Overclock radeon hd 7850: Your Radeon 7850 overclocking results?

PowerColor PCS+ AX7850 2GBD5-2DHPP Radeon HD 7850 2GB

Victor Wu

April 2, 2013
AMD, Hardware, Reviews & Articles, Video Cards/Graphics Cards

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The PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ is the fastest factory overclocked HD 7850 on the market. The card features PowerColor’s own custom cooler with 5+1+1 phase power design, DrMos and IR Digital PWM that allows enthusiasts to push it even further. And the mixture of ports and the bundle makes it one of the best HD 7850 available on the market today. Let’s check it out. 

The PowerColor PCS+ stands for the Professional Cooling System as it features the company’s unique cooling technology and attractive cover design.The HD 7850 PCS+ comes with the company’s Gold Power Kr design where it uses 5+1+1 phases board power design to enhance power efficiency and stability. Additionally, DrMos and IR Digital PWM are used to minimize switching loss and maximize the power efficiency. For average consumers, it means that the card consumes less power and runs cooler and quieter. For overclockers it means that it will have a higher overclocking potential.


Typical fashion with the HD 7850 PCS+ box where we get plenty of marketing information highlights the various features of the card such as its custom cooler, 2GB of onboard memory, and the Eyefinity support.


Inside,  the usual brown cardboard is used to box the card with the accessories placed on the bottom of the GPU in a separate compartment to prevent any damages during shipping.  

The bundle that is included with the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ includes a quick installation guide, driver disc, a flexible CrossFire bridge, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapater. The included bundle is pretty nice especially considering that PowerColor toss in the mini DisplayPort to the DisplayPort adapter.


The PCS cooler that PowerColor puts on the HD 7850 features a single 92mm fan placed above the GPU core. Underneath the fan is a large heatsink with two pieces of S shaped heatpipe extending out of the heatsink. The two curved heatpipes direct the heat away from the heatsink from the GPU to the cooling fins. One minor issue we found with the SS shape heatpipe design is the slight protrusion above the top of the card. The tallest portion of the heatpipe extends about 0.7 inches above the card that potentially can have some issue with cases that feature a side panel fan. Other than that, the cooler looks great and the large 92mm fan should be able to keep the card running cool while keeping the noise-level down. 

At 230mm x 117mm x 38mm, the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ is actually slightly longer and taller than the reference HD 7850 but it is still shorter than an ATX motherboard. If you plan to use it in an mini-ITX case, then you definitely want to check the length and height of the card as it is about 1.5 inches longer than the mini-ITX motherboard. 


A single 6-pic PCIE power connector located on the front edge of the board to supply additional power since the HD 7850 has a maximum TDP of 150W, the 75W coming off the PCIE slot is not sufficient to keep it running.  


The plastic shrouds that PowerColor uses on the card is not the cheap plastic that sometimes comes with video cards that can easily break off. It feels durable enough and has a rubbery feel. If we look the card from the above, we can see the a race car design that is rather common for a lot of gamer cards. We do like that PowerColor reinforce the PCB of the card with a stripe of metal on the top. This prevents the card from flexing and less prone to damages. 


Not much to see on the rear of the card but we can see the red PCB board is being used here. 


On the rear, we got two dual-link DVI-I connectors, an HDMI connector, and two DisplayPort connectors. The inclusion of the second DVI port makes the OowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ stands out among other HD 7850. As far as we know, other HD 7850 cards only come with one DVI port. We actually appreciate what PowerColor has done here. Since the HD 7850 is targeted toward mainstream market, it is more likely that buyers would already have monitors with DVI port instead of a DisplayPort. Thus, if you already have multiple monitors setup with your existing card via DVI, you would not need to seek for an adapter or buying a new monitor. Obviously, since the card supports AMD’s Eyefinity technology, you can possibly hook up to six monitors.

Every single ports and the PCI Express and the CrossFire connector are all covered with a plastic tab. While this may not necessary, we do like having them as they prevents dusts and any potential damages. 

Specifications AMD HD6850 AMD HD7850 MSI R7850 Power Edition PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+
Chipset Version ATI Radeon HD 6850 ATI Radeon HD 7850 ATI Radeon HD 7850 ATI Radeon HD 7850
Process 40nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
Stream Processors 960 1024 1024 1024
Texture Units 48 64 64 64
ROPs 32 32 32 32
GPU Clock 775 MHz 860 MHz 950 MHz 1000 MHz
Memory Bus 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit 256 bit
Memory Clock 4 GHz (1000 MHz) 4. 8 GHz (1200 MHz) 4.8 GHz (1200 MHz) 4.9GHz (1225 MHz)
Memory Size 1 GB 2 GB 2GB 2GB
Minimum Power Supply Requirement  500 Watt 500 Watt 500 Watt 500 Watt

Not only that we got a different cooler than the reference design, the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ is also factory overclocked to 1000 MHz core and 1225 MHz memory, which is up from 860 MHz and 1200 MHz from the reference card. In fact, this is one of the fastest factory overclocked HD 7850 on the market. The card also comes with 2GB of GDDR5, which should definitely come in handy not only in games but also in multi-monitor setup.

