up from our current setup of 16GB of Corsair Vengeance memory.  

I chose to stick with the 600GB VelociRaptor hard drive rather than an SSD as our total installation size with Windows 7 SP1 x64 and 6+ games was already hitting the 115GB range.  Finally the 1200 watt power supply from Corsair offers up more than enough juice for three power hungry graphics cards while running quietly enough to not throw off our noise testing drastically.

Speaking of noise, for this article we are re-introducing our sound level testing thanks to the Extech 407738 Sound Level Meter capable of monitor decibel ratings as low as 20db.  This allows me to accurately tell you the noise levels generated by the graphics cards that make in-house at PC Perspective.

Along with the new hardware configuration comes a host of new games.  For this review we will be using the following benchmarks and games for performance evaluation:

  • Battlefield 3
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • DiRT 3
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Metro 2033
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • 3DMark11
  • Unigine Heaven v2.5

This collection of games is both current and takes into account several different genres as well - first person role playing, third person action, racing, first person shooting, etc.  3DMark11 and Unigine Heaven give us a way to see how the cards stack up in a more synthetic environment while the real-world gameplay testing provided by the six games completes the performance picture.

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Radeon HD 7870 2GB

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Radeon HD 7850 2GB

For this review we are going to be creating some interesting comparison based around Pitcairn.  With an estimated retail price of $349, the HD 7870 2GB card will be going against Radeon HD 6970 2GB, the GeForce GTX 570 1.25GB and even the GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB card.  We are skewing the comparisons UP simply because we were impressed with the performance offered by these cards.  

While the Radeon HD 6970 is getting hard to find, we wanted to include it to see performance improvements from the Cayman architecture to the new Southern Islands designs.  The GTX 570 card is the most appropriately priced competition from NVIDIA though the GTX 580 is actually in a battle in some cases as well.  

When we look at the Radeon HD 7850, priced at $249, we are throwing it against the Radeon HD 6950 2GB card, the GTX 570 1.25GB as well as the GTX 560 Ti 1GB option.  

The GTX 560 Ti is probably the closet competitor to the HD 7850 in pricing though as we'll see in our testing, the GTX 570 is being threatened as well at about an $80 premium.  

Let's jump into the benchmarks!!

March 5, 2012 | 10:55 AM - Posted by pdjblum

Ryan,

The value and importance of minimums is not lost on you as it is on so many so called enthusiast sites. Thanks for that. On Anand, for instance, can't even tell what metric he is using, and can't be bothered to read so an amateurish review. But he uses acrap for his main box, so he is far from the enthusiast he claims to be.

March 5, 2012 | 11:27 AM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

Great cards, but I got a AMD 6870 and don;t see much need to upgrade. I'll probably wait for the next generation in 2013.Great Review as always Ryan. Now we just need Nvidia to come out with theirs so there will be price drops.

March 5, 2012 | 12:20 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Thanks!

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March 5, 2012 | 01:20 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

Ryan, any expectations from crossfire yet?

March 5, 2012 | 03:33 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I would assume very similar scaling to the HD 7900 cards, though I am still waiting on the second 7870 and 7850 to arrive.

March 9, 2012 | 12:10 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

Awesome, looking forward to an update on this review with crossfire :)

March 5, 2012 | 06:49 PM - Posted by Angryfuture (not verified)

Say goodbye to 4870x2...for me anyway.

I assume there will be a sweet discussion in this weeks podcast?

March 5, 2012 | 08:39 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You would be correct. And yikes, that 4870 X2 is probably a hater this winter!

March 14, 2012 | 07:20 AM - Posted by Mark Allen (not verified)

Thanks for the info, ive got 200 quid burning a hole in my pocket and was torn between a Nvidia 480 as there on offer or a 6950 but i think i'll wait a few weeks and see what uk price we get on the 7850.

Oh and on your podcasts please try and keep doing the funny little audio clips when it starts before the music of one of you lot saying something weird... It always makes me smile :)

March 23, 2012 | 11:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I don't see much difference yet, beside power consumption, between a stock 7850 and a stock 6950, and both are having the same price. Even, I can get a 6950 overclocked for it.

May 31, 2012 | 07:34 PM - Posted by IceBoX (not verified)

Something Wrong! on Battlefield 3 GTX 570 Detail Grafics FPSAvg:
1680x1050 56 Avg / 33 Min / 92 Max
1920x1080 48 Avg / 29 Min / 81 Max

Correct or Not? Ryan Edit?

Thanks! Nice Review!

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