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Written by Hank Tolman   
Friday, 04 March 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI R6870 Hawk Graphics Card
Closer Look: MSI R6870 Hawk
MSI R6870 Hawk Detailed Features
Features and Specifications
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DX11: DiRT-2 Demo
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
MSI R6870 Hawk Temperatures and Overclocking
Final Thoughts and Conclusion

MSI R6870 Hawk Temperatures

It's hard to know exactly when the first video card got overclocked, and by whom. What we do know is that it's hard to imagine a computer enthusiast or gamer today that doesn't overclock their hardware. Of course, not every video card has the head room. Some products run so hot that they can't suffer any higher temperatures than they generate straight from the factory. This is why we measure the operating temperature of the video card products we test.

Before stressing the video card to its extremes, I want to get a good baseline for how the card runs at idle. I use GPU-Z to measure the temperature reported by the GPU to get this number. After that's taken care of I want to really stress the card. I use FurMark to do this. It is important to remember that, with FurMark, we will get temperature and power consumption numbers that are probably far above anything a game could produce. I run FurMark at full blast on the stress settings with everything turned all the way for 20 minutes before checking the temps. At the same time, the idle temps were taken after sitting at the desktop for 20 min after a cool start up. While checking the temperatures, the ambient room temperature remained stable at 22C. I use an open-air test bench for testing, so air restriction is not a problem.


Now, the MSI R6870 Hawk touts up to 21 degree cooler temperatures than the reference design. When Olin tested the Radeon HD 6870 reference design with ambient temperatures of 20C, he found idle temps of 39C and load temps of 74C. Keeping in mind that my ambien temperature is a couple of degrees warmer, these are the numbers I got.


Fan Speed

GPU Temperature








100% - Manual


At idle, the MSI R6870 Hawk comes in at a cool 35C. A very cool 36C. That's a very low temperature, and it looks like the Twin Frozr III with propeller blade design is starting off successfully. To add to that, with FurMark running at full blast, and the Twin Frozr III dual-fans running on auto-pilot, the temperature of the card reaches a mere 64C. That's 10C lower than the reference design already and, to be honest, I couldn't hear the fan over the natural noises of my office. Because I couldn't hear the fan unless I put my ear next to it, I decided to crank it up to 100%, just to see how loud it was and if it made a significant difference in the temperature. The fan was significantly louder when turned up to 100%. That being said, it wasn't unbearably so. At 100% fan speed, the MSI R6870 came in at 56C. That's 18C cooler than the reference design. Add in the 2C extra ambient room temperature and we are coming within spitting range of that 21 degree difference MSI called for. Very impressive. Let's see how it does while overclocked.


Fan Speed

GPU Temperature








100% - Manual


With MSI Afterburner now offering in-depth ability to overvolt the GPU and the memory, we were able to achieve a good overclock on the MSI R6870 Hawk of 1000MHz on the clock speed and 1170MHz on the memory clocks. We'll talk more about how in a second, but what is amazing is that the idle temperatures only rose by 3C over the stock clock speeds. At load and auto fan settings, the temperature rose 5C, the same with the fan on 100%. That's still 13C cooler than the reference design. Keep in mind that I didn't test the reference design, so there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. That being said, the MSI R6870 Hawk is an extremely cool running card, great for overclocking and gaming.


Since Afterburner got its upgrade, overclocking has become a lot less limited. With the 8-phase power control on the MSI R6870 Hawk, the potential upside is very good. I loaded up Afterburner to get into overclocking the MSI R6870 Hawk and I had a lot of fun with it.


I increased the auxiliary voltage and memory voltage for the MSI R6870 Hawk using Afterburner by the maximum available values. For the GPU core voltage I slowly increased until I reached a value of 920. Anything above this seemed to have a detrimental impact on the performance of the card, even if it did run stably. In the end, I was able to achieve a very nice result with the overclocking. The MSI R6870 Hawk reached a GPU core clock speed of 1000MHz, up from the already OC'd 930MHz it came with and the 900MHz reference design clock. That constitutes an increase of about 7%. With the memory, I was able to achieve stability at 1170MHz, up from 1050MHz, which is standard for the Radeon HD 6870. That increase is about 11.5%.