Build with the AMD 28nm Graphic Core Next (GCN) architecture, the HD 7850 PCS+ supports all of the latest technology such as DirectX 11.1, Shader Model 5.0, AMD Eyefinity, PCI Express 3.0, AMD CrossFire, AMD PowerTune, AMD App Acceleration, and AMD HD Media support. 

All these goodies comes at a $219.99 retail price, which is s  $35 than the cheapest HD 7850 2GB. Considering the fact is the fastest factory overclocked HD 7850, the custom cooler, and the included mix of ports and the mini DisplayPort adapter, it is actually quite a nice bundle. The only thing that maybe slightly against the card would be the two year warranty as some other manufacturers like XFX offers limited lifetime. Though, two year is still within many other manufacturers such as Sapphire and HIS so the PowerColor is at least keeping up with other manufacturers.  

System Setup

Test Rig
Case Cooler Master Storm Trooper
CPUs Intel Core i7 3770K (Ivy Bridge – LGA 1155 -Z77)
Motherboards Intel DZ77GA-GD65GIGABYTE Z77X-UD3H
Ram Kingston HyperX Gray 4 GB (2x2GB)
CPU Cooler Zalman CNPS9900 Max
Hard Drives Seagate Barracuda XT 3TB
SSD 1x OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD


3DMark 11



Based on the HD 7850 PCS+ is about 15% faster than the reference HD 7850.  

Unigine Heaven 3.0

Unigine Heaven is a benchmark program based on Unigine Corp’s latest engine, Unigine. The engine features DirectX 11, Hardware tessellation, DirectCompute, and Shader Model 5.0. All of these new technologies combined with the ability to run each card through the same exact test means this benchmark should be in our arsenal for a long time.

Metro 2033

Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Dirt 3

Currently, midrange graphic cards like the HD 7850 has plenty of power to run any games on the market at 1080p resolution with high setting. You really cannot go wrong with either NVIDIA or AMD if you are simply going to be running games with single display. 

As expected, the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ offers on average about 10~15% faster than the reference HD 7850. When games are not shader bound, the card can even performs just like HD 7870 due to its overclocking speed. The extra overclocking also helped the card to perform much closer to the similarly priced GeForce 660. 

GPU Temperatures  Celcius (ºC)
Idle 31
Load 65

PowerColor advertises the card to run about 15% cooler and the result we have seen certainly is not disappointing. Idle, the card runs at 31ºC and under load, it reaches to just 65ºC. Equally impressive is the noise-level of the card. Idle the card runs whispering quiet and even under load, it is just barely audible in our open air test bench. The use of open-air cooler as oppose to the blower certainly helped out with the noise reduction along with the SS-shaped heatpipe.

System Power Consumption  Watts(W)
Idle 63
Load 260

Unfortunately, the additional performance does cost a little bit of extra power consumption. Under load, the card consumes about 20 more watts than the stock HD 7850. We think the trade-off is worth it since you get about 10% additional performance out of the box and the fact that it runs cooler and quieter than the reference card. 

Overclocking AMD GPUs can be achieved with AMD’s own Catalyst Control Center (CCC) though its option is often limited where it does not voltage control and have limited range. With the CCC, we were able to overclock the card to 1050 MHz core and 1450 MHz memory. Pretty decent result but it is obviously that the card has more potential. PowerColor did not include any overclocking utilities with the HD 7850 PCS+ so we have to use other manufacturers tools. We tested with MSI’s Afterburner but could not get anything higher than what AMD’s own tool offers. Luckily Sapphire’s TriXX allows us to push the card even further and even offers the ability to adjust the voltage.

We did not touch the voltage setting with our overclocking but even at the default voltage, we were able to push the ard to 1250 MHz core and 1540 MHz memory, which is 25% higher than the already overclocked card. Not bad at all. There is definitely more headroom available since even at this speed, the card still runs cool with Furmark and we have yet to up the voltage. 

For $200, the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ has a lot to offer. Being the fastest factory overclocked card, it is able to yield about a 10% improvement over the reference HD 7850. Many people simply want a video card that works and play well in games. The fact that the HD 7850 PCS+ is already overclocked means that buyers can just toss it into the rig and start to enjoy the extra performance. As always, overclocking permits some amount risk so buying a card that is factory overclocked with full full manufacturer warranty always puts an ease of mind for those who do not like the hassle of tinkering with a $200 piece of hardware that potentially can ended up in a dumpster.

The custom cooler with its SS-shaped design does its job really well at keeping the noise-level to bare minimum at idle and low under load. It also helped to leave plenty of overclocking potential for those who are inclined to push it even further. In our limited time of testing, we could easily push the clockspeed to 25% from the already overclocked setting, which is pretty impressive. 

