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AMD Radeon HD 7970: 28nm Tahiti GPU Review
Date: Dec 22, 2011
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Introduction and Specifications

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. 

Graphics Core Next Architecture

As we’ve mentioned, at the heart of AMD’s Radeon HD 7900 series graphics cards lies a totally new GPU codenamed Tahiti, which is based on a new architecture dubbed Graphics Core Next.

According to AMD, GCN was three years in the making and is designed to be scalable in ways AMD couldn't achieve before. The architecture is tuned for high graphics and compute performance and optimized for parallel and heterogeneous computing applications.

AMD Tahiti GPU w/ Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture

The cores in Tahiti have been completely redesigned from scratch. In its full configuration, the GPU features 2048 Stream Processors, arranged in 32 compute units, each with 64 vector units (4 x 16), and a 384-bit wide GDDR5 memory controller. The GPU has dual geometry engines and 8 render back ends than can process 32 color ROPs and 128 Z/Stencil ROPs per clock. The geometry engines and render back ends are also up to 50% more efficient than AMD’s older architectures. There is 768KB of read/write L2 cache, and L1 caches have been doubled over the previous generation as well. Not only is there more cache, but the caches have more bandwidth as well. In fact, AMD claims 2TB/s of bandwidth across all 32 caches on the chip, when operating at 925MHz.

The Tahiti GPU is manufactured using TSMC’s advanced 28nm process node and is comprised of a whopping 4.3 billion transistors, more than double the 2.1B transistors of the Cayman GPU used in the Radeon HD 6900 series. Dies size for the chip is 365mm2.

Graphics Core Next features a new instruction set, that’s not VLIW like previous generations and is more flexible and easier to program. The primary graphics pipeline and two compute pipelines can work independently of each other. Each compute unit can also execute instructions from multiple kernels simultaneously. The architecture is designed for increased instruction per clock per mm2 and is designed for high utilization, high throughput, and multi-tasking.

Radeon HD 6970 vs. 7970 Specification Comparison

As implemented on the Radeon HD 7970, the Tahiti GPU is clocked at 925MHz and offers up to 3.79TFLOPS of compute performance. There are 128 texture units (up from 96 in the Radeon HD 6900 series), which off a peak texture fillrate of 118.4GT/s and 32 ROPs; peak pixel fillrate is up slightly from the 6970 to 39.6GP/s.

Radeon HD 7970 boards will also feature 3GB of GDDR memory running at 1,375MHz, for an effective data rate of 5.5Gbps. The memory is attached to the GPU via a 384-bit wide memory bus, resulting in peak memory bandwidth of a 264GB/s, which is a huge leap over the 6970’s 176GB/s peak. Although the memory is clocked at a similar rate, the wider bus on the 7970 affords much more bandwidth. Board power is similar between the Radeon HD 7970 and 6970 at a peak of 250W.

28nm Tahiti: New GPU Features

In addition to featuring a totally new GPU architecture, Radeon HD 7900 series cards like the Radeon HD 7970 also sport a number of new features and support for new graphics technologies.

ZeroCore Power Technology

AMD’s ZeroCore Power Technology is one that’s going to please many hardcore gamers. As it stands today, when multiple cards are configured in a CrossFire configuration, all of the cards remain powered up, generating heat and noise. With ZeroCore Power Technology, however, when not gaming (or running an app that can leverage multiple GPUs), companion cards can actually be powered down to the point where their fans can stop spinning. When ZeroCore Power Technology kicks in, idles cards consume about 3w of power, with only about 1w going to the GPU.

Graphics Core Next Tessellation

As we mentioned earlier, the Radeon HD 7900 series cards are also outfitted with the latest iteration of AMD’s hardware tessellation units. The tessellators in the 7900 series are still limited to 2B verticies/s, but efficiency improvements have been made along with enhancements to off-chip buffering and caches. The end result is improved performance at all tessellation factors with up to a 4x improvement in throughput versus the Radeon HD 6900 series.

Partially Resident Textures (PRT)

Another new feature coming with the Radeon HD 7900 series is Partially Resident Textures, or PRT. Games and applications will need to be specifically coded to take advantage of PRT, but when they do, they’ll be able to essentially stream in texture data on demand. PRT textures are chunked into 64K tiles and the tiles that need to be resident in GPU memory are streamed in when necessary, in lieu of loading entire textures. When and if used properly, PRT should be able to help minimize or eliminate the stuttering that’s sometimes caused on texture loads.

Discrete Digital Multi-Point Audio

Radeon HD 7900 series cards will also feature a new integrated audio codec and offer support for discrete digital multi-point audio. The Radeon HD 7900 series can support as many audio streams as there are active displays connected to the cards. What the technology does is allow for audio to seamlessly follow video as it is dragged from screen to screen. This video can come in handy for multi-display video conferencing where each participants audio is played only through the speakers on the screen on which his image is being displayed or in any scenario where video and audio is being played on one screen and not necessarily the other.

