With the R6870 Hawk, MSI has added some extras and improved the performance of the basic 6870. It uses a custom ‘Propeller Blade’ cooler which MSI says can deliver 20 per cent more air to the card, along with voltage and power tweaks to allow for higher clock speeds, and slightly better gaming performance. This allows it to compete more effectively with the GeForce GTX 560 TI, an improved version of nVidia’s equivalently priced card.
The 6870 has 1120 shader units, and a core clock frequency of 930MHz, which MSI has overclocked slightly beyond the standard 900MHz frequency. Its 1GB of memory still runs at the same 1050MHz (4.2GHz effective) though, for a total memory bandwidth of 134GB/sec.
The better cooler gives it extra headroom to be overclocked further by its owner, and MSI allows the memory and PLL to be adjusted as well as the GPU itself, for more stable and precise overclocking. This can be done with software that MSI includes with the card.
The 6870 performed well in our tests, showing excellent performance in Stalker and Bad Company 2. The scores in Stalker were 84.9fps at 1280 x 1024 and 57.2fps at 1920 x 1080, and 90fps and 71fps at those resolutions in Bad Company 2, so you can expect consistently smooth gameplay. Crysis was also playable at the resolutions we tested, topping 52fps at 1280 x 1024 resolution, and still pushing over 35fps at 1920 x 1080.