Despite the fact that the PowerColor HD 7850+ is slightly more expensive, we think it is one of the best HD 7850 on the market. We like the display ports mix on the card and the included mini DisplayPort adapter is handy to have for those who are seeking to run multiple monitors. The added value bundle along with the factory overclocking is well-worth the extra $35. The card is not perfect as the protrusion on the top of the card may presents problem for small form factor PC but we do not think it will affect most people. The lack of  overclocking tool and two year warranty is also minor complain. However, all in all, the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ certainly worth your consideration if you are on the market for a midrange graphic card. 

OUR VERDICT: PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+
Performance 9
Value 9
Quality 9
Features 9
Innovation 9

We are using a new addition to our scoring system to provide additional feedback beyond a flat score. Please note that the final score isn’t an aggregate average of the new rating system.

Total 9
Good overclocking potential 

Fastest factory overclocked HD 7850

Offers about 10% additional performance than the reference card

Custom cooler runs quiet and cool

2GB of GDDR5

PCI Express 3.0

Excellent mix of ports

Good bundle 

Heat pipe can potentially cause issue for small form factor PCs



Summary: All in all, the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ is one of the best HD 7850 on the market considering its mix of ports, the bundle, and the fact it is one of the fastest factory overclocked card for the HD 7850. We award the card with the coveted Bjorn3D Golden Bear Award.  

Tags 2GB HD 7850 PCS+ DrMOS powercolor Radeon HD 7850

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MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB review

Written by

Matthew Lambert

November 5, 2012 | 08:16

Tags: #7850 #hd #overclock #radeon

Companies: #msi

1 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB Review2 — Test Setup3 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Battlefield 3 Performance4 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Crysis 2 Performance5 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Skyrim Performance6 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — The Witcher 2 Performance7 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Unigine Heaven 3.0 Benchmark8 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Power and Thermals9 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Overclocking10 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Performance Analysis and Conclusion

As MSI has only given their HD 7850 1GB a small overclock, we were keen to see what more the card could do, so took to MSI’s own Afterburner tool to stretch the card to its limits. Once we’d settled on a stable overclock, we re-ran the Battlefield 3 1,920 x 1,080 test as well as the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark to gauge the impact of it.

Despite voltage adjustments not being possible with this card in Afterburner, we were still able to run the card at the program’s core clock limit of 1,050MHz without problem, which is the same 22 per cent overclock we were able to achieve with the HD 7850 2GB. We were also able to increase the memory clock by 9 per cent to 1.31GHz (5.24GHz effective), before the card started to show artefacts. At these settings, the card increased our system’s total power consumption under GPU load to 189W.

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB (OC)
  • MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB
  • AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB SSC
    • 44

    • 53

    • 42

    • 52

    • 36

    • 45

    • 35

    • 44

    • 30

    • 37






Frames Per Second

  • Minimum

  • Average

  • MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB (OC)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB
  • AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti 1GB SSC
    • 1297

    • 1267

    • 1132

    • 1081

    • 868








  • Score

Read our performance analysis on the next page.

1 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB Review2 — Test Setup3 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Battlefield 3 Performance4 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Crysis 2 Performance5 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Skyrim Performance6 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — The Witcher 2 Performance7 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Unigine Heaven 3.0 Benchmark8 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Power and Thermals9 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Overclocking10 — MSI Radeon HD 7850 1GB — Performance Analysis and Conclusion


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MSI Radeon HD 7850 Twin Frozr OC 2GB Review


The MSI Radeon HD 7850 2GB OC is a compact, dare we say stylish, midrange video card, first introduced in March 2012 at a pricepoint of $259.99. It’s MSI’s highest-end model of HD 7850 – other models include the non-overclocked version of this design, as well as a more basic single-fan model.

Perhaps it’s evident from the photo that the HD 7850 is a very handsome piece of technology. The brushed metal fan housing of the “Twin Frozr III” cooler has the look of titanium, and the chrome heatpipes below it give the video card an almost automotive appearance. Mounted in the fan housing are twin 80mm fans, relatively compact for an open air cooler, but remarkably effective. While the official specifications of the MSI Radeon HD 7850 indicate that it’s about 7.76″ long, that is in fact not correct. That may well be the length of the printed circuit board, but the card with the cooler installed is actually closer to 8.4″ long. For those looking to fit this card into especially small systems, the true dimensions could be a letdown. Also keep in mind that the PCIe power connector hidden under the housing points towards the front of the card, and thus plugging in a power cable effectively makes the card a bit longer than 8.5″. Overall, this is still quite compact for a video card of this performance class.


