AMD Radeon HD 7970: 28nm Tahiti GPU Review

Article Index

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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