Gigabyte 5870 Super Overclock
While GPU OC’ing is much simpler than CPU overclocking, some users are leery of doing it themselves. There’s also the comfort of knowing that your board is factory guaranteed to run at certain speeds and is backed with a full warranty you can rely on if something goes wrong at some point with the board. As we’ve found with OC’ing, your mileage can vary – just because your buddy got his board to run at certain clocks doesn’t mean that your card will go that high, even if it’s made by the same manufacturer. OC’ing will also void your warranty in most cases.
Therefore for those enthusiasts who want the very fastest boards on the market, Gigabyte offers their Super Overclock series of graphics boards. These are boards that are clocked to run at the very highest clock speeds of their particular GPU generation. In fact, we tested Gigabyte’s GeForce GTX 260 Super Overclock and found it performed faster than NVIDIA’s more expensive GeForce GTX 275. The only downside to the board was its stock cooling.
Gigabyte doesn’t repeat that gaffe with the 5870 Super Overclock though. This board is 100% custom in more ways than just its clock speeds.
Gigabyte starts with a custom board design that includes proadlizer quintuple film capacitors that are good for up to 5000uF. To be honest, we’d never heard of these capacitors before this article, but from what we can tell they’re special capacitors made by NEC TOKIN that can be used to replace several types of decoupling capacitors. One proadlizer can cover a frequency range of dozens of KHz to 1 GHz with lower impedance than combining several types of capacitors to perform the same role. Gigabyte actually uses an array of proadlizers on the 5870 Super Overclock.
Like all of Gigabyte’s newer VGA cards, the 5870 Super Overclock features a 2-ounce copper PCB: Gigabyte doubles the amount of copper used on the inner layer of the PCB to help reduce the board temps and improve its longevity. On that PCB you’ll find voltage read points for the GPU core, GPU I/O, PCIe, and memory, so you can monitor those voltages directly if you wish.
Other high quality components include all-solid Japanese capacitors, chokes with ferrite cores, and the use of low RDS MOSFETs. All told Gigabyte says these components can deliver up to 20,000uF to the Super Overclock board.
It’s more than just board design though, as every chip used on a Super Overclock graphics board has been tested from a lot of GPUs for clock speeds, thermals, and power. Gigabyte cherry-picks the very best chips and uses them exclusively on their Super Overclock boards.
In a nutshell, here’s how this process works:
Before a chip is selected for use in a retail Super Overclock board, Gigabyte says they sort the GPUs that hit the highest speeds. This test takes about 30 minutes per chip. The best chips are then set aside, Furmark and 3DMark are then used to ensure that these chips can run with stability at the OC’ed speeds as well as to test performance. Gigabyte takes the chips that not only pass this test, but do so while generating the least amount of heat.
Finally, Gigabyte says they test power consumption.”The GPUs with the best power efficiency and lowest power consumption are qualified for the Super Overclock series”. Once again, Furmark and 3DMark are used to load the GPUs.
It doesn’t stop there though. As you can obviously see, Gigabyte’s 5870 Super Overclock features a custom cooling solution as well. Gigabyte’s cooler starts with a copper base that’s responsible for drawing heat off the GPU. Attached directly to the copper plate are four large copper heatpipes. These heatpipes do the bulk of the work as far as GPU cooling is concerned. Two of them are quite long to increase their effectiveness. A fairly thin aluminum heatsink is then responsible for keeping the heatpipes cool. The heatsink basically draws any remaining heat from the heatpipes.
Supplying everything with fresh, cool air, are two cooling fans. Gigabyte actually mounts the fans at a slight incline that are opposed to each other. This tweak helps to spread the air over and across the entire PCB rather than simply directing the cool air at the point directly underneath the fan.
With two fans, you may assume that the 5870 Super Overclock is a noisy board, but that’s definitely not the case. Gigabyte uses two low-RPM fans to keep noise at bay while still deliver optimal airflow. We’ll show you precisely how loud the board runs a little later in this article.
The clock speeds Gigabyte has chosen for the 5870 Super Overclock are the highest we’ve seen on an air-cooled 5870 board. The graphics core on the board runs at 950MHz, while the memory is OC’ed to 1250MHz (5.0GHz data rate). In comparison, the stock Radeon 5870 runs at 850MHz core/1200MHz memory (4.8GHz data rate), so the GPU is OC’ed 100MHz while the memory is OC’ed 4%.
Gigabyte bundles the card with two 6-pin PCIe power adapters, a CrossFire connector, and DVI adapter. No game bundle is included with the card.