For the first time, AMD has launched their entire graphics card line-up, catering to all the segments in less than three months. Their usual strategy of waiting for at least six months before the launch of the mainstream and mid-range cards didn’t happen this time and we have a sneaking suspicion that Nvidia’s Kepler launch had something to do with that. AMD first launched the HD 7900 series based on the ‘Tahiti’ core, back in January and soon followed by the HD 7700 series based on Cape Verde core in early February. Now, rounding up the Southern Islands trilogy is the HD 7800 series that AMD launched in mid-March. The two cards, HD 7870 and the HD 7850 are based on the new Pitcairn core and uses the same GCN architecture of the rest of the group.

The PitCairn die

The PitCairn die

AMD messed up the naming scheme of their graphics cards after the launch of the HD 6800 series and once again, we see a disconnect in the new series. Logically, one would expect the HD 7870 and HD 7850 to replace the HD 6870 and HD 6850, respectively, but that's not the case here. The new HD 7800 series now take a new place in their line-up and don’t really replace any of their previous generation cards, instead, it will compete with Nvidia’s GTX 570 and GTX 560 Ti. AMD has priced these cards a little higher than Nvidia’s offerings, so let’s see if it has the performance to show as well. Asus have sent us the DirectCU II TOP edition of the HD 7870, so let’s see how it stacks up.

Design and Build
Unlike the monstrous HD 7970 and HD 7950 special edition cards from Asus, the HD 7870 has a modest dual-slot design, so installing it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Although the PCB is under 10 inches in length, the heatsink and the metal covering makes it appear longer, as it extends beyond the length of the motherboard. The card looks striking with an all-black PCB and the exposed aluminium heatsinks. The fan is cooled by copper pipes that extend to aluminium fins, which are then cooled by two fans. This cooling solution, although a bit extravagant, ensures lower operating temperatures and noise.

A more forgiving design for mid-tower chassis users

A more forgiving design for mid-tower chassis users

The rear ports, include two miniDP connectors, HDMI and a DVI-I port. Above it, we have plenty of vents for channeling hot air outside the case. The build and finish of all the components on the card are top notch and just the kind we’ve come to expect from Asus. The box includes a DVI to VGA converter, CrossFire cable, drivers and manual and a 6-pin PCIE power extender (not a Molex converter). It would have been nice, if Asus could have bundled a miniDP adapter or even a cable, as it would have added more value to the bundle. The HD 7870 requires two 6-pin power connectors to run.

This is the second card in AMD’s line-up to be termed as ‘GHz Edition’, so the core is clocked by default at 1GHz. Asus bumps it up to 1.1GHz out-of-the-box, allowing the user to push it further. The HD 7870 features 1280 shader units and 32 ROPs, which is double of what their HD 7700 series have. 2GB of GDDR5 memory is also now standard and you also get a full 256-bit memory bus. The memory is clocked at 4800MHz, effective speed. The card uses the same 28nm fabrication process and has full support for PCIE 3.0, DX11, CrossFire X and AMD’s HD3D technology.

Good set of connectors

Good set of connectors

Asus have added their own spin to the card with a custom PCB design and their famous, DirectCU II cooler. They also bundle along a very handy piece of software called GPU Tweak, which helps you get the most out of your GPU. Besides being able to increase the clock speeds, voltages and fan speeds, you can monitor the performance of the card and log various parameters that help when you're overclocking the card.


  • Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.40 GHz
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE P67A-UD3R
  • Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (4GB x 2) @1600MHz
  • Hard drive: Intel SSD 520 240GB (Boot Drive), WD Velociraptor 300GB (Secondary Drive)
  • GPU: Asus HD 7870 DirectCU II TOP
  • PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
  • OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

The card runs incredibly silent for the most part and is only audible, if you manually push the fan speeds beyond 60 percent. The dual-slot design makes it a lot easier to install in your system and it doesn’t block any of the SATA ports. Temperatures are in check as well with the card idling at 45 degrees Celsius and the highest it ever went was 74 degrees Celsius, which is pretty good.

3DMark 11
3DMark is a computer benchmarking tool created and developed by Futuremark Corporation to determine the performance of a computer's 3D graphic rendering and CPU workload processing capabilities. The latest version makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. We used the ‘Performance’ preset for this benchmark.

Battlefield 3
Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and is based on the new Frostbite 2 game engine. The game only supports DX10 and DX11, which enables enhanced in-game destruction with Destruction 3.0, creating more refined physics than its predecessor and quasi-realtime radiosity using Geomerics' Enlighten technology. The game is a visual treat and a nightmare for graphics cards, which makes it perfect for our test. We used the ‘Ultra High’ preset, Post AA – High, Blur – Full, Field of View  – 90, Level – ‘Fear no Evil’.

Crysis 2
Crysis 2 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Crytek and is based on the new CryEngine 3. Just like the first iteration of the game, Crysis 2 continues to be one of the best looking shooters to date. The settings used for this benchmark were ‘Ultra High’ preset in Adrenalin, DX11 and High-resolution texture patch.

Dirt 3
Dirt 3 is a rallying video game and the third in the Dirt series of the Colin McRae Rally series, developed and published by Codemasters. The game is extremely scalable and features DX11 tessellation effects. We used the built-in benchmark tool, along with ‘Ultra’ quality preset.

Metro 2033
Metro 2033 is a first-person shooter video game, which continues to bring even the toughest graphics cards down to their knees. The game has a lot of DX11 eye-candy, which really puts a strain on any GPU. All DX11 features were enabled for the benchmark and we used the “Tower” level for our test.

Batman: Arkham City
A sequel to Arkham Asylum, Arkham City features a more open world gameplay as well as DX11 elements. For this test, we disabled Nvidias’s PhysX, since it would be unfair to AMD’s cards. Everything else was maxed out.

Asus has priced the HD 7870 DirectCU II TOP edition at Rs.25,000, which is not bad considering it’s a special edition card. AMD launched the HD 7870 to fill the gap between the HD 6970 and the HD 7950 and it does just that. At this price point, it beats the Nvidia GTX 570 by a good margin and is follows close on the heels of the GTX 580, which is a lot more expensive. AMD seemed to have created a winner of a GPU here and if board partners get the pricing right, they can make a killing. Asus, for once, has priced it well making it a good buy, if you’re looking for a good performing, high-end graphics card. 

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