AMD Radeon HD 7970: 28nm Tahiti GPU Review - HotHardware

AMD Radeon HD 7970: 28nm Tahiti GPU Review

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We have been hearing about AMD’s “Southern Island” family of graphics processors for quite some time. Even during briefings for the Northern Island series of products which ultimately became the Radeon HD 6000 series, news about Southern Islands was already trickling out. Rumors about these parts have been rampant for what seems like ages, but now, just in time to get all you hardcore gamers fired up this holiday season, AMD is officially taking the wraps of Southern Islands. More specifically, today AMD is announcing their latest flagship single-GPU, the Radeon HD 7970.

As you may suspect, if you paid attention to Eric Demer’s excellent keynote address at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit and the resulting onslaught of news that followed, the top-of-the-line GPU in the Southern Islands family—codenamed Tahiti—features AMD’s totally new Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. In addition to being the first GPU to feature GCN, Tahiti is also AMD’s first GPU to be manufactured at 28nm, their first with PCI Express 3.0 connectivity, the first with DirectX 11.1 support, and the first to sport a few other new technologies we’ll cover a little later (ZeroCore, PRT, multi-point audio).

There’s a lot to cover, so we’re not going to take up any more bandwidth telling the backstory. Up next are some preliminary details regarding the Radeon HD 7970 and other GPUs in the Southern Islands family, followed by a deep dive into the technology and a full performance profile of the fastest single-GPU money can (almost) buy...


The AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB Graphics Card

AMD Radeon HD 7970
Specifications & Features


We’re going to go into much more detail a little later, but here are some preliminary details regarding the Tahiti-based Radeon HD 7970. The GPU is outfitted with 2,048 stream processors featuring AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture and is paired to 3GB of GDDR5 memory connected over a 384-bit wide memory bus. The maximum number of displays supported per GPU is six, just like the previous generation Radeons, but the display output configuration has changed; one of the DVI outputs has been nixed.


The "Southern Islands" Family of AMD GPUs

The Tahiti GPU isn’t the only memory of the Southern Islands family slated for release, however. It is the only one to feature GCN, but new mainstream and “sweet spot” 28nm GPUs are coming too. The Pitcairn core will power the Radeon HD 7800 series, while Cape Verde will be the foundation of the Radeon HD 7700 series. We’ll have more details regarding those parts in the coming months.

Before we move on to the inner working of Tahiti and the Radeon HD 7970 in general, we should highlight a few previous HotHardware articles that are pertinent to today’s announcement. Although it’s based on a new GPU, the Radeon HD 7970 shares many features with previous-generation Radeons, like CrossFire, Eyefinity, PowerTune, UVD, and more. Since we won’t be covering those topics in depth here again, we’d suggest giving the following articles a glance.

In the Radeon HD 6800 and 6900 series launch articles, we discuss a number of features like PowerTune, the UVD video engine, and Eyefinity. In the Eyefinity specific articles, we further explain the technology, discuss performance, and show a number of demos of Eyefinity in action on a variety of screen configurations. 

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Wow thats crazy. MY 6950 still does the job right. I will just wait for the 8000 series.

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Dammnn...that's more than twice as powerful as my 3800. I need an upgrade. So bad.

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Great review Dave and Marco!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am stoked about this one. HH at it's finest here!!!

Can't wait to see what Nvidia will bring to the table in response.

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Good review. I knew 28nm would bring considerable improvements; I just have to wonder if it's able to gain a respectable overclock while still keeping the acoustics in check; oh if AMD let you have the card for longer!

Aside from that, this card looks nice. Actually makes my 6950 look meger in comparison; I can't help to imagine what NVIDIA's answer to AMD would be (probably more powerful but I doubt that NVIDIA would be able to release anything mindblowing on time after the Fermi debachery) but it just shows that the wait for 28nm is worth it just by looking at the charts alone. Just imagine the potential that can be had with this card and just imagine it further if someone were to put a third party cooler on it.

I'm not jumping on the bandwagon just yet; I actually plan to wait until Ivy Bridge is released and then buy the components one by one.

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who ever decided the word enthusiast would to the average person supersede hardcore isn't thinking with the ol noggin. sounds like a bird watcher. marketing ftw?

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Huh? Actually, I think it was coined in the press more than anything.

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How can Battlefield 3 not be included in the benchmarks? :/

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Because benchmarking the game can be pretty unreliable. You can use FRAPS but it's one of the tougher games to get consistent results with.

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The fact that you're test bed only pulled 375 watts at full load while providing that kind of performance is outstanding!

Could this system get by with a quality 500w PSU? If so, the need for monster kilowatt psus will virtually disappear (unless running multiple gpus).

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That's really what i'm curious about too - I've been holding out for these cards, have a 5850 that has served me well but is starting to really show its' age with the latest batch of games. Going dual-gpu card isn't an option for me and i'm limited to my current PSU.

Besides that, i think i may have been optimistic about this unveiling. As awesome as it is, I Was really hoping that this card would have nearly DOUBLE the performance of the 6950's... maybe with optimization and higher memory games such a beast will start to show its' utility.

Now i have to wait two more years for the 200 dollar version to come out hehe.

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