Sapphire Radeon HD 7870 FleX Review

Author: Chris Barry
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/sapphire_7870_flex/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

AMD Eyefinity and Surround mutli-display setups are continuing to grow ever more popular, however with most GPU's you can't just connect any three monitors onto a card and expect Eyefinity to work. Some level of planning is required, and in most cases at least one DisplayPort connectoion must be used. Sapphire's answer to this inconvenience is the FleX line of graphics cards. Lke most cards, these are equipped with two DVI connectors. However, a third DVI monitor is also supported thanks to the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX's HDMI to DVI adapter. This makes things just a little more "FleXible" for users planning an Eyefinity setup!

Unlike the last FleX series card Neoseeker took a look at, the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX does not come with a factory overclock. Not only that, but the card's $355 price tag makes it a bit more expensive then many other factory overclocked HD 7870's. The slightly higher price really isn't necessarily a bad thing if the alternative to running an Eyefinity setup is having to shell out extra cash for additional DisplayPort monitors. The main selling point of the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX is going to be the fact that you can easily run three DVI connected monitors in an Eyefinity setup right out of the package. Well worth the price premium, if you ask me!

Specifications:

Output
2 x DVI Output
1 x DisplayPort Output
1 x HDMI Output
GPU
1GHz Core Clock
28nm Chip
1280 x Stream Processors
Memory
2GB GDDR5 Memory
256-bit
Software
Driver CD
Sapphire TRIXX Utility
Accessory
DVI to VGA Adapter
2 x 6Pin to Molex Connector
Crossfire Bridge
HDMI to DVI adapter
HDMI Cable

The front of the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX's packaging contains a picture of the female Sapphire mascot, Ruby. Flipping the package over will reveal some basic specifications and features of the card. There you will also find a list of the package contents. The sides of the box contain nothing but the Sapphire logo. The brown box inside contains the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX as well as its included accessories.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX's extra accessories include a CrossFire bridge, two Molex to 6-pin connectors, a DVI to VGA adapter, an HDMI cable, and an HDMI to DVI cable. You will also find a users guide and a driver CD.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX utilizes the dual fanned cooler design featured on more and more cards recently. The card's cooler uses a black color scheme, and features the FleX logo on both of the fans. Flipping the card over reveals the blue PCB typically used by Sapphire.

 

As far as connectivity goes, you will be able to utilize two DVI connectors, an HDMI port, as well as a single DisplayPort. Using the bundled HDMI to DVI adapter, you will be able to utilize the HDMI port as well as the two DVI connectors to successfully create an Eyefinity setup without needing to purchase any additional fancy adapters. In order to provide the card with sufficient power, you'll need to use two 6Pin connectors from your PSU.

As with other HD 7870 cards, you will be able to pair the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX with another 7 series card through use of the CrossFire connector located toward the top front of the card.

Under the Hood:

Removing the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX's Dual-X cooler will reveal the card's 28nm GPU core. Packed into the tiny 28nm core are 1280 Stream Processors and a 1000MHz stock clock. If this card is anything like the HD 7870's we've seen in the past, we should be able to get a very nice improvement on top of this stock clock. Circled around the core is the card's 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The memory is covered by a black heat spreader, which will help to keep the modules nice and cool. The Dual-X cooler itself uses graduated heatpipes and dust repelling bearings for additional tempurature and noise level reduction.

Overclocking:

I was fairly pleased with how well the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX was able to overclock. Without increasing the voltage, we were able to bring the core clock speeds up from 1000MHz to 1231MHz. We were also able to bring the memory clock up to 1357MHz! The fan was fairly loud when the rotational speed level was turned up to 100 percent, however it was no where near as loud as the fans used on reference AMD cards.