AMD PowerTune Technology

Also returning with the Radeon HD 7900 series is AMD’s PowerTune technology. PowerTune utilizes a control processor integrated into the Radeon HD 7900 series to monitor GPU activity in real-time at the micro-second level and dynamically adjust clock speeds to enforce a hard TDP ceiling. PowerTune offers direct control over the GPU’s power draw and no longer needs to constrain default clock speeds to accommodate “power virus” type applications. We should also note that PowerTune is controllable via AMD’s Overdrive utility should users want to tweak performance based on their cooling and power configurations.

A number of new features are coming to Eyefinity as well. AMD is unifying their stereo 3D support and Eyefinity so that any game that works across three monitors will also work in 3D mode as well. This feature will be enabled on both 7000 and 6000 series Radeons. In a driver update scheduled for February, custom resolutions will also be supported, there will be improvements made to the preset managers, and taskbar positioning is coming as well.

With Catalyst 12.1 user editable CrossFire and 3D profiles on a per application basis were made available. And when Windows 8 ships next year, AMD will provide a unified driver for Vista, 7, and 8 systems, with Direct3D 11.1 support scheduled for a future driver release that will arrive sometime after Windows 8 ships.

AMD Radeon HD 7970 Card

Although it bears some resemblance to previous-generation Radeon HD series cards and sports a similar red and black color scheme, the Radeon HD 7970 has a number of new tricks under its fan shroud; for AMD at least.

The Radeon HD 7970: GPU Clock=925MHz, Memory Data Rate=5.5Gbps

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, and 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, 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 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 that would be present between cards installed in adjacent PEG slots.

AMD also uses a second-generation phase-change thermal interface material, all of which culminates in significantly reduced temperatures over older Radeons. In fact, we never saw a GPU temperature above 65 degrees, but honestly we’re not confident OverDrive was reporting GPU temps properly.


The Radeon HD 7970's Power & CrossFire Connectors

Other physical attributes of the Radeon HD 7970 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. 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 requires two supplemental power feeds, a PCIe 8-pin feed and a 6-pin as well. 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 next year, up to six displays can be connected.

Test System and Unigine Heaven v2.5

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard powered by a Core i7-3960X six-core processor and 16GB of G.SKILL DDR3-1600 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI  and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist, along with the necessary drivers, games, and benchmark applications.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-3960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
Asus P9X79 Deluxe
(Intel X79 Express)

Radeon HD 7970
Radeon HD 6990
Radeon HD 6970
GeForce GTX 590
GeForce GTX 580 3GB OC
GeForce GTX 580

16GB OCZ DDR3-1600
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
ATI Catalyst v12.1b
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 290.36

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.5
3DMark 11
Batman: Arkham City
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Metro 2033
Lost Planet 2
Dirt 3

Unigine Heaven v2.5 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming

Unigine Heaven

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v2.5 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform, real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion) It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

The new AMD Radeon HD 7970 proved to be the fastest single GPU in the Unigine Heaven benchmark. Thanks to its more powerful and efficient Tessellation engines, the Radeon HD 7970 is able to smoke the 6970 by about 66% here. In comparison to the single-GPU powered NVIDIA-based competition, however, the Radeon HD 7970 is only about 15.6% and 21.8% faster than the factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 580 3GB card and reference GeForce GTX 580, respectively.

For the dual-GPU powered cards, the Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590--finished in the top spots, however.

3DMark 11 Performance

Futuremark 3DMark11
Synthetic DirectX Gaming

Futuremark 3DMark11

The latest version of Futuremark's synthetic 3D gaming benchmark, 3DMark11, is specifically bound to Windows Vista and WIndows 7-based systems due to its DirectX 11 requirement, which isn't available on previous versions of Windows. 3DMark11 isn't simply a port of 3DMark Vantage to DirectX 11, though. With this latest version of the benchmark, Futuremark has incorporated four new graphics tests, a physics tests, and a new combined test. We tested the graphics cards here with 3DMark11's Extreme preset option, which uses a resolution of 1920x1080 with 4x anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.

Once again, the dual-GPU powered cards are able to maintain significant leads, which is to be expected of course.  Beyond that, the Radeon HD 7970 proved to be the fastest single-GPU powered card in 3DMark 11. In this test, the Radeon HD 7970 was about 47% faster than AMD's previous flagship single-GPU, the Radeon HD 6970, and approximately 31% faster than the GeForce GTX 580.  The factory OC'd 3GB GeForce GTX 580 cut the Radeon's lead down to roughly 18.9% here but it's still an impressive performance for ATI's newcomer.