The unique features of the MSI Radeon HD 7850 are its cooler and its factory-overclock, with the cooler being the real stand-out feature. We found that the factory overclock of 900MHz on the core (versus 860MHz reference) was sufficient to produce a 3 percent boost in most of our benchmarks. Because that isn’t all that significant, we instead tested at 860MHz and 1000MHz, to show a broader range of performance. It’s the Twin Frozr III cooler that really impressed – at no time during our testing did we even hear it, and the hottest the card ever got, even in unfairly warm ambients of 28C, was 66C, and this was in the system-killing game Crysis 3. Note that while we didn’t formally bench that game, it averaged around 45 frames per second at 1080p, maximum settings, with 1xSMAA, at default clocks.


The test bench we used for this review consisted of an Intel Core [email protected], 16GB RAM, Windows 7, running AMD Catalyst Version 13.2 Beta 7.

We thought we’d try something a bit different for this test. As we mentioned above, the default clocks of this card are 900MHz core, 1200MHz memory. While the 900MHz clock is a 4.5 percent increase from reference (860MHz), and is quite a bit more than many manufacturers are willing to do, it still isn’t much of an overclock, producing only a 3 percent performance increase in our testing. Thus, we decided to give the card a bit of a workout, testing it first at default HD 7850 clocks, and then at default HD 7870 clocks. We knew the card could handle it, and we thought it would be interesting for anyone looking for clock-for-clock comparisons. First up – 3DMark Fire Strike, focusing on the Graphics Score:

We’ve included a scaling indicator in orange, so that you can see for yourself exactly what the performance difference is for the 16 percent overclock we tested – here it’s 11 percent. This is in line with what we found in previous GPU core overclocking tests – core overclock performance scaling is generally around 2/3 of the clock increase. Notice that the HD 7850 still trails the HD 7870 by about 10 percent when at the same clocks. We added HD 7870 Crossfire benchmarks just for comparison’s sake – obviously that’s a much higher-cost solution. Next up, Battlefield 3 Single-Player:

Here we can see about the same pattern. The HD 7850 is more than capable of playing this game at maximum settings even in its reference state, but overclocking to 1000/1200 gives the card a bit more breathing room – again about 11 percent. The HD 7870, however, nearly touches 60fps, which is closer to optimal, and the 7870 Crossfire again runs away from the single cards. Very impressive. Finally, we’ll look at Hitman: Absolution:

These results are based on a built-in benchmark, rather than an actual run through the game world, as in the Battlefield 3 benchmarks above. The reference-clocked HD 7850 definitely struggles here, and even at the MSI model’s default 900/1000, it only picked up 1fps (not shown). At 1000MHz, however, it inches closer to 40fps, which is an ideal target in this game, and a target the HD 7870 can hit. The HD 7870 is about 10 percent faster than the equally-clocked HD 7850 here, and 20 percent faster than the reference-clocked HD 7850.


So we’ve already shown you some of the performance data we collected at speeds of 1000MHz core/1200MHz memory. But that’s not the limit of this card. In our testing, we easily pushed the card all the way to the Catalyst Control Center limit of 1050/1450, which produced average results nearly 20 percent faster than reference 860/1200 speeds (or 17 percent faster than the shipped clocks), and in fact nearly equaled our HD 7870. Unfortunately, that’s actually where the fun ended, because when we enabled unofficial overclocking using MSI Afterburner (do so with caution – we’ll let you look up how to!), the card could only hit 1075MHz before crashing hard. Given the limited benefit of the extra 25MHz, we’d just call it a day at the Catalyst limits of 1050/1450. Note that despite our best efforts, we could not enable any voltage modification on this card.

And now to dispel one myth – that an overclocked HD 7850 can outrun an HD 7870, let alone an HD 7970. Early in the days of HD 7850 sales, many enthusiasts claimed that the HD 7850 could easily hit 1200MHz and thereby reach the speeds of an HD 7970 (a card that costs twice as much). By our estimation, 1200MHz would require a lot more power than even this circuit board can deliver, and furthermore, based on our scaling results, at least 1125MHz core/1200MHz memory clocks would be required to match a stock-clocked HD 7870 (or 1075/1450, which we did achieve). Catching an HD 7970, which is at least 20 percent faster, would be entirely impossible. So, if you want that kind of speed, you’ll have to pay for it!


At its original price, the MSI Radeon HD 7850 2GB OC was a hard sell versus existing cards like the Radeon HD 6950 and GeForce GTX 560 Ti. But at its current price, it’s a very viable option, although it certainly has competition from the new GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB. We think it’s also just a bit too close in price to the HD 7870, so try to catch it on sale. That being said, we think that the MSI Radeon HD 7850 with the Twin Frozr III cooler is just about the best HD 7850 on the market, both because of its good overclocking ability and its excellent cooler, along with its very compact size. While core overclocking was somewhat limited, memory overclocking was above-average, leading to results that would be competitive with most models out there.

The MSI Radeon HD 7850 2GB OC is available from Amazon and Newegg for approximately $150, as of our publication date.