Hardware Configuration:

  • CPU: Intel 2600K @ 4.4Ghz
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-UD3
  • Memory: 8GB Mushkin Redline DDR3-2133
  • Chassis: Corsair Graphite 600T
  • Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
  • HDD: 1.5TB GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.11
  • Cooling: Corsair H100 dual-fan
  • OS: Windows 7 Pro 64 bit

Drivers:

  • Nvidia Drivers: 301.10
  • AMD Drivers: 12.4

Benchmarks DX11:

  • Futuremark: 3DMark 11
  • Aliens vs Predator
  • Crysis 2
  • DiRT 3
  • Battlefield 3
  • Batman Arkham City
  • Metro 2033
  • Total War: Shogun II

Test Settings:

  • All in game benchmarks were performed at resolutions of 1680x1080. Vsync is disabled in the control panel, AA is set to x4 with AF set to x16 and all the in-game settings are turned up to high, or very high.

Usage:

  • Power consumption
  • Temperature

Specifications:

(Note: All models might not be included in this review. The table below is to be used for comparisons)
AMD Specifications
Model
AMD Radeon HD 7970 AMD Radeon HD 7950 AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition AMD Radeon HD 7750 Sapphire HD 7870 FleX
Processing Cores
2048 1792 1280 512 1280
Core Clock
925MHz 800MHz 1000MHz 800MHz 1000MHz
Memory Clock
1375MHz 1250MHz 1200MHz 1125MHz 1200MHz
Memory Interface
384-bit 384-bit 256-bit 128-bit 256-bit
Memory Type
3GB GDDR5 3GB GDDR5 2GB GDDR5 1GB GDDR5 2GB GDDR5
Fabrication Process
28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
MSRP
$479 $379 $329 $109 $355
NVIDIA Specifications
Model
Nvidia GTX 670 Nvidia GTX 680 Nvidia GTX 480 Nvidia GTX 570 Nvidia GTX 580
Processing Cores
1344 1536 480 480 512
Core Clock/ Boost Clock
915MHz / 980MHz 1006MHz / 1058MHz 700MHz 742MHz 782MHz
Memory Clock
1504MHz 1504MHz 924MHz 1250MHz 1002MHz
Memory Interface
256-bit 256-bit 320-bit 320-bit 384-bit
Memory Type
4GB GDDR5 2GB GDDR5 1.5GB GDDR5 1.25GB GDDR5 1.5GB GDDR5
Fabrication Process
28nm 28nm 40nm 40nm 40nm
MSRP
$399 $499 $239 $299 $389

Futuremark's latest 3DMark 2011 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new DirectX 11 features including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

At stock settings the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX performed slightly better than the HD 7850. Overclocking the card would yield a much nicer performance boost!

Unigine Heaven became very popular very fast, because it was one of the first major DirectX 11 benchmarks. It makes great use of tessellation to create a visually stunning heaven.

Once again the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX landed just ahead of the HD 7850, and performance was much improved through overclocking.

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to the smash hit, Batman: Arkham Asylum. The game was created with the Unreal 3 Engine, and includes areas with extreme tessellation, high res textures and dynamic lighting. Batman, also includes native support for PhysX and is also optimized for Nvidia 3DVision technology.

The Top graph reflects our results at 1920x1080, while the lower graph reflects our results Eyefinity and Surround results at 5760x1080.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX was able to stay 7FPS ahead of the HD 7850, and when overclocked it was able to come within 5FPS of the HD 7950!

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX was able to provide fairly playable framerates in our Eyefinity benchmark.

Battlefield 3 is designed to deliver unmatched visual quality by including large scale environments, massive destruction and dynamic shadows. Additionally, BF 3 also includes character animation via ANT technology, which is also being utilized in the EA Sports franchise. All of this is definitely going to push any system its threshold, and is the reason so many gamers around the world are currently asking if their current system is up to the task.

The Top graph reflects our results at 1920x1080, while the lower graph reflects our results Eyefinity and Surround results at 5760x1080.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX was able to outperform the stock HD 7950 once overclocked.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX wasn't able to provide framerates that you'd actually want to play Battlfield 3 with in our Eyefinity setup, so lowering the in-game settings will be the ticket to making the title playable on the card.

Crysis 2 is a first-person shooter developed by Crytek and is built on the CryEngine 3 engine. While the game was lacking in graphical fidelity upon its release, Crytek has since added feature such as D11 and high quality textures. This improved the in-game visuals substantially, which in turn pushes even high-end hardware to the max.

