|MSI R6870 Radeon HD 6870 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Friday, 05 November 2010|
Page 18 of 18
MSI R6870 Conclusion
From a performance standpoint, this is a 5850-class card with the potential to cost 30% less. It convincingly distances itself from the Radeon HD 5830, which used to occupy this price point. In stock form, it competes well with sanely overclocked GTX460 cards, and I'm going to wait for voltage control to be widely supported before I pass judgment on its full potential. Until then, I can only say that it is a capable performer, and it fills the large performance gap AMD had in the product line. I'm not too thrilled with the cooling solution, due to the noise factor and the weak fan profile that seems to cap the fan speed below 33%, barring some catastrophic condition. All this leads to higher operating temperatures than I like to see during normal gaming scenarios.
The appearance of the MSI R6870 video card is very attractive; a cool clean block of performance. I said earlier, that I thought this card was much too nice for a midrange offering. The mix of metal and plastic in the shroud gives a definite sense of solidity, and the decorative touches are subtle and refined. MSI's choice of graphic for the full-width sticker is refreshing, with the light color providing some balance to the rest of the black metal and plastic.
The build quality of the MSI N460GTX HAWK card was impressive, too good perhaps for the price-sensitive mid market. Everything is assembled well, everything fit when I put it back together, and the overall impression of the card was very solid. The cooler adds a certain metallic heft to the card and also lends a good deal of solidity to the product. The packaging was high quality and very informative. I was not equally impressed by the PC board, which still had too much residue from the wave solder/cleaning process for my liking. The unique power supply arrangement used all high quality parts, and is a leading-edge design in its use of the latest components.
I continue to give top marks to the new MSI Afterburner software. Although the full scope of voltage adjustment is missing at this time, I have no doubt it will make an appearance soon. The user interface alone could put this free, bundled software at the top of the heap. There are other tools available which will work on this reference hardware, but compatibility is still a little sketchy with the primary voltage regulator.
The basic features of the MSI R6870 are mostly comparable with the latest offerings from both camps, but it lacks PhysX Technology, which is a real disappointment for some. The big news on the feature front is the new Morphological Anti-aliasing, the two DisplayPort 1.2 connections that support four monitors between them, 3rd generation UVD video acceleration, and AMD HD3D technology. That's quite a handful of new technologies to introduce at one time, and proof that it takes more than raw processing power to win over today's graphics card buyer.
As of early October 2010, the price for the MSI R6870-2PM2D1GD5 is $257.99 at Amazon or $269.99 at NewEgg. This where that "better than I really thought necessary" construction quality comes home to roost. I definitely appreciate the mechanical design and implementation, but they don't serve to increase performance, which is where I'd rather see the money spent. The asking price is an even $10 more than the average HD 6870 card, and there are no incentives included at this time. I would gladly pay two to three times that $10 premium for a Twin Frozr version of this card, but for a reference card, I would think twice. I'm betting that when MSI Afterburner supports the reference design, it will work with any manufacturer's reference card, but I can only guess at this point. If the card had some unique, hardware-specific features that were accessible only through Afterburner, that would definitely add value.
I like this card, because it takes the best of the Radeon HD 5770 and the HD 5850 and creates a lower cost version that equals the old high-priced spread. I'm a power supply junkie (because I build audio amps for fun...), and AMD did an unusual about face on this design. They used components and technologies that really pull their weight in terms of increasing performance, and didn't add any unnecessary complexity that could come back to bite them. They dumped their creativity into solving the VRM cooling problem with a simple and effective relocation plan. Without some reliable way of increasing core voltage, the HD 6870 can't smack around the GTX460 like I know AMD would like it too, but that day may come soon. One day someone will invent a silent radial blower; until then, I will prefer cooler designs that use an axial fan. The exhaust fans on my PC case do a great job at removing hot air, negating the only real reason I see for sticking with this design.
The bottom line for me is: although I've seen some pretty awesome GTX460 cards in the last few months, I think the R6870 is a viable alternative. It doesn't push the NVIDIA offering aside, and it never will at its current price, but a month ago there was only one really good choice in the upper midrange. Now there are two.
+ 5850 performance levels at lower cost
- Tessellation performance still lags behind Fermi
Final Score: 8.95 out of 10.
Quality Recognition: Benchmark Reviews Silver Tachometer Award.