XFX’s Radeon HD 7850 and 7870 Black Edition graphics cards

We’re already well acquainted with AMD’s Radeon HD 7870 and 7850 graphics cards. We studied them, and the Pitcairn graphics processors that dwell within them, about three weeks ago. In that initial encounter, we learned that these cards have all the makings of successors to the popular Radeon HD 6800 series: similar-sized GPUs and memory interfaces, with lower power requirements. The newcomers are quite a bit faster, too. Thanks to a new 28-nm chip fabrication process and a revised graphics architecture, dubbed GCN, they even outpace the old Radeon HD 6900 series cards, which are based on larger chips.

Unfortunately for bargain hunters, AMD has priced the Radeon HD 7850 and 7870 at $249 and $349, respectively, well above the $180-240 price range the 6800 series occupied when it arrived in October 2010. Whispers around the industry suggest the higher prices can be attributed the limited supply of 28-nm wafers coming from TSMC, the Taiwanese foundry that manufactures chips for AMD, Nvidia, and other firms like Qualcomm. Nvidia charges a pretty penny for its freshly released GeForce GTX 680, too, which has a smaller GPU and the same memory interface width as the GeForce GTX 560 Ti yet sells for twice as much.

In a nutshell, the 7800-series Radeons deliver only slightly better performance per dollar than the prior-gen Radeon HD 6900 cards, though they have the potential to be much cheaper. Not much of a consolation prize, I know.

The new Radeons therefore have to play up their other advantages in order to seduce prospective buyers. One of those advantages is a rather substantial amount of overclocking headroom. Our reference Radeon HD 7870, which came to us directly from AMD, had no trouble climbing from its stock 1000MHz clock speed all the way up to a blistering 1275MHz. We were able to overclock its memory from 1200MHz to 1375MHz, as well. Those settings yielded substantial performance gains without huge increases in power consumption.

Unsurprisingly, board makers have jumped on the opportunity to serve up customized, higher-clocked versions of the Radeon HD 7870 and Radeon HD 7850. (Such cards are sometimes referred to as “overclocked in the box,” but that’s a bit of a misnomer, since no overclocking actually takes place. The cards ship with the higher clocks and are fully supported by the manufacturer.) Today, we’re looking at a couple of hot-clocked cards, both hailing from XFX.

Behold, the XFX Double D HD 7870 Black Edition and Double D HD 7850 Black Edition:

Which one is the 7850, and which one is the 7870, you ask? Well, have a look at a couple more pictures, and see if you can guess:

Yes, the only identifiable difference is the writing on the top of the cards. The two products otherwise look identical, with the same board-and-cooler length (9.76″), the same number of six-pin PCI Express power connectors (two), and the same cluster of display outputs (dual DVI, dual mini DisplayPort, and a single HDMI port). Both cards also feature the same cooler, whose four copper heat pipes make direct contact with the GPU and spread out into an array of aluminum fins. The whole shindig is kept chilly by a pair of “dust-proof” fans. In this case, “dust-proof” means dust shouldn’t get inside the motor, not that you won’t have miniature dust bunnies collecting on the fan blades after a few months. XFX claims its cooler design enables lower temperatures and noise levels than the competition.

XFX uses a similar shroud on its Double D HD 7970 Black Edition, which performed exceptionally in our testing, but the underlying coolers are actually quite different. The 7970 features a vapor-chamber heatsink with a copper base and, from what we can tell, more aluminum fins. XFX’s Double D branding seems to refer to the presence of dual fans and not to a specific cooler design.

XFX touts the card’s other perks, such as solid-state capacitors, ferrite iron core chokes, and a circuit board containing two ounces of copper. And it offers lifetime warranty coverage, provided you register the cards on its website within 30 days of purchase; otherwise, the warranty drops to two years.

Those are the similarities. Now for the differences: the Double D HD 7870 Black Edition runs at 1050MHz, and its memory ticks away at 1250MHz for an effective transfer rate of 5000 MT/s. That’s a step above the GPU and memory speeds of the reference AMD card, which are 1000MHz and 1200MHz, respectively. The difference between the Double D HD 7850 Black Edition and the reference Radeon HD 7850 are greater: the Black Edition runs at 975MHz with a 1250MHz memory speed, while the AMD card is clocked at 860/1200MHz.

The 7870 and 7850 Black Edition otherwise have the same internal resources as their reference counterparts: 1280 ALUs and 80 texture units on the 7870, and 1024 ALUs backed by 64 texture units on the 7850. Both are complemented by 2GB of video RAM.

