Three Factory-Overclocked, High-End Graphics Cards

Test System Setup, Benchmarks, And 3DMark

We are testing all of the cards against reference models to quantify the benefit of spending extra on these factory-overclocked offerings. We have a GeForce GTX 480 on hand, but are simulating a reference Radeon HD 5870 by using a PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 LCS, based on a Radeon HD 5870 PCB. We also swapped the PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 LCS’ water block with a reference Radeon HD 5870 cooler.

These cards are overkill for resolutions of 1680x1050 and below, so we'll stick with 1920x1080 and 2560x1600. We're making a conscious effort to supply relevant benchmark results here, so we won't opt for high levels of anti-aliasing (AA) unless the frame rates allow for it. Our goal is to get average frame rates close to 60 FPS and minimum frame rates above 30 frames per second.

Graphic Test System
Intel Core i7-920 (Nehalem), 2.67 GHz, QPI-4200, 8 MB L3 Cache, Overclocked to 3.06 GHz @ 153 MHz BCLK
ASRock X58 SuperComputer, Intel X58, BIOS P1.90
Onboard Realtek Gigabit LAN controller
Kingston PC3-10700, 3 x 1024 MB, DDR3-1225, CL 9-9-9-22-1T
Reference Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 1536 MB GDDR5
Zotac GeForce GTX 480 AMP! Edition 1536 MB GDDR5
PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 LCS 1 GB GDDR5
Gigabyte GV-R587SO-1GD Radeon HD 5870 1 GB GDDR5
HIS HD 5870 iCooler V Turbo X 1 GB GDDR5
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar WD50 00AAJS-00YFA,
500 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache, SATA 3.0Gb/s
Thermaltake Toughpower 1200 W
1200 W, ATX 12 V 2.2, EPS 12 V 2.91
Software and Drivers
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX versionDirectX 11
Graphics Drivers
ATI Catalyst 10.5, Nvidia GeForce Driver 197.45
Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Patch 1.2.1, DirectX 10, 32-bit executable, Benchmark Tool, High Settings, No AA, No AF
Far Cry 2
DirectX 10, in-game benchmark, Ultra-High Settings, 8x AA, No AF
Aliens vs Predator
DirectX 11 Default Benchmark, no AA, No AF
World In Conflict: Soviet AssaultDirectX 10, Timedemo, Very High Details, 4x AA/4x AF
DiRT 2
DirectX 11, Timedemo, Ultra Details, 8x AA/4x AF
3DMark Vantage
Version: 1.01, Total System score

3DMark is most useful when comparing Radeons to Radeons and GeForces to GeForces because the benchmark definitely favors certain drivers and architectures. This chart shows us some interesting info as far as how the overclocked cards compare to their reference models, but don't assume the performance in games will reflect the Radeon vs. GeForce results.

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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).