Today we are looking at the Radeon 7870 GHz Edition model 7870PE52GV from Diamond Multimedia. Yes, that Diamond Multimedia.
If you were building gaming PCs in the late 90’s, you may have used a Diamond Monster3D 3DFX Voodoo card for 3D gaming, perhaps with their one of their Diamond Stealth series 2D accelerators. One of my favorite pieces of PC hardware before starting HCW was the Diamond Monster Sound MX300 – it had an Aureal Vortex2 ASIC that would provide hardware acceleration for the A3D sound API. I much preferred this over EAX (Creative Labs ended up paying $26 million to bury Aureal in lawsuits. Aureal won, but went bankrupt defending themselves), but unfortunately Windows 7 made this style of audio acceleration obsolete (poor Creative, right?).
Diamond Multimedia 7870PE52GV Radeon 7870
Diamond offer a few different SKUs based on the Radeon 7870, and the 7870PE52GV is the most basic of them all, clocked at reference AMD settings, at 1000 MHz core and 4800 MHz effective memory. It is quite a bit shorter than most 7870 cards, but still sports a double wide heatsink. It has a single fan, while most 7870’s have at least two. We’ll get to what this means for noise and cooling performance, as well as overclocking later in the review.
Looking at the VRM on the 7870PE52GV, while it has very modern and durable solid state capacitors and ferrite core chokes, the MOSFETs are standard M3004D 55A transistors. These are not the fancy “low Rds(on)” transistors you’ll see in higher end products from Gigabyte and MSI. While these should be quite durable, they will get hotter, and this card will probably consume more power. We’ll put that theory to the test against a Radeon 7870 from Gigabyte.
The RAM being used is Elpida W2032BBBG. We were able to take different Elpida models very far in our MSI GeForce 780 review, so it will be interesting to see how far we can take these.
Since the 7870PE52GV is rather short, the heatsink is small in comparison to other Radeon 7870 models we’ve seen. Diamond does make the most use of the surface area by installing a pair of copper heatpipes to efficiently transfer the heat to the outer portions of the heatsink, with the heatpipes having direct contact to the GPU core.
The 7870PE52GV has five display outputs; a pair of DVI ports (one of which is single-width, and limited to 1920×1200), an HDMI port, and a pair of mini DisplayPort ports. The box contents include a DVI>VGA adapter, a mini DisplayPort > DisplayPort adapter, and a CrossFire ribbon. You also get some stickers, and of course your serial key for AMD’s awesome Never Settle Forever bundle. This Radeon 7870 gets you two games.
Diamond 7870PE52GV Overclocking
The 7870PE52GV doesn’t come with any extra software utilities for overclocking, and it’s recommended that you use the latest version of the Catalyst driver package downloaded directly from AMD. You have a few options for overclocking – most people go with either MSI Afterburner or Sapphire TriXX. Afterburner seems to have more features, but TriXX has an simpler interface.
Overclocking started by boosting the power limit, maxing out the fan speed, and going to work on increasing core speeds. Unfortunately it is impossible to access the voltage level on the 7870PE52GV, but as you can tell by the cooling, you probably wouldn’t want to anyway.
I normally use MSI Kombustor’s burn-in software (included with Afterburner) along with OCCT to initially find core speed limits, and then start testing them in games. Quite often a clock speed will be stable under artificial load, even though it is burning up an insane amount of wattage and creating a lot of heat, only to fall flat on its face when it comes time to play actual games. Therefore, our overclocking results represent actual stable performance, not record-breaking runs to take a screenshot before it crashes.
In the end, this 7870PE52GV was able to achieve a core speed of 1120 MHz, up from stock 1000 MHz. Not exactly a huge increase, especially when you have cards like the Gigabyte 7870 that come stock clocked at 1100 MHz. This is clearly not an overclocking card, but I think it would be safe to ramp it up to 1100 for regular use.
Memory could be clocked at 1402 MHz base, which is up from 1200 MHz, and good for an effective GDDR5 speed of 5608 MHz up from 4800 MHz. This isn’t quite the huge 500 MHz jump we saw with the MSI GeForce 780, but it is still good for a card like this.
Diamond 7870PE52GV Performance Review
Now we can talk about the important stuff – gaming performance! First, here’s a bit about how we test video card performance, since it’s different from what most sites are doing, for a reason.
We moved away from FPS as the end-all indicator of gaming performance. As soon as Scott Wasson at Tech Report let the cat out of the bag that consistent frame time is more important, we made the switch.
If you weren’t aware then, you probably are now; in spring 2013, Nvidia provided the 4 biggest hardware sites with “FCAT” hardware that helps record frame times at the monitor level. The reason for this is because the tool we use to record frame times – FRAPS – records its numbers at the beginning of each frame, rather than the end. Because game engines perform quite a few functions after this point, further issues or improvements may occur throughout the pipeline.
Since Scott was the only one who was using FRAPS all along, he was the one who took the time to directly compare his FRAPS results to the new Nvidia FCAT results. In the end, FCAT indeed shows ‘tighter’ lines in single GPU results, so it looks like game engines and drivers do improve on frame times after FRAPS takes its recording. In single GPU testing though, the results are comparable and sometimes identical, such as in the case of Unreal engine games. In dual GPU results, FCAT shows that some games do NOT handle Crossfire very well, and end up with a very sloppy experience despite the high framerate. FRAPS doesn’t show this well though, so is not nearly as useful for dual GPU testing.
Therefore, we will continue to use FRAPS for single GPU testing. I think that even with the lack of Nvidia’s FCAT tools, FRAPS is still better than using per-second frame rate results.
I should also mention here that I have noticed some confusion with regards to the “Framerate over time” results that some sites use. This is not to be confused with “Frametime” or “Frame Time” despite the similar phrasing. Framerate over time still takes an average frame rate each second, dropping a lot of data that is useful. For instance with Skyrim running at 80 fps, a 1 minute benchmark will result in about 5000 frames. Using frame time, the chart will therefore show 5000 points of data, while a “framerate over time” chart will show 60 points of data. The latter will show where slowdowns occur through the run, but the former will show that and exactly how efficiently frames are being delivered.
Diamond 7870PE52GV Gaming Tests
We will be testing the 7870PE52GV against the Gigabyte GeForce 7870 used in our Radeon 7870 vs GeForce 660 review. The Gigabyte model comes pre-overclocked at 1100 MHz, with standard 4800 MHz memory. We will be including the 7870PE52GV’s stock speed results as well as our overclocked results.
Seven games will be used, each with its own custom engine, and various play types.
|Assassin's Creed 3||3rd Person Action||1.03||AnvilNext|
|Crysis 3||First Person Shooter||220.127.116.110||CryEngine 3|
|Far Cry 3||First Person Shooter||1.04||Dunia Engine 2|
|Metro Last Light||First Person Shooter||18.104.22.168||4A Engine|
|Skyrim||First Person RPG||22.214.171.124||Creation Engine|
|Tomb Raider||3rd Person Action||1.01.748.0||Modified Crystal Engine|
All tests are performed at 1920×1080, with various graphics settings to push the cards decently hard, while maintaining a smooth frame rate.