I always like what MSI does with their special edition graphics cards. Series like the Lightning, the HAWK... they are all killer cards. The R7870 in particular however I find to be exquisite... The PCB design and color works out well, you'll spot the sturdy military class III component usage (CopperMOS/Hi-c CAP/Golden Solid State chokes/Coated Solid Capacitors) that help out on longevity and heat and thus overclocking accompanied by the GPU reactor, which we doubt is really useful... but does look smokin' hot :)
Then the new TwinFrozr model cooler does its job very nicely as well. I've stated it before, 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 + leaves much room for overclocking. AMD's reference product is already really good though 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.
MSI definitely did succeed in that. The cooler keeps the GPU at roughly ~65 Degrees C under gaming load. The noise levels are a complete non-issue thanks to the cooler. Now the cooler however aesthetically might be the one gripe -- it's that you either hate or love the design really -- probably there's nothing in-between.
And remember, this card comes pre-overclocked for you at 1100 MHz and that's quite a nice clock frequency.
I mean look at that... that's looking gorgeous...
Let's talk money then; the MSRP prices (in USD / EUR) will be 349$ / 325 EUR for the MSI Radeon HD 7870 HAWK. Initially we certainly hoped for lower prices of the 7800 range, but it is what it is really.
For that money you get to play your PC games at 1920x1080/1200 really well, at this resolution 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 at 1920x1200, we get a good 70+ FPS on average with the HAWK. 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 41 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 article and now this review, the 7870 cards are tweaking marvels. The HAWK however takes it to a new and higher level.
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 100% stable 1300 MHz with a bit of voltage tweaking. Overall we'd recommend 1150-1200 MHz really for a long term and safe overclock though. The overall result can boost your graphics performance another 10% to even 15% when compared to the reference products. During our overclock that extra voltage on the GPU did result in the GPU stress temperature rising to 77 Degrees C, that's still quite good but it did make the card much noisier. So noise will become a tradeoff once the GPU passes 70 Degrees C.
Concluding then, honestly I wish that AMD would have priced the 7870 cards in the 250 EUR bracket, unfortunately it's way more pricey but heck, it is the way it is. The HAWK edition is going to sell (we expect) at roughly 325~350 EUR. For that money you receive a card that performs really good with modern games at 1920x1080 / 1200. The overall build quality of the product is exceptional, the looks are fantastic and it is a silent product with very respectable thermals. If you are seeking a product in this class, well... the HAWK definitely delivers on all fronts and comes recommended by Guru3D.com.
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