Comparison: Factory-Overclocked Versus Reference Graphics

Graphics Cards And Configurations Compared

The baseline for this article is AMD’s Radeon HD 5870, which we're running at its default clock speeds and a maximum overclock without leaning on voltage tweaks. We did the same with MSI’s R5870 Lightning, using the factory-overclocked speed default instead of the AMD reference spec. Then we add another test run at the card's fastest stable overclock, again without modifying voltages.

We also added similar cards from two other vendors for a quick cross check, as we wanted to make sure that the overclocking results and benefits achieved during the testing are actually representative of factory-overclocked solutions. We used a Core i5-750 CPU at 4 GHz to provide sufficient processor horsepower, minimizing the likelihood of a platform-imposed bottleneck.

Graphics Cards
Manufacturer and GPU
CodenameMemoryGPU ClockShaderMem Clock
MSI R5870 Lightning TwinFrozr II OC (HD 5870)Cypress1024 MB GDDR5925 MHz5.04 x 1315 MHz1600
MSI R5870 Lightning TwinFrozr II (HD 5870)Cypress1024 MB GDDR5900 MHz5.04 x 1200 MHz1600
Asus Matrix 5870 P/2DIS/2GD5 (HD 5870)Cypress2048 MB GDDR5894 MHz5.04 x 1200 MHz1600
Gigabyte GV-R587SO-1GD (HD 5870)Cypress1024 MB GDDR5950 MHz5.04 x 1250 MHz1600
Radeon HD 5870 OCCypress1024 MB GDDR5900 MHz5.04 x 1300 MHz1600
Radeon HD 5870Cypress1024 MB GDDR5850 MHz5.04 x 1200 MHz1600
Radeon HD 5850Cypress2048 MB GDDR5725 MHz5.04 x 1000 MHz1440
Radeon HD 5850Cypress1024 MB GDDR5725 MHz5.04 x 1000 MHz1440
Radeon HD 5830Cypress1024 MB GDDR5800 MHz5.04 x 1000 MHz1120

 SPs = Stream Processors, Shader 5.0 = DirectX 11

Test Setup
CPUIntel Core i5 750 @ 4 GHz (21 x 190), Lynnfield, BIOS 1.26875 V, 45 nm, LGA 1156
MainboardGigabyte P55A-UD7, PCIe 2.0, SATA 6 Gb/s, USB 3.0
ChipsetIntel P55 Express
Memory2 x 2 GB DDR3, 2x570 MHz 7-7-7-19, OCZ3G2000LV4GK, PC3-16000 Golden Series
AudioRealtek ALC889
LAN2 x RTL8111D
HDDsSATA, Western Digital WD300HLFS, WD5000AAKS
Gigabyte GO-D1600C
Power Supply
Cooler Master RS-850-EMBA 850 Watt
Graphics Driver
ATI Catalyst 10.6
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit
DirectX9, 10, and 11
Chipset Drivers
Intel 9.1.1
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  • i will buy a normal card with good cooling and overclock it.
  • Too less performance gain (4-5 FPS) for the too much extra price paid ($50-$70) along with too much increase in power consumption (30-40 W. Better to buy a reference card unless you want the best no matter what the price is.
  • I like the idea behind the article and I'm glad that there's been some testing done on it, but I don't really like the article itself.

    There are references to how much the reference card is overclocked by, but there is no clear section about it, you started off with some of the summary charts, instead of putting them after the initial tests and you kept switching what cards you were comparing, with less warning than I would like..

    Plus there's that 2GB 5850. Is that really a 2GB 5850, or is it actually 2GB 5830, because it kept getting beaten by the 1GB 5850..
  • When I buy a new GPU, I look for one who's reference clocks make it "good enough" as-is; but I do look for a better / quieter cooler.
  • great article but u should have compared the reference against the sapphire vapor-x
  • Quote:
    In order to their products apart, third-party vendors take reference GPUs...

    I'm guessing they meant "In order to SET their products apart..."
    Seriously, it's the first sentence in the article. Does no one proof read anything here? Isn't that like the first thing you learn when you want to become a writer? Sorry, rant over.
  • "This cooling concept works pretty well, as it not only provides effective graphics component cooling, but it also helps to remove warm air from the inside of your PC. "

    The reference 5870 has a vent on its side so, it doesn't completely remove the hot air from the case but recirculates a part of the hot air back into the case
  • It's a 5850, look how close the framerates are.
    The amount of ram doesn't really matter at these resolutions.
  • The cards just do not offer enough gain. If you can afford the overclock edition at a premium, then save up a little more and get the next card up or buy two of the next lower cards. The $1000+ dual 5870 from Asus shows what a complete waste of money some, not all, super OC cards are.

