As always we wrap up our review of a customized card with a look at overclocking performance. Since the HD 7870 OE is a semi-custom card - meaning it's using AMD's reference board - there aren't a lot of surprises here. With competent cooling overclocking comes down to the luck of the draw; Sapphire's basic binning process for their OE cards should push the better boards into the OE product line, but even then there's no real guarantee how much higher any of these boards can go.

When it comes to overclocking our HD 7870 SE topped out at 1150MHz for the core clock and 5.4GHz memory clock. This is a 100MHz (9%) core overclock and 400MHz (8%) memory overclock respectively. As with other 7870 boards a 5.4GHz memory clock is a rather constant factor since all of these reference boards start seeing diminishing returns on performance at higher memory clocks due to memory bus errors, while the core overclock is 50MHz lower than we've seen on other 7870s, but as we said before this comes down to the luck of the draw.

Radeon HD 7800 Series Overclocking
  AMD Radeon HD 7870 Sapphire HD 7870 OE HIS IceQ Turbo 7870 PowerColor PCS+ HD7870
Shipping Core Clock 1000MHz 1050MHz 1100MHz 1100MHz
Shipping Memory Clock 4.8GHz 5GHz 4.8GHz 4.9GHz
Shipping Voltage 1.219v 1.219v 1.219v 1.219v
Overclock Core Clock 1150MHz 1150MHz 1200MHz 1200MHz
Overclock Memory Clock 5.4GHz 5.4GHz 5.4GHz 5.4GHz
Overclock Voltage 1.219v 1.219v 1.219v 1.213v

So how well does the HD 7870 OE hold up once further overclocked?

Our overclock pushed up power consumption by 10W under Metro and 18W under OCCT. Without any overvolting capabilities power consumption is largely kept in check, though we're still drawing nearly 40W more at the wall compared to a reference 7870.

The slight increase in power consumption (and thereby heat generated) does little to faze the HD 7870 OE much here. Temperatures rise between 2-3C; even under OCCT the card is still relatively cool at 73C.

The tradeoff for holding those temperatures however is that the HD 7870 OE does give up some of its noise advantage. At 45.7dB under Metro it still easily maintains its reputation as the quietest 7870, but its lead has diminished and by the time you move into OCCT it's not significantly quieter than any other overclocked 7870.

Finally, how does performance look? We'll skip the running commentary on performance, but overall overclocking the HD 7870 OE has the expected performance improvements. In games where the 7870 was already close to the 7950 to begin with overclocking can push performance ahead of stock 7950 performance, which makes the HD 7870 OE's low noise all the more impressive. The fact that we only hit 1150MHz on our sample does mean that it slightly trails the other retail 7870s we've reviewed, however.

Power, Temperature, & Noise
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  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Because of the 190W TDP. That means you need a further 115W on top of the 75W a PCIe slot can provide,which in turn requires 2 6pin PCIe power sockets.
  • hwhacker - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    I think he was asking why it needs 2x6-pin connectors when under load these things do not draw 150w. Heck, a 7950 questionably draws 150w a lot of the time, and a 7970 questionably 225w. If those were nvidia cards, they would without a doubt have less power connectors.

    This is probably a mix of different things, some obvious and others inferred:

    Yes, TDP. AMD actually puts power connectors according to a theoretical but unrealistic 100% load and the lovely powertune rating is for product differentiation. This is a huge qualm I've had with them since nVIDIA started doing the questionable/smart choice of supplying power connectors for AVERAGE load at STOCK. IE, a 680 draws 225w at load stock, but can be clocked to draw much more because the pci-e spec is completely over-specced. This started with GTX570 iirc. Bending the rules or smart be the judge. I wish there was a single spec that everyone agreed on, one or the other. It does make AMD look bad for what I see as playing by the rules.

    Another portion is marketing. Irregardless of where AMD places their chips, there stack has been pretty consistent that the low end is 75/150w, the mid-range 150/225w, high-end 225/300w for power connectors. This almost never actually fits with their actual power consumption but does place realistic segmentation on the lower-end parts when they cannot have their voltage adjusted etc. The given rational obviously being they would climb over their pci-e spec, the reality being that lower-end products would deter buying higher-up the chain. AMD has effectively killed the 4850/5850's of the world, and 7850 looks unattractive to 7870 when if all things were equal, it shouldnt.

