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HIS HD Radeon 5870 iCooler V Turbo

The Radeon HD 5870 is one of the fastest GPUs on the market, offering excellent performance for the newest PC games. HIS takes it one step further with its Turbo edition by overclocking the core and memory speeds and slapping on their own custom cooler.

April 4, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product
HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo H587FNT1GDG
PCI-E Graphics Card
Manufacturer
Street Price
~US$450

The HIS 5870 Turbo is a factory-overclocked variant of the ATI Radeon HD 5870
that wore the high performance gaming crown for the last 6 months. While many
of us would like to own a HD 5870, the thought of emptying out our wallets to
the tune of US$400+ for a graphics card is an unthinkable proposition. Still
there is a market for such products, and PC gamers are an enthusiastic bunch,
with more than a few willing to shell-out plenty of dough to satiate their desire
to run the most advanced games smooth as silk at high resolutions with as much
eye candy as possible — a 5870 is right up their alley.


The HIS HD 5870 Turbo.

The HIS Turbo edition seems to offer good value compared to the other 5870s
on the market. It costs about $30 more than your average 5870, but not only
is it overclocked, it currently ships with a free coupon for popular game, Call
of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which retails for US$50~$60 (though this was omitted
in our sample). Also of interest is the fact they did not utilize the 5870 reference
heatsink, a box-style cooler with a blower fan pushing hot air out the back.
HIS instead uses a downblowing fan with a partial plastic cover that forces
all airflow from the fan down onto and over the components on the circuit board.
Typically when a custom heatsink appears on a high-end card, it delivers superior
performance.


Accessories include two PCI-E power adapters, one CrossFire bridge, and
a single DVI to VGA adapter.

 


Technical specifications according to GPU-Z.

The HD 5870 is undoubtedly the most advanced graphics card to enter our labs. It
is based on the same 40 nm Cypress graphics core at the heart of the HD
5850
, but with higher clock/memory speeds (850/1200 MHz vs. 700/1000
MHz) and an additional 160 stream processors. As if it wasn’t fast enough, the
HIS Turbo edition is also pre-overclocked to 875/1225 MHz, giving it an additional
performance boost.

Specifications: HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo
(from the
product web page
)
Model Name HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo
(DirectX 11/ Eyefinity/ Full HD 1080p) Native HDMI 1GB (256bit) GDDR5 Dual
DL-DVI / Display Port / HDMI (HDCP) PCIe (RoHS) (MW2)
Chipset Radeon HD 5870 PCIe Series
ASIC Radeon HD 5870 GPU
Pixel Pipelines 1600 stream processing
units* (Unified)
Vertex Engines 1600 stream processing
units* (Unified)
Manu. Process (Micron) 40nm
Memory Size (MB) 1024
Memory Type GDDR5
RAMDAC (MHz) 400
Engine CLK (MHz) 875
Memory CLK (Gbps) 4.9Gbps
Memory Interface (bit) 256
Power Supply Requirement 500 Watt or greater power
supply with two 75W 6-pin PCI Express® power connectors recommended
(600 Watt and four 6-pin connectors for ATI CrossFireX technology in dual
mode)
Max. Resolution 3x 2560*1600 (Dual dual-link)
Bus Interface PCI Express x16
Display Port Yes
HDMI Yes
DVI Yes
2nd DVI Yes

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The HIS 5870 Turbo is a dual-slot graphics card with a PCB measuring 10.1″
(25.6 cm) long, about half an inch more than the width of a standard ATX motherboard.


The heatsink features a 9-blade 75 mm diameter fan and Modern Warfare
2 decals on the cover.

 


From the side you can see the heatsink has a large copper base. An independent
VRM heatsink is visible on the right side.

 


The 5870 has a pair of 6-pin power connectors at the very edge of the
board rather than on the side. When the power is plugged in, this can
increase the card’s effective length by up to an inch.

 


The rear panel is compliant with 3-way Eyefinity, having dual DVI, and
single HDMI and DisplayPort connectors. There’s also a small exhaust port,
but given the cooler’s design, its usefulness is questionable.

 


There are seven screws in total holding the cooler to the card, four on
the padded mounting frame around the GPU core and three on the rest of
the PCB.

COOLER & INSTALLATION

Warning — removing the heatsink from a card generally voids the product’s
warranty. Do so at your own risk. Note that all testing on the card was performed
before the cooler was removed.


Underneath the hood. The heatsink weighs in at about 380 grams.

 


This is the first high power card we’ve seen in recent memory without
heatpipes as part of the cooler design. The heatsink is comprised of a
very large copper sheet and tightly spaced aluminum fins.

 


On the top side of the heatsink a portion of the fin mass has been cut
out to accommodate the fan, and the fins on the each side are closed,
forcing air to flow downward and to the side.

