Impressions of the XFX Double-D Black Edition HD 7870 and HD 7850
These cards both feature two 70 mm fans blowing on an aluminum fin array which is attached to the GPU via four heatpipes and a base unit. This is certainly not new since other graphics card manufacturers have been using multiple fans for years. The design of the heatsink itself is good, but not outstanding. The fin density is not as high as competing products from MSI, but is similar to what Asus provides with their DirectCU II units.
The bottom card is the MSI Twin Frozr II HD 6950. This previous generation card is just slightly slower than the HD 7850, but MSI’s cooling is a bit more robust at what is essentially the same price point.
The HD 7870 is clocked at 1050 MHz core, which is 50 MHz higher than the stock GHz edition. The HD 7850 is overclocked to 975 MHz, which is significantly higher than the stock 860 MHz speed. The memory on both cards is clocked to 1250 MHz, which gives them a total bandwidth of 160 GB/sec as compared to the standard 153.6 GB/sec.
In terms of construction XFX has done a nice job. The boards have a solid feel to them, the solder quality is excellent, and the cooling design supports the board nicely so that there will be limited bending and flexing of the PCB. XFX does use some higher quality components than the reference design, but they have not gone out of their way to document every choice as compared to what MSI and Asus do. The card itself looks really good with the silver cladding, which is nicely offset by the top red portion which is inscribed with the model name and the Ghost Thermal Solution branding.
The boards are powered by 2 x 6 pin PCI-E power connectors. The HD 7870 features a potential TDP of 170 watts, though the overclocked editions will be higher. The HD 7850 has a stock TDP of 130 watts, but due to the extra power provided by the 2 x 6 pin connectors, it can handle a lot more.
This is a good view of the top branding of the cards and their relative size/thickness.
The connectivity options are outstanding. These boards feature 2 x DVI (one of which is dual link), 2 x mini-DP, and one HDMI. Each card can support up to 4 monitors at once. The one minor gripe I have with this is that XFX fails to include either a mini-DP to DP adapter, or active mini-DP to DVI. Either of those would have been a nice addition to the bundle. While a single HD 7870 or 7850 cannot comfortably drive a new, DX11 enabled title in Eyefinity mode at high or ultra settings, these can be used nicely as workstation or productivity cards in multi-monitor situations. When paired up in CrossFire, then these cards can really push a 3 x 1080P setup quite nicely.
XFX has an OK bundle overall. They include the manual, driver CD, CrossFire connector, door hanger with serial number, cross promotional PSU literature, and a XFX BE case badge. It would have been nice to see perhaps a DVI to VGA adapter, but users most likely have gone to either HDMI, DP, or DVI enabled monitors. Only a handful of die hards still use the VGA outputs. As mentioned above, a mini-DP to DP or DVI adapter would have been a big help. It is odd at the lack of inclusion, as XFX is a major producer of those parts in the retail space.
The cards are not overly big, and they fit nicely into any standard case. The design is a dual slot number, and when put in CrossFire there is little space between cards if they are directly adjacent. The fan noise at idle and at load is pretty much insignificant. The only time they became audible is when turning the fan control upwards above 50% manually. At no time at regular and overclocked speeds could I hear this card over ambient case noise.
Finally we take a look at the back of the cards. Not much to see here really. As compared to the upcoming MSI R7870 HAWK…
The only real issue we seem to run into is that of price. The R7850 DD BE is actually well placed at around $274. Its only competition at that price point is last generation GTX 570 and GTX 560 Ti cards from NVIDIA. The 7850 is faster than the 560 Ti, and has double the frame buffer. It is slightly faster than the GTX 570 and again has the larger amount of memory available to it. When overclocked it flies past those other cards, but it still runs very cool and pulls less power than either of those competing products. The HD 7850 is a very important product for AMD right now as it is essentially unopposed at that place in the market.
The HD 7870 is a different situation. The asking price for this particular card is $389. For $10 more a user can purchase a GTX 670 (when available). The difference in price and performance between these two cards is well in favor of NVIDIA. Not only that, the AMD HD 7950 is around $20 more expensive. This is obviously a very compressed area that these companies perceive as a sweet spot in the market. Perhaps this is a situation for AMD and their partners in that they are attempting to make some hay while the sun shines. NVIDIA is improving their supply of GTX 670 and 680 parts, but it is still constrained and we often see these products out of stock.