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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 Video Card Review

Manufacturer: MSI (Micro-Star International Company, LTD)
Product Name: MSI R6870 Hawk
Model Number: R6870 Hawk
Price As Tested: $234.99

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by MSI.

Graphics cards have been improving at breakneck speeds over the last little while. The Radeon HD 5000 series allowed AMD and ATI to beat NVIDIA to the punch with DirectX-11 capable video cards. NVIDIA quickly responded with the GTX 400 series which started out hot and powerful, but came back to really define the price point with the GTX460 video card. Along came the GTX 500 series and the Radeon HD 6000 series to fill out some positions and give us a new card for the top end of the performance spectrum. By now, we have all heard about where the different cards lie in regards to performance and price. We are at the point now where there is a slight lull in the production of brand new equipment and manufacturers are focusing on putting their own spin on the different flavors to revitalize stuff that has been on the market a while. In early February, MSI took the Radeon HD 6870 design and made it their own in the MSI R6870 Hawk with the Twin Frozr III thermal design and the world's first look into propeller blade cooling technology. Benchmark Reviews is taking an in-depth look at the MSI R6870 Hawk and while testing this factory overclocked video card, we will be examining exactly what makes it unique in a world full of Radeon HD 6000 series cards.

As always occurs after the launch of a new GPU, manufacturers take the reference design and add personal touches such as new cooling hardware, redesigned boards, and factory overclocking to make their design that much more appealing to the end user. MSI is no different and, being a leader in the computer hardware industry, they have to keep an ear to the ground to make sure they are in tune with what their customer base wants out of a video card. Like most video cards, users always want something fast, quiet, and cool. With this in mind, MSI designed the R6870 Hawk video card.


The Twin Frozr design is common among MSI products and boasts a dual-fan setup atop a heatsink and heatpipe configuration all covered with a plastic shroud. The ultimate goal of the Twin Frozr design is to make video cards much cooler than the reference design. Twin Frozr II is the common design throughout the newer Radeon HD and GeForce video cards being produced by MSI, but the MSI R6870 Hawk goes one step further. With the R6870 Hawk, MSI introduces the all-new Twin Frozr III design with Propeller Blade technology. The new design focuses on differences with the dual fans while keeping the heatsink/heatpipe combination pretty much the same.

You have undoubtedly seen some benchmarks and comparisons that have included a Radeon HD 6870 Video Card. Many manufacturers even overclock the Radeon HD 6870 from its original 900MHz GPU clock to anywhere from 915MHz to 960MHz. Here at Benchmark Reviews, we are not surprised that the MSI R6870 Hawk fits right in line with its 930MHz GPU clock and 1050MHz Memory clock. With that in mind, the test results should come as no real surprise to our readers either. The key to this review is to discover the all new Twin Frozr III design and Propeller Blade technology to see if it can really accomplish what it sets out too. We also want to check out some new features of MSI afterburner that allow for the intense overclocking of the Vcore.



# 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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