The AMD Radeon HD 7880 GHz Edition Double Black Diamond is a new card from Diamond Multimedia. It’s been out only a few weeks, and represents one of Diamond’s best offerings for the price in my opinion. The Double Black Diamond is a factory-overclocked version of their standard HD 7870 card, adding a moderate boost of 50 MHz on the Pitcairn GPU, bringing the core clock from 1000 MHz to 1050, while raising the 2 GB GDDR5 from 1200 MHz to 1250 MHz. These values may seem small, but anyone who has ever screamed for all the performance they can choke out of a piece of hardware will know that every bit counts.
The best feature of this card is one that is not even listed. The 7000 series of GPUs from AMD are known for the excellent performance when overclocking. With the help of the AMD VISION Engine Control Center, I was able to push the card to 1100MHz on the GPU Clock and 1450 MHz on the Memory, while only adding a 20 percent boost to the Power Control Settings. Higher settings and tweaks are possible with programs such as MSI Afterburner, but when I overclock I prefer to stick to the conservative side. Leave the fan setting alone, unless you are overclocking above what AMD VISION will give you. With the fan running at anything higher than 45%, you will begin to feel like you are standing on the flight line.
When it comes down to it, the Double Black Diamond has all the bells and whistles you expect of today’s Graphics Cards: integrated display support, an HD audio controller, OpenGL 4.2, DirectX 11.1, 24x multi and supersample antialiasing and 16x angle independent anisotropic texture filtering. The list goes on a bit more, but you get the idea.
Because of the size of the card, I had to do a little cable management and move two hard drives in order for it to nestle in without pinching any connections. A minor annoyance and honestly, one I expected since graphics cards are getting bigger. Still, it fit in my ATX mid tower case fine with little difficulty.
Though all the software and drivers you will need are on a CD that is included in the package, I simply inserted the card, started the computer up, and then rebooted once the PC itself downloaded the drivers. One good practice would be to either manually remove any old drivers, or use a program like Drive Sweeper.
Physically, the Double Black Diamond is identical to Diamond’s other 7870 offering, with only a small fan sticker to let us know the difference. Weighing in at a hefty 2.2 pounds, measuring 9.8 inches long by 4.9 inches wide by 1.5 inches thick, the card will take up two of the available expansion slots on the back of your PC. Under the System Requirements on the Product Page, it states that you will need one 75W 6-pin PCIe power connector, and at least a 500W PSU. While generally I trust the manufacturers at their word, I’ve known the 6900 series to require two power connectors, and noticed that the card has two slots for 6-pin connectors, so I hooked connectors up to both.
On the back of the card, we find twin mini DisplayPort connections, a HDMI 1.4a port, and a dual link DVI port, allowing the card to support up to six monitors. With Eyefinity support, you could push the Max Resolution to 4096 x 3112, plus the card features support for stereoscopic 3D. Inside the package, you will find a DVI to VGA adapter, and a passive mini DisplayPort to full size DisplayPort adapter.
The visible change was immediate and very noticeable upon booting up the Double Black Diamond for the first time. My previous setup consisted of twin Radeon HD 6850s in Crossfire, and a few sources state those cards actually run together faster than the single 7870. While I trust those folks at their word, I can see no noticeable difference in speed. Using the single card, issues I ran into with incompatibility are eliminated; this means no odd flickering with some of my games. I was also aware of a slight tearing or offset about midway down on any window I rapidly moved across my desktop with my previous cards. Yeah, this was a small cosmetic issue, but it was really annoying to look at.
One important detail I noticed was an immediate drop in GPU temperature, which had an overall effect on my computer throughout. At idle, my older cards would sit at about 53 degrees Celsius, and would go as high as 70 degrees if the card was under full load. With the Double Black Diamond, the card sits at about 10 degrees lower, and even with an overclock, just breached 70 degrees on the burn-in tests conducted for this review. Most other times, the card rarely crests 65 degrees in game.
