AMD Radeon HD 6870 Graphics Card

Graphics Cards
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TEST RESULTS

Our test system has been upgraded since our last video card review, now featuring an Athlon II X3 processor and a Scythe Ninja 3 heatsink. Our previous Pentium D based system seemed out of date and the CPU temperature sensor was never very accurate (it would go insane after being placed on load for an extended period of time). The 785G board we chose also gives us southbridge temperature readings. These changes give us a more realistic testing environment and allows us to more accurately monitor the effect a graphics card/cooler has on CPU/system temperatures.

BASELINE, with Integrated Graphics: First, here are the results of our baseline results of the system with just its integrated graphics, without a discrete video card. We'll also need the power consumption reading during CPUBurn to estimate the actual power draw of discrete card later.

System Measurements
Measurement
Idle
CPUBurn
CPU Temp
33°C
51°C
SB Temp
33°C
41°C
SPL@1m
13 dBA
System Power (AC)
52W
140W
System Power (DC, est.)
unknown
111W
Ambient temperature: 22°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA

AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB:

System Measurements
Measurement
Idle
CPUBurn
CPUBurn + FurMark
CPU Temp
32°C
54°C
60°C
SB Temp
37°C
43°C
49°C
GPU Core Temp
44°C
46°C
90°C
GPU VRM Temp
40°C
45°C
81°C
GPU Fan Speed
1060 RPM
1210 RPM
2950 RPM
SPL@1m
15 dBA
15~16 dBA
34 dBA
System Power (AC)
71W
161W
336W
System Power (DC, est.)
unknown
129W
274W
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
System noise level: 13 dBA

At idle, the reference HD 6870 is impressive. Our test system measured only 15 dBA@1m (2 dB higher than the same machine running on integrated graphics) and sounded quite smooth with no hint of whine, though we could hear a slight rattle at close proximity with the side panel removed. Temperatures were fairly low all around, and the power draw at the wall was just 71W. With CPUBurn stressing all the CPU cores, the southbridge temperature was 2°C hotter than when it was running on integrated graphics, and GPU temperatures increased only slightly compared to idle.

When FurMark was added the equation, GPU temperatures skyrocketed and the GPU fan speed followed suit, eventually settling at just under 3000 RPM resulting in a measured noise level of 34 dBA@1m. This is quite loud by out standards. On the positive side, the character of the noise was generally broadband, sounding similar to white noise or static. The VRM temperature on the card measured 81°C which is very low compared to previous cards we've tested, and the GPU core stabilized at 90°C — acceptable, but a bit on the high side. The extra heat generated by the card also put more thermal stress on the rest of the system, heating up both the southbridge and CPU by an additional 6°C.

Noise & Cooling Comparison
Card
Idle
Load
SPL @1m
GPU Temp
SPL @1m
GPU Temp
ATI HD 4870
13 dBA
66°C
22 dBA
87°C
HIS HD 4890 Turbo
16 dBA
61°C
30~31 dBA
83°C
HIS HD 5870 Turbo
18 dBA
40°C
34 dBA
88°C
AMD HD 6870
15 dBA
45°C
34 dBA
90°C
Ambient temperature: 23°C
Ambient noise level: 11 dBA
System noise level: 13 dBA

The 6870's reference cooler was noticeably quieter compared to previous cards we've tested. On load however, the fan had to work like a dog, bringing the overall noise level well past 30 dBA@1m whilst keeping the GPU temperature at a balmy 90°C. Like the HIS 4890 and 5870, the 6870 is a prime candidate for improved cooling with an aftermarket hetainsk/fan.

BIOS Fan Settings


BIOS fan control settings.


Fan speed/temperature curve.

BIOS level fan control keeps the fan at the minimum allowed speed (22%) until the GPU core temperature hits 55°C at which point the fan speed increases linearly topping out at 102°C. For more customized control, we found that MSI's Afterburner utility works well with the 6870, though we don't think running the fan any slower at load is advisable.



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