XFX 5870 XXX Review Page: 1

XFX 5870 XXX

Introduction

More than any other item of hardware, graphics cards split the community into three distinct sections. There are those who are firmly entrenched in the Red camp, those who swear by the Green, and those who don't care who makes it as long as it's fast and cheap. Whilst we here at OC3D are fans of performance regardless of the source, we also appreciate that there are those among you to whom asking them to take a serious look at the other brand is like asking a Spurs fan to don an Arsenal kit.

We all knew what ATI provided because they released their 5 series cards a long time ago, but now following the recent Fermi release we have information about how both companies perform and it's fairly clear that it's really a one horse race.

So with the HD5870 absolutely being the weapon of choice XFX have given it their XXX magic to see if they can bring us the zenith in graphics technology. If, like your erstwhile reviewer, you're of a certain age then XXX has an different meaning to that of today's youth and rather than making us think of Extreme Sports, it more makes us think of Bambi Woods.

So is the XFX HD5870 XXX a card worthy of such a evocative name?

XFX HD5870 XXX

As you'll recall we recently reviewed the HD5750 XXX and found that, whilst the card performed very well it was hampered by the fact it's in a very competitive sector of the market. At the extreme high-end of the spectrum comparative price is much less of an issue than pure performance.

Technical Specifications

Bus Type: PCI-E 2.0
GPU Clock: 875 Mhz
Memory Bus: 256
Memory Type: DDR5
Memory Size: 1024 MB
Memory Speed: 5200 Mhz
Thermal Solution: FANSINK
Minimum PSU Requirement: 500W with two 6-pin power cable
Outputs: HDMI, Dual-Link DVI, Display Port
Card Dimensions: 11 X 4.376 X 1.5
Feature: Directx 11 support, DirectCompute 5.0, Open CL, Eyefinity Technology, Shader Model 5.0, OpenGL 3.2, Windows 7, DisplayPort, HDMI
Warranty: Lifetime
Package Contents: DVI Adapter, 6 Pin Y Power Cable


So does the XXX leave us gasping? Let's have a close look.



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XFX 5870 XXX

Packaging

Often packaging is either perfunctory, or quite good. XFX have absolutely pulled out all the stops. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The box externally contains all the information you'd expect to see on a graphics card, with a large explanation of the technical specifications and the badges of the various technologies the HD5870 is capable of.

XFX 5870 XXX Box     XFX 5870 XXX Manual  

The side panels are equally informative with everything laid out in a clear style that is a far cry from some of the more complex tables and lists we find on some products.

Naturally with a graphics card we're far more forgiving of gaudy packaging than for many products, but XFX have obtained a nice balance between the need to be brash and the subtleties a product of this quality requires.

XFX 5870 XXX Contents     XFX 5870 XXX Packaging  

Opening up the side flap we find an incredibly sturdy inner box. In fact it's so sturdy you could paint it white and live in it in case the bomb drops.

Lifting the top we find far and away the cosiest most protective foam we've seen. The cut out of the card is precise and the cables and such are tucked away at the front under the green, equally sturdy, cardboard.

XFX 5870 XXX Specs     XFX 5870 XXX Specifications  

So fantastic is this foam packaging it really needs a photo all to itself. A stunning effort by XFX and something all manufacturers should aspire to. It's not often you find something you'd feel safe sending via "Big Budget Couriers" but I doubt anything could cause damage to the card.

Finally before we look at the card itself we see the manuals and driver CD that all come in the very crisp XFX style. Only the door hanger hints at this items main use.

XFX 5870 XXX Pictures     XFX 5870 XXX

Ok. So what is hiding in that anti-static bag?



XFX 5870 XXX Review Page: 3

XFX 5870 XXX

The XFX 5870 XXX

In keeping with the XFX HD5870 XXX branding it seems like these pictures should be heavily pixellated. On top of the main graphic that neatly apes the box art there is a plastic cover that ensures your card will look its absolute fingerprint free best once installed and it's very easy to remove.

Turning the card over we find the robust cross brace for the heatsink, installed very neatly. 

XFX 5870 XXX Inputs     XFX 5870 XXX Connectivity  

Despite the various funky graphics that manufacturers adorn their cards with, this is the view most of us will have when installed. The black and red theme neatly compliments most high-end kit.

We also see that the card has two crossfire fingers, and only requires two 6-pin PCI-E power lines.

XFX 5870 XXX Cooler     XFX 5870 XXX

At the cooling end are two vents that help suck the cool air in from the front of your case before speeding it up through the fan and ejecting it out the rear of your case. And yes, it really does look like the front of the Batmobile.