Just Cause 2 Performance

Just Cause 2
DX10.1 Gaming Performance

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 was released in March '10, from developers Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive. The game makes use of the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the similarly named original. It is set on the fictional island of Panau in southeast Asia, and you play the role of Rico Rodriquez. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article using one of the built-in demo runs called Desert Sunrise. The test results shown here were run at various resolutions and settings. This game also supports a few CUDA-enabled features, but they were left disabled to keep the playing field level.

We saw more of the same with the Just Cause 2 benchmark. In this game, the Radeon HD 7970 proved to be about 49.6% faster than the Radeon HD 6970, and between 15.8% and 27.6% faster than the GeForce GTX 580 cards. The dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 6990 and GeForce GTX 590, however, remained the fastest graphics cards overall, by fairly large margins.

Batman: Arkham City Performance

Batman: Arkham City
DirectX Gaming Performance

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City is a sequel to 2009’s Game of the Year winning Batman: Arkham Asylum. This recently released sequel, however, lives up to and even surpasses the original. The story takes place 18 months after the original game. Quincy Sharp, the onetime administrator of Arkham Asylum, has become mayor and convinced Gotham to create "Arkham City" by walling off the worst, most crime-ridden areas of the city and turning the area into a giant open-air prison. The game has DirectX 9 and 11 rendering paths, with support for tessellation, multi-view soft shadows, and ambient occlusion. We tested in DX11 mode with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values, at various resolutions.

Despite trying various drivers and application profiles, the Radeon HD 6990 wouldn't scale properly in this game in our test bed. As such, the Radeon HD 7970 proved to be the fasted AMD-powered graphics card in Batman: Arkham City by a wide margin.

AMD's latest flagship, single-GPU powered Radeon, however, was only able to skin the GeForce GTX 580 by about 15.9%. And the factory OC'd GeForce GTX 580 3GB card finished 8.5% behind at the highest resolution.

Metro 2033 Performance

Metro 2033
DirecX11 Gaming Performance

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment, but rather you’re left to deal with life, or lack there-of more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2003 boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform currently including a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with adaptive anti-aliasing and in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.

The performance trend we've seen thus far continued in the Metro 2033 benchmark. In this game, the new Radeon HD 7970 continued to be the fastest single-GPU we've tested, besting the Radeon HD 6970 by about 30%, and the GeForce GTX 580s by 25% to 30.2%, at the highest resolution.

Although the dual-GPU powered cards remained firmly in the top two positions, the Radeon HD 7970 was only a few percentage points behind the GeForce GTX 590 here.

Lost Planet 2 Performance

Lost Planet 2
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance

Lost Planet 2

A follow-up to Capcom’s Lost Planet : Extreme Condition, Lost Planet 2 is a third person shooter that takes place again on E.D.N. III ten years after the story line of the first title. We ran the game’s DX11 mode which makes heavy use of DX11 Tessellation and Displacement mapping and soft shadows. There are also areas of the game that make use of DX11 DirectCompute for things like wave simulation in areas with water. This is one game engine that looks significantly different in DX11 mode when you compare certain environmental elements and character rendering in its DX9 mode versus DX11. We used the Test B option built into the benchmark tool and with all graphics options set to their High Quality values.

The Lost Planet 2 benchmark, which has traditionally favored NVIDIA's architecture due to its strong geometry performance, ran very well on the Radeon HD 7970. In this test, AMD's new baby was over 30% faster than the Radeon HD 6970, and between 10.8% and 20% faster then the singe-GPU powered GeForces. 

Dirt 3 Performance

Dirt 3
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance

Dirt 3

Dirt 3 is the latest in a string of great racing games from Codemasters. Like is predecessor, 2009's Dirt 2, this game sports impressive visuals with DX11 support. “Ultra” settings for shadow effects, tessellation, and post processing elements, like depth of field, then become available to the gamer, and in turn, crank up the workload on the graphics subsystem. The game engine also makes use of multi-core processors for higher performance on top-end systems. We tested the game configured with its Ultra graphics options with 4X anti-aliasing at resolutions with of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.

At this point, we must be sounding like a broken record. In the Dirt 3 benchmark, the new Radeon HD 7970 was once again the fasted single-GPU we have tested to date. In this game the 7970 outpaces the Radeon HD 6970, GeForce GTX 580, and 3GB OC'd GeForce GTX 580 by margins of 38.2%, 25.5%, and 11.4%, respectively.

Alien vs. Predator Performance

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance

Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion and high-quality shadow features, available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11 related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.

In our final game test, we saw more of the same. In the Alien vs. Predator benchmark, the Radeon HD 7970 put up scores roughly 21% higher than the Radeon HD 6970 and between 18.7% and 26.5% higher than the single-GPU powered GeForce GTX 580s. The dual-GPU powered cards couldn't be touched, however.