 


Compared to the HD 5850, the 5870’s core is further toward the right so
our favorite old school GPU cooler, the Accelero S1, fits without interfering
with the DVI box cover. A fan is definitely required though, the larger
the better. More modern third party heatsinks like the Scythe Musashi/Setsugen
are shifted toward the right and fit without issue on most HD 5000 series
cards.

 


Installed in our test system.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Our test procedure is an in-system test, designed to:

1. Determine whether the cooler is adequate for use in a low-noise system.
By adequately cooled, we mean cooled well enough that no misbehavior
related to thermal overload is exhibited. Thermal misbehavior in a graphics
card can show up in a variety of ways, including:

  • Sudden system shutdown, reboot without warning, or loss of display signal
  • Jaggies and other visual artifacts on the screen.
  • Motion slowing and/or screen freezing.

Any of these misbehaviors are annoying at best and dangerous at worst —
dangerous to the health and lifespan of the graphics card, and sometimes to
the system OS.

2. Estimate the card’s power consumption. This is a good indicator of how efficient
the card is and will have an effect on how hot the stock cooler becomes due
to power lost in the form of heat. The lower the better.

Test Platform

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic S12-600
used in our test system:

Seasonic S12-500 / 600 TEST RESULTS
DC Output (W)
65.3
89.7
148.7
198.5
249.5
300.2
400
AC Input (W)
87.0
115.0
183.1
242.1
305.0
370.2
500
Efficiency
75.1%
78.0%
81.2%
82.0%
81.8%
81.1%
80%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our
test system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power
input based on this data. We won’t go through the math; it’s easy enough
to figure out for yourself if you really want to.

H.264/VC-1 Test Clips

H.264 and VC-1 are codecs commonly used in high definition movie videos
on the web (like Quicktime movie trailers and the like) and also in Blu-ray
discs. To play these clips, we use Cyberlink PowerDVD.


1080p | 24fps | ~10mbps
1080p H.264:
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 2c
is a 1080p clip encoded in H.264
inside an Apple Quicktime container.

 


1080p | 24fps | ~8mbps
WMV-HD:
Coral Reef Adventure Trailer
is encoded in VC-1 using
the WMV3 codec commonly recognized by the “WMV-HD” moniker.

x264/MKV Video Test Clip

MKV (Matroska) is a very popular online multimedia container
used for high definition content, usually using x264 (a free, open source
H.264 encoder) for video. The clip was taken from a full length movie;
the most demanding one minute portion was used. We use Media Player
Classic Home Cinema to play it as its default settings allow it to use
DXVA (DirectX Video Acceleration) automatically when used with a compatible
Intel/ATI graphics chip. For Nvidia graphics we use CoreAVC to enable
CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) support in MPC-HC.


1080p | 24fps | ~14mbps

x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
the Blu-ray version of an animated short film. It features a
hapless robot trying to repair a lamp on a spaceship.

Testing Procedures

Our first test involves recording the system power consumption using a Seasonic
Power Angel as well as CPU and GPU temperatures using SpeedFan and GPU-Z during
different states: Idle, under load with CPUBurn running to stress the processor,
and CPUBurn plus ATITool/FurMark running to stress both the CPU and GPU simultaneously.
This last state is an extremely stressful, worst case scenario test which generates
more heat and higher power consumption than can be produced by a modern video
game. If it can survive this torture in our low airflow system, it should be
able to function nominally in the majority of PCs.

The software is left running until the GPU temperature remains stable for at
least 10 minutes. If artifacts are detected by ATI’s artifact scanner or by
eye or any other instability is noted, the heatsink is deemed inadequate to
cool the video card in our test system.

If the heatsink has a fan, the load state tests are repeated at various fan
speeds (if applicable) while the system case fan is left at its lowest setting
of 7V. If the card utilizes a passive cooler, the system fan is varied instead
to study the effect of system airflow on the heatsink’s performance. System
noise measurements are made at each fan speed.

Our second test procedure is to run the system through a video test suite featuring
a variety of high definition clips. During playback, a CPU usage graph is created
by the Windows Task Manger for analysis to determine the average CPU usage.
High CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability. If the video (and/or
audio) skips or freezes, we conclude the GPU (in conjunction with the processor)
is inadequate to decompress the clip properly. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.

TEST RESULTS

BASELINE, with Integrated Graphics: First, here are the results of
our baseline results of the system with just its integrated graphics, without
a discrete video card. We’ll also need the power consumption reading during
CPUBurn to estimate the actual power draw of discrete card later.