    WRG the powertune rating, it's not tough to see through the marketing ploy of it all:

    A 7870 can use a max of 190w for overclocking. Sea Islands is on the same process. Is it so cynical to think 8870 will have a ~/slightly greater stock tdp than the powertune rating of 7870 with a powertune rating of the 225w pcie spec? Think about that for a second. By doing this not only are they essentially guaranteeing the new product will perform better than the old even if the earlier had the capability (which 7870 doesn't) because the newer part can use more power, it also appears as an upgrade in technology as the average consumer sees power requirements as similar because they require the same amount of connectors. I could very much see this coming into play when comparing a 8870 to a 7950, for example, or a 7850 to 8770. Similar specs, higher frequency and tdp potential on newer parts via voltage or what-not.
  • plopke - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    :) Ty both for your reply , well was just curious AMD itself says on their website you only need one 6 pin connector. But I guess most are made with 2 for overclocking potential and given a 2-1 adapter for normal use.
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    If only the fantasies he filled your head with were true, but they are not.
    Let's take the big amd favorite game, Metro2033 in the above chart right in front of geniuses' eyes.
    Here's the total power consumption in the game for a system with "these cards"
    353 (7950 at stock clocks)
    Now let's remove the gentleman's arbitrary declaration of low power usage:
    "when under load these things do not draw 150w. Heck, a 7950 questionably draws 150w a lot of the time"
    That leaves 160 watts for the rest of the system, or more than 202 watts in the case of the overclock, and here's the 100 watts idle usage in the release article link
    Gee, it's right there.
    100 watts
    Oh well, more fan fantasies and excuses are surely coming, and facing reality is the unattainable job for the spinners.
  • Spunjji - Friday, May 11, 2012 - link

    CC, Since when did 100W idle system power mean your system besides the GPU will also be drawing 100W under load? What madness makes you think you can clatter out that sort of utter bollocks without anybody noticing?

    Just to demonstrate how little sense you just made:
    Now have a look for the 7870. In case you're having trouble finding it, it has a *peak* power draw of 115W under Crysis 2. You'll note that the GTX 670 gets a commendable 152W under the same test, because it too has fucking excellent power efficiency.

    Before you start your trolling some more, note that TechReport have a reliable methodology for measuring -card- power draw. Anandtech's methodology is poor for rating the cards alone because their over-specified CPU leads to compressed results under low load. I don't particularly care about that though because even if their results *were* a good indicator of card power alone, what you wrote here would still be a lousy piece of chicanery.

    In short, hwhacker is right and you are so, so wrong.
  • medi01 - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Wow, different nick, exactly same words, same post. nVidia employees trolling here? Pathetic...
  • CeriseCogburn - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Read much what you comment on instead of calling names rudely?
    His link goes to a Kindle Fire for $199, which by implication he would rather spend his money on.
    Maybe since you're such a genius you could tell us what graphics chip is in the kindle fire, and then claim he's a Nvidia employee ? Good luck son.
    Hey guess what - people can, and do, and have, especially lately, hated the overpriced amd cards !? Imagine that, they ripped me off for over $130 dollars by the way.
    Guess what ? I'm not nor have I ever been employed by Nvidia, although hoinesty that would be absolutely great since they have money and hire more employees and amd doesn't and fires employees then rips people like me off too !
    Yes, please direct the Nvidia headhunters to both mine and the other possibly several guys posts. ( people do copy what was written prior and repost it when they see the clueless jabbering !)
  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Chill guys, that was a spammer.
  • silverblue - Sunday, April 29, 2012 - link

    Amusing, considering NVIDIA actually cut 360 jobs back in late 2008. The first time in a long time, sure, but even the amazing NVIDIA loses money and employees once in a while.

    You're really starting to grate as regards that 7970. In the past, people might've shown some sympathy, but now, you just look like somebody with more money than sense for not waiting a bit to see how the product's early months panned out and not enough gumption to do something about a bad purchase other than bitch about it incessantly. Amusingly, if you forget the 7970 for a moment (which AMD only priced where they did because the top card always commands a much higher price - 580 anyone?), AMD are usually more competitive than NVIDIA as regards performance/$, and until Kepler, less power hungry. You had a bad experience, we know, but just because you did, doesn't mean you should come here preaching that everybody stop buying AMD products as a result. Believe it or not, having more people like you slating one company and praising the other is exactly why people get uppety about possible employees or shills posting here.

    More people are going to shell out for a 7870 (or the NVIDIA equivalent, when they launch it) than the 7970 or 680. This review is concerned with the 7870, a card which undoubtedly performs notably slower to the 680, not like it would be a surprise.
  • Galidou - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - link

    Let him be, he's a mad fanboy looking for love, because his beloved company can't give him any. The only thing they'll do is sell him some overhyped video cards that, while being very good, aren't the holy grail of computer part that ever existed in human history! OMG people we're not comparing a Honda Civic to a Lamborghini Diablo special limited edition... get REAL LOL!!

    I have a radeon 6850 in one righ and a GTX 550 ti in another and both runs EVERYTHING with 80-90% of graphical options enabled... With the last 10-20% of options noticeable if you stop the rythm of the game to only look at graphics... All that AT 1080p!!!!!!!!!!

    AHHH life's good...

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