You know from out previous GPU reviews, that we test hardware the same way a standard user would. So no, I did not take the card apart and take pretty pictures of it. Nor did I get overly technical in the review, using a bunch of programs the end user would not. To me, there is one way to test a card, that is to put it in and get to work. I used one freely available program to stress test this card, and it did the job well.
Utilizing a benchmark program known as FurMark, I tested the Double Black Diamond and achieved a score of 3138 points on 1920 x 1080 resolution and 8x Anti-aliasing on a Dynamic Background with Post FX turned on. Furmark is very intensive OpenGL benchmark that utilizes fur rendering alogorithms to measure the performance of a graphics card. The final result is something that looks like a nightmare psychedelic demon giraffe, but pushes the card hard. With the score of 3138 that places it squarely in between the MSI Radeon HD 7970 and the EVGA GeForce GTX 680, however neither card was reported to be using AA during their respective tests, so I ran a second one with the values set to match identically.
Using a fullscreen resolution of 1280 x 720, 0x MSAA, and a dynamic background on a 60 second burn in test, the card scored higher at 3535 points. This score placed it in between the MSI GeForce GTX 580 Lightning and Sapphire’s Radeon HD 7970. The two scores each placed the card in the upper tier of performance, usually beat out by the GTX 600 series or an AMD Crossfire setup. Subsequent tests yielded similar results, with the highest score coming in at 3710.
If you are interested in more specifics, an excellent resource here tears down the card, and goes in depth with software testing. Another guide here discusses the standard AMD 7870 and its performance, as well as instructing you in how to overclock the card. In short, the card performs as well as a NVidia GTX 580, winning in some areas, while losing in a few. A few other results show the Black Diamond running cooler, and drawing less power than the 580.
For my part, running Battlefield 3 and many other games at their highest settings, with all the eye candy turned on, and even using multiple monitors at the same time, the Double Black Diamond has taken everything I’ve thrown at it, performed well, and kept its cool. The screenshot here shows the level of detail I was able to achieve, down to scratches on the upper receiver and granular texture on the stock of my weapon. Too bad RogueDOC was on my side though, as I had him lined up for a sweet shot.
This one is always a bit hard to judge with something like a graphics card. Without removing the shroud covering the card, you pretty much have to shake it to see if anything falls out. All pieces are tight, and the card fits well in my case with zero movement. The weight is something I do fret over though, and wonder if using a lighter material for the shroud would lighten the load up some. Still, using two fastening screws I have no issues holding the card in place. It looks and feels like a sturdy piece of hardware, just don’t drop it on your foot
Pricing is always a sore point with graphics cards. No matter how you slice it, if you are going to get something of current gen technology, then you are going to shell out some cash. With the Double Black Diamond being as new as it is, pricing and availability is hard to track down. Diamond’s record however, is to release an overclocked version after the standard edition at about the same price point. Reports place the card at about the $340 USD mark, which is in line with their previous strategy, placing it in the same price bracket as the AMD 6900 series and NVidia GTX 570 series of cards.
The Double Black Diamond is one hell of a card. It stands up well against competitors and does everything I could ask of it. Taking the card past the factory overclock yields even better results, with the advantage of a lower overall power consumption and temperatures. Your card can be top of the line: Fast, Cool or Efficient; pick two. AMD and Diamond once again show their loyalty to consumers in terms of affordability, performance and satisfaction giving us something we would be satisfied as is, or by playing around with it.
Overclocking is never something you should do without the proper knowledge. It can damage your components and void your warranties, and for the most part, there is no need to do it. My choice to do so is simply curiosity and a desire to learn, but still I researched it for some time before even attempting.
Also, people are loyal to their brands; no matter which brand of GPU you choose, someone will always suggest a different product for various reasons. The importance is for you to buy a product you are comfortable with, that fits within your price range, and gives you all the performance you require.