Gigabyte Radeon HD 6870 1GB SOC Review (Page 3 of 13)

Page 3 - A Closer Look, Test System

The GV-R687SO-1GD Radeon HD 6870 1GB Super Overclock features the company's WindForce 3X cooler. As its name suggests, this graphics card has a large heatsink with three 80 mm PWM cooling fans; used to dissipate the heat away from the graphics processor core as well as its memory chips by direct contact. This process is accelerated by two copper heatpipes leading away from the center block to the large array of fins on the right, plus one additional heatpipe in the opposite direction. The fins are organized with optimized angles to reduce air turbulence noise (Such a phenomenon is usually caused by straight perpendicular fins), which is essential to designing a silent cooling solution in addition to using quiet fans. The fans itself are also angled to optimize airflow. Meanwhile, as shown in our photo above, the cooler covers the entire length of the non-reference blue printed circuit board measured at 11.5 inches (About 29 cm). The black heatsink carries a clean brushed aluminum finish with Gigabyte's logo at the top. The Gigabyte Radeon HD 6870 SOC is manufactured in Gigabyte's facilities in Taiwan.

Turning the graphics card around, Gigabyte's signature blue PCB can be seen more clearly. From an aesthetics point of view, I have never really liked Gigabyte's blue motherboards in my windowed case, but as far as graphics cards are concerned that has never really been a problem for me. All connectors come with a blue cap out of the box for extra protection. Like all modern midrange to high performance video cards, the Gigabyte Radeon HD 6870 1GB SOC occupies two slots, and the rear connector panel takes advantage of this configuration. One DVI-I port is found at the top, while a DVI-D port is situated at the bottom. Residing next to it is an HDMI connector, followed by two mini-DisplayPort connectors. A small vent is implemented into the backplate's remaining space for direct heat exhaust outside the chassis. Internally, its CrossFire bridge connector is located on the left side of the outer edge. And finally, I don't think I need to mention this, but just in case, the connection interface is PCI Express 2.1.

An NEC Proadlizer film capacitor can be found at the top of the Gigabyte Radeon HD 6870 1GB SOC. This component is desired for its electrical noise absorption capabilities; providing low equivalent series resistance and equivalent series inductance (ESR/ESL), high current handling, and high switching frequency. If you are not an electrical engineer and these terms mean nothing to you, that's fine -- it basically does what a regular capacitor does. It cleans up the input power to provide more stable output for better overclocking potential.

Four spring loaded screws with clear plastic washers are located on top of the board to hold the heatsink to the card. Once the four screws were unscrewed, the heatsink came off very easily. With its triple heatpipe and triple fan configuration, Gigabyte promises its WindForce 3X design runs 14.4% cooler than AMD's reference stock heatsink. We will post actual temperature results shortly. Our photo above should provide a little more insight into the hardware used on Gigabyte's Radeon HD 6870 SOC card. Two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors are still located on the outer edge of the board facing towards the side of the chassis -- but for its non-reference design, Gigabyte has 100% Japanese made solid state capacitors, ferrite core/metal choke, and lower RDS(on) MOFSET for improved reliability, lower power consumption, and lower heat output. Combined with its 2oz copper PCB, Gigabyte markets this as its Ultra Durable design. One of my previous video cards is a Gigabyte Radeon HD 4850 with Gigabyte's custom passive cooler, and I have had absolutely no complaints with regards to their reliability using the card every day for two years straight; not to mention the Gigabyte Radeon 6850 1GB OC I've reviewed back in January is still top notch as always.

The custom heatsink features thermal pads that go over the memory chips to provide additional cooling. My only complaint is the base of the heatsink has a very rough machine finish, which may limit its performance due to reduced contact with the surface of the graphics processor core. That said, with all these in mind, Gigabyte promises 10-30% lower power switching loss and 10-30% better overclocking capabilities. We will see how it works out in just a moment.

In the center of it all is AMD's Radeon 6870 "Barts" graphics processor unit, which we have discussed in detail in the preceding page. What's special about Gigabyte's Super Overclock series the GPU Gauntlet -- where the GPU and RAM are specifically cherry picked for better overclocking performance. This GPU is designed to run at 900MHz stock as aforementioned, but Gigabyte gave it a slight bump in the factory firmware to run it at 950MHz; a modest 5.6% overclock. Our card came with eight Hynix H5GQ1H24AFR memory ICs for a total of 1GB GDDR5 graphics memory. That is 128MB per chip, running at 1100MHz (4400MHz effective) from AMD's card specifications at 1050MHz (4200MHz effective) for a yet again modest 5% overclock. We will see how well it goes above that later on in our review.

If you take a close look at our photos above, an array of six green LEDs can be found about six centimeters from the edge. It's not very visible because our dSLR's flash killed it, but it's there, and it looks really cool.

Our test configuration as follows:

CPU: Intel Core i3-2120
Motherboard: ASUS P8P67 PRO
RAM: G.SKILL Sniper F3-12800CL9D-8GBSR2 2x4GB
Storage: G.SKILL Phoenix EVO 115GB
Chassis: Danger Den Torture Rack
Power: Seasonic S12D 850W
Sound: Integrated
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional x64

Compared Hardware
- AMD Radeon HD 6850 1GB (Stock reference)
- AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB (Stock reference)
- Gigabyte Radeon HD 6870 1GB SOC (950MHz Core/4400MHz Memory)

Page Index
1. Introduction, Specifications, Bundle
2. AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series Architecture
3. A Closer Look, Test System
4. Benchmark: 3DMark 11
5. Benchmark: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
6. Benchmark: Call of Duty: Black Ops
7. Benchmark: Colin McRae: DiRT 2
8. Benchmark: Far Cry 2
9. Benchmark: Just Cause 2
10. Benchmark: Metro 2033
11. Benchmark: Unigine: Heaven v2.5
12. Power Usage, Temperature, Noise
13. Overclocking and Conclusion