What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB GHz Edition Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
When the HD 7970 and its Graphics Core Next architecture were first introduced, AMD's loyal fans had many reasons to celebrate. The high end 28nm Tahiti XT core was able to significantly outperform every NVIDIA card on the market and the follow up Tahihi Pro-based HD 7950 added a strong value-oriented product as well. Some initially whined about sky high prices of $549 and $449 respectively while others were concerned about rampant power consumption (ironically, NVIDIA had struggled with both of these points a generation earlier) but no matter which way you looked at it, AMD was on the top of the world. And then came Kepler.

In many ways, the first Kepler-based cards –the GTX 680 and GTX 670- moved the market’s goal posts by essentially bucking NVIDIA’s trend of releasing hot, power hungry and physically massive cores. In their place was an efficient architecture which performed exceedingly well in many titles by primarily focusing upon gaming. GPGPU compute was left by the wayside but Kepler still retained enough power to muscle through most mass market CUDA and OpenCL applications. More importantly, NVIDIA did the unthinkable and undercut the HD 7970’s price with a higher performing product, causing a nightmare scenario for AMD.

The GTX 680 was a hit from the very beginning but its popularity acted as a double edged sword as production never really kept up with demand and up until recently NVIDIA was still struggling to work through the backorder queues. After months of playing a wait-and-see game, AMD is now ready to launch yet another shot at the GPU performance crown with their new HD 7970 GHz Edition.


Much like the other “GHz Editions” in AMD’s lineup, the HD 7970 version packs a core clock of 1000MHz, representing a 75MHz increase over the version released six months ago. There’s a Boost Clock of an additional 50MHz as well but we’ll get into that on the next page. Memory speeds have been pushed to 6 Gbps and when paired up with 3GB on a 384-bit bus allows for a vertigo inducing bandwidth of 288 GB/s.

So why release this card now instead of initially offering the HD 7970 with a 1 GHz core clock and higher memory speeds? AMD’s way of explaining this was quite simple: when the Tahiti cores were first brought to market, the 28nm manufacturing process was very much in its infancy. As such, certain concessions had to be implemented in order to keep power consumption and heat output within a given envelope. As the process gradually matured, AMD took the lessons learned with Tahiti and rolled improvements into the HD 7870 and HD 7770 GHz Editions. Now we’ve come full circle as the refinements are being cascaded back up into the enthusiast range without any changes to the underlying architecture. Memory technology has also improved since the components were chosen for the first Tahiti XT cards so AMD decided up upgrade the GDDR5 modules using 6Gbps ICs.

As overclockers know, all of the improvements we listed above were possible with the original HD 7970 albeit with a corresponding increase in power consumption and heat output. The GHz Edition and its relative architectural maturity allows for higher clock speeds while maintaining a 250W power requirement of its predecessor. Some would call this the natural evolution of an architecture but to us its progress brought about by healthy competition.


There is something we need to bring up here and now. Unlike the “reference” version sent to reviewers, board partners aren’t obligated to include 6Gbps memory for their product to be considered a “GHz Edition”. This raises a serious question as to whether or not retail cards will replicate the performance you see in this review. Some AiBs may actually release similarly spec’d cards but several we have talked to have no intention of modifying their lineup for the time being since they already have custom HD 7970 SKUs clocked at 1GHz and higher.

Two factors which will define this product from the outset are price and availability but at this point, only one is somewhat set in stone. According to AMD, the HD 7970 GHz Edition will hit retailers’ shelves at the $499 mark which puts it in direct competition with NVIDIA’s GTX 680 (if you can find a reference-based $499 GK104 card that is). Availability on the other hand is the big question mark here since none of the board partners we spoke to would commit to a retail availability date and instead chose to say “within the next few weeks” for cards "resembling" the clock speeds of the reference GHz Edition.


As you may have already expected, the reference GHz Edition is a spitting image of its predecessor with a length of 11”, an 8+6 pin power connector input and a great looking red and black colour scheme. It also comes with the usual dual BIOS switch. Why reinvent the wheel when the standard HD 7970 design performed admirably, right?