The black and red theme is continued on the fan that also comes with an XFX sticker. Although normally in that yellowy-green that isn't too attractive in great swathes, it compliments the red very nicely when used in small doses like it is here.

XFX 5870 XXX Overclocking     XFX 5870 XXX Speeds  

With the HD5870 supporting Eyefinity, the XFX XXX version is no different. We have two DVI-D, a Display Port and a HDMI output.

XFX 5870 XXX Core     XFX 5870 XXX Crossfire

So it comes in exceptional packaging and looks the bees knees. How does it perform?



XFX 5870 XXX Review Page: 4

XFX 5870 XXX

Overclocking and Temperatures

XFX, as we saw in the tech specs, have already overclocked the XXX from the default core of 850MHz, to 875MHz. This will, on such a powerful card, provide a nice boost. But of course we're not satisfied with that.

Using GPUz to monitor our temperatures and RivaTuner to massage the clocks we were able to get a 109MHz overclock out of the GPU core and 86MHz out of the memory.

It must be noted, as you'll see in the graphs below, that even overclocked the heat wasn't an issue at all, but still we couldn't get all of our tests to run over 984MHz. Some would happily run at 1027MHz, but not all and so it will be the 984MHz speed we will be using as the overclocked speed in our upcoming testing.

It's worth noting that the voltages were kept stock for our overclock testing and we're sure that a little boost on the core voltage could obtain some stunning speeds.

Overclocking

Temperatures

We always run our fans manually at 50% to ensure that all our heat and noise tests are comparable across all of our graphics card tests. The XFX HD5870 XXX was audible but not intolerable at 50%. However the temperatures were so good we also tested with the fans being automatically controlled as they would be by default.

As you can see the temperatures barely rose from what they were at our 50% test, and yet the card was utterly inaudible throughout all our gaming testing and even under the most strenuous testing it still couldn't be heard over our Xilence Red Wing case fans.

Silent AND cool? After all, the new Fermi cards are neither silent nor cool. Impressive stuff from XFX.

Temps @ Automatic fan speeds.

Let's see our test setup and run some benchmarks.



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XFX 5870 XXX

Test Setup and 3D Mark

Test Setup

Graphics cards are generally considered to be something that gets upgraded far more often than any other piece of hardware in our rigs. For our test setup we wanted to use a system with enough power to ensure that the system wasn't too much of a bottleneck, whilst still being around the performance that you're likely to have if considering of this price. 

Intel Core i7 920 @ 3.2GHz
6GB Corsair Dominator @ 1600MHz
Asus P6T Deluxe
Windows 7 64 Bit
XFX HD5870 XXX
Catalyst 10.3 Final

3D Mark 06

What's that I hear you cry. 3D Mark 06? The main purpose of this is actually to demonstrate how far technology has come along, a score of 22000 from a single GPU is amazing even now, but also how so much of today's performance is gained through architectural advances rather than pure clock speed. This is visible in the huge gain from such a small overclock.

3D Mark Vantage

Vantage is a different kettle of fish providing punishment to all aspects of the graphics hardware.

The brutal power available from the XFX HD5870 XXX is apparent when even our fairly middling CPU gives us a P Score of 19000 in stock and nearly 22000 in overclocked trim.

Now you can see why the 3D Mark 06 test is up there, because this card hits 22000 in both 3DM 06 and Vantage. Who needs a Hadron Collider?

Performance

High

If the performance is impressive, the "High" test is stunning. The best part of 15000 points when overclocked is mind-blowing, and you can also see how much extra grunt the GPU has when it has a bit more power available.



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XFX 5870 XXX

Real Time Strategy

Today we're splitting our testing up into genres to hopefully make it easier to find the results you want. Do let us know if you like the change or prefer the old method. We're always happy to listen here at OC3D.

 

Company of Heroes - Tales of ValorXFX 5870 XXX   Benchmarks

Relics Company of Heroes franchise is still one of the greatest games of all time and a good test of any system with large particle effects and deep draw distances combining with many things to apply the anti-aliasing too.

The XFX HD5870 XXX is a Flak 88 to the rest of the competition completely chewing the game up and spitting it out, asking for more.

As the engine has so many physics effects a lot of the work is processor based and so our overclock doesn't give us a huge advantage, but it doesn't need it. No settings with make the XXX even jog, much less break into a sweat.