As you’d expect, those clock speed increases don’t come free of charge. XFX prices the 7850 Black Edition at $279, about 30 bucks above stock-clocked cards. The 7870 Black Edition will set you back a cool $389, which is equivalent to a $40 markup over vanilla models. XFX is asking a fair bit for speed increases that, based on what we’ve seen, may be easily attainable with cheaper offerings and a little manual tweaking. However, the XFX cards have fancy coolers and might have further overclocking headroom in store. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Our testing methods

As ever, we did our best to deliver clean benchmark numbers. Tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median results. Our test systems were configured like so:

Processor Intel Core i5-750
Motherboard Asus P7P55D
North bridge Intel P55 Express
South bridge
Memory size 4GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Kingston HyperX KHX2133C9AD3X2K2/4GX

DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz

Memory timings 9-9-9-24 1T
Chipset drivers INF update 9. 2.0.1025

Rapid Storage Technology

Audio Integrated Via VT1828S

with drivers

Hard drive Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB

Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD103UJ 1TB SATA

Power supply Corsair HX750W 750W
OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64 Edition

Service Pack 1


  Driver revision GPU core









Asus GeForce GTX 560 Ti DirectCU II GeForce 295. 73 830 1000 1024
Asus GeForce GTX 570 DirectCU II GeForce 295.73 742 950 1280
Asus Radeon HD 6870 DirectCU Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 915 1050 1024
XFX Radeon HD 6950 Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 830 1300 1024
Asus Radeon HD 6970 DirectCU II Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 890 1375 2048
Radeon HD 7850 Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 860 1200 2048
Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 1000 1200 2048
XFX Double D HD 7870 Black Edition Catalyst 8. 95.5-120224a 1050 1250 2048
XFX Double D HD 7850 Black Edition Catalyst 8.95.5-120224a 975 1250 2048

Thanks to Asus, Corsair, Kingston, Intel, Samsung, and Western Digital for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. AMD, Nvidia, and the makers of the various products supplied the graphics cards for testing, as well.

Unless otherwise specified, image quality settings for the graphics cards were left at the control panel defaults. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

We used the following test applications:

  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Battlefield 3
  • Crysis 2
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • Fraps 3.4.7
  • GPU-Z 0.5.8

Some further notes on our methods:

  • We used the Fraps utility to record frame rates while playing a 90-second sequence from the game. Although capturing frame rates while playing isn’t precisely repeatable, we tried to make each run as similar as possible to all of the others. We tested each Fraps sequence five times per video card in order to counteract any variability. We’ve included frame-by-frame results from Fraps for each game, and in those plots, you’re seeing the results from a single, representative pass through the test sequence.
  • We measured total system power consumption at the wall socket using a P3 Kill A Watt digital power meter. The monitor was plugged into a separate outlet, so its power draw was not part of our measurement. The cards were plugged into a motherboard on an open test bench.

    The idle measurements were taken at the Windows desktop with the Aero theme enabled. The cards were tested under load running Skyrim at its Ultra quality preset with FXAA enabled.

  • We measured noise levels on our test system, sitting on an open test bench, using a TES-52 digital sound level meter. The meter was held approximately 8″ from the test system at a height even with the top of the video card.

    You can think of these noise level measurements much like our system power consumption tests, because the entire systems’ noise levels were measured. Of course, noise levels will vary greatly in the real world along with the acoustic properties of the PC enclosure used, whether the enclosure provides adequate cooling to avoid a card’s highest fan speeds, placement of the enclosure in the room, and a whole range of other variables. These results should give a reasonably good picture of comparative fan noise, though.

  • We used GPU-Z to log GPU temperatures during our load testing.

The tests and methods we employ are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Batman: Arkham City

To warm up this latest batch of Radeons, we grappled and glided our way around Gotham, occasionally touching down to mingle with the inhabitants.

We tested at a 1080p resolution with DirectX 11 effects enabled, normal tessellation, high FXAA antialiasing, and everything else cranked up. Those settings seemed to yield the best compromise of image quality and smoothness on the 7870.

We should preface the results with a little primer on our testing methodology. Along with measuring average frames per second, we delve inside the second to look at frame rendering times. Studying the time taken to render each frame gives us a better sense of playability, because it highlights issues like skipping, stuttering, and microstuttering that can all occur—and be felt by the player—within the span of one second. Charting frame times shows these issues clear as day, while charting average frames per second obscures them.

For example, imagine one hypothetical second of gameplay. Almost all frames in that second are rendered in 16.7 ms, but the game briefly hangs, taking a disproportionate 100 ms to produce one frame and then catching up by cranking out the next frame in 5 ms—not an uncommon scenario. You’re going to feel the game hitch, but the FPS counter will only report a dip from 60 to 56 FPS, which would suggest a negligible, imperceptible change. Looking inside the second helps us detect such skips, as well as other issues that conventional frame rate data measured in FPS tends to obscure.

We’re going to start by charting frame times over the totality of a representative run for each card. That should give us an at-a-glance impression of overall playability, warts and all. (Note that, since we’re looking at frame latencies, plots sitting lower on the Y axis indicate quicker cards.)

