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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 GPUCodenameMemoryGPU ClockShaderMem ClockSPs
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
DVDGigabyte GO-D1600C
Power SupplyCooler Master RS-850-EMBA 850 Watt
Graphics DriverATI Catalyst 10.6
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate 32-bit
DirectX9, 10, and 11
Chipset DriversIntel 9.1.1
  • chrissmartin
    i will buy a normal card with good cooling and overclock it.
  • rohitbaran
    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.
  • Mark Heath
    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..

  • Onus
    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.
  • mrhoshos96
    great article but u should have compared the reference against the sapphire vapor-x
  • Tesla1483
    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.
  • youssef 2010
    "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
  • duk3
    It's a 5850, look how close the framerates are.
    The amount of ram doesn't really matter at these resolutions.
  • LLJones
    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.
  • dEAne
    I like this article, thanks tom.