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Régis Jehl Published on March 15, 2012
Updated on October 13, 2014
Translated by


  • Chip
  • GPU frequency 1 GHz
  • Memory quantity 2 GB
  • Memory type
  • Memory frequency 1200 MHz
  • Cooler
The ‘enthusiast' range (high mid-range or low high-end, depending on how you want to look at it), flagship segment when it comes to graphics cards, counts for a high volume of sales. Naturally, then, we were excited to get our hands on the Radeon HD 7800s to see where this series stands in comparison to the old generation of AMD cards, but also in comparison to the costly Radeon HD 7900s. One thing is already clear, the Radeon HD 7870 (expected to cost around £300) will have plenty under the bonnet to cope with the latest games.

Size, noise and heat generation

The generic models sent to the press look exactly like the Radeon HD 7970 and Radeon HD 7950. The Radeon HD 7870 is nevertheless 2.5 cm shorter than the 7970, making it 'just’ 25 cm long.

A radial fan (or blower) is still used in the cooler. This has the advantage of sending the hot air straight out of the casing, unlike models with an axial fan such as the Radeon HD 7770 for example.

The fan nevertheless proved slightly disappointing as it makes quite a whirring noise, even at idle, though we should say that in a standard casing it shouldn’t be louder than your other components. In a casing designed to be quiet however, it could be a little more annoying. Once you’ve fired up a video game, the whirring is kept at an acceptable level and shouldn’t be too disturbing.

Energy consumption

We may be repeating ourselves but we do want to underline the excellent energy consumption of the AMD Radeon 7000 series. The 7870 is no exception to the rule and gives a very good showing: 89 Watts at idle and 312 Watts in games. These readings represent the energy consumption of the entire test machine and are identical to those taken under the same conditions for the Radeon HD 6870. As we'll see below, performance is significantly up, which only goes to show how well AMD has done here.

Better still, the excellent ZeroCore Power feature is of course included and gives a 16% reduction in energy consumption at idle and allows you to turn the fan off. For this, the computer has to be configured so that it switches the screen off after a given period of time. As soon as the screen goes into standby, the card is almost entirely switched off and only consumes 3 Watts, bringing the overall energy consumption of our test machine down to 74 Watts. This feature will delight those who leave their computer turned on all the time.

Gaming performance

Technically speaking, the Radeon HD 7870 falls between the Radeon HD 7770 and the Radeon HD 7950, but remains closer to the HD 7950. The GPU clock is thus identical to that on the 7770, namely 1 GHz, while the processing units - which can, to simplify, be compared to the cores on a CPU - number 1280, which is double the number on the 7770. The Radeon HD 7950 has 1792.

To finish with the tech spec, the 2 GBs of memory are at 1200 MHz, compared to 1250 MHz on the 7950. The memory comes with a 256-bit memory bus, which is almost exactly midway between the bus on the 7770 (128-bit) and the 7950 (384-bit).

Tt hd 7870
General performance average
Click on the image to see all our readings
and compare this model with others

So then, what do all these processing units, memory and clocks give in terms of performance? Well, the HD 7870 is a faster card than the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 (+4%) and most impressively 37% up on its predecessor, the Radeon HD 6870. The Radeon HD 7950 is still 11% faster.

Once again, AMD has given us a very good card: current games can be played with all the graphics options on and on Full-HD screens. The real achievement is that the notable performance gain has been achieved without any increase in energy consumption!

Consult the performance index table

The test card, extra features
AMD supplied us with a reference model for our tests. The connectivity at the back of the card is complete, with HDMI 1.4, DVI and two mini-Display Port 1.2 sockets. You'll need two 6-pin power supply cables for this card.

Eyefinity has been updated to version 2.0 and now allows you to pilot up to five screens with a single card. Bezel compensation is better handled and you can use monitors of various sizes.

Eyefinity 2.0 also allows you to manage several audio outs (DDM) independently of each other (HDMI and Display Port sockets only). This means you can now watch a film on TV while playing on another screen. The film audio is then sent via the HDMI connection, while the game uses the screen speakers. The audio outs on the sound card (jack, optical) are also accessible.

Stereoscopic 3D is obviously still part of the set up with the introduction of HD3D technology. This now allows you to send the image at 120 Hz, or 60 Hz per eye when using a screen with active technology (60 frames / second per eye).

As always with AMD, you have to acquire a special driver to enjoy stereoscopic 3D in games. AMD recommends the TriDef DDD solution which currently supports 600 titles (all current games are included). Nevertheless, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that more and more games now offer stereoscopic 3D natively (Battlefield 3, Deus Ex HR, Dirt 3) and you then don’t have to use the DDD application. Indeed some screen manufacturers are starting to include the software in the bundle with their 3D screens (eg. ViewSonic V3D231).

The ‘compute’ part, namely processing assisted by the graphics card, has also been improved. You now get accelerated 3D Blu-ray decoding and DivX playback. Like Nvidia, AMD has also got together with various applications developers so that their software benefits from hardware acceleration. Unfortunately only paid applications (except for Internet browsers) are included here, AMD not judging it worthwhile to help free applications.


  • 37% faster than the previous generation
  • ZeroCore Power
  • Low power consumption


  • Reference model fan is audible at idle


A card that manages to give high performance at the same time as limiting energy consumption, showing that it's possible to increase performance from one generation to the next without upping the energy cost too much.
3 AMD Radeon HD 7870 2 GB DigitalVersus 2012-03-15 18:06:00
Compare: AMD Radeon HD 7870 2 GB to its competitors


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