We can slice and dice our raw frame-time data in three ways, as you’re about to see. By the way, we should caution that none of the graphs below can be construed as self-contained scoreboards; instead, they each show a different facet of the cards’ performance, and they should be viewed as a whole along with the raw frame-time plots above.

Our first graph shows average frames per second. Though this metric doesn’t account for irregularities in frame latencies, it does give us some sense of typical performance.

In our second graph, we’re demarcating the threshold below which 99% of frames are rendered. The lower the threshold, the more fluid the game. This metric offers a sense of overall frame latency, but it filters out fringe cases.

Our last graph tells us how long each card worked on frames that took longer than 50 ms to render. Ideally, the result should be “0” for every card. That’s because the illusion of smooth motion is likely to begin breaking down once frame latencies rise into that territory. (For reference, 50 ms frame times would work out to a 20 FPS average.) In a nutshell, this metric tells us how badly each card skips during gameplay, if it does at all.

Well, our XFX cards are off to a nice start. The 7870 Black may not be a great deal faster than its reference counterpart, but the 7850 Black edges out the vanilla 7850 by a big margin—especially in our “time spent beyond 50 ms” metric. Lower scores there indicate fewer latency spikes and thus more fluid overall gameplay.

Battlefield 3

We tested Battlefield 3 by playing through the start of the Kaffarov mission, right after the player lands. Our 90-second runs involved walking through the woods and getting into a firefight with a group of hostiles, who fired and lobbed grenades at us.

The game was run at its highest detail preset, Ultra, which couples MSAA and FXAA antialiasing as well as snazzy DX11 effects and tessellation.

Things get a little strange here. The 7870 Black continues to do well, but the 7850 Black actually falls slightly behind the reference 7850. The difference amounts to less than half a frame per second, so for all intents and purposes, we can say the two cards perform identically. But that doesn’t make sense—the Black Edition is clocked 115MHz above the reference card, and its memory is 50MHz faster.

We re-tested, tweaked PowerTune settings, checked for overheating, and poked and prodded trying to find the source of the problem, but nothing seemed out of order. We even tried clocking the XFX card at the same speeds as the vanilla 7850, and performance declined further. Suspecting a memory latency difference, we called XFX for comment. The company said that, save for clock speeds, the Black and reference cards should be identical at the firmware level. Any straightforward explanations for the performance discrepancy were suddenly ruled out.

Later that day, the company got back to us again. They’d spoken to another reviewer, and guess what? The 7850 Black’s higher-than-normal clock speeds didn’t seem to “do anything” in some cases, he said.

In other words, we may be looking at a bizarre, presently unresolved bug with this particular card. Maybe the bug lies in the drivers, or maybe it’s some hidden firmware kink. The question is, does it rear its head in other games?

Crysis 2

We tested Crytek’s latest shooter by running and gunned through the game’s rendition of Battery Park, sticking to the same path through the level to avoid drastic differences between samples.

The game was set to run at a 1920×1080 resolution with the “Extreme” detail preset. Both the DX11 “ultra upgrade” and high-res texture pack were installed, and both were enabled.

The 7870 Black tops the charts yet again, but the 7850 Black is in a similar position as in Battlefield 3: its substantially higher clock speeds don’t seem to help very much, if at all.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Our Skyrim run involved running around the town of Whiterun, starting from the city gates, all the way up to Dragonsreach, and then back down again.

Like BF3 and Bulletstorm, Skyrim‘s detail settings were maxed out. We selected the Ultra preset, which includes 8X MSAA, and then we enabled FXAA in the advanced options for good measure.

The 7850 Black makes a comeback in Skyrim, where it nips at the Radeon HD 7870’s heels (and actually pulls off slightly lower 99th-percentile frame times). That leaves us with two games where the card behaves as it should, and two games where it’s no better than the reference model. Hmm.

Power consumption

The XFX cards’ higher clock speeds don’t impact idle power consumption. Only under load do they draw more power, and not by all that much. The Radeon HD 7870 Black still consumes less power than the old Radeon HD 6870.

Noise levels and GPU temperatures

We weren’t terribly thrilled with the coolers on the reference 7800-series Radeons, which are a little loud under load. The XFX cards take care of that problem rather nicely—they’re wonderfully quiet under load.

Unfortunately, the lower noise levels come at a cost: higher temperatures. The 7870 Black runs a whopping 15°C hotter than its reference cousin.


Superclocked as they might be, these XFX cards surely have some headroom left under their hoods. Rather than bore you with a verbose description of our overclocking attempts, I’m going to paste my notes verbatim. I overclocked using AMD’s Catalyst Control Center application, tweaked voltages with MSI’s Afterburner utility, and tested stability with Kombustor, another MSI app. (XFX doesn’t provide its own overclocking tools for these Radeons.)

