PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Review

ccokeman - 2013-03-21 18:54:21 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 14, 2013
Price: $199

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Introduction:

In the past we have looked at a wide selection of PowerColor's product stack from the upper end Devil 13 HD 7990 to the liquid cooled PCS+ HD 6990 and on down to the sub $150 HD 7790 Turbo Duo. What you see from top to bottom are not only the reference designs but some all out cards with interesting feature sets. The PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ fits into the product stack a bit higher up than the HD 7790 Turbo Duo while still not breaking the budget at around $200, offering a nice performance up tick for your additional dollars. As a PCS+ equipped video card, the HD 7850 starts with a non-stock PCB equipped with PowerColor's Gold Power Kit for improved overclocking and stability to go along with the custom dual S-shaped direct contact heat pipes used to help cool the AMD 28nm Pitcairn core.

Your everyday, run of the mill reference HD 7850 comes with a core clock speed of 860MHz and either 1 or 2GB of GDDR5 memory. PowerColor's latest is a 2GB version with a baseline clock speed on the core of 1000MHz to give you that added FPS you need when gaming. NVIDIA's GTX 650Ti Boost edition had the HD 7850 as the target market it was looking to take over. Will the added core clock speed of the HD 7850 PCS+ make that challenge a moot point? Let's look further into what the card has to offer.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Closer Look:

The HD 7850 PCS+ gets an all new look similar to that seen on the HD 7870 Myst Edition card we looked at back in January of this year. A wealth of information is shown on the front side of the packaging. Along the bottom is the model number and series. To the left the image shows that this card can support up to four displays at a time, features 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and is equipped with technologies that enable the HD7850 PCS+ to run faster, cooler, and quieter while maintaining rock solid reliability. The information on the back side speaks to the technologies used on this card that include the Professional Cooling System and Gold Power Kit that provide the means to run faster and cooler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside, much like just about every video card delivered today, you have a nondescript cardboard box that holds the HD 7850 PCS+. Flipping open the lid shows the card located in the center of the box with the accessory bundle tucked underneath the cardboard dividers. Included in the accessory bundle are a driver disk, quick installation manual, Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter, DVI to VGA adapter, and a Crossfire bridge connection.

 

 

PowerColor has made a name putting together video cards that include both interesting, well thought out cooling solutions, as well as some truly innovative cards such as the Devil 13 and liquid cooled PCS+ HD 7970.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Closer Look:

Out in the open you can tell right away that the HD 7850 PCS+ is not a reference card. The large 92mm fan-equipped, dual heat pipe PCS+ cooling solution is a dead giveaway. The front of the card is dominated by the large PCS+ cooling solution while the back side of the PCB is full of surface mounted components. The HD 7850 PCS+ is built around AMD's 28nm Pitcairn core with the clock speeds increased to 1000MHz on the core. The HD 7850 is designed to be used in a motherboard using a 16x PCIe slot with PCIe 3.0 supported with backwards compatibility. Measuring just a hair over nine inches in length, the HD 7850 PCS+ should be compatible with chassis including many of the mini ITX form factor offerings available; the perfect size for that LAN box build. Peeking out the top of the shroud are the pair of S-shaped heat pipes. One interesting find is the glow in the dark material used under the PCS+ logo on the shroud. A bright light is needed to get it charged up but once you turn out the lights it stands out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Display connectivity is setup so that up to four displays can be attached to the HD 7850 PCS+. Connections include a single Dual Link DVI, Single Link DVI, a pair of Mini DisplayPort connections, and an HDMI 1.4a port that supports high bit rate 7.1 channel surround sound. A half width vent is on the I/O bracket to allow some of the thermal load to exhaust out of the chassis with the balance dumped into the chassis. This is not really a problem with current chassis offerings since they turn the internal air volume over much more frequently than past designs. The back end of the card is open for improved thermal dissipation and you will notice the 6-pin power connection mounted high on the PCB.

 

 

A single Crossfire bridge connection shows the PCS+ HD 7850 supports Crossfire video card configurations using up to two video cards in a motherboard that supports Crossfire. A 6-pin PCIe power connection is needed to supply the additional power needs for the card. A 500 watt power supply is suggested as the minimum specification needed to run the card properly. Along the spine of the PCB is a brace that prevents sagging and bending of the PCB, reducing a possible cracking of the traces embedded on the PCB.

 

 

The PCS+ cooling solution is attached to the PCB with four screws around the GPU socket and comes off easily. The PCB is equipped with PowerColor's Gold Power Kit that enhances the overclocking ability and stability by 15%. A 5+1+1 phase power circuit is used along with DrMos and a digital PWM that helps improve power efficiency by up to 90% over a reference design. A red PCB can look good with the right motherboard, but in this case a black PCB would do wonders for the aesthetics of the PCB.

 

 

PowerColor uses a pair of what look to be 8mm S-shaped direct contact heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the GPU core to the aluminum fin array. Many times this design is not well executed with large gaps and uneven surfaces between the heat pips and aluminum base. In this instance the base is smooth with very little in the way of gaps between the materials. The center of the heat sink is lower than the ends to fit the fan assembly in place to push air through both ends of the heat sink for maximum efficiency.

