The current selection of midrange Radeon cards provide some of the best value for money around in any hardware category. Not only are they good value but they perform excellent and, even better for us, they overclock well too. Club 3D are fairly new to our shores but both the HD7850 and HD7950 that we've reviewed have blown our socks off, and led to them taking home two of our Best of 2012 awards.
Today we're taking a look at the latest iteration of the HD7870, here in XT trim which comes with 256 additional stream processors when compared to the original HD7870 GPU.
Does the award-winning roll that Club 3D are on continue, or is this truly the joker in the pack?
It's not just the stream processor count that's been jacked up on the HD7870XT. Whereas the original HD7870 came on the Pitcairn GPU, the XT utilises a Tahiti LE GPU. This is a slightly cut-down version of the one found on the HD7950. So although it has the HD7870 name, it's actually got far more in common with a HD7950, except for a reduction in stream processors and less GDDR5 memory. We know that seems as clear as mud, so let's just get it on the bench rig and see how it performs.
Product Name: Radeon HD 7870XT jokerCard
Product Series: Radeon HD 7000
Item Code: CGAX-7876XT
EAN Code: 8717249411437
Bus Interface: PCI Express 3.0
GPU Chipset: Tahiti LE
GPU Clock: 925 MHz
GPU Boost Clock: 975 MHz
Stream Processors: 1536
Multi-GPU: Dual CrossFire Ready
Memory Size: 2048MB
Memory Interface: 256 BIT
Memory Type: GDDR5
Memory Clock: 6000 MHz
Cooling Type: Active Fansink, CoolStream High Performance Cooling Technology
Idle ZCP mode enabled: 3W
Maximum load: < 210W
DirectX version: 11.1
OpenGL version: 4.2
OpenCL version: 1.2
Slot Width: 2 Slots
Profile: Standard profile
Card Size: 268x122x36mm
Card Weight: 672g
DVI: 1x Dual-Link DVI-I
HDMI: 1x version 1.4a
Mini DisplayPort: 2x version 1.2
HDCP ready: YES
We love the clear lines of the Club 3D packaging and the Joker is no different. Even if it's starting to gain plenty of technology badges on the front. Each variant (Jack, Queen, King, Joker) are very readily identifiable, and a little pseudo-Harley Quinn is always welcome. The package is bristling with games, from the completely risible Dirt Showdown, to the epic Far Cry 3, via Sleeping Dogs, Hitman Absolution, and a reduction in the price of Warfighter. These games alone make the price of Joker something to sit up and take notice of.
The card itself is the now-standard Club 3D Coolstream cooler. It doesn't matter how often we see it, we think it looks excellent. Extremely well designed, sturdy, and thanks to that black PCB it will blend in to everyone's rig.
Alongside the heatpipes we have a single Crossfire finger. It's worth noting that because this is based upon the Tahiti core rather than the Pitcairn the HD7870XT wont Crossfire with a standard HD7870.
At the business end of the Club 3D Joker we have a DVI, HDMI and two mini DisplayPort outputs, whilst power is provided by two 6pin PCIe connectors.
Club3D HD7870XT Joker Edition
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
Overclocking and Temperatures
One of the most stunning things about the Club 3D range has been how readily they overclock. We often talk of the silicon lottery here at OC3D, the fact that not all chips are created equal, but as this is the third Club 3D card we've tested that overclocks like a banshee we have to say that it's more a product of the excellent design. The Joker easily pushes to 1150MHz on the GPU core, so hopefully we'll see a nice boost in frame-rates.
Temperatures are a little disappointing. The Coolstream cooler has been excellent in its other guises, but the Tahiti LE is just starting to push it a bit too far, with temperatures still tolerable, even if their right at the top end of our acceptable level. Because of these high temperatures the fan works very hard most of the time, especially when overclocked, which means it's not the quietest card we've tested either. Hopefully the performance will be worth the inconvenience.
Alien Vs Predator
You need to cast your eyes to the middle of the graph and the PCS HD7870 for the non-XT version of this card, and as you can see straight away the Joker spanks it. It's also a fair way ahead of the HD7850 too.
Batman Arkham City
We'd expect the Joker to be great in Arkham City and so it proves. Although the game itself is so heavily limited that all but the most average cards will be able to provide a smooth experience, the XT annihilates the standard HD7870.
