Graphical upgrade

This year my present was a shiny new graphics card (my thanks to the folks)! Specifically the Gigabyte HD7870 2Gb OC version which is a pretty tasty piece of kit, and a substantial jump up from the Radeon HD4870, which I had previously, in terms of overall performance. This was purely for additional power in terms of gaming, and indeed in Starcraft 2 all of my settings immediately jumped to their highest which was nice to see.

Of course it wouldn’t be my PC without there being some teething issues!

The teething problem & solution

To cut a long story short with my Gigabyte Z77-D3H motherboard I found I had to adjust a bios setting, specifically setting “Gen 2” for the primary PCI-Express slot to get the Gigabyte HD7870 working properly.

Its in the details, and who you know

Here’s what actually happened in more detail. Thankfully with the DaGodz crew on IRC, most specifically M1xwizard, helped me figure this out eventually after going through a variety of steps.

First of all I removed the original HD4870 and put in the HD7870. On first boot up the system went straight to using the onboard graphics which I was previously using in conjunction with the discreet card to run three monitors. The rub? Windows simply didn’t even see the new PCIe card, and rebooting into bios showed the same problem. Hmm, unexpected.

So I turned off the integrated graphics in the bios and rebooted. From there I got a single beep, pause, then two beeps. This essentially indicated no graphics detected at all. Tried it in the other PCIe port and got it to boot with image. Ok, at least the card isn’t dead! However I didn’t want to have it running in a slower port. Back into the main port, try again and it seems I just had it seated wrongly as no bios beeps. No picture though, most perplexing. Ah … and I can’t use the integrated graphics because I turned it off.

After resetting the CMOS with the jumper I was able to get back into the bios, card still not detected which wasn’t what I was hoping for and to make matters worse Windows refused to reboot. Part way into the boot animation it bluescreen error and promptly rebooting into startup recovery mode. Oh deep joy, was mostly what went through my head. Thankfully M1xwizard reminded me that my IDE mode might have reset, and the CMOS had indeed switched off AHCI which Windows was expecting. Still didn’t solve the 7870 not working however… so I unplugged all drives

Eventually M1x found a thread which indicated that the clue might be in changing the PCIe port generation setting. Despite the auto detect being enabled it wasn’t picking up the 7870 which is 3.0, and setting Gen3 didn’t seem to work either. Setting it to Gen2 however, did. Strangely. Maybe Gigabyte will solve this with a future motherboard bios update, or the graphics card, or both.

After that the card runs very smoothly, I haven’t bothered to check if it can be overclocked (especially since it is the “OC” version) but so far it has run everything I have at 1680×1050 with absolute maximum settings. Running Batman: Arkham Asylum in fullscreen it sits happily at 60fps throughout any in game combat sequence, amusingly the cut scene movies were recorded in 30fps it seems.

Pleasantly the card is nice and quiet, even though there are no less than three fans (roughly 80mm I believe) on it they run smooth and at a very low hum level even under load. Also lets face it, when a graphics card is under load you are most likely playing a game which has a loud soundtrack or in game effects drowning out your PCs fans anyway. That said for those wanting decent graphics and headphones, but not a loud drone which annoys family, I would compare it to one of those desktop fans on its lowest setting where it is audible but really not intolerable at all.

One thing to note if you are coming from a multiple DVI setup this card only has a single DVI port with a full size HDMI plus pair of mini display port outputs. Maplin had a £10 mini display port to DVI adapter which worked fine for me enabling my secondary monitor through the card easily.