All the overclocking in world may be fun and exciting, but if it doesn't translate into increased performance, then what was the point? The increase in clock speed I was able to pull out of the MSI R6870 Hawk translated into a few extra FPS in most of our benchmarks.



3DMark Vantage: Nash



3DMark Vantage: Calico



Mafia II



Alien vs. Predator



Battlefield: Bad Company 2



Dirt 2



Lost Planet 2








# RE: MSI R6870 Hawk Graphics Carddev 2011-03-06 22:47
It's rather baffling how you got the 450 and 460SEs specs wrong. Also given the 6870 price I don't think a comparison with the 560Ti would've been so far off.
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# Open PlatformRealNeil 2011-03-07 07:41
I've been reading on the web about many people who are buying newer Radeon cards that are reference design, and then flashing the BIOS of their card to the BIOS of a more expensive overclocked brand and model.
Yeah, they're flashing across brands too. They claim that they get the benefits built into the higher priced cards for less money. The BIOS on this card is popular. I expect to see cards come with unique identifier chips built-in in the future to prevent this.
I like MSI's cooler design and have it on two Fermi based cards now. They do run quieter and certainly much cooler too.
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# RE: MSI R6870 Hawk Graphics Cardhcforde 2011-03-07 07:55
Nice review of the 6870. I have been a fan of ATI/AMD cards for years unless I needed another brand for a specialized purpose. I am currently running 2-2gb ASUS Eyefinity6 cards in Xfire. However the comparison cards used in the review don't make sense to me. Why not a full GTX 460 rather than the dumbed down 'SE' version. Why not a 560ti as their price points are more similar. I have to give credit to Nvidia for the 560ti and 570. They appear to be the price performance leaders when it comes to full value (S-3D added value capability). If you could upgrade this review to include the GTX460 and the GTX 560ti I think this review would have more relevant significance.
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# Relatively easy to compareBruceBruce 2011-03-07 08:15
One of the advantages of the way we do video card testing, is that all the results on this site are pretty consistent, across different reviewers. Feel free to look around at some of our other video card reviews to get test data on other cards.
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# RE: Relatively easy to comparehcforde 2011-03-09 04:57
But if the test bed is different it will not be a true comparison. Most people that I know want to see how cards that are similar in price stack up together in a given system. Trying to compare 'Card A" in a system with 4 cores and 4 threads with "Card B" in another system with 2 cores and 2 threads doesn't make me feel comfortable with the results.
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# RE: RE: Relatively easy to compareBruceBruce 2011-03-09 05:43
Most of the reviewers on this site are using Quad-core Intels for their video card test bench. I'm using an i5-750, OC at 4.0 GHz on a P55 mobo and Hank here is using the Intel Core i5-2500K at 3.3GHz on a P67 mobo. We're both using 4GB of DDR3-1600MHz. For most video games, that's going to give you identical performance. The exceptions are GTA4, Crysis, and one or two others that are not inclded in our test suite. The biggest differences you tend to see between sites is caused by the different settings for visual quality. Eveyone seems to do it differently, 4x AA here and 16x AA there. That has a major impact on frame rates.
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# RE: MSI R6870 Hawk Graphics CardHank 2011-03-07 10:34
I pointed out at the beginning of the article that this was more about what's new and different with the R6870 Hawk than other Radeon HD 6870 cards. Feel free to check out the reviews of the 560Ti cards and other 6870 cards to see where this one falls into place. Unfortunately, you can't accomodate everyone with their desires of what to see compared in a review. Your best bet is to check out multiple reviews.

Also, @dev, thanks for pointing out that I forgot to change the GPU cores for the GTS 450 when I changed the chart, it should be 192 instead of 240. The GTX 460SE specs are right though, even if I didn't round them up like a lot of sites do.

Next time, try to look past a single typographical error, there are many in this review, to be sure.
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# RE: MSI R6870 Hawk Graphics CardPinakio 2011-03-09 12:52
Fine effort by BMR once again. MSI is surely looking good with their innovative designs like Twin-Frozer, which is very effective and getting all the positive feed back that it deserves throughout the net. Even more interesting is Afterburner, it's good to see a leading board manufacturer putting resources in the right direction.
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