 

 

Dawn of War 2 - Chaos RisingXFX 5870 XXX   Overclocking

Chaos Rising is the latest update to the popular Dawn of War franchise, adding the Chaos armies to help eradicate the green tide from the world.

Based upon a modified version of the Engine Relic used for Company of Heroes we can see how they have really cranked the detail up to almost unprecedented levels for a Real-Time Strategy game with blood flying, bodies dismembering and more particle and lighting effects that we could have dreamt of a small time ago.

Our results follow those from COH with the 5870 XXX happily churning out the frames without a problem even under the most extreme conditions we could test.

 

World In Conflict - Soviet AssaultXFX 5870 XXX   Review

World in Conflict never really took off as a great RTS with the gameplay changing quite a lot from what we expected at the time.

Of course Command and Conquer 4 makes World in Conflict seem like Chess, but with the Soviet Assault add-on World in Conflict makes for a great stress test thanks to its built-in benchmark that produces more smoke and fog than a gathering of pipe-enthusiasts on The Moors. 

Despite the insane amount of things going on at once the XFX HD5870 XXX still keeps us about the magic 60FPS mark we need for smooth gaming and even the minimum frame rate never takes it to unplayable levels.

 

So if you're a fan of farming resources, building bases and generally taking it to the enemy as an army rather than a Rambo-esque soldier, the 5870 XXX has your back.

What if you prefer being a one man army though?



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XFX 5870 XXX

First Person Shooters

For some among you this is the only genre that matters. Whether it's taking on the world alone in single-player, or grabbing your mates and teaming up you be top of the leaderboard, first-person shooters have been popular since the Quake days and been the primary driving force in improving our eye-candy.

Just Cause 2XFX 5870 XXX Just   Cause

Just Cause 2 is the latest "sandbox" style game that is best described as a melding of Mercenaries, Far Cry and Grand Theft Auto. Nothing bad about any of those. Graphically it really is a treat for the eyes and thankfully, unlike the game at the bottom of this page, actually plays well too.

The game comes with three built in benchmarks that test the different aspects of the engine from the dark, sparky, destruction of the test we ran today, through a Far Cry 2-esque desert environment to some of the most sumptuous day-to-night cycles we've ever seen.

Proof oh how far the graphics are pushing is that only in our overclock test do we pass 60FPS and then only barely. Thankfully the game itself isn't as power hungry, but still the 5870 XXX doesn't have difficulties.

 

 

Modern Warfare 2XFX 5870 XXX   Modern Warfare 2

What would be a first-person test without our next two games. Firstly the ever popular Modern Warfare series from Infinity Ward.

We love this for three big reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, the single-player experience is enjoyable. Too many companies make multi-player-centric games that aren't much fun for those of us who have enough shouty teenagers in our lives already. Secondly the multi-player is fantastic with busy servers and lots of game types to play with.

Finally it looks damn good but doesn't need a monolith to power it. Because of this the 5870 XXX laughs it off like a polar bear laughs off a kitten. There is nothing that Modern Warfare 2 can do the XXX can't make mincemeat of.

 

 

Crysis WarheadXFX 5870 XXX   Crysis Warhead Enthusiast

Everyone knows how much I loathe this game, but thankfully the HD5870 XXX has given me plenty to talk about without reiterating the same old guff.

Normally we run Warhead on Gamer settings without anti-aliasing because the boys at Crytek did such a poor optimising job anything else causes the system to become a slide show.

Not with the XFX it doesn't. Both our stock and overclocked tests gave us over 60 FPS. A massive achievement. Even if we allow for the Cat 10.3s giving a little performance boost, it's still a stunning result. In fact it's so stunning we're going to run the Enthusiast mode.

 

Enthusiast

Having got a jaw-dropping result from the Gamer test, we had to crank up the eye-candy to Enthusiast and add some AA. Even with so much glorious shiny detail we still got around 40FPS average, which is more than enough for Warhead to be a smooth experience. Much more than the gaudy numbers of MW2, this is the test that really makes our eyes widen with delight.

Time to go round and round in circles.



XFX 5870 XXX Review Page: 8

XFX 5870 XXX

Racing Games

Finally we reach the genre I love best. 2 wheels, 4 or more, dirt, tarmac or mud I don't care. If it involves racing you can put money on me playing it.

Dirt 2XFX 5870 XXX Dirt   2

Dirt 2 is the latest in the ever popular line of off-road games from Codemasters that started with Colin McRae Rally and have been brilliant (CMR2) or very average (CMR3). However with the Dirt re-brand the quality has risen dramatically.

