AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Review - HotHardware

AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Review

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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..


The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition: GPU Clock=1000MHz/1050MHz, Memory Data Rate=6.0 Gbps

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 Radeon HD 7900 Series Cooling Solution

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.




The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition's Power & CrossFire Connectors

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.

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Nice card. I'd like to try one out.

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Marco, when this card was tested by the Sweclockers team (http://www.sweclockers.com/recension/15564-amd-radeon-hd-7970-gigahertz-edition - in Swedish), the conclusions reached were much the same as those you list in your summary above. However, a couple of additional things were noted - the so-called «PowerTune Technology» didn't really work as expected ; instead of the card being tested (much the same line up as in your HH test) running at the basic 1000 MHz speed and being «dynamically» boosted to 1050MHz when required, throughout the whole test the card ran consistently at 1050 MHz, save for a dip to around 1020MHz for perhaps a tenth of a second on a single occasion. Moreover, available software does not permit card voltage to be increased over the standard 1.2V (which itself is a minor increase over the standard 1.175V of the standard 7970), which, of course, limits the card's overclocking potential. Thus, according to the Sweclockers reviewers, the HD 7970 GHz amounts to a factory overclocked HD 7970, in which the engine clock has been boosted to 1050MHz from 925MHz, the memory clock to 6GHz from 5.5GHz, and voltage, as noted above, to 1.2V from 1.175V. An owner of a HD 7970 card should therefore be able to attain the same performance levels as the HD 7970 GHz card by means of a relative modest overclocking of his or her card. In other words, the HD 7970 GHz card, while it does take the speed crown from the GeForce GTX 680 (on most applications), doesn't represent anything new....

Love to hear your comments on the above !...

Henri

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Well, it's the same GPU and PCB, and as I stated the only changes to the card are on the firmware level, so technically the 7970 GHz Edition is just an overclocked 7970. If you'v got (or anyone's got) a 7970 that'll overclock to the same levels, performance will be identical.

AMD also showed me (and a handful of other tech journalists) the card in action a couple weeks back at the AFDS, and the Boost frequency was fluctuating up and down. It's not as granular as NVIDIA's implementation, but it does work.  I'm not sure what that other site used to monitor frequencies, but Overdrive just reports the "high-performance" clock. Not sure GPU-Z reads frequencies properly either, but don't quote me on that one...I'm not certain.

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Thanks, Marco, for your reply ! The two Sweclockers testers, Jonas Thörnqvist and Emil Björklund, state the following in an explanatory video that they felt compelled to add to the summary section of their detailed, multi-page review (2:59 - 3:17 into the video) : «... the drivers report a clock frequency of 1050MHz, GPU-Z reports a clock frequency of 1050MHz (this could, per se, be due to the software's lack of support for the Turbo fuction), but the point is that, no matter how much one looks at the card, it always runs at 1050MHz ...»

In any event, thanks for an excellent review !...

Henri

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So, they're wrong in their assessment. GPU-Z detects the card properly, but doesn't poll clocks correctly yet. The Boost frequency definitely fluctuates. I saw it in action with my own eyes. The tool AMD was using to demo Boost, however, wasn't public. I was the functionality may be incorporated into a future release of the Catalyst Control Center.

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Don't worry, the 12.11 catalyst drivers will resolve alot of issues these cards have been having and will also increase performance by 5%-20%. Once these drivers are released the ATi cards will be faster than their Nvidia competitors along the same model comparison.

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