Our Summary and Conclusion
Performance Summary: There are a few facets of performance to cover in this summary; the Radeon HD 7950’s performance versus its main competition, the performance improvements offered by the latest AMD Catalyst drivers, and the performance of the various multi-GPU configurations we tested.
Let’s start with the drivers. In preparation for this article, AMD sent over the latest Catalyst driver suite that not only added support for the Radeon HD 7950, but reportedly offered performance improvements for the 7970. With that in mind, we re-ran all of our numbers on the Radeon HD 7970, but kept our original scores in the graphs to illustrate any performance gains related to the new drivers. As the numbers showed, in the majority of tests, there were measurable gains to be had with the RC11 drivers. In the conclusion of our Radeon HD 7970 launch piece, we mentioned that AMD was likely to be able to wring more performance from their new architecture as their software engineers got more familiar with GCN, and that seems to be coming true already. We suspect similar performance gains are likely with future driver releases as well. The Radeon HD 7900 series’ performance a few months from now, will likely be significantly better than what we’ve shown you on the previous pages.
Versus its main competition, the new Radeon HD 7950 performed well. In the vast majority of tests, the Radeon HD 7950 outperformed a reference GeForce GTX 580 and it blew the doors off the Radeon HD 6970. In comparison to a factory overclocked, 3GB GeForce GTX 580, however, the Radeon HD 7950 traded victories. Of course, the higher-end Radeon HD 7970 cemented its position as the current fastest single-GPU based graphics card around.
CrossFire performance was generally good, but there are concerns in this area. A couple of months out from the release of the highly anticipated Batman: Arkham City and CrossFire is still broken in that game. AMD had made great strides over the last few years not only in supporting new games with CrossFire, but also offering excellent performance scaling, but two month out and Batman still doesn’t scale properly and we’re sure there are other games as well. In all fairness though, in the other games we tested, CrossFire appeared to work properly, performance scaled as expected, and the Radeon HD 7950 CrossFire setup put up some impressive numbers.
The AMD Radeon HD 7950 should be available immediately through boutique system builders and popular on-line retailers, with wider availability in the coming weeks. The suggested price for the card is $449. At that price, the Radeon HD 7950 undercuts reference GeForce GTX 580 cards by a few bucks ($20-$40) and custom, overclocked GeForce GTX 580 with 3GB frame buffers by about $80-$100. Clearly, with the release of the Radeon HD 7950, which offers better performance and more features, GeForce GTX 580 pricing needs to come down to remain competitive.
With that said, we wished AMD was more aggressive with Radeon HD 7900 series pricing. The Radeon HD 6970 and 6950 debuted at $369 and $299, respectively. The Radeon HD 7970 and 7950 arrive at $549 and $449. In light of competing offerings, the 7900 series is technically priced “right”, but we would have loved to see AMD come out of the gate with more aggressive pricing to make the cards more attainable for more enthusiasts and to put more pricing pressure on its main rival, NVIDIA.
Ultimately though, the Radeon HD 7950 is the card to beat at its price point, even if we wish it was a little lower. The card offers cutting edge features, excellent power consumption characteristics, performance is strong, and the thing is highly overclockable. We suspect anyone who springs for a Radeon HD 7950 will be very pleased by what it has to offer.