Total System Power Consumption

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely power consumption and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling and while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

The new Radeon HD 7970 proved to be relatively power-friendly considering its high-end status. While idling at the Windows desktop, out test system pulled down only 127W, besting all other cards by 11 to 43 Watts. And under load, the Radeon HD 7970 actually consumed slightly less power than the Radeon HD 6970, despite offering much better overall performance; a testament to the efficiency of the architecture and TSMC's 28nm process, which seems better off than its 40nm node was at this early stage. There is, however, one more power-related score to mention. The Radeon HD 6970 also offers an even lower idle power state when the card isn't actively sending a signal to a display. If we let our test system sit until the screen blanked, power consumption dropped to only 116w--another 11 watt savings.

With its larger vapor chamber / heatsink, enhanced fan and fan shroud assembly, and relatively modest power characteristics, it should come as no surprise that the Radeon HD 7970 proved to be somewhat quiet in real world use cases. While idling, the card is all but silent. Under load, we never saw the fan spin up past the 30-40% range, which was audible, but definitely on the silent side in comparison to other high-end graphics cards. Should you manually spin the fans up to higher speeds, it can get loud like previous-gen Radeons, but in real-world use that never happened on its own. We'd say the Radeon HD 7970 is somewhat quieter than Radeon HD 6900 series cards, but not quite as quiet as GeForce GTX 500 series products.

Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: There is a lot to summarize in regards to the Radeon HD 7970’s overall performance, so let’s just take it step by step here. In comparison to AMD’s previous flagship single-GPU powered card, the Radeon HD 6970, the new Radeon HD 7970 proved to be between 1.2x and 1.6x (approximately) faster overall. In games (or benchmarks) that make extensive use of tessellation, the 7970 offers huge advantages, but its vastly increased memory bandwidth, compute performance and fillrate also help. Versus NVIDIA’s reference GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB card, the Radeon HD 7970 was between 1.16x and 1.31x faster. And versus a factory overclocked, custom EVGA GeForce GTX 580 3GB card, the Radeon HD 7970 was only about 8.5% to 25% faster overall. To put it simply, the AMD Radeon HD 7970 is the fastest, single-GPU powered graphics card we have ever tested thus far.

With that said, we do think the performance profile we’ve laid out for you here is likely to change significantly as AMD is able to wring more performance from their new architecture. NVIDIA was able to drastically enhance Fermi’s performance as the company got more adept in software with the intricacies of the architecture.  We suspect AMD is going to be able to do the same over time.

We do not think, however, that AMD is going to be able to meet or exceed the performance of today’s high-end dual-GPU powered cards, even with future driver updates. As it stands today, the Radeon HD 6990 remains the fastest graphic card money can buy, with the GeForce GTX 590 finishing just behind. It’s going to take two Tahiti GPUs to surpass the performance of those cards.  Of course AMD is already working on a solution for that as well, codenamed "New Zealand."

In terms of its power consumption, the Radeon HD 7970 is a best-in-class performer. Loaded power was within a few watts of the Radeon HD 6970, despite the 7970’s significantly better in-game performance. And idle power was the best, bar none.

The AMD Radeon HD 7970. In Time For Christmas? Not Quite.

Unlike the majority of GPU product launches over the last few years, this one isn’t a hard launch. AMD lifted the veil on the Radeon HD 7970 today to give you all a taste of what it has in store in the coming weeks. Those of you interested in buying one of these cards today won’t be able to. Products are shipping into the channel over the holiday season with expected availability on January 9, 2012. As for pricing, AMD has set the MSRP at $549—no small chunk of change for a single-GPU. We understand where AMD is coming from, however. The Radeon HD 7970 is decidedly faster than reference GeForce GTX 580 cards, which are currently selling for about $490 on up; so the new Radeon’s price premium is justified. If you do the math, that’s an approximate 12% price premium for 16%-31% better performance, more frame buffer memory, better power characteristics, Eyefinity support, and more advanced features. In comparison to the handful of custom 3GB GeForce GTX 580 cards, which hover around the $600 mark, the Radeon HD 7970 ends up looking like a relative bargain. If you can realistically say that about a high-end graphics card.

We would have preferred a hard launch of the Radeon HD 7970 so the privileged among you could enjoy some killer gaming over the holidays, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. For now, rest assured that for the first time in a number of years, AMD is poised to offer the fastest single-GPU powered graphics card money can buy. It’s still a few weeks out, but when it arrives we’re sure the Radeon HD 7970 is going to please.

Now bring on the dual-GPU powered Radeon HD 7990, AMD! (If that’s what you end up calling it). We want to see what that puppy’s going to do in our new test bed.

  • Great Performance
  • Awesome Feature Set
  • Good Power Consumption
  • DX11.1 Support (eventually)
  • Driver Maturity Likely To Further Enhance Performance


  • Not Available Yet
  • Going To Be Pricey

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