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MSI R6870 Hawk Graphics Card E-mail
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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 Detailed Features

When we take off the cover here, we can see that MSI strayed significantly from the reference design when building the R6870 Hawk. They even deviated from their original R6870 design, which followed the reference design very closely. The non-Hawk R6870 uses the Twin Frozr II design and the reference design has a blower wheel near the end of the board that funneled air over the components and out the I/O panel through a full shroud. The R6870 Hawk goes with the dual-fan Twin Frozr III design which incorporates propeller blades on the dual fans.


The propeller blades are 13 short, grooved blades on the fan that allow for a 20% increase in airflow and increases the range of airflow over the board. These fans are set atop a nickel-plated copper heatsink that uses SuperPipe technology. With the increased airflow over the heatsink and the three 6mm and two 8mm heat-pipes drawing heat out of the GPU, MSI promises the ability of the Twin Frozr III to decrease GPU temperature by up to 21 degrees. The reference design and R6870 heatsink was extremely small in comparison and only had two 6mm and one 8mm heat-pipes. Just from looking at it, the claim of 21 degrees cooler seems extremely possible. That's not to mention the 7dB quieter that MSI also claims.


While the reference design for the Radeon HD 6870 and the original R6870 switched up the placement of the voltage regulator modules, and used a 4-phase PWM design. The R6870 Hawk switches things back and bumps it up to an 8-phase design. The cooling method on the R6870 Hawk allows for better airflow where the VRM is situated now, and having it closer to the power supply section is always a good idea. The 8(+2) phase design should offer double the amount of current as the 4(+1) design used in the original R6870, up to 160A rather than 80A.


MSI went all out on the components used for the R6870 Hawk. On the front of the box, they tout these components as being Military Class II components. This includes using Hi-C Cap (Highly Conductive Capacitors) with a Tantalum cores that are very stable and can provide up to 15x less leakage. Also used are Super Ferrite Chokes that should provide up to a 10% improvement in efficiency and up to a 30% improvement in current capacity. Finally, the R6870 Hawk uses all solid-state capacitors which are more efficient, run cooler, and have a longer life span than the alternative.


On the back side of the board we have a little close-up so you can see the care that MSI took with solder quality and component placement. Some of the areas on the PCB can get rather crowded and any left-over solder or an out of place part can cause a short or other problem to occur and fry the card. Some residue in crowded areas of the board can be expected due to the different processes used to clean the solder off and mass production of cards, but overall, the board has an excellent design quality.


Keeping all this information in mind, let's take a look at the official features and specifications published by AMD and MSI.



# 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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