Pros

Excellent price/performance; very compact size; quiet and effective cooler

Cons

No voltage modification available; somewhat limited core overclocking compared to other HD7870 models; funky color scheme

Star Rating

Sapphire HD 7870

Introduction

This is a review of the Sapphire Radeon HD7870 OC, based on the AMD Pitcairn architecture.  What makes this card different from a standard HD7870 are two things:

  1. it is one of the shortest HD7870 models available, at 8.86". Many HD7870 models are over 10", and even the reference model is over 9.5". That makes this Sapphire model much easier to fit in compact cases, particularly HTPC cases.
  2. it has a factory overclock of 1050MHz core, 1250MHz memory, as compared to the reference specs of 1000MHz core, 1200MHz memory.

Features

In addition to its 5% factory overclock and its very compact dimensions, this card has another great - the dual-fan cooling system is very quiet and effective. It idles at 32C in an ambient of 22C, with the fans at 20%. At max overclocked gaming load, it got up to 72C and 51% fan. I recommend, however, that a custom fan profile be set to keep the GPU cooler, as there are reports of this card crashing to a black screen, and they seem to be temperature-related.

Performance

In 3dMark11, the HD7870 OC provided a Graphics Score of 7526 at stock settings. The test bench used was an Intel Core i7-860@3.25Ghz, an Asus P7P55D Evo motherboard, 12GB RAM, Win7x64, and AMD Catalyst Driver Version 13.1.

Overclocking

We found the maximum stable overclocked setting on the card was 1150/1450, up 9.5% on the core and 16% on the memory from the stock overclock of 1050/1250.  The card crashed quickly at 1175MHz core or 1500Mhz memory.  Of note - the Catalyst limits on this card provide a great deal of headroom on the core overclocking, but actually stop at 1450MHz for memory - I used Sapphire Trixx to push beyond 1450MHz on the memory, which led to a failed overclock. 

At 1150/1450 in 3dMark11, the card delivered a Graphics Score of 8237, or 9.5% higher than the out-of-box overclock.  In 3dMark Fire Strike, these overclocked settings provided a Graphics Score of 5959.

Conclusion

The Sapphire HD7870 OC offers tremendous value, especially with recent price drops and rebates.  It is also currently being offered with an excellent free game package, which includes Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite.

It's available from Newegg for $219.99, with a $15 rebate and two free games, as of our publication date.

[Update: More than two years since we reviewed this card, you can still find a nearly identical model, the Sapphire Radeon R9 270X OC 2GB, for $185 at Amazon. Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same!]