Three Factory-Overclocked, High-End Graphics Cards


There are certainly lessons to be learned here, but those lessons aren't exactly what we were expecting. Compared to the reference cards, these factory-overclocked models rarely deliver a sizable performance increase, even when overclocked to eyebrow-raising heights. As a percentage of the stock clock rates, these overclocks aren't enormous, and there's a fair chance that taking full advantage of an already already high-end overclocked GPU requires a monster of a platform to truly shine.

However, there are certainly other compelling reasons to consider these premium factory-overclocked models. Let's go over each product to discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo X

HIS delivers a strong contender in its HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo X. It's hard to argue with a bundled $50 game, a modified PCB, and improved onboard components, but this HIS card fails to deliver the critical voltage adjustment, cooling performance, and noise reduction we were expecting with the $490 price tag. Moreover, when a card is set to BIOS-based aftermarket frequencies, we'd like to retain the best possible idle clocks, too. In the case of the Radeon HD 5870, that'd be 157/300 MHz.

While we can't stand behind the Turbo X, we have to point out that HIS offers a compelling product in the HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo. Notice the lack of “X” at the end. The regular Turbo version can be found for as little as $420, yet the card appears to be identical to the Turbo X, aside from a mere 25 MHz drop in core clock speed. This standard Turbo edition sports the exact same 1225 MHz memory clock speed and even the same Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game bundle. And we doubt you'd be able to perceive a performance difference between the two models. HIS' standard Turbo version is a Radeon HD 5870 model we can more readily consider.


Gigabyte delivers the ultimate Radeon HD 5870 with its no-holds-barred GV-R587SO-1GD. The $500 purchase price gets you an extremely quiet and cool product, and our test card was able to achieve in excess of 1 GHz on its core thanks to the voltage adjustment option in Gigabyte's OC Guru utility.

The only downside to this card is cost. Our benchmarks show relatively little performance increase over a reference Radeon HD 5870, even when pushed to over 1 GHz. And that $500 price tag brings the card extremely close to the GeForce GTX 480 that bests it most of the time.

Yet, there is a case to be made for Gigabyte's ultimate Radeon HD 5870, a card that uses far less power than the GeForce GTX 480 and runs much cooler and quieter than the competition. It can also deliver usable Eyefinity-based connectivity, while the GTX 480 is limited to two display outputs. If these strengths appeal to you, then the GV-R587SO-1GD might be the card you want.

Zotac GeForce GTX 480 AMP! Edition

If you take a $450 GeForce GTX 480 reference card and add the upcoming $50 Zalman VF3000F cooler to it, what do you get? The $510 Zotac GeForce GTX 480 AMP! Edition. Back when we received this card, GeForce GTX 480s were $500, making the aftermarket version a veritable steal for $10 extra. Now the value is a little diluted.

Even still, the Zalman cooler fixes a good chunk of the criticism that the GeForce GTX 480 faces in the way of noise and high GPU temperatures. The extra $10 saves you from having to tear Nvidia's reference cooler off (risking delicate memory ICs in the process) and attach the Zalman unit. We still consider that a win. And, it comes with a five-year warranty.

The only ding we have to apply here is the fact that reference Radeon HD 5870s can be had for over $120 cheaper than this card. And from our benchmarks, we can see that it's rare that the GeForce GTX 480 is worth such a gaping spread. Having said that, the GeForce GTX 480 certainly does have its strengths, and if your desires include CUDA, PhysX, and 3D Vision, then this card is a very attractive option. If you are considering a GeForce GTX 480, the Zotac AMP! edition is a particularly strong choice. Just make sure you have the available clearance around this card, as it consumes three slots worth of motherboard space.

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    Top Comments
  • ohim
    Did your lights flickered when you powered up that GTX480 ? :)
  • knutjb
    Good to see sensible conclusions, bang for the buck.

    Amazing how well the ATI cards are doing given their time on the market.
  • h83
    So, the conclusion is that the only good point about those factory overclocked cards are their coolers...
  • Other Comments
  • knutjb
    Good to see sensible conclusions, bang for the buck.

