When we got our first look at the Radeon HD 7870, our review sample used AMD’s reference cooler. Once the card made its way to retail, most board partners opted to use custom coolers and factory overclocks to differentiate themselves, rather than stick to the tried and tested AMD blueprint. HIS's take on the card has been to use the reference PCB and add its venerable IceQ GPU cooler. The 7870 IceQ is also overclocked out of the box and, thanks to AMD’s recent price cut, only £10 more expensive than the reference card.
Click to enlarge - the large cooler means the card occupies three expansion slots
The IceQ cooler uses a radial fan design, where the rear-mounted cooling fan pushes air towards the front of the card and out via the rear I/O slot. As the fan assembly is raised away from the PCB, HIS has used a larger fan that can pull air from above as well as below the card, but the large fan shroud essentially makes this a triple-slot card. HIS says the triple-slot design is beneficial for crossfire setups, as the extra space leaves more room for cooling, but you’ll need a motherboard with three PCI-E x16 slots to accommodate them. At 285mm in length, the 7870 IceQ is also longer than the standard card, meaning you’ll struggle to fit it into a smaller case. Make sure you measure the available space before you buy, as this is a seriously big card, despite its mid-range GPU.
Click to enlarge
With such a large cooler, HIS has added a metal support strut along the top edge to add rigidity to the card. This is fairly standard practice amongst third party cooler designs, but we could still spot a little bend towards the end of the cooler when fitted into our test system – that cooler is certainly heavy, and only attached by four screws around the GPU core.
The cooler uses four nickel-plated copper heatpipes which run through a large aluminium heatsink from a copper baseplate. The memory modules are actively cooled using thermal pads fitted to an aluminium contact plate that surrounds the core copper contact plate.
Click to enlarge - The cooler direct cools both the memory and GPU, whilst the power circuitry is positioned to the left of the GPU
Unbolting the gigantic cooler from the PCB reveals that the board itself is fairly small at 241mm in length – it’s just the heatsink and accompanying shroud that adds to its size and weight. Powered by two six-pin PCI-E power connectors, and with one HDMI, one DVI and two mini DisplayPort outputs, HIS hasn’t deviated far from the reference layout.
All the power circuitry, as well as the five GPU power phases, has been shifted to the front of the PCB, well away from the heatsink fan. The two memory phases are at the other end of the card, with the GPU core positioned right in the middle. Without direct, the power phases may run hotter than on a card with a different layout, but they still benefit from airflow over them and considering how energy efficient the HD 7870 is, it isn't a major issue.
Shipping with a 1100MHz core and 2GB of 4.8GHz GDDR5 memory, HIS has chosen to overclock the GPU core by 10 per cent but leave the memory at its reference frequency. Voltages have also been left at the stock 1.219v.
Click to enlarge - The cooler is attached by four screws, with a metal rail along the top of the card to reinforce the PCB.
As it’s essentially the same as AMD’s reference card, you of course get all the features we’ve come to expect from the Big Red, including Eyefinity support for up to six displays (even if there are only four outputs on the card itself), PCI-E 3.0 and Crossfire, although with only one connector you’re limited to a two-card setup.
Graphics processor AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB, 1,100MHz
Pipeline 1,280 stream processors, 32 ROPs
Memory 2GB GDDR5, 4.8GHz effective
Bandwidth 153.6GB/sec, 256-bit interface
Compatibility DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.1
Outputs/InputsDVI, HDMI, 2 x mini DisplayPort, CrossFire