HIS Radeon HD 6870 Turbo £220

13th Dec 2010 | 13:00

HIS Radeon HD 6870 Turbo

Can 3D outputs and a few extra megahertz improve the 6870?

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

A small overclock isn't enough to make the HD6870 a convincing card.

Like:

Overclocked version for just £10 more

Dislike:

Not substantially faster than a stock card; Outperformed by cheaper chips; No voltage control for faster overclocking

HIS Radeon HD 6870 review: Overview

From the outside, there isn't a lot to distinguish the HIS Radeon HD 6870 Turbo from a reference model of the HD 6870.

There's a new heatsink slapped over the top of the enormous double slot card which, like all HD 6870s, requires two extra power connectors and will take up any spare room you have in your case.

Other than that, though, it has the same five outputs which – excitingly, for fans of the third dimension – includes support for technologies such as Blu-ray 3D via HDMI 1.4.

The Turbo suffix signifies, of course, that this is a factory-overclocked version of the HD 6870.

For the moderate price increase of around £10 over, say, the stock-clocked Sapphire HD 6870, there's a correspondingly moderate acceleration of the core clock speed from 900MHz to 920MHz with another 50MHz tacked onto the memory speed for luck.

With a card as big and complex as the HD 6870 is, can such a relatively small change make much of a difference?

HIS Radeon HD 6870 review: Benchmark

While we tested the cards below at a variety of resolutions and image quality settings, the most overwhelmingly important scores are at the default resolution for most monitors, 1920 x 1080 with 4xAA. These are shown below, except for in the Heaven 2.2 benchmark, which was run without anti-aliasing in this instance.

DiRT 2

HIS HD 6870 Turbo: 95.03fps
Radeon HD 6870 (stock): 92.54fps
Asus EAH 6870 OC: 92.33fps
Sapphire HD 6850 Toxic: 86.25fps

Far Cry 2

HIS HD 6870 Turbo: 84.9fps
Radeon HD 6870 (stock): 82.52fps
Asus EAH 6870 OC: 83.13fps
Sapphire HD 6850 Toxic: 75.27fps

Heaven 2.1

HIS HD 6870 Turbo: 56.5fps
Radeon HD 6870 (stock): 53.3fps
Asus EAH 6870 OC: 54.7fps
Sapphire HD 6850 TOXIC: 50.8fps

Just Cause 2

HIS HD 6870 Turbo: 50.56fps
Radeon HD 6870 (stock): 48.68fps
Asus EAH 6870 OC: 49.14fps
Sapphire HD 6850 TOXIC: 45.27fps

HIS Radeon HD 6870 review: Verdict

When AMD's Radeon HD 6870 landed back in August, we weren't overly impressed with its performance for the price.

Sandwiched between Nvidia's extraordinarily wallet-friendly GTX 460 cards and its more powerful predecessor, the HD 5870, our advice was to ignore the relatively minor changes in the core architecture that the HD 6870 introduced over older cards and hang on to see what the new Cayman GPU brings later in 2011.

That advice doesn't change.

If you thought a clock speed increase of just over two per cent wouldn't make much difference to a card which already appears more limited by a reduction in the number of processing cores and texture units over the previous generation than by hertz alone, you'd be right.

At the resolutions we'd expect it to be used at – 1920 x 1080 with 4xAA – the difference is minimal.

The new heatsink is quiet and allowed us to overclock as far as 950MHz, but if you really want to manually tweak things further you'll be looking for something like the Asus HD 6870 OC edition, which offers much more control over BIOS voltages.

The real problem, though, is that since the launch of the HD6870, prices for everything have dropped through the floor.

Both the Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 and the Radeon HD 5870 are faster chips than any amount of overclocking will make the HD 6870, and they can both be found for less than £200.

If you must upgrade now, grab one of those. Otherwise save your pennies and see what Cayman brings at marginally higher price points instead.

We liked

A small overclock to the core speed and the support for HDMI 1.4 and 3D goodness, plus a decent amount of headroom for pushing the card further.

We disliked

Not enough of a default tweak to make much difference at the kinds of resolutions you'll use it with. The biggest problem, however, is that falling prices of Nvidia GTX 470s and Radeon HD5870s mean you can get an awful lot more performance for substantially less cash.

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