HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 1
Introduction & Specifications

HISJust a couple of months ago we got our first taste of the HIS line-up in the form of their HD4850 IceQ 4 TurboX card. With its custom cooling, beefy overclock, decent accessories package and unique looks, the card was a refreshing break from the 
usual array of reference ATI cards 'customised' with little more than a sticker by their AIB partners.

Since then HIS have been hard at work adding a bit of magic sparkle to the fairly new HD4870 1GB and today we've been given the chance to test the fruits of their labour. Crowned the 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo and dubbed by HIS as being the "The fastest single GPU card ever", this statement certainly leaves the card open to competition from the likes of NVIDIA's GTX280. However, before we get down to the nitty gritty of the review let's have a quick recap of HIS's mission statement for the benefit of those who haven't already had the pleasure:

HIS was established in 1987 with the mission to produce the highest quality graphic cards in the industry. Besides strong devotion to excellent products and services, HIS has been conducting business with the aim to "Glorifying God". Honesty and integrity are the two key principals of how HIS are conducted. Ethical business practice has been an everyday commitment to our clients, vendors, and investors.

Year 2002 marked a milestone in HIS's history, with "Excalibur" as the encore product for the company. The "HIS Excalibur Graphics Board" proved its name by passing the vigorous and stringent testing of the widely recognized media worldwide. Not only so, but has been crowned with various honors such as: Tom's Hardware, Anandtech and PC Magazine. In Sept 2003, HIS incorporated the state-of-the art Supreme Cooling Technology in the award winning HIS Excalibur 9800Pro IceQ which became the HIS IceQ, IceQ II and now the IceQ 3 Series. Since then, this product has been the limelight in the market for its outstanding performance and features over the other rivals.

Simply by analysing the name of the 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo we can tell that the card has been fitted with HIS's award winning aftermarket cooling system. This performed exceptionally well in our previous testing of the HIS 4850 IceQ 4 TurboX and as the following information below will tell us, slight improvements have been made to the IceQ 4 cooler design - hence the inclusion of an  '+' symbol at the end of its name.

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB GDDR5 - Fastest Single GPU Graphic Card Ever!
" With IceQ 4+, we have redesigned the heat distribution mechanism itself. Utilising a brand new 8mm heatpipe design means we have increased the thermal transfer capacity by 60% over the previous IceQ 4 design. HIS delivers gamers a triple-advantage of faster, cooler and quieter in-game performance! "

• IceQ 4 Cooling Technology - Faster, Cooler, Quieter, Crossfire Advantage, UV Sensitive
• Powered by Radeon® HD 4870 GPU
• 956 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
• 800 stream processing units
• DirectX® 10.1
• 24x custom filter anti-aliasing (CFAA) and high performance anisotropic filtering
• ATI CrossFireXTM multi-GPU support for highly scalable performance
• Use up to four discrete cards with an AMD 790FX based motherboard
• PCI Express® 2.0 support

Manu. Process: (Micron) 55nm
Transistor: 956 million
Memory Size: (MB) 1024
Memory Type: GDDR5
RAMDAC (MHz): 400
Engine CLK (MHz): 770
Memory CLK (MHz): 4000
Memory Interface (bit): 256

As you would expect from a graphics card bearing the word 'Turbo' in it's name, the HIS 4870 1GB comes pre-overclocked to 770MHz / 4000MHz for the Core and Memory respectively. Comparing this to the 750MHz / 3600MHz clocks of a reference 4870 1GB we can see that HIS have err'd on the side of caution especially where the Core speed is concerned, quite possibly to leave plenty of headroom for a 'TurboX' version of the card if they so wish.

Now that we've got some of the formalities out of the way, let's move on to the unboxing of the card...


HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 2
Packaging & Card Appearance

While it seems to be a growing trend for manufacturers' to package their graphics cards inside boxes that barely fit through your front door, HIS have thankfully kept the outer box of the 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo at a reasonable size which will undoubtedly make it easier (and maybe even cheaper?) to ship. The primary colours of the packaging are black and blue, with the IceQ 4+ logo taking centre stage and several general specification stickers aligned to the right.

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo Box Front HIS 4870 IceQ4 Turbo Box Back

Turning the box over reveals a windowed cutout that serves the purpose of showing off the IceQ 4+ cooler beneath. Several circular images surround this area, pointing out features such as the dual heatpipes; isolated heatsinks for the Memory and GPU; dual slot cooling; gold plated connectors, a larger surface area for improved cooling and finally a durable and UV reactive fan.

