Out of the two R7800 cards AMD released the Radeon HD 7870 is definitely my favorite. It offers good performance and has all variables right. Now, the reference product is already exemplary good in terms of performance, noise and heat levels. As such it will be a bit more difficult for the board partners to improve on that.
Gigabyte definitely succeeded with that by making the GV-R787OC-2GD a notch better. The board design is good, with quality components found within Gigabyte's Ultra Durable VGA+ class. Next to that, the cooler does its job just really well. Now in terms of noise levels it is roughly on par (slightly above the level) with the reference cooler, however the cooling performance overall is seriously better. Remember, this card comes pre-overclocked for you at 1100 MHz and that's quite a high clock frequency. Despite that, the temperature (during gaming) remains below 50 Degrees C, and that is just impressive really.
As always we have to discuss power consumption, as I'm riddled by how AMD pulls that off. Gigabyte's R7870 uses roughly 100 Watts LESS than the GTX 580. When we reverse calculate and measure the power consumption the R7870 uses roughly 131 Watts where the GTX 580 hovers at 235~240W, and that's measured in game while it's peaking and stressed.
The MSRP (in USD) prices will be 349$ for HD 7870 and obviously over time prices are bound to drop. The 7800 series will be sweet products for the people gaming at 1920x1080/1200, it's precisely there where the cards will show muscle and they won't be shy about the beefy and demanding modern game titles. Just set your image quality preference and the cards will push very nice framerates. If we look at the RTS genre with Anno 2070 then at 1920x1200 we get a good 72 FPS on average with the 7870. That game is locked in at the very best image quality settings with 4x AA enabled.
Battlefield 3 then, here's where we enabled that near silly Ultra quality settings mode and 4x AA. Now granted, the R7850 is on the edge here with 32 FPS on average, but the R7870 is kicking it loud with 40 FPS. With our IQ settings and chosen level these are downright respectable numbers compared to other products in the same price range.
When you look at the overall package, performance, the new Eyefinity updates, PCIe gen 3 compatibility and all other stuff then we can only conclude that we happily embrace the Radeon HD 7800 series in the mainstream to enthusiast graphics card arena. For those that embrace multi-monitor gaming, it's for you guys that AMD decided to go for the 2GB framebuffer / graphics memory.
Overclocking then, as you have noticed from the reference and now this review, the 7870 cards are tweaking marvels. Since voltage tweaking is an option with this model, you can push the GPU a little higher, 1200 MHz is very doable, we reached a stable 1258 MHz but in all honesty we do have to say that it was borderline stable. So 1150~1200 MHz is probably your maximum goal aka target if you stick to air cooling. The overall result can boost your graphics performance another 10% to even 20% when compared to the reference products.
We'd recommend the Gigabyte R7870 OC for those who demand a little more performance and have a need for tweaking and overclocking. The performance is really good for modern gaming at 1920x1080 / 1200. The overall build quality of the product is nice, it is a relatively silent product and the thermals are just awesome.
And that makes me give the GV-R787OC-2GD two big thumbs up, it really is a lovely product.
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