Also remember that the vast majority of HD 7970 GHz Edition cards will be released as custom versions and won’t be following the reference design you see above. What this means for pricing is anyone’s guess (the $499 price is for the card you see above) but we’ll just have to play a wait and see game until they’re available.
 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
AMD’s PowerTune Boost Feature Explained

AMD’s Boost Feature Explained



Something you may not have been expecting in the specification chart was the addition of a Boost category. Taking a page out of NVIDIA’s playbook, AMD is now allowing the core to go above and beyond its rated “base clock” if built-in monitoring algorithms detect there is TDP overhead to be spared. This all occurs above standard P-States but the traditional PowerTune limits have also been increased in order to take advantage of dynamic voltage adjustments. As a result, the card should strive to hit the predetermined limit (in this case 50MHz higher than the reference spec) more often without the throttling that sometimes occurred when PowerTune clamped down on power draw.

While this technology is surely a welcome addition, it isn’t quite as dynamic as NVIDIA’s GPU Boost feature, nor does it give the wide dynamic clock range of Kepler-based products. Let’s explain this a bit further. Kepler cards use a hardware-based solution which samples the relative distance to maximum TDP at sub-second intervals. This allows for quick situational changes that ultimately lead to varying clock speeds and maximum performance. Granted, GPU Boost does cause some interesting overclocking adventures and is adversely affected by temperature increases but in our experience, it works very well.

AMD’s Boost on the other hand is quite lethargic and heavy handed in its approach since there seems to be very little clock adjustment granularity. It sets a clock speed (usually 1050MHz in the HD 7970 GHz Edition’s case) and for the most part stays there throughout a game. During our testing, there were a few instances where a step-down to 1GHz occurred but they were few and far between and we never saw an instance where the HD 7970 GHz Edition took advantage of lower temperatures. Even increasing the fan speed to 100% resulted in identical clock speeds, proving that AMD either strictly curtails their Boost frequency or the technology still has a long way to go. Nonetheless, we expect it to mature rapidly and become an integral part of AMD's future strategy.

Unfortunately, AMD hasn’t been forthcoming with any additional information and didn’t answer any of our Boost-related questions but hopefully they’ll be less tight lipped about it as time goes on.


Much like with Kepler-based cards, users will now be increasing the Boost Clock rather than the base frequency. However, overclocking still isn’t a “you see what you get” scenario since we experienced some instances where our set Boost overclock would default to a lower level. This happened in Wargame: European Conflict, Metro 2033 and Battlefield 3.
 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup / Benchmark Sequences

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 3930K @ 4.5GHz
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 1866MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 WS
Cooling: Corsair H80
SSD: 2x Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T / 3x Acer 235Hz
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2600K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V PRO Gen3
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 304.48 Beta
AMD 12.7 Beta

Application Benchmark Information:
Note: In all instances, in-game sequences were used. The videos of the benchmark sequences have been uploaded below.


Battlefield 3

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​

Crysis 2

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Deus Ex Human Revolution

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Dirt 3

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Metro 2033

<object width="480" height="360"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Shogun 2: Total War

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Witcher 2 v2.0

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings
 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset



Extreme Preset

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Batman: Arkham City (DX11)

Batman: Arkham City (DX11)


Batman: Arkham City is a great looking game when all of its detail levels are maxed out but it also takes a fearsome toll on your system. In this benchmark we use a simple walkthrough that displays several in game elements. The built-in benchmark was avoided like the plague simply because the results it generates do not accurately reflect in-game performance.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Battlefield 3 (DX11)

Battlefield 3 (DX11)


For this benchmark, we used a sequence from the Rock and Hard Place mission. The results may seem lower than normal and this is due to the fact that after playing through the game multiple times, this one are was found to be the most demanding on the GPU. As with all of the tests, we try to find a worst case scenario in order to ensure a given card can properly play through the whole game instead of just a “typical” section.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Crysis 2 (DX11)

Crysis 2 (DX11)


Crysis 2 with the DX11 and Texture Package installed not only looks great but it is a strain on any GPU. For this benchmark, we used a classic runthrough which includes far views, explosions, combat and close-in knifing; basically every hallmark of gameplay.

1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)


Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not be the hardest game for today’s high end gaming rigs to render. While the game mostly takes place indoors, it is the few outdoor areas that put additional strain on graphics cards. So for this test, we use one of the more involved outdoor sections: the Sharif Manufacturing Loading Docks.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Dirt 3 (DX11)

Dirt 3 (DX11)


Dirt 3 isn’t all that much different from its predecessor but the developers have added a few more visual touches but boost image quality. In this case, we used the Michigan Rally track since it features some of the hardest to render features of the game: expansive vistas, water, dirt effects, trees and many other items.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 3 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.

1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600

 

Latest posts

Twitter

Top