    Try this, put together a really really really premium card component wise, and then don't put any cooling on it. Let me decide what I am going to do for cooling and companies can save on packaging, shipping etc due to no cooler.

    If your really aiming at the OC crowd and not just playing a game of marketing, then you know the first thing someone does is to rip off your factory cooler to replace it or at the very least put quality thermal compound on it.
  • I like this article, thanks tom.
  • jtt283When I buy a new GPU, I look for one who's reference clocks make it "good enough" as-is; but I do look for a better / quieter cooler.

    Best suggestion, wait for the manufacture to slap on some after market cooling and pay the extra for something useful. It wasn't like this in the past, but now-a-days they like putting on HSF setups that do a relatively poor job.
  • You may not have noticed silicondoc, but this past year, NVIDIA really hasn't been bringing its A-game to the table, mostly trying to use marketing to make up for its failures...right now, Red really is performing better in a price/performance setting. There's really little that any honest individual can do to deny that, fan or Red OR's not Tom's Hardware that's falling down, it's NVIDIA at the moment. Maybe the next gen will be better, but no one knows yet.
  • kirillianThere's really little that any honest individual can do to deny that, fan or Red OR Green...

    Edit: of Red OR Green...
  • I have started buying cards from vendors that warranty overclock like EGVA. I paid 159$ for a GTX 260 216 core after rebate well over a year ago, then when I am gaming I use the EVGA precision tool to overclock it to the higher priced cards core / shader speed.

    Its funny because mine will do the exact speed as the factory "superclocked" card's settings at the press of a button - all under lifetime warranty.

    My card before this one was a Radeon, I'm a total unloyal customer. I'm sure they have some similar deals, but EVGA has definetely earned my business when it comes to Nvidia stuff...
  • I definitely would have liked to see the 460 on here. So far the reviews have been very good.
  • Wow, you nVidia uberfans really get your panties in a bunch over nothing! The premise of this article was valid: Comparing factory over clocked cards against standard cards. Yes, they chose to compare a mature product in the 5870 rather than a brand new to market nVidia, but the premise was still valid.

    Yes, some of us DO prefer ATI cards over nVidia. So what? For the last two years nVidia has done little more than offer up old cards with new model numbers on them trying to convince us that they were still a competitor, while ATI pushed the envelope in performance, price, and power efficiency. Even now, when nVidia has finally gotten their new chipset out the door and is finally offering a competitive performing card they are still too expensive for what you get and use enough juice to heat a small home.

    If nVidia spins your wheels, then that is fine with me. Personally, I have had more than enough of their crappy drivers and overheating cards to last me a life time.
  • What kind of moron puts a 5870 in a 32 bit machine? That test pc setup is complete garbage.
  • d-blockWhat kind of moron puts a 5870 in a 32 bit machine? That test pc setup is complete garbage.

    more to the point, who the hell in their right mind buys/uses a 32-bit OS anyways?
  • 321195 said:
    What kind of moron puts a 5870 in a 32 bit machine? That test pc setup is complete garbage.

    What kind of person thinks it would make a difference?
  • silicondockirillian, you sad, sad person. Every website in the world has declared the GTX460 the current best bang for the buck PERIOD. You talk about honesty, yet you post the most blatantly dishonest crap of the day one from the red team could cook up. What a sick joke. Just forget it, live in your insane fantasy world of lies and be happy. My God.

    Wow, you must be off your meds. Tom's just posted an article about the awesome SLI scaling of the 460, although it was a week late. I also believe that the lastest graphics card chart came before the GTX 460, although the other GF400s are on the chart.

    As far as the 480 and the 470, I don't think they use that much more power than previous generation cards, or create that much more heat either. I'd say that EVERY review site under rates the higher end Fermi cards. No one seems to get that besides gaming, they are absolute folding MONSTERS. If I folded, I wouldn't use anything less than a 470. To bad nVidia doesn't have an AMD chipset that was in my price range when I was buying a motherboard.