Wrapping Up the MSI R7870 HAWK
The first R5770 Hawk that I reviewed just simply blew me away. It was a great combination of value, performance, and design extras that made it a fantastic card. The R7870 Hawk is the direct descendent of that card, and the pedigree shows. It is all the things that the original was, but a whole lot more. Bigger, faster, louder, and more expensive. I’m not entirely sure these are all positives, but I also think that a user does get quite a bit for the money spent.
The actual board itself is very good. I did have issues with the outputs, but that type of configuration is becoming more and more common for multiple manufacturers. The fan profile was a bit too aggressive and it became quite a bit louder. Not ear piercingly so, though. This was easily fixed by using the Afterburner software, and the card became much more reasonable to the ears.
The biggest problem with this board is the competitive environment that it exists in. It is very much an enthusiast card, and it was designed to be overclocked on LN2 to break some records. For 99.9% of users, LN2 overclocking is not their reality. Water cooling is the next step, but of course to do that a user will have to remove the fans and heatsink, which were one of the big selling points for this design. Yes, a watercooling user will take better advantage of the extra power phases and improved component selection, but removing all that hardware seems something of a waste. The GPU Reactor is again only going to show minimal returns on air cooling.
Right next to it in price is the higher performing MSI R7950. This card is a much better buy, considering that it is only $10 or so more expensive than the Hawk. It does not have all of the bells and whistles, and is based on a reference PCB design. But it will still overclock, and the performance plus extra memory (3 GB vs. 2GB) makes it a better solution for the vast majority of users out there.
The design of the R7870 Hawk is a good one. It does achieve its goals of being a very overclockable, yet cool running card. It is aimed at the extreme enthusiasts who are not afraid to try to break a few records. There is a mystique about the Hawk card and the GPU Reactor, but in terms of actual everyday use, the R7950 is a better overall choice for the average consumer. If we focus on what this card was designed for, it is a fantastic product. Unfortunately for most users, that functionality will largely go unused. If a user is going to go the extreme cooling route though, this is the perfect card for their needs.
In terms of CrossFire performance, I was very impressed. The card scaled well in the variety of applications I tested with. Better yet, AMD must have put some secret sauce in their latest HD 7000 implementation, because I did not notice micro-stutter as I did with the HD 6900 series. I could be wrong, but it seems like AMD has at least smoothed the output enough that it is not instantly noticeable to the trained eye. It does seem like AMD is edging closer and closer to NVIDIA when it comes to multi-GPU implementations.