 

 

 

The fan used by PowerColor on the HD 7850 PCS+ is a large 92mm design from Power Logic. This 92mm fan is able to supply enough airflow through the heat sink to keep the card quite cool during operation. During the non-overclocked testing the fan is barely audible at its loudest and is louder when run at full speed for some benchmark testing. Running it wide open gives a noticeable increase in noise delivered as the expected result. However that does not mean the card offers an unpleasant noise signature when overclocked.

 

At the heart of the HD 7850 PCS+ is AMD's Pitcairn 28nm GCN core. It comes equipped with 1024 stream processors, 64 texture units, and 32 ROPs. The core clock speed on the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ comes factory overclocked to 1000MHz or 140MHz higher than the reference cards. The added clock speed bumps the performance potential of this card up from square one. The 2GB of GDDR5 memory is running through a 256-bit bus. Not to be left out, the memory sees a small boost in clock speed to 1225MHz (4.9GHz effective data rate). Elpida is the maker of the GDDR5 memory used on this video card. Part number EDW2032BBBG-50-F is rated for operation at 1250MHz using 1.5v.

 

 

Seems like PowerColor put together a solid rendition of the HD 7850 to compete at the $200 price point.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Specification:

Graphics Engine
RADEON HD7850
Video Memory
2GB GDDR5
Engine Clock
1000MHz
Memory Clock
1225MHz x 4 (4.9 Gbps)
Memory Interface
256bit
DirectX® Support
11.1
Bus Standard
PCIE 3.0
Standard Display Connectors
DL-DVI-I/ SL-DVI-D / HDMI / MINI DPx2
Feature Support
OpenGL
Support
CrossFireX™ Technology
Support
ATI Stream Technology
Support
ATI Eyefinity Technology
Support
ATI Hypermemory Technology
 
Display Support
VGA Output
Via Adapter
DVI Output
DL-DVI-I/ SL-DVI-D
DisplayPort
On Board(mini DP) x2
HDMI
On Board
TV Output
 
HDTV Output
 
Maximum Resolution
VGA
2048x1536
DVI
2560x1600
DisplayPort
4096x2160
HDMI
4096x2160
Power Specs + Board Dimensions
Board Dimensions
230mmx117mmx38mm
Minimum System Power requirement (W)
500W
Extension Power Connector
One 6-Pin PCI Express Power connector

 

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Features:

 

 

 

All information provided by Powercolor @ http://www.powercolor.com/us/products_features.asp?id=448#Specification

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Testing of Powercolors HD 7850 PCS+ will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustments will be made to the respective control panels during the testing to approximate the performance the end user can expect with a stock driver installation. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. The NVIDIA comparison cards including the GTX 650Ti Boost  will be using the 314.21 beta drivers. AMD-based cards will be using the Catalyst 13.1 drivers and latest CAP profile with the exception of the HD 7790 which will use the release press evaluation driver.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking PowerColor's HD 7850 PCS+ is much like overclocking any of the 7XXX series of Southern Islands GCN core-based video cards as it relates strictly to overclocking. Each core and memory combination is going to to have its limits. First off using PowerColor's Powerup Tuner utility limited the clock speed on the core to a maximum of 1050MHz on the core and 1425MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Having seen speeds in excess of 1200MHz on just about every GCN card I have tested, I felt this was a bit low and moved to a different utility that allowed a higher core clock on the core. Sapphire's TriXX utility was able to deliver this added clock speed and allowed the clock speed on the core to scale well up and over the 1200MHz mark. A 235MHz boost in GPU speed is worth the added work to get there in this case. The Elpida-based memory was not as flexible when it came to overclocking with a maximum of 1400MHz stable. The memory clock speeds were not able to overclock high enough to really add a significant amount of memory bandwidth to help the benchmarking scores. Even so they still managed to improve by 175MHz.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consisted of looping Unigine Heaven 4.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds failed when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment failed, then the clock speeds and tests were rerun until they passed a full hour of testing.

 

 

  1. Metro 2033
  2. Crysis 3
  3. Batman: Arkham City
  4. Battlefield 3
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0
  6. Unigine Valley 1.0
  7. Sid Meier's Civilization V
  8. DiRT 3
  9. Far Cry 3
  10. 3DMark

 

  1. Temperatures
  2. Power Consumption

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX, and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied – in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses, chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metro 2033 testing shows the factory overclocked HD 7850 PCS+ delivers FPS numbers on par with the GTX 660 both stock and overclocked.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