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Inner Box HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo Inner Box

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo Contents HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo Accessories

Opening the white cardboard inner-box, we can see that HIS have gone to the trouble of placing the graphics card inside a moulded plastic shell. This not only prevents the card from moving around during shipping, but also keeps it well distanced from the edges of the box which often take the brunt of any mishandling by couriers.

The accessories package is fairly basic and contains everything to get you up and running. As shown in the image above, you get a DVI to HDMI converter, a DVI to VGA converter, a Molex to PCI-E cable, a Crossfire bridge and a driver disk. Unfortunately there are no signs of any value added goodies such as the spirit level/screwdriver/torch thingy that HIS included in their 4850 IceQ 4+ Turbo package.

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Side HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Side

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ DVI HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Rear
 
At the front of the card you'll find the standard configuration of two DVI ports and an S-Video port bolted to the dual-slot blanking plate. However, HIS have seen fit to gold plate the connections on the DVI ports and also electroplate the blanking plate in a gunmetal black colour. This combined with the custom blue PCB makes the card look simply awesome.

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Heatpipes HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Cooler

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Naked HIS 4870 IceQ4+ Components
 
Using a cooler not dissimilar in appearance to the previous generation of Arctic Cooling's 'Silencer' series, a blower fan mounted at the rear of the card pushes air through copper coloured (but most likely aluminium) fins attached to a base plate. As mentioned earlier in the review, the '+' in the IceQ 4+ name signifies that the cooler has received a slight upgrade from the standard IceQ 4 with a larger GPU surface area, wider heatpipes (from 6mm  to 8mm) and Memory/PWM cooling integrated into the metal base.

Going in for a closer look at the memory modules, we can see that HIS have stuck with the Qimonda GDDR5 "IDGV51-05A1F1C-40X" IC's used in the reference design. Produced in week 40 of 2008, these IC's are designed to run at a speed of 3600MHz. However, as we already know, HIS have pushed the chips a further 400MHz to give us a nice round 4000MHz effective memory speed.


HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 3
Test Setup

A common mistake made when benchmarking graphics cards is that the rest of the PC system isn't sufficient enough to test the GPU to its limits. This results in a bottleneck situation, where the system can only run at the speed of its slowest component. For this reason, the test configuration chosen below has been specially selected to give each of the graphics cards on test the headroom they require in order to produce the best results.

CPU
Intel Core2Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz @ 3.6 Ghz

Motherboard
ASUS P5Q Deluxe (P45)

Memory
Cellshock DDR2 PC-2 6400 5-5-5-18 @ 800mhz

Power Supply
Tuniq Ensemble 1200w

Graphics Drivers
NVidia Forceware 180.48
ATI Catalyst 8.12.72276

Operating System
Windows Vista 64bit SP1

A selection of games and benchmark suites has also been chosen to test each of the graphics cards used in today's review on several different game engines. Each of the cards will be run at both low and high resolutions with varying levels of texture filtering to represent the use of the card with both small and large screen sizes.

3DMark05
1024x768 / 0xAA
1680x1050 / 4xAA
1920x1200 / 4xAA

3DMark06

1280x1024 / 0xAA
1680x1050 / 4xAA
1920x1200 / 4xAA

3DMark Vantage
Performance Mode
High Mode
Extreme Mode

ET:Quake Wars
1440x900 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / High / 4xAA

Unreal Tournament III
1440x900 / DX10
1680x1050 / DX10
1920x1200 / DX10

Call of Duty 4
1440x900 / Max / 4xAA
1680x1050 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Farcry 2
1440x900 / Max / 4xAA
1680x1050 / Max / 4xAA
1920x1200 / Max / 4xAA

Racedriver GRID
1440x900 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / High / 4xAA

Crysis
1440x900 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1680x1050 / DX10 / High / 4xAA
1920x1200 / DX10 / High / 4xAA


Overclocking

Using the "Auto-Tune" facility built into the ATI Overdrive™ driver control panel, the maximum overclock we were able to obtain from the HIS HD 4870 IceQ4+ Turbo was 780MHz on the core and 1090MHz on the memory. Attempting to manually increase either of these settings any higher instantly resulted in artifacting and/or game freezing. Granted that this is only a small increase on the stock 770MHz / 1000MHz speeds of the card, but it certainly shows that HIS are quite fearless with their factory overclocking.


Testing the card at both its stock and our overclocked settings in 3DMark Vantage Performance mode reveals that this small increase in speed on the core and memory certainly wasn't fruitless.


HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 4
3DMark

3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.






 

Result Observations

With both the HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo and the Zotac GTX260 (216) sharing a similar price bracket it's certainly interesting to see them exchange blows in the 3DMark testing. As we can see from above, the HIS nails the Zotac by a significant margin in both 3DMark05 and 3DMark06 showing that it has pottentially more raw power in DX9 based tests at least.

However, as we move on to the DX10 based 3DMark Vantage, the Zotac GTX260 216 fights back, making full use of its built-in PhysX drivers to sway the results back in its favour.


HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 5
CoD4

Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast game play. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long game play demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.


 

Crysis

Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.


 

ET:Quake Wars

ET:Quake Wars is a follow-up game to Wolfenstein:Enemy Territory developed by Splash Technology. Using a modified version of id Software's Doom 3 engine along with Mega rendering technology, the game promises high resolution textures, fast gameplay and plenty of explosions. Using the built-in recordNetDemo and timeNetDemo commands, we recorded a 5 minute online gaming session and played it back a total of 5 times at each resolution, calculating the average FPS from the median three results.


 

Result Observations

Moving on to some 'real world' benchmarks once again there is quite a mishmash of results; with the Zotac GTX260 216 managing a 10FPS advantage over the HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo in Call of Duty 4 at 1900x1200 despite its slightly lower price point. The HIS 4870 returns a punch in Crysis by managing a ~5FPS advantage across all resolutions and also manages to sit almost side-by-side with the Zotac in ET-Quake Wars.


HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB PCIe Graphics Card Page: 6
Farcry 2

FarCry 2 is based upon the Dunai engine developed by Ubisoft and takes advantage of multi-core processors along with support for the DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 API. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.


 

Unreal Tournament 3

Unreal Tournament 3 the latest game in the long running Unreal series from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest UE3, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 


 
GRID

Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that presents a challenge to any graphics system. Results were recorded using FRAPS to log the average FPS over a 2 minute race. To ensure consistency, the same track, car and general path of travel was used in each of the 5 benchmark runs for each graphics card, with an average FPS being calculated from the median three results.
 


 
Result Observations

With Far Cry 2 being one of a growing number of games to support PhysX, this is naturally an area where we'd expect the HD 4870 to fall behind leaving the GTX260 to take the limelight. However, while the GTX260 does indeed take the top spot, it is by only a matter of a few FPS. Another game to support PhysX is Unreal Tournament 3, and as we can see from the results this isn''t enough for the GTX260 to gain another gold, with the HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo grabbing back some ground.

Finally we come to the GRID results and as we can see, this is certainly a place where the green team fall flat on their face. Across all resolutions the HIS 4870 IceQ4+ Turbo wipes the floor with the GTX260 and in some cases even the stock clocked Sapphire HD 4870 512Mb sends the Zotac packing.


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Conclusion

HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ TurboWith a price tag expected to be around £229, the HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB is clearly positioned to be a direct threat to NVIDIA's recently released GTX260 216 cards - and a threat it certainly is. Factory overclocked to 770MHz with GDDR5 running at 1000MHz , the IceQ4+ Turbo managed to give the Zotac GTX2602 we happened to have in our office at the same time a proverbial run-around, beating it in both GRID, Crysis and Unreal Tournament 3 while also coming within a few FPS of the GTX260 in games such as Far Cry 2 and Quake Wars.

This combined with the stunning look and performance of the IceQ4+ cooler that kept the GPU temperatures well under 60°C at all times and noise levels to little more than a whisper certainly makes the card worth every penny.

In our previous review of the HIS 4850 IceQ4 TurboX, we concluded that the card was the "crème de la crème of 4850 series cards". This is something that also rings true for the HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1Gb in the 4870 series....There really is no 4870 that we've seen or tested to date which can come close.


The Good
- Exchanges blows with the GTX260 216, beating it in several games.
- Excellent aftermarket IceQ 4+ cooler keeps GPU temps and noise under control.
- Healthy overclock places the card well ahead of a stock HD4850 512MB.
- Competitively priced.
- Looks great.

The Mediocre
- Rather basic package. Most GTX260 216 cards are shipped with a game.

The Bad
- Still no 4870x2 version HIS...c'mon pull your finger out!


Based on the performance, looks and price of the HIS 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo we are delighted to award the card Overclock3D "Best In Class" for the ATI HD4870 based series of cards.

Overclock3D Best In Class Award

Thanks to HIS for providing the 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo for review. Discuss this review in our forums.