One of the biggest selling points for Dirt 2 on PC is how it's one of the first titles to introduce DirectX 11 features and on a game with so much water and cloth it makes a huge difference to visual quality.

Even with everything as high as it could go the XFX HD5870 XXX provides us with outstanding frame-rates. Even more impressive is how well it responds to the overclock gaining 11FPS average from our 100MHz extra clock speed without gaining either noise or heat.

 

 

Race Driver : GRiDXFX 5870 XXX Race   Driver Grid

GRiD is a whiskered old man now, but it is still as playable as it was when it was a fresh faced youth.

Because it's well known that GRiD responds very well to ATI hardware we made a slight change to our testing and rather than run the same benchmark multiple times, we ran five races at five American tracks (the most graphically stressful) and then averaged those results.

To the surprise of absolutely nobody the XFX was so relaxed it almost fell asleep whilst churning out frame-rates in the 140+ bracket even at minimum. Despite staying at the back of a huge field of cars we just couldn't make it twitch.

 

 

Need For Speed : ShiftXFX 5870 XXX Need   For Speed Shift

If GRiD is playable and Dirt 2 is graphically sumptuous then Need For Speed Shift is the lovechild of the two.

A quick glance at our screenshot demonstrates how truly brilliant the graphics are and EA have made sure the game treads that oh-so-fine line between forgiving and a simulation.

The scenery is magnificent and every car makes us wonder why Polyphony are taking so damn long.

Despite putting the details, as always, to the maximum the HD5870 XXX, as always, just merrily plodded along without so much as a tiny hiccup.

 

Time to wrap this up.



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XFX 5870 XXX

Conclusion

Edwin Starr once asked "War. What is it good for?". For those of us in the hardware world war, it is good for both advancing technology and keeping prices low. As anyone who has not been living under a rock for six months will know, there has been a war going on with only one side fighting. ATI stole a huge march on the Nvidia Fermi cards by releasing the 5000 series in Q3 last year and it stunned us all with its incredible performance.

Of course with only one side fighting it was difficult to fully gauge if ATI had nailed the DirectX 11 products or if Nvidias Fermi would make it look over-priced and under-powered. Well Nvidia have released the Fermi we know they Nvidia haven't so much ridden into town with a marching band and swept all before them, rather they've wheezed into town in the dead of night and hope nobody noticed that six months of extra development has been spent trying to combine the two disparate goals of increasing the temperature of the planet and making everyone deaf, to great success.

The XFX HD5870 XXX on the other hand is cool and quiet, with more than enough horsepower to demolish everything we threw at it.

Going back a little the packaging is truly high-end. There is absolutely no doubt where the small premium you pay for the XXX model goes as we don't think even a herd of stampeding Elephants could cause damage to this.

Except of course, we don't pay for packaging we pay for performance. And oh boy has the XFX 5870 XXX got performance.

When we did our 5 series roundup back in January we used a special volt-mod BIOS and managed to get the core of our test 5870 up to 950MHz with a 0.1v increase in the voltage. The XFX HD5870 XXX happily blew past that into, completely stable, the giddy heights of 984MHz without touching any voltages at all. Breaking the GHz barrier was possible although not totally stable in all our tests but with the 0.1v increase who knows what would be possible.

Of course not everyone overclocks. Many of you just want great stock performance and XFX have you covered here too. The 25MHz overclock is nicely rewarded in our benchmarking tests.

So, to answer our earlier question, now we know what Nvidia have brought to the table should you take off your Green shirt and put on a Red one? Make your own mind up but the facts are :

The XFX HD5870 XXX is £100 cheaper. It has incredible performance. It is barely audible even overclocked and under load. My feet didn't roast from the heat. Did I mention it's £100 cheaper and will do 60FPS in Crysis Warhead easily? Good.

In the previous generation Nvidia had the single-GPU king but ATI had the multi-card performance. Thanks to the great underlying card and the extra-oomph XFX have given it, we now have the single best bang-for-buck solution money can buy.

The XXX moniker clearly does hark back to those late 70s films, because every aspect of the XFX HD5870 XXX is obscenely good and we have absolutely no hesitation at all in giving it our Editors Choice award.

Pros
- Performance
- Quiet as a hoarse mouse
- Huge headroom
- Cool even under load
- Glorious Packaging

Mediocre
- You pay a small premium over a stock 5870

Cons
- We didn't get two to test Crossfire? Otherwise nothing whatsoever.

Editors    Choice  

Many thanks to XFX for providing the HD5870 XXX for review. Discuss in our forums.