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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  • Jediron - Saturday, May 22, 2010 - link

    These are not cards for a gamer, but for people who make it a sport to beat the other guys 3Dmark results.
    Gamers, you'll see it hardly makes a difference, gameexperience is something else then raw, digital FPS numbers. Save yourself alot of cash and buy a default clocked card; that leaves you with enough money to buy your favorite game ;)
  • cauchy2k - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    People should not take into account this near 100 °C ,becuase you can increase fan speeds and lower temps a lot.
  • hglazm - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Either you got a bad chip with the lightning, got an exceptional chip with the Toxic, or did something wrong when overclocking the lightning
    Because both of mine hit 1ghz without issue. As well as three of the four 5770 HAWKs my friends have ordered (one hit 980 instead of 1020-1060).
  • Ninjahedge - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    It is always good to see this kind of thing being made and tested, but the thing that gets me is simple.

    This aint the Celery 300 days. You can't get the equivalent of a more expensive chip for half the price, boost it to 150% with a simple (was it multiplier?) switch and get 80%-90% of the more expensive brother.

    I have not really seen much come out in the past few years that warrants throwing that much cash out on something that will be beaten for $100 less in 6 months.

    Especially when there really is no game that would need it.

    The fact that the makers are still comcentrating on giving you the fastest card that can show nose-hair and blackheads in 3D at 2560 resolution irritates me. Has there been any progress (or push for progress) in an EFFICIENT card that can do what the 4870, or 5800's can do for half the power? Passive (silent) cooling? Half the PRICE?

    It would be great to get a card to use 1 6 pin additional power cable (hell, push it further, NO additional power) that would be able to fit into a compact case (Shuttle?) and not sound like a dust-buster in game.

    Good article, but disappointing that this is still the direction card makers are going. (also sad that all that $$, all that noise and heat gets you so little in the end...)

    Question, have you guys figured out a way to be able to rate the best Bang for the Watt? Some comparison taking compact, quiet, efficient cards and trying to rank them by speed, efficiency, ergonomics and price? Can that be done or is that too many variables?
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 - link

    Good post! I thoroughly agree. Reminds me of how pleased I was with the performance of
    the X1950 I bought in 2006 for 156 UKP, and then again later the excellent results obtained
    from an 8800GT (Gigabyte Zalman, 700MHz core) which was only 120 UKP. Decent prices,
    nice performance each time.

    Prices now are crazy. I've given up waiting for a card that offers a reasonable speed boost
    at any kind of similar price point, so instead I've bagged an extra identical 8800GT to have
    SLI which should work quite well until the RAM limit becomes a factor (atm I'm not playing
    games which need 1GB). I've done the same thing for my new PC build (i7 860), buying two
    8800GTs which cost less than 100 UKP total.

    As you say, it seems vendors are going all out for high cost cards, which is ironic given we're
    supposed to be in the middle of a global recession. Who has the money to buy a $570 card
    and sleep easy? On a tight budget, I managed to get some items 2nd-hand, saved a decent
    amount (750W PSU 40% cheaper than new, WD VR 150GB half new price), and found an eBay
    seller doing the i7 860 at a good price (205 UKP, almost 30 less than any other source) with
    free shipping (item 270583690505; he has 5 left. Mine is only running at 3.8GHz atm, but I don't
    have the proper fans yet).

    When I bought the 8800GT in 2008, I doubled or tripled games fps rates compared to my old
    X1950 using the same CPU/RAM (Athlon64 6000+, 4GB DDR2/800), for less than $200. Two
    years on once more, doing the same thing isn't possible.

  • Kaihekoa - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Anandtech really needs to get a reliable proofreader. Every article I read has multiple typos which obviously isn't very professional for such a highly regarded tech site. I would do it for free given the subject matter.
  • austonia - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    These cards do not OC very well at all. I have a reference-design Sapphire 5850 from about a month after they came out, and it does 900/1300 at stock 1.08v, and 1000/1300 at 1.25v. You would think these 5870s with cherry-picked chips, high end components and cooling system could at least match a stock 5850. And there were quite a few people on forums getting similar results. Anyway thanks Anandtech, good info.
  • austonia - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    Please consider adding Metro 2033 to the benchmarks, with all of the eyecandy turned up it looks like a slideshow on my 5850. Must need a brutal amount of power. None of the games you are testing now are very challenging for a Fermi or 5850+.
  • Kaihekoa - Thursday, May 20, 2010 - link

    I would like to extend my thanks to Anandtech for doing an article about PC hardware instead of writing laptop reviews and copy/pasting press releases. I believe this is a topic of great interest for gamers and hardware enthusiasts: How much benefit do you get out of these pre-overclocked cards with big price premiums. As we can see you don't get much and certainly not enough to justify paying $100 or more extra. I just upgraded my Radeon 4870 to a 5850 that overclocks to 950/5000 without extra voltage. Oh, and I paid $225 for it on ebay meaning I got almost as much performance as these $500 cards for 55% less money.
  • Etern205 - Friday, May 21, 2010 - link

    Why no this?

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