Ready? Here’s how the 7850 Black Edition fared:


1000MHz — OK after 5 min burn-in

1025MHz — OK after 5 min burn-in

1050MHz (max) — OK after 5 min burn-in


1250MHz — 6506 kombustor — stock

1350MHz — 6925 kombustor — ok after 5-min burn-in

1400MHz — 6690 kombustor — reverted

1375MHz — 7072 kombustor — ok after 5-min burn-in

Overvolt: no go. afterburner hard-locks system

Max: 1050/1350 (vs 975/1250 stock).

Temperature around 75C during kombustor burn-in.

And here are my results with the 7870 Black Edition:


1200MHz — OK after 5 min burn-in

1300MHz — crash

1275MHz — crash

1250MHz — display coruption

1225MHz — crash


1250MHz — 6721 kombustor — stock

1350MHz — 7194 kombustor — OK after 5 min burn-in

1400MHz — 6959 kombustor — reverted

1375MHz — 7354 kombustor — OK after 5 min burn-in

Max at stock voltage: 1200/1375 (vs 1050/1250 stock).

Temperature around 87C during kombustor burn-in.


1300/1375MHz — 1.300v — crash

1275/1375MHz — 1.300v — overheat

1250/1375MHz — 1.300v — overheat (over 105C in kombustor)

These results are a little disappointing. Neither card seemed to tolerate overvolting; the 7850 Black froze when we launched MSI Afterburner to tweak voltages, and the 7870 Black overheated quickly, with its GPU getting hot enough to boil water and subsequently shutting down. We’d excuse that behavior if the settings we tried had been particularly daring, but our reference Radeon HD 7870 handled itself just fine at 1250MHz with 1375MHz memory and 1.30V.

Clearly, the AMD cooler is better equipped to handle high overclocks than its XFX Double D counterpart. Our findings suggest the difference may hinge on the amount of metal under those cooling shrouds. Fan control didn’t appear to be an issue—the XFX 7870 ramped up its two fans without fault as temperatures climbed, hitting a speed of 73% at 95°C and 100% at 101°C. After that point, though, the card started throttling itself to stay cool, even with the fans pegged.

Happily, when overclocked by hand, the 7850 Black emerged out of its torpor in Battlefield 3. It outran the reference-clocked 7850 handily, nestling itself not far below the Radeon HD 7870. Load power consumption only increased by about four watts, as well, which is negligible.

As for the 7870 Black, even though its overclock didn’t match that of our reference card, it still put on a good show. The temperature we measured in our Kombustor burn-in (87°C) makes us a little wary of applying the same overclock in a cramped PC build, though. Honestly, if you’re going to overclock a 7870 at all, we’d recommend getting one with a more capable cooler than what XFX provides.


Up for a couple of value scatter plots before we call it a day? As is our custom, we’ve laid our performance results (based on the overall average performance from our game tests) along the Y axis and the cards’ pricing (obtained from Newegg, when possible, or from the manufacturer’s suggested e-tail price) along the X axis. The most desirable offerings will be the ones closest to the top left of the plot. The least desirable ones will be at the bottom right.

We can also compile a value scatter plot out of our 99th percentile frame time data. For consistency’s sake, we’ve converted the frame times to frame rates, so desirable offerings are still at the top left.

No doubt about it, XFX demands a sizable premium for somewhat modest performance increases—perhaps not in the case of the 7850 Black, which underperformed due to a potential bug that’s probably temporary, but definitely for the 7870 Black. $40 is a lot to pay for such a small jump over stock performance, and the fact that the card doesn’t overclock as well as the reference model makes it even harder to recommend.

The XFX 7870 does have a couple of redeeming features. Its cooler, though ill-equipped for high overclocks, is much quieter than AMD’s design at stock speeds. That might sweeten the deal for folks who care about noise levels—although we should point out that other cards with large, dual- or triple-fan coolers can be had for as little as $360. We haven’t tested those, however. Also, there’s the lifetime warranty to consider. XFX is one of very few vendors to offer that particular perk.

Nevertheless, considering our past experience with XFX’s Black Editions, I must confess to being a tad disappointed by these two cards. Even if you don’t mind paying a premium, there are deal breakers in both cases: the 7870 cooler’s inadequacy when it comes to overclocking, and the 7850’s weird performance issues, which negate the benefits of its higher clock speeds in Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, and perhaps other titles.

If XFX can resolve the latter, the 7850 Black could be a tantalizing choice. We’ve seen in Arkham City and Skyrim that it comes awfully close to the stock Radeon HD 7870—and we’ve also seen that it overclocks effortlessly at the stock voltage, without its power consumption increasing a whole lot. $279 may not be cheap for a 7850, but it’s definitely not bad for a card that can come so close to the $349 Radeon HD 7870. If it weren’t for the (admittedly minor) performance issue we encountered, the 7850 Black would be an Editor’s Choice for sure.

[Sammelthread] — AMD HD 7850 Overclocking Sammelthread

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