This third installment of the Crysis franchise, developed by Crytek and distributed by Electronic Arts, uses the CryEngine 3 game engine, and requires a DirectX 11 ready video card and operating system due to its demanding graphics engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PowerColor's HD 7850 PCS+ delivers FPS numbers almost identical to those of the GTX 650Ti.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Batman AC you get performance that is on par with the GTX 660Ti.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running at default speeds, the HD 7850 PCS+ and GTX 650Ti Boost deliver an almost identical performance. Overclocking changes this dynamic with an improved margin over the GTX 650Ti Boost.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The HD 7850 PCS+ is on par with the GTX 660Ti in this game. The boosted clock speeds on the PowerColor HD 7850 PCS+ really do help it compete.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 150 turns into the game.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Civilization V, PowerColor's HD 7850 PCS+ delivers on par or better performance than the GTX 660Ti and is significantly faster than the GTX 650Ti Boost in this game.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Far Cry 3 is the latest iteration in the Far Cry series. Released in the US in early December 2012 the it uses the Dunia 2 game engine and is published and developed by Ubisoft. This Action Adventure First Person Shooter offers both single player and multi-player modes.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Far Cry 3 testing the HD 7850 PCS+ delivers higher FPS than the GTX 650Ti Boost at stock and overclocked settings but falls short of the GTX 660.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this test PowerColor's HD 7850 PCS+ falls short of the FPS performance of the GTX 660 yet is above that of the GTX 650Ti Boost.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Unigine Valley 1.0 is a new non synthetic benchmark built upon the Unigine engine that showcases a very detailed wide open environment. This DX 11-ready GPU stress test uses a wide range of graphics technologies to put the GPU through its paces much like Unigine's acclaimed Heaven Benchmark. Instead of a series of floating islands we get a picturesque view of the Siberian wilderness through a flythough with both up close and distant views.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this test the HD 7850 PCS+ is delivering a distinct performance disadvantage when compared to the GTX 660.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all six tests PowerColor's factory overclocked HD 7850 PCS+ delivers game test performance on par or better than the factory overclocked GTX 660 from ASUS.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 4.0, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1200 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PowerColor's dual S-shaped direct contact heat pipe-equipped cooling solution does an excellent job of keeping the GPU core cool at both stock speeds and when overclocked. The temperature difference between the stock and overclocked load temperatures are separated by a single degree. However the fan speed is pushed to 100% when overclocked. The PCS+ cooling solution shows its worth in this case with excellent noise and performance characteristics.

PowerColor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 4.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to heat up the GPU, with the highest measured temperature recorded as the result. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. With dual-GPU setups, the two core temperatures will be averaged.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At idle PowerColor's HD 7850 PCS+ delivers power consumption results similar to that of the HD 7950 and HD 7790. Under load it uses almost 20 watts less than GTX 660 at stock speeds. Overvolting and overclocking the Powercolor HD 7850 drives power usage up to the point the power consumption is slightly higher than that of the GTX 660.

Powercolor Radeon HD 7850 PCS+ Conclusion:

NVIDIA's just released GTX 650Ti Boost had the HD 7850 square in its sights as the performance target to meet and exceed. That target happens to be the stock 860MHz clocked variety and not the impressively overclocked HD 7850 PCS+ version from PowerColor I have looked at today. Sporting a massive 140MHz boost in clock speed right out of the gate it delivered performance in many games and tests (seven out of ten) on par with or better than the factory overclocked GTX 660 when you compare the stock and overclocked results.

As far as overclocking is concerned the silicon is going to be your limiting factor and will vary from card to card. That being said the headroom on the 28nm Pitcairn core is pretty impressive on this card with a 235MHz increase over the as delivered core clock of 1000MHz or pretty close to a 25% boost. That would be a 375MHz boost or close to 44% boost in clock speed over the reference card clock speeds of 860MHz on the GPU core. Overclocking on the Elpida GDDR5 was almost as impressive with a maximum clock speed of 1400MHz or 175MHz over the baseline clock speed. In every test the added clock speeds provided measurable performance increases.

Overclocking is going to create an additional thermal load, however PowerColor has this covered with the PCS+ cooling system used on this card. As impressive as the overclocking was, the cooling solution was equally impressive. A pair of S-shaped heat pipes are used in a direct core contact configuration to carry the thermal load to the fin array in an efficient manner to dump it out of as well as into the chassis. Load temperatures were kept below 60 °C in both the stock and overclocked load tests. Normally cranking up the fan speed is an exercise in noise tolerance; not so with the PCS+ cooling as it delivered a noise signature that was not offensive though audible at 100%. Controlled by the vBIOS the fan is dead silent inside the chassis.

For a factory overclocked card, power efficiency is not bad at the card's design clock speeds at idle and under load. Boosting up the clock speeds and power tune limits decreases the efficiency but the HD 7850 PCS+ is still at worst on par with the GTX 660. The PCB color used on this card is red, although black would better suit the look of the card. The custom shroud with a large 92mm fan and heat pipes peaking out of the top is an interesting look that is immensely popular with non-reference cards. One feature I found interesting was the glow in the dark material used at the back end of the shroud that allows the PCS+ logo to stand out.

At $199 after rebate, the PowerColor PCS+ HD 7850 has competition at this price point from the GTX 660. The reality is that you need to chose the video card you use based on the games you play most as each has its strong points, mainly in the games they share the development work with the developers. Currently there is a promotion that gets the end user a copy of Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider as an added bonus. Any way you look at it PowerColor's PCS+ cooling equipped, factory overclocked HD 7850 delivers excellent gaming performance across the spectrum and comes with an excellent low noise/high performance cooling solution.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: