ASUS Radeon HD 7870 DirectCU II

Graphics Cards
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According to credible gaming-oriented review sites like PC Perspective, HardwareCanucks and AnandTech, the HD 7870 is a high-end graphics card that can play most titles smoothly at 1920x1200 resolution with maximum detail, and can comfortably render even higher resolutions if you knock down the image quality settings a few rungs. The general consensus is that it's roughly 20% faster than the HD 7850 (~US$180) and trades blows with the GeForce GTX 660 (~US$230) with the HD 7870 prevailing slightly at higher resolutions. These two cards seem to offer the best value in the US$200~$300 price range. The HD 7950 delivers an additional 10% performance boost for ~US$300.

The cooler used on the ASUS Radeon HD 7870 DirectCU II looks more impressive than it is. In 2D operation, it's very quiet and should be completely inaudible in most systems, but with a GPU load it gets quite loud. The fan control behavior is set to prevent the GPU temperature from exceeding about 90°C so it's not overly aggressive either. The heatsink is designed for high airflow but the fans are a little undersized and probably don't do it justice as a result. We would classify its cooling performance as adequate but nothing more. If you're looking for better, potentially quieter cooling from a stock unit, Sapphire and PowerColor have 7870's with larger fans and Gigabyte offers a massive triple fan model.

The card's energy efficiency is excellent except when playing video. We estimated the power draw to be only 14W when idle, easily the lowest we've seen from a high-end card in some time. On load, it consumed about 189W, a modest amount by today's standards considering its level of performance. During both Flash and H.264 1080p playback, the power draw was 33W higher than at idle, 15~20W more than the GeForce 560 Ti and GTX 680 — NVIDIA seems to have the advantage in this department. If you watch a lot of video and your system supports Lucid's Virtu technology, you may want to try using the IGP for video decoding to save power.

Our thanks to ASUS for the HD 7870 DirectCU II video card sample.

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