The Top graph reflects our results at 1920x1080, while the lower graph reflects our results Eyefinity and Surround results at 5760x1080.

The trend that we've been seeing with the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX continues. At stock settings the card performs just above the HD 7850, and once overclocked the card is able to barely keep up with the HD 7950.

Here we didn't see very playable framerates in our Eyefinity setup.

DiRT 3 is the third installment in the DiRT series and like it's predecessor incorporates DX11 features such as tessellation, accelerated high definition ambient occlusion and Full Floating point high dynamic range lighting. This makes it a perfect game to test the latest DX11 hardware.

The Top graph reflects our results at 1920x1080, while the lower graph reflects our results Eyefinity and Surround results at 5760x1080.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX came in 8FPS under the HD 7950. After overclocking the card, it outperformed the HD 7950 by 7 FPS.

DiRT 3 netted us a framerate of 26 in our Eyefinity benchmark, which isn't all that playable for a racing game.

Metro 2033 puts you right in the middle of post apocalyptic Moscow, battling Mutants, rivals and ratio-active fallout. The game is very graphics intensive and utilizes DX11 technology, making it a good measure of how the latest generation of graphics cards perform under the latest standard.

The Top graph reflects our results at 1920x1080, while the lower graph reflects our results Eyefinity and Surround results at 5760x1080.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX landed in between the HD 7850 and the HD 7950. Overclocking the card put it just one frame ahead of the HD 7950.

We again saw marginally playable framerates in our Eyefinity testing.

Total War: Shogun 2 is a game that creates a unique gameplay experience by combining both real-time and turn-based strategy. The game is set in 16th-century feudal Japan and gives the player control of a warlord battling various rival factions. Total War: Shogun 2 is the first in the series to feature DX11 technologies to enhance the look of the game, but with massive on-screen battles it can stress even the highest-end graphics cards.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FleX scored 12FPS higher than the HD 7850, while overclocking the card put it on par with the HD 7950.

Our Eyefinity benchmark unfortunately showcased framerates that most would consider unplayable.

Temperature:

To measure core GPU temperatures, we run three in-game benchmarks and record the idle and load temperature according to the min and max temperature readings recorded by MSI Afterburner. The games we test are Crysis 2, Lost Planet 2 and Metro 2033. We run these benchmarks for 15 minutes each. This way we can give the included thermal solution and GPU time to reach equilibrium.

The Dual-X cooling solution performed extremely well at stock settings, giving the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX the coolest load temperatures on our charts. Once we overclocked the card, the temperatures rose fairly significantly but it still remained cooler than the GTX 680!

Power Consumption:

To measure power usage, a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter was used. Note that the numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings after running the system through the same in-game benchmarks we used for the temperature testing. This way we are recording real-world power usage, as opposed to pushing a product to it's thermal threshold.

In terms of power consumption the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX did very well. It drew just a little more power than the HD 7850, and once overclocked we saw a decent increase in power draw.

It's no question that the main selling point of the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX is its support for multi-monitor Eyefinity, straight out of the packaging! Many computer enthusiasts have multiple DVI-capable monitors lying around, and they would certainly enjoy the extra desktop landscape. However, with most Eyefinity capable cards you would need either a DisplayPort capable monitor or extra adapters in order to use three monitors at once. With the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX, users are now able to use up to three DVI monitors in Eyefinity without any hassle!

Along with the enhanced Eyefinity support, you'll get all the bells and whistles expected from an HD 7870 card as well as the Dual-X cooler the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX comes equipped with. This dual-finned cooler is extremely capable of keeping the card cool and (relatively) quiet throughout your gaming experience.

The Sapphire HD 7870 FLEX performed as expected; just ahead of the HD 7850, and slightly below the HD 7950. Overclocking the card gave a very nice performance boost which occasionally helped it outperform the HD 7950. So if you intend to create an Eyefinity setup with three DVI monitors, then I would strongly consider the Sapphire HD 7870 FleX!

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