PowerColor Devil HD 7870 Reviewccokeman - July 18, 2013
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PowerColor Devil HD 7870 Closer Look:
PowerColor's Devil HD 7870 is built upon AMD's Southern Islands GCN 28nm architecture, code named Pitcairn. Looking at the Devil HD 7870, it's clear that PowerColor is looking to capture the feeling of the Devil 13 HD 7990 with a triple fan, dual slot cooling solution equipped with a pair of 80mm and a single 90mm fan to cool down the custom built hardware. The red and black theme continues to be incredibly popular with gaming-centric hardware from each manufacturer and looks good from any angle. The back side of the PCB features covers that both strengthens the PCB to prevent stress fractures of the PCB trace layout as well as adding additional cooling for the PCB. Over the 7+1+1 phase VRM circuit are a series of holes to provide additional cooling capacity to this region of the PCB. The top side of the Devil HD 7870 has the card name emblazoned on the red accents so you can show off the card through a case window. The bottom of the card has a 16x PCIe 3.0 interface for use in boards that support the PCIe 3.0 standard with backwards compatibility to earlier standards. Measuring 11.25 x 5.31 x 1.77 inches, the Devil HD 7870 is no small card by any means but should comfortably fit most current chassis.
Display connectivity is pretty much standard fare for the HD 7XXX series from AMD and its partners using a DL- DVI, SL-DVI, HDMI 1.4a, and a pair of mini DisplayPort connectors that support resolutions up to 4K, as well as Eyefinity screen setups using up to six displays using a combination of available connectivity and the use of an MST hub. A small vent is over the HDMI/MiniDP connectivity to vent some of the thermal load generated by the Pitcairn core. PowerColor includes covers for each of the display connectivity options to prevent dust intrusion into the connection points. The back end of the card is vented to allow more of the thermal load out of the aluminum fan shroud that covers the four heat pipe-equipped cooling solution.
PowerColor's Devil HD 7870 supports CrossfireX configurations with up to two cards based on the use of a single Crossfire bridge connection and would be an easy way to improve graphics performance. Once AMD delivers its newest frame pacing driver at the end of the month we should see some teeth back in Crossfire configurations. Power for the Devil HD 7870 is supplied by a pair of 6-pin PEG connections. AMD and PowerColor recommend a power supply of at least 500 watts when using this card and most likely a 600+ watt PSU when a pair are used in a Crossfire configuration.
Digging further into the Devil HD 7870 allows us to get to the hardware level on the board. The aluminum shroud comes off easily enough with six screws while the large heat sink is held in place with four screws accessed through holes in the rear back plate. Once all the hardware is off the PCB you can see the additional cooling for the 7+1+1 VRM circuits at the front of the PCB. Eight GDDR5 memory ICs that make up the 2GB frame buffer surround the GPU socket in a traditional pattern.
Looking closer at the VRM circuit we have a 7+1+1 phase assembly that uses PowerColor's "Platinum Power Kit" that uses a digital controller and Super Capacitors for improved reliability. The front section of the voltage circuit is covered with large aluminum heat sinks that are cooled by way of the airflow through the primary heat sink. PowerColor is using a CHIL Products CHL8228C eight phase digital voltage regulator to manage the power needs for the Devil HD 7870
Cooling down a GPU can seem like a monumental task for the installed heat sink package. PowerColor is using a three high efficiency fan design mounted to an aluminum heat sink to manage the thermal load on the Devil HD 7870. Covering up the entire PCB, the aluminum fins have plenty of surface area. Running through the aluminum fins are a quartet of 6mm heat pipes that carry the Devil's heat load from a copper contact plate up to the aluminum fins. The contact surface is smooth and appears to be flat to take advantage of mounting on the core. Apistek fans are used to provide the airflow through the heat sink to keep the Devil HD 7870 from making an untimely early trip to hell. Used on board are a pair of 80mm fans and a single 90mm fan.
Last in line we get to the heart of the card, per se, the 28nm, 2.8 billion transistor Graphics Core Next Southern Islands Pitcairn core. This core is filled with 20 compute units filled with 1280 streaming multiprocessors, 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs. You can guess by the fact that the Devil HD 7870 is a custom cooled and built factory overclocked card that the clock speeds are going to see a boost from the baseline cards. The core clock speed has been boosted to 1100MHz with the 2GB of GDDR5 memory seeing a boost to 1250MHz (5GHz effective) to get the best gaming performance reliably right out of the box. Elpida GDDR5, part number W2032BBBG-60-F, in a 2GB package runs through a 256-bit bus on the Devil HD 7870. This part is rated for use at 6.0Gbps using 1.5v.
For all intents and purposes PowerColor has put together a great package with a custom PCB and cooling solution equipped with a solid 7+1+1 phase digital voltage controller. Let's see just how well it performs and overclocks.