VGA Test Bed: Baseline Results
(no discrete graphics card installed)
System
State
System Power
AC
DC (Est.)
Idle
75W
Unknown
CPUBurn
151W
121W
Ambient temperature: 22°C

HIS HD Radeon 5870 Turbo

Upon installation of the card, we were surprised by how quiet the cooler was,
even double-checking that the fan was spinning. This changed once the latest
Catalyst driver suite was installed unfortunately. Sitting idle at a cool 33°C,
the GPU fan was spinning at about 2500 RPM, generating a rather high system
noise level of 21 dBA. The acoustic profile was broadband overall, with a touch
of whine, excellent if the card had been on load, poor though since it was idle.
We discovered through MSI’s
Afterburner
application that the fan was set to spin at 50% speed until
the temperature reached 50°C. Using the MSI utility, we managed to drop
the fan speed to the minimum allowed and were rewarded with a significant reduction
in noise. With the fan speed tweaked, the fan was just audible and the GPU temperature
increased by only 4°C when idle.

VGA Test Bed: HIS HD Radeon 5870 Turbo
System
State
GPU Fan Speed
SPL
@1m
GPU Temp
System Power
AC
DC
Idle
(tweaked)
1360 RPM
14 dBA
37°C
102W
78W
Idle
2510 RPM
21 dBA
33°C
102W
78W
CPUBurn
33°C
178W
144W
CPUBurn + ATITool
2680 RPM
23~24 dBA
62°C
281W*
230W
CPUBurn + FurMark
4300 RPM
34 dBA
86°C
415W*
336W
Ambient temperature: 22°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
System noise level: 12 dBA
* Peak measurement

When placed on load using ATITool, the fan speed was too aggressive at 2680
RPM even though the GPU had barely cracked 60°C. FurMark pushed the fan
into overdrive, producing an earsplitting 34 dBA. This was the first time in
our VGA test system’s history that the AC power draw surpassed 400W and the
cooler had a hard time keeping up. The GPU core temperature stabilized at 86°C
even though the fan was spinning at an incredible 4300 RPM. You can alter the
fan curve with Afterburner, but if you stress the card to its limit, you’re
going to have to run the fan fairly fast.


MSI Afterburner: default fan speed curve.

 


HD Radeon 5870 Turbo idling using the default fan settings.

 

Noise & Cooling Comparison
Card
Idle
Load (FurMark)
SPL @1m
GPU Temp
SPL @1m
GPU Temp
ATI HD 4870
13 dBA
82°C
20 dBA
91°C
HIS HD 4890 Turbo
15 dBA
66°C
26 dBA
80°C
PowerColor HD 5850
18 dBA
40°C
24 dBA
83°C
HIS HD 5870 Turbo
21 dBA
33°C
34 dBA
86°C
Ambient temperature: 22°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
System noise level: 12 dBA

At stock settings, the HIS 5870 Turbo is the loudest card we’ve encountered.
Given the card’s high power draw and heatpipe-less heatsink we aren’t too surprised.
In actual use, the power draw and noise level should be a lot lower however
as games are not as demanding as the synthetic stability test offered by FurMark.
The least HIS could have done was to reduce the idle fan speed, as we managed
to do using MSI Afterburner. The card is pretty much barebones with minimum
accessories and no fan or overclocking utilities provided by HIS.

POWER

The power consumption of an add-on video card can be estimated by comparing
the total system power draw with and without the card installed. Our results
were derived thus:

1. Power consumption of the graphics card at idle – When CPUBurn is
run on a system, the video card is not stressed at all, and stays in idle mode.
This is true whether the video card is integrated or an add-on PCIe 16X device.
Hence, when the power consumption of the base system under CPUBurn is subtracted
from the power consumption of the same test with the graphics card installed,
we obtain the increase in idle power of the add-on card over the
integrated graphics chip (Intel GMA950). (The actual idle power
of the add-on card cannot be derived, because the integrated graphics does draw
some power — we’d guess no more than a watt or two.)

2. Power consumption of the graphics card under load – The power draw
of the system is measured with the add-on video card, with CPUBurn and FurMark
running simultaneously. Then the power of the baseline system (with integrated
graphics) running just CPUBurn is subtracted. The difference is the load power
of the add-on card. (If you want to nitpick, the 1~2W power of the integrated
graphics at idle should be added to this number.) Any load on the CPU from FurMark
should not skew the results, since the CPU was running at full load in both
systems.

Both results are scaled by the efficiency of the power supply (tested
here
) to obtain a final estimate of the DC power consumption.

Estimated Power Consumption Comparison (DC)
Card
Idle
Load (ATITool)
Load (FurMark)
Sparkle GTS 250 1GB
22W
87W
124W
PowerColor HD 5850 1GB
21W
78W
132W
ATI HD 4870 1GB
67W
121W
134W
Asus GTX 260 896MB
35W
122W
145W
HIS HD 4890 Turbo 1GB
71W
124W
149W
HIS HD 5870 Turbo 1GB
23W
109W
215W

By our estimates, the HIS 5870 Turbo requires a massive 215W when being stressed
to the limit using FurMark, making it far away the most power hungry card we’ve
come across. On the bright side, like other members of the HD 5000 series, the
5870 has very low idle power requirements.

