Powercolor HD 4870 PCS+: stability issues check

As we mentioned in HD 4870 review, Radeon HD 4870 have a very good graphic performance, but poor in  temperature/cooling and power consumption. Powercolor HD4870 PCS+ is the first non-reference 4870,  and all of us are looking forward of this product, expecting it have a way better cooling. So when we got the card we did not run normal performance testing but instead of  temperature test. We hope after a month’s preparation, AIB manufacturers introduce a product more better than reference HD 4870.

PowerColor HD 4870 PCS+ is based on reference 4870 PCB design, the major improvements including better voltage regulator module and cooling:

  1. VRM upgrade from 3 phase(reference 4870) to 4 phase; replaced reference cooler with ZEROtherm dual heatpipe cooler.
  2. Memory modules and VRM have their independent heat sink.
  3. Also Powercolor added a shiny metal strip to prevent PCB deformation.

What’s more, HD 4870 PCS+ is factory overclocked to 800/950MHz (core/memory) (reference: 750 MHz/900MHz) . After all these changes, Powercolor keeps the price tag only ten dollar higher then reference version (newegg price). On behalf of one Powercolor rep, the card is more perfect than reference design.
Page 1: Intro
Page 2: Fail to run Furmark, weird fan speed
Page 3: Find more cards, change cooler, double check
Page 4: New and old BIOS difference
Page 5: Final words

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

36 Responses to “Powercolor HD 4870 PCS+: stability issues check”

  1. Jens Says:

    Nice read. Good to see that someone takes a closer look at that card (as it is the first non-reference-card especially using 1024 MB RAM I guess there are some more as me waiting for it). Keep up the good work.

  2. Qwerty Says:

    I thought it was clear what all the instabilities and card deaths had in common from the start… aftermarket cooling. While the core obviously gets nice hefty cooling, the VRM heatsinks are downgraded to small measly heatsinks (from that huge behemoth of a red plate) that just can’t cope with the heat buildup (which now lingers inside the case also), not to mention the fact that some are no longer even blown properly on by the fan. Furmark goes bye-bye quickly at 126C (VRM). These aftermarket solutions are just poorly thought out and effortless. How long before someone figures it out (or gives a rats ass) and offers a proper large VRM heatsink?

  3. dejanh Says:

    I do not get this either. I have already pointed out a billion times up to now that the 4870 has inadequate VRM cooling and every single 4870 card suffers from this issue, especially if the cards are overclocked. It’s as though everyone is purposely oblivious of this issue ignoring it all the time, always. It all first came to light when the Diamond “Super RV770″ 4870 XOC BE was released and there are numerous threads on this all around, on XtremeSystems, NCIX forums, everywhere…

    Here is one known solution to the problems but be very careful with it as it is possible to brick your card while doing this mod…


  4. dejanh Says:

    I thought it was pretty clear why this is happening already…

    I found it first when dealing with Diamond’s 4870 XOC BE cards. It seems everyone is staying oblivious of the issue and I do not know why…

    Anyways, here is one possible solution that is by no means easy to do http://www.clunk.org.uk/forums/user-reviews/8855-thermalright-hr03-gt-ati-hd-4870-a.html

  5. Humble Says:

    Can someone tell me how to mod the BIOS setting fan? By using RBE? PWM Ramp ON?

  6. Karas Says:

    Use new ATT beta and set fan to 6, 7 or 38%. These are 3 speeds that I’m using. The last one just for testing because its too loud… but anyways I dont get crashes in furmark with this card as you do. I’m using XP 32bit, CATs 8.8 and I’m got this card yestarday. The only issue I’ve had is that initially after using the vga for 10min it heated up pretty quickly and the card itself started to fizzle!! After changing fan rpm it went away but still very strange…

  7. dejanh Says:

    Cool the VRMs. Seriously. The cooling on it currently is not adequate. That’s the source of the problems. I posted a link before that shows what’s necessary to keep the VRMs cool, and it is a massive heatsink to use on a graphics card. In a hotter case you will need a fan too cooling the heatsink.

  8. Aramint Says:

    Thank you dejanh, I am planning a purchase of a 4870 with an aftermarket cooler so I thank you for your shared information.

  9. Babyfish Says:

    Great to read such an objective review. It’s never good to conceal the truth.

  10. D.A.I. Says:

    I think VRM may not be totally obligate to the issue.
    Since T-rad2 should cool the VRM better than a reference cooler
    but it still fail to pass the test under reference clock.

  11. Aramint Says:

    Hmmm, good point D.A.I., I missed that section. Maybe it is a defective card to begin with..?

  12. Kazarang Says:

    If you run furmark on catalyst 8.8, try rename executable of furmark to f.exe and run it. You see much more temp on VRM an core also VDDC up from 56 to 74 A. Fps rise in 2 time. VRM temp rise to 115 C or more.

  13. kin Says:

    O_o that’s a shock news, let me test it now.

