There’s a predictable rhythm to the launch of each new generation of graphics chipset. The launch of AMD’s Radeon HD 6850/6870 and 6950/6970 in February followed a familiar pattern. The initial crop of graphics cards followed the reference design very closely: the cooler came straight out of AMD’s parts bin, and the clock speeds were very conservative. In the case of the Asus EAH6950 2GB Overclock Edition, the core speed was 810MHz compared to a reference figure of 800MHz – so while the ‘Overclock’ tag was accurate, it was a touch irrelevant.
Two months down the line, AMD’s graphics partners are beginning to show some creative flair – starting with HIS, which has launched no less than three HD 6870 models clothed in its ‘IceQ X’ cooler package.
All three models IceQ X designs have 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The most basic is the HIS 6870 IceQ X, which has a reference 900MHz core speed and 4200MHz memory speed. The overclocked IceQ X Turbo runs at 920MHz and 4480MHz, while finally there’s the IceQ X Turbo X we’re reviewing here, which is clocked at 975MHz and 4600MHz.
The range of prices is very narrow, with a mere £12 separating the cheapest £168 IceQ X from the most expensive Turbo X version at £180.
Keeping your cool
The IceQ X cooler uses a copper contact plate on the graphics chip which is connected to the finned aluminium heatsink with four 8mm heatpipes. The package is topped off with a 92mm fan that draws cooling air through the ventilated bracket.
In the great scheme of things, there’s nothing groundbreaking about the IceQ X cooler – it’s all stuff that we’ve seen before – however it works well, and does a fine job.
That may sound uninspiring but you can say something similar about a piece of music; it’s not just a question of which notes you use but also a matter of how you use them. In this case, the IceQ X cooler runs 15°C cooler than the reference AMD hardware and is also 15dB quieter than the reference cooler.
The layout of the hardware follows the usual form with two six-pin PCI Express power connectors on the top edge of the card. There’s plenty to see on the ventilated I/O bracket with one quarter of the area given over to cooling slots.
The rest of the space is used to accommodate one DVI-I port, one DVI-D, one HDMI and two Mini Display port connectors. The downside here is that HIS has only included a DVI-to-VGA adapter in the package (although you do get two PCI Express power adapters) so you may struggle to make use of those Mini DP connectors.
We tested the Turbo X at its supplied clock speeds of 975MHz/4600MHz and found it performed about four frames per second faster in Battle Forge than a stock Radeon HD 6870 running at 900MHz/4200MHz.
In 3D Mark Vantage the Turbo X scored 17,726 compared to 16,701 for a stock Radeon HD 6870. In 3D Mark 11, the respective scores were 4,503 and 4,182.
Just for larks we did a rough-and-ready overclock using the default voltage setting, bumping the speeds up to 1000MHz/4800MHz. This made it clear to us that HIS hasn’t pushed the HD 6870 to the edge when it developed the Ice Q Turbo X, so you’ll doubtless be able to get a bit more speed if you’re prepared to do some work.
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- Very quiet and cool, with decent performance.
- No adapters for the Mini Display Port connectors are supplied the package.
While the extra performance that results from the factory overclocking is welcome the most compelling feature of this HIS graphics card is the IceQ X cooler as it transforms the wildcat HD 6870 into a pussycat. All we need now are some compelling DirectX11 games.