Pre-overclocked cards have flooded the market for generations of graphics processing units. What makes them so appealing is their perceived added worth due to higher clock rates on the core and memory. Interestingly, this increase tends to be minimal, providing the end user with marginal real-world performance advantages. Despite these trivial tweaks, we're often offered improved third party cooling to help dissipate the added heat, thus giving us a little more headroom when it comes to our own tweaking sessions. MSI's Twin Frozr III HD6870 is no exception, with mild overclocks to the core and memory, in addition to its famous Twin Frozr cooling range. Is it possible to have a cool, quiet and high performance part? Let's take a look.
MSI’s Twin Frozer III HD6870 features the familiar Barts XT core under the hood with a mild 30MHz overclock on the core. It goes without saying, a 30MHz increase isn't going to fry anything, which leaves us with some substantial headroom for our own escapades. With the promise of 'Triple Over Voltage' giving us the ability to adjust voltages of the core, memory and auxiliary components, and the 8+2 phase PWM design, we say “MSI, challenge accepted!”
Armed with MSI’s very own overclocking tool, Afterburner (based on Rivatuner), we took to the card with itchy fingers. The core clock was the first victim of our excitement, where the slider was enthusiastically pushed as far as Afterburner would allow. This was stable. With such a great accomplishment under our belt, we did the same with the memory, which also proved stable. What we were left with was a card clocked at 1000/1250 happily churning away at OCCT’s GPU test.
We’d maxxed out the software, but not the card. We weren't satisfied, and proceeded to track down the latest beta release. To our delight, v2.1 beta 7 allowed us to push it further, with our final clock rate a sizable 1011/1250 at 1.35v. A small increase, but nothing spectacular considering 1000/1250 it only required 1.3v.
On the whole, overclocking had a noticeable effect on performance, with Unigine gaining approximately two extra frames per second in both tessellation extreme/off tests. 3DMark Vantage saw a 1377 point increase.
Real world tests came out on top, where Crysis increased its minimum frame count by approximately five frames, its maximum by six, and the average by five. Lost Planet saw an amazing 11 frame average increase.
Audio makes up a significant portion of the gaming experience, whether it be purely ambient, or the sterile footsteps of a vicious opponent falling into your strategic trap. No computing component should impose on a gamers’ experience, which is why the quiet Twin Frozr range by MSI makes us happy campers. This card was shown to produce a total of 51dB of noise at idle, and 59.6dB under load, with temperatures reported as 36c/62c respectively. Overclocked, this rose to 68.4dB under load, with temperatures reaching 37c/71c at load/idle. These results were measured with performance mode enabled using the handy 'silent/performance' switch located on the GPU.
Twin fans and five aluminium heatpipes help to cool this beast, with air venting out the rear and sides of the card. With such a small vent at the rear to facilitate the array of port options, there's little option when it comes to dumping the hot exhaust but back into the case itself. This is why it's important to have a case with good airflow.
Display connectivity options are the standard deal; two mini-DisplayPort, two DVI (of which one is dual-link), and a single HDMI port. AMD's successful EyeFinity technology thrives on DisplayPort connectivity in order to connect several monitors to a single card.
Bundled with the card are 'V-Check' cables to allow manual reading of voltages using a multimeter. If your PSU lacks 6-pin power connectors, MSI has you covered with the appropriate adapters, consisting of two 6-pin to dual-molex connectors.
Even when overclocked to its limits, the Twin Frozr III HD6870 is still out of reach of the later HD6950 in terms of real world performance. For this card to be competitive, we expect that it would have to come in at under $300. Fingers crossed.