  14. dejanh Says:

    Yeah, FurMark is nerfed in the 8.8 Catalyst driver on purpose. So beware. If you want to really push your card you either need an older Catalyst driver (e.g., 8.7) or maybe the renaming executable trick to be done. In terms of the T-Rad2 being enough, it is not. If you read carefully all the issues with VRM temps you will see the following pattern. Small/medium heatsink with or without fan == fail. You need a fat heatsink (a rally big one) or a medium-large heatsink with a fan. The HR-09S Type 2 is a massive heatsink, especially used on the VRMs. It works just fine and stops FurMark from crashing the card and for that matter VRMs going over about 80C vs. the standard 126C+.

  15. Aramint Says:

    Hello dejanh, would you conclude to say that using the stock cooler be sufficient for the 4870 VRMs (besides HR-09S Type 2 of course)? I’ve seen the cooler photos online and the cooler itself looks robust, just that the blower type fan is something I would like to change.

  16. dejanh Says:

    Yes, the stock cooler is sufficient for cooling the VRMs as long as the card does not have any volt mods and is not heavily overclocked. I do not recommend running FurMark though using the stock cooler either, at least not for a longer time.

  17. Chris Says:

    There’s nothing wrong with the reference model fan. I run my card @ 780/1100 at a constant 40% fanspeed, idle 45C, load never over 75C. No problems at all and the slight hum from my computer doesn’t bother me at all.

  18. dejanh Says:

    Yup, indeed. The reference cooler almost fairs the best out of all solutions (short of that HR-09S Type 2 sink on VRMs). However, Chris, you are not talking about the same thing here. Many people do not understand that GPU temp and VRM temp are not one and the same. The temps for VRMs get very high when running FurMark, so high in fact that even on the stock cooler they start to burn off the contact foam on the cooler’s backside. For general use though and relatively light overclocking with no volt mods the stock cooler is sufficient.

  19. mascaras Says:

    i have same card and i dont have that problems !

    the only problem i had was with older bios the “zipzip” fan noise when idle ( fan speed 2%)

    with new Bios no “zipzsip” noise anymore , and i dont have the crazy fan like yours !

    my fan work like this

    55º – 60º >>> Fan speed 32%

    61º – 70º >> Fan speed 43%

    71º >> Fan speed 74%


  20. zillatech Says:

    mascaras, did your card come with a newer BIOS or did you have to download it? Also, how is the noise of the Fan? NewEgg just got the new 1GB model in and there is almost no reviews on the net for the PowerColor 4870 PCS+ yet.

  21. asic Says:

    are you sure that this is an overheating issues?
    i have reference PowerColor 4870 (small OC to 800/930) and noticed the following:

    if I run renamed FurMark 640×480 0×00 AA, Catalyst 8.8, then the VRM _current_ rises up to 80A less then in 3 minutes, and then I got a crash. The temps at this time are 74/82/91 — absolutely within temp range. But, again 80A triggers over-current protection, hence a GPU reset.

    if I run non-renamed FurMark, then VRM current never exceeds 57-59A, and temps are just several degrees lower.

    My 4870 is cooled by Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 + 2x92mm fans (45cfm, 2.8mm h2o each). No other test can push temps further then 65/74/82.

  22. punk_ass Says:

    Bwah BULLSHIT!

    Ma 4870 pcs+ from powercolor is runnin fine.
    furmark works nicely.

  23. Abraksas Says:

    I have Powercolor HD4870 PSC+ and I run Furmark stability test for 2 hours GPU temp was 72C . I have question, how many cards ( same model ) did you tested before you write this review ?

    I agree with punk_ass this is damn BS

  24. Michail Says:

    Just was unlucky enough to buy this “improved” card.
    The root cause of the issue is VRM #3 overheating (with stock thermointerface it goes ~ as high as 200C). After cleaning radiatior, replacing thermointerface with a better one (instead of gum-like BS) temperature reduced by ~10-15C, I’ve added dedicated coolor, and temperature became ~130C under load, while rated max operational temperature is 125C. I am going to continue my investigation.

    Right now my system can survive under 80A current(i.e. it is overheating, not overcurrent), but still I am going to improve max VRM temperature down to 100C at least.

  25. Michail Says:

    Note for FurMark tests: If you want to have maximal load, DO NOT USE MSAA in FurMark. It actually reduces power consumption. And ofcourse you should rename executable to anything else like Fu_rMark.exe :-)

    Ok guys, even with 3 extra coolers for VRMs (2 small coolers right on the radiator and 12cm cooling all the card) this nice card cannot survive more than 120 seconds of renamed FurMark (that is big improvement after like 2-3 seconds survival before active VRM cooling & thermointerface replace).

    Looks like the only way to make it stable is to replace stock VRM radiator with a bigger one Cu or Ag based (I guess noone can find a heatpipe based cooled of that size). I bet it is impossible to cool them using Aluminum radiator of any size.

    And it would require active cooling anway.

    If we would ignore FurMark, with active VRM cooling my system can work stable at 850/1050 soft-voltmodded to 1.35v (under HL2, Stalker Clear Sky, AtiTool).

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