The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition card we tested is virtually identical to the original 7970, save for its newer firmware. Retail-ready cards, however, will be customized by AMD's board parters and will not look anything like the card we tested. Since we know how much you all like sexy hardware though, here are some recycled pics and a description of what the reference card we tested looks like..
As you can see in the images above, the card is roughly the same size as a Radeon HD 6970 at 10.5”. There is a single, barrel type fan at the rear of the card, which pumps air through a heatsink with a vapor chamber, after which it is ultimately expelled through vents in the case bracket. That’s how previous Radeon HD 6900 series cards were configured as well, but with the 7970 and 7970 GHZ Edition, AMD has moved to a new fan design with larger, wider blades. The fan has been optimized for lower RPMs for better acoustics, but pushes more air. AMD also removed the stacked DVI connector to increase the size of the exhaust vent and reduce turbulence. The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is also outfitted with a multi-step vapor chamber with three distinct levels. One level makes contact with the GPU, another the memory, and the last touches the VREGs.
The fan shroud design has been tweaked as well. Unlike Radeon HD 6900 series cards which had a mostly squared, flat design, that was sealed at the rear, the Radeon HD 7970 has a curved shroud with additional vents. AMD also removed the stiffening plate from the back to maximize the amount of air-space between cards installed in adjacent PEG slots.
AMD also uses a second-generation phase-change thermal interface material on the GPU, all of which culminates in somewhat reduced temperatures over older Radeons, but with much better performance.
Other physical attributes of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition include the familiar pair of CrossFire edge connectors, and the two-position BIOS switch that debuted on Radeon HD 6900 series cards. That tiny switch is used to toggle between two BIOS chips on the card—the first BIOS can be altered / updated, while the second will return the card to its factory settings, or vice versa. That’s something that might come in handy with the modding crowd.
Also on the top, at the far end of the card are its power connectors. The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition requires two supplemental power feeds, one PCIe 8-pin feed and one 6-pin feed. Finally, the output configuration on reference Radeon HD 7970 series cards consists of one dual-link DVI output, two mini-DisplayPort outputs and a single HDMI output. Four of these outputs can be used at any given time to power displays in a multi-monitor Eyefinity configuration, but with upcoming DisplayPort hubs due to arrive in a few months, up to six displays can be connected at once.