Video Playback

Test Results: Video Playback
Test State
PowerColor HD Radeon 5850
HIS HD Radeon 5870 Turbo
Avg.
CPU
Avg. DC Power*
Avg.
CPU
Avg. DC Power*
Rush Hour
(1080p H.264)
5%
+25W
5%
+28W
Coral Reef
(WMV-HD)
27%
+44W
28%
+40W
Spaceship
(1080p x264)
3%
+22W
3%
+25W
*compared to idle

As the 5870 has similar idle power as the 5850 and the same UVD 2.0 chip, video
playback was almost identical between the two cards, both in terms of CPU utilization
and power draw. Like the 5850, it exhibited an odd quirk during our WMV-HD clip.
The HIS 5870 Turbo has clock/memory frequencies of 157/300 MHz when idle, 875/1225
MHz on load, and 400/900 MHz when UVD is doing its thing. During WMV-HD playback,
it continually hopped between these three states rather than standing firm at
400/900 MHz like the other two clips. This is accounts for some of the difference
in power consumption.


GPU-Z: Clock speed irregularities during WMV-HD playback.

MP3 SOUND RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high
resolution, lab quality, digital recording system
inside SPCR’s
own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber
, then converted to LAME 128kbps
encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation
from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of
what we heard during the review.

These recordings are intended to give you an idea of how the product sounds
in actual use — one meter is a reasonable typical distance between a computer
or computer component and your ear. The recording contains stretches of ambient
noise that you can use to judge the relative loudness of the subject. Be aware
that very quiet subjects may not be audible — if we couldn’t hear it from
one meter, chances are we couldn’t record it either!

The recording starts with 5~10 seconds of room ambiance, followed by 5~10 seconds
of the VGA test system without a video card installed, and then the actual product’s
noise at various levels. For the most realistic results, set the volume
so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don’t change
the volume setting again.

Comparable system sound files:

FINAL THOUGHTS

Gaming: Please check out gaming-oriented reviews of the HD 5870 at sites
like like HardwareCanucks,
The Tech Report, and
AnandTech. The general
consensus is that the HD 5870 is the second fastest single GPU video card on
the market, optimal for gaming at resolutions of 1920×1200 and above. It’s only
true rival is the recently released GTX 480, but the 5870 has several advantages:
Lower cost, higher energy efficiency, and more widely available.

Power Consumption: By our estimates, the HIS 5870 Turbo uses about 23W
when idle, which is very low for such a high performance GPU — this is
about on par with the rest of the HD 5000 series. When stressed with ATITool,
power consumption shoots up to 109W, and an incredible 215W with FurMark. In
real gaming situations, it should use somewhere between the latter two power
levels, but a high quality, energy efficient power supply is recommended.

Cooling: While we cannot speak to the quality of the 5870 reference
cooler, the one used by HIS on this Turbo edition card is poor. The high fan
speed and noise level can be dealt with by tweaking the fan curve using MSI
Afterburner, but on heavy load, it has to spin very fast to keep the card adequately
cool. When stressed using FurMark, the card easily became the loudest graphics
card we’ve ever tested. After examining the cooler we were astonished to see
such a modest heatsink with only a large copper base and no heatpipes, not befitting
a card of the 5870’s thermal characteristics.

For users with a high budget and a demand for excellent gaming performance
at high resolutions, the HD 5870 certainly fits the bill. Like the rest of the
HD 5000 line, it also bitstreams high definition audio, and supports ATI’s Eyefinity
multi-display feature. Unfortunately the HIS Turbo edition of the 5870 is saddled
with a subpar cooler that isn’t capable of keeping the noise down to a reasonable
level on heavy load, and it being factory-overclocked doesn’t help. If you have
no interest in the free copy of Modern Warfare 2, we would recommend trying
a different model with a better heatsink. We have seen 5870s produced by Gigabyte,
Sapphire, and XFX that have similar style coolers, but with multiple heatpipes
which should do a better job of cooling with less noise.

Our thanks to HIS
Digital
for the HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo sample.

* * *

Articles of Related Interest

Asus EAH5750 Formula Graphics Card
ATI
Radeon HD 5450 & HD 5570 Graphics Cards

PowerColor
Radeon HD 5850: Worth the Wait

ATI
Radeon HD 4770: ATI’s First 40nm GPU

HIS
Radeon HD 4890 Turbo Edition

Sparkle
GeForce GTS 250 1GB Graphics Card

* * *

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