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By | Leo Waldock 24th February 2009 09:02

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo graphics card

A fancy cooler alone does not a great graphics card make

Review HIS describes its HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB as its "Fastest Single GPU Graphic Card Ever", complete with all of those capital letters. HIS is an AMD partner, so that’s another way of saying that this particular IceQ 4+ is an overclocked Radeon HD 4870 - the 4870 X2 is excluded by virtue of being based on two GPUs.

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB

HIS' HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB: from the top...

A reference HD 4870 runs at a core speed of 750MHz with GDDR 5 memory clocked at a true speed of 900MHz to give an effective speed of 3600MHz. The HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo is clocked at 770MHz/4000MHz, so the extra speed is trivial as delivered, although we’ll come to overclocking in a short while.

There appears to be some doubt about the claim that the HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo is the fastest HIS graphics card as the company's own HD 4870 Turbo is clocked at 780MHz/4000MHz.

The difference between these two models is the IceQ 4+ cooler. At first glance, our review sample looks quite similar to a reference HD 4870, although the pair of heatpipes that bulge out of the side of the IceQ 4+ give a visual clue that this is something different. The design is similar to a regular HD 4870 - it's a double-slot card that uses a dustbuster-style fan to blow cooling air across the heatsink that sits on the GPU and memory chips. This heated air is then expelled through the vented bracket and out of the rear of the case.

The reference cooler draws air in from the top of the cooler, but HIS has raised the end of the cooling package to allow air to be drawn in from both the top and bottom of the 70mm diameter fan. Add the pair of chunky 8mm heatpipes to the equation and you have a heat path that has the potential to efficiently shift the heat from the HD 4870 chip to the heatsink and then to the airflow and out of the case.

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB

...and the bottom

Testing this premise was a little awkward as we don’t have a regular HD 4870 that we can use for a direct comparison, but we do have an HD 4870 X2 and an HD 4850 which fall either side of the HIS IceQ 4+ Turbo in terms of performance.

We tested the graphics cards on the same ASRock X58 that we used in our review of the Gigabyte R485MC-1GH, along with 3GB of triple-channel 1066MHz DDR 3 and an Intel X25-M SSD, all running 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate.

3DMark Vantage Results

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - 3DMark Vantage

Longer bars are better

3DMark06 Results

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - 3DMark06

Longer bars are better

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - key

Far Cry 2 Results
1280 x 1024, No AA

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - FarCry 2

Frames per second
Longer bars are better

1920 x 1080, 2x AA

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - FarCry 2

Frames per second
Longer bars are better

1920 x 1080, 8x AA

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - FarCry 2

Frames per second
Longer bars are better

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - key

Power Draw Results

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - Power Draw

Power Draw in Watts (W)

GPU Thermal Results

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - Thermals

Temperature in Degrees Celcius (°C)

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB - key

The reference HD 4850 is a single-slot design that circulates hot air inside the PC case and, as a result, it gets horribly hot, maintaining a consistent 80°C both at idle and under load. The HD 4870 X2 is a different proposition. It draws air through the cooler before expelling it through the mounting bracket. The idle temperature of this twin-GPU card is 65°C which rises to 80°C under load.

By contrast, the HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ idles at 45°C and only rises to 55°C under load. This is impressively cool and suggests that the graphics chip should lead a long and happy life. On the downside, the IceQ 4+ cooler is quite noisy under load, which is fair enough, but it's also clearly audible when idling.

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB

Ultraviolet ready

We would have hoped that this cooling would give the IceQ 4+ a fair amount of scope for overclocking, but things aren’t quite so simple. The Overdrive section of AMD's Catalyst drivers has maximum settings of 790MHz/4400MHz, and while the HIS card ran these clock speeds without any problem it wasn’t a huge improvement over the stock settings.

There are alternative overclocking utilities, such as ATi Tool and Riva Tuner, but we find them to be less user-friendly than the Catalyst drivers. In any event, HIS didn’t include overclocking software on the driver disc.

In fact, you don’t get a huge amount in the package, which consists of the graphics card, a CrossFire bridge, a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor and a DVI-to-VGA adaptor. In fairness to HIS, the IceQ 4+ also has UV Reactive Artwork so you can install a UV light in your case and watch your card glow in the dark.

HIS HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo 1GB

Paying a premium for the cooler?

In essence, the HIS 4870 carries a premium of some £40 over a 1GB reference design from the likes of PowerColor, and we assume that most of that money is being spent on the IceQ 4+ cooler. Although the performance of the HIS 4870 is impressive, it's unlikely that the fancy cooler plays a large role as the extra clock speed is so tiny compared to a stock HD 4870. This makes it hard for us to see the appeal of the IceQ 4+ cooler as you have to suffer the noise from the fan without any notable gain in performance.


The underlying performance of the HD 4870 and 1GB of GDDR 5 is impressive but there are legions of these cards on the market and they cost less than the £200-odd HIS wants for the HD 4870 IceQ 4+ Turbo. We can't see much reason to pay a premium for the IceQ 4+ cooler. ®

More Graphics Reviews...

Gigabyte GVR485MC1GH


Sapphire HD4870 X2 Atomic

Group Test: AMD Radeon
HD 4000 series
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