Fans of custom video cards have undoubtedly found themselves a bit disappointed with the Radeon HD 5800 series. Due to a perfect storm of low GPU yields from TSMC and NVIDIA’s late arrival with the GTX 400 series, the first 6 months for the 5800 series was nothing other than bonkers. AMD was selling GPUs to their partners as fast as they could come out of TSMC, and their partners were selling finished boards to OEMs and-end users alike as fast as they could be assembled. Even at prices over MSRP, the 5800 series flew off the shelves, leaving AMD’s partners with little-to-no supply of GPUs to tinker with. Custom 5800 series cards effectively took a 6 month vacation.

That wait finally came to an end in the Spring of 2010, as an increase in GPU supplies allowed AMD’s partners to catch their breathes and focus on their custom cards. With 6 months under their belts AMD’s partners were able to come up with a variety of designs for their custom cards, and today we’re going to be looking at a trio of custom Radeon HD 5870s: Sapphire’s Radeon HD 5870 Toxic 2GB, MSI’s Radeon HD 5870 Lightning, and Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 5870 Super Overclock.

 

  Sapphire 5870 Toxic 2GB MSI 5870 Lightning Gigabyte 5870 Super Overclock
Core Clock 925MHz 900MHz 950MHz
Memory Clock 1.225GHz (4.9GHz data rate) GDDR5 1.2GHz (4.8GHz data rate) GDDR5 1.25GHz (5GHz data rate) GDDR5
Frame Buffer 2GB 1GB 1GB
Voltage Control No Yes (1.35v) Yes (1.28v)
Price Point $499 $479 $499

Custom cards are almost always interesting for a few different reasons. Often it’s a chance to see what AMD’s partners learned about a GPU over the preceding months and are trying their hand at producing something cheaper. Other times it’s throwing cost-efficiency out the window in the name of better components and coolers. And yet in other times it’s about producing a card that fills a specific niche, such as hardcore overclockers or users with cramped cases.

Today we’re looking at 3 such cards, each taking a different approach in their custom design. MSI’s Lightning is the overclocker and Sapphire’s Toxic is the build-it-better card, while Gigabyte’s Super Overclock attempts to straddle the line between the two by doing both at once. Ultimately however all 3 shoot for the same goal even if they go about it in different ways: maximizing performance.

Finally it shouldn’t come as a surprise that with all 3 cards designed to be superior 5870s that they command a superior price. At $480-$500, all 3 cards are solidly in the luxury category.

Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 Toxic 2GB
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  • dgz - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Guys, you should really use Left 4 Dead 2 instead of the original game as the sequel is way more intensive on the system. The visual difference may not be stunning but the hunger for performance is there. Reply
  • Jumalauta - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Very interesting roundup, thank you.

    Seeing how idle noise is basically The Gigabyte card's only flaw, I was wondering if you tried to remedy that by controlling the fan speed with MSI Afterburner software? It's VERY handy for creating custom fan speed curves. The only question is compatibility with Gigabyte's custom card.
    Reply
  • sneakyB - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    This article comes at the best of time for me, I've been trying to decide for the last two weeks wich OCed 5870 to get. But I'm surprised that there's no Asus matrix in the review, maybe it's that we have it here in Europe and it's not on sale in the US ? I would have liked to see it compared to the Gigabyte, as my usual store has both for sale. Reply
  • FH123 - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Was the Gigabyte clocking down properly on idle? I have a an Asus 5850, based on the reference design. Once you attach 2 monitors it no longer clocks down to something like 157MHz core / 300MHz memory, but instead idles at full speed 700MHz core / 1000MHz memory with a consequent rise in noise levels, which first alerted me to the fact. Reply
  • Jumalauta - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    If you take a look at idle GPU temps, I'd say the problem is elsewhere. Reply
  • FH123 - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Agreed. Reply
  • Lonyo - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    You dropped Wolfenstein, one of the few OpenGL games, because of the way it responds, and yet you keep in Left 4 Dead, one of the most CPU limited games there is.

    Sounds like a great decision.
    Reply
  • East17 - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    I think that there should be another chapter included in OC cards RoundUps :

    1)test the cards @ default settings (already done)
    2)test the cards @ OC settings (already done)
    3)try to see what PCB design and options are better by excluding the cooling limitation imposed by the specific coolers and test the cards @ OC setting WITH the best VGA cooler available at that time

    I think this is a good idea and should be included in future reviews IMHO .

    Have a nice day!
    Reply
  • Jumalauta - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    You still wouldn't get anywhere due to GPU sample variance. You would need a lot of test samples of each variety to attain even remotely conclusive results. Reply
  • ajlueke - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    The fact that these cards are typically running around the $500 mark, which is the same price tag as an Nvidia GTX 480, is a deal breaker. You pay Fermi price without the Fermi performance. Stock 5870s can be had for $400 these days, and a sub 10% performance increase with a 25% price increase hardly seems worth it. It is possible to achieve similar overclocking results for less money and with less noise with a good after market cooler. Reply

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