Far Cry 2
We're glad to be phasing Far Cry 2 out of our test suite, especially as it seems to vary so wildly depending upon the driver version. Still the Joker is playable both out of the box and with the overclock in place.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is one of those games that doesn't ever provide eye-popping frame-rates, yet because of the slow pace of the game it equally never feels jerky. Whereas a racing game at 30FPS would be intolerable, here it's nothing but smooth. The Joker just matches the HD7950, which is great considering the price difference, but obviously hasn't got the horsepower to go toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters.
Hitman is much the same as Far Cry 3. A slower paced game allows for lower average frame-rates without compromising playability. We can't help but be happy at the result the Joker turned in though, beating it's contemporaries and nearly topping the chart entirely. Excellent.
It doesn't matter how often we test Club 3D cards, the excellence of the overclock performance continues to impress us. The Joker is in another league compared to the standard HD7870.
Sometimes no amount of clock speed jiggery pokery will help overcome a lack of architectural oomph, and Metro 2033 takes no prisoners in the performance stakes.
The latest in the never-ending Medal of Honor series, Warfighter, rocks hard on the Club 3D Joker. Even at stock it outperforms the HD7970, and with the overclock it's up there with the GTX670. Hugely impressive performance.
As befits a game that is based on a console engine, Sleeping Dogs really loves clockspeed, gaining about 12% performance just from our overclock.
Resident Evil 5 DirectX 10
We often comment upon how well Resident Evil 5 scales and despite any game at all being capable of providing a playable experience we still find it an excellent test of how an average game would perform on a given card, and the Joker HD7870XT is fantastic, almost up to GTX680 levels.
Heaven is nothing if not as gorgeous as it is demanding, and in a similar fashion to Metro 2033 we see that the clockspeed can't make up fully for the reduction in the architecture when compared to the full-fat HD7950s.
The extra stream processors in the HD7870XT are worth about 2FPS over the standard card in Unigine Heaven with the image quality set to maximum.
The Witcher 2
Of the midrange cards we've tested with the ever-demanding Witcher 2, the Club 3D makes an excellent showing. Indeed it's beating out the GTX580. How quickly times change.
Finally the old favourite 3D Mark. In both Vantage and 11 the Joker is handily better than the old HD7870, and certainly better than its price tag would lead you to believe.
3D Mark Vantage
3D Mark 11
We're beginning to wonder if there is a bad card in the Club 3D range, because on the evidence so far it's clear that there isn't.
The original HD7870 was around £270 and got a Gold award due to the performance compared to similarly priced cards at the time. The intervening months have seen a serious price war between nVidia and AMD, and the cards have generally plummeted in price. So much so that the Club 3D HD7870XT Joker Edition comes in at a frankly mind-blowing £177.
This is a custom PCB, with the much beefier Tahiti LE GPU on board and a custom cooler, able to be overclocked far beyond the rated speed, and yet it's well south of £200. With a high-end GPU now well into the £400+ range this means that the Joker is not only a mid-range card, it's a lower mid-range card in price terms.
Certainly not in performance though. The card is excellent in every scenario, and only the most demanding games in our tests show that the reduction in shaders when compared to the HD7950 has any real-world effect. We wondered why the Tahiti LE had seemed to be slid quietly out the door and it's obvious when you look at the performance. It is, barring a couple of very specific titles, a match for the much pricier HD7950. So why anyone would choose to buy one of those instead of saving around £50 and putting it towards something else is beyond us. Manufacturers must be frightened of having a warehouse full of unsold HD7950s, hence the low-key release of this model.
It's not only the performance that is excellent either. The bundle is fantastic with two great games, Far Cry 3 and Sleeping Dogs, one decent one in Warfighter and a risible one in Dirt Showdown. Although if you like your racing games firmly in the Outrun level of complexity then you might even like Dirt Showdown.
The only thing we can criticise is that the Coolstream GPU cooler is right at its limit on the Joker. Although the temperatures are still below 80°C we'd prefer to see this model equipped with the two fan variant, just to squeeze that bit more out of an already stunning card.
Once again Club 3D have released a product that ticks all the boxes and doesn't empty your wallet. If you're in the market for a powerful graphics card at an affordable price you'd be insane to look at anything other than the HD7870XT Joker Edition. Not only worthy of our OC3D Gold Award, but for making every other manufacturer revisit their pricing structure it gets our OC3D Value For Money award too. Buy one. Buy two. You'll thank us.
Thanks to Club 3D for providing the HD7870XT Joker Edition for review. Discuss our findings in the OC3D Forums.