    Amazing how well the ATI cards are doing given their time on the market.
  • Jax69
    i am amazed by ati cards after one year on the market is still strong as hell. very good amd
  • jonsy2k
    I'm not liking the trend of these cards consuming more and more pci slots to be honest.
  • lashton
    lol GTX 480 aginst the 5870
  • carlhenry
    GTX 480 is looking very good and sexy
  • ohim
    Did your lights flickered when you powered up that GTX480 ? :)
  • Anonymous
    liked the flickered thing.
  • h83
    So, the conclusion is that the only good point about those factory overclocked cards are their coolers...
  • Tamz_msc
    Aliens vs. Predator favors the Radeons, just like Crysis favors the GeForce cards. However, the playing field remains very close

    The graphs tell otherwise.
  • The Lady Slayer
    It's a shame the Big Green has paid off so many game developers that we'll never see a 'true' comparison between ATI & nVidia
  • LaloFG
    In my previous card (HIS 4870 with a default zalman heatsink and an HIS fan) the fan failed, not so much a problem, I replaced with a better one, and that was better because while the heatsink is better (zalman one) the fan is crap (thin and very sensitive).

    The HIS card in the article, the heatsink it is not superior to the references one, and if the fans are the same type than before, well...

    I Like the gigabyte one, that heatpipes shines and offers superior cooling (ignore the inferior performance gain due to overclock).

    The GTX 480 ... well, I don´t like physX.
  • juliom
    Far Cry 2 is so Nvidia biased, why the hell do you use it to compare the cards? If that test disappeared the huge advantage in the conclusion graphic would get much smaller.
  • tony singh
    Why far cry 2 , crysis & dirt 2 chosen again & again knowing that nvidia performs better in these?? To show 480 much master than than 5870 ? Want an answer.
  • vaughn2k
    ohimDid your lights flickered when you powered up that GTX480 ?

    Did not notice, because they were busy with the benchmark...

    ... but their neighbor does...
  • kikireeki
    from the articleAt 100% fan speed, the card is noisier than a stock Radeon HD 5870. but it manages to keep the GPU cool, with temperatures under 70 degrees Fahrenheit at full load.

    wow This fan must be blowing liquid-nitrogen!
  • chunkymonster
    Not as big of a gain with the factory oc'd 5870 cards over the 5870 reference design, certainly not enough to justify the additional cost, IMO.

    No surprise that the 480 performs better than the 5870 overall, this is something that ATI stated would happen when they announced they would use dual gpu cards to compete with the high end nVidia single gpu cards.

    Again with the Crysis and Far Cry benches...sheesh!
  • halls
    Just a heads up: on the second page, you mention that the fan keeps the card at under 70 degrees Fahrenheit on full load. I don't believe you!
  • rrobstur
    these cards are both bad-ass. you cant expect a year old card to compete with that gtx 480. thumbs ups nvidia but watch out ati next gen is inbound
  • ares1214
    Next gen ATI isnt changing much, so i doubt performance will be massively increased. Maybe 15-30%, but nothing like the 4xxx series to the 5xxx series. However, their arch. change comes with 7xxx, and my money is, by the time Nvidia finishes the 4xx series, 6xxx will be out. By the time Nvidia releases 5xx (depending on if they go fast or go good), 7xxx will only be around the bend. 7xxx however is scheduled for around Q3-Q4 2011, so they have some time.
  • coolvoodoo
    I like the ATI vs Nvidia wars because that is what drives progress, but it seems that some people want any benchmarks where the Nvidia card is faster to be removed. What would that prove? It is funny that the commenters above seem to think that when ATI performs better, it is because of the card, and when Nvidia performs better it is because they "paid off Tom's". That just seems like fanboys spouting off. I admit that I still like to see how any graphics card performs in Crysis because:
    1. It still taxes even the mightiest of cards.
    2. Every comparison for the past few years has used it, thus giving me an idea how my current card performs against the new cards.
    3. Someday I want to own a graphics card that can beat it down.
    4. I actually still play Crysis (and Far Cry 2).