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AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB GHz Edition Review


HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Feb 26, 2007


Summing up this review poses a number of challenges for us. On one hand, the HD 7970 GHz Edition performs very well across nearly every one of our benchmarks but no one seems to know how widely available the 1GHz / 6Gbps SKU will actually be. Most board partners we talked to seem content to stick with their incumbent 1GHz-clocked products and ignore the 6Gbps memory for the time being. So this review isn’t necessarily covering a “launch” or a new product for that matter. Rather, it is a demonstration of what the HD 7970 can now accomplish should board partners wish to take advantage of its newfound refinements. But are they willing to purchase a higher priced ASIC to get the job done rather than just using existing, in-channel products? We'll just have to see what the future holds.


The real question here is whether AMD has been able to squeeze enough performance out of Tahiti to convincingly beat the GTX 680. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear cut since NVIDIA’s card comes out on top in 1920 x 1200 testing, the two cards trade blows at 2560 x 1600 and the GHz Edition tends to pull out ahead at ultra high IQ / resolution settings. The HD 7970 GHz certainly isn't the fastest across the board but by that same token, the GTX 680 can no longer be considered the highest performing single GPU card in the world either. What we have here is a statistical tie so the consumer’s performance-oriented choice will ultimately come down to brand preference. AMD has also made some great strides in driver development which were rolled into the Catalyst driver package in time for this review. Not to be outdone, NVIDIA did the same earlier this week so as you can see, the fight between these two heavyweights is too close to call right now.

We mentioned that some board partners may not end up using higher end memory but like it or not, it really doesn’t matter one way or another. The architecture doesn’t seem to need the additional bandwidth provided by 6 Gbps ICs but the marketing teams will love it since that extra 2% allows the GHz Edition to narrowly eke ahead of the GTX 680 in our chart.

Putting performance aside for a moment, the HD 7970 GHz Edition still battles with the same demons as its predecessor. Efficiency has been improved but it still looses out in the perf per watt category against a GTX 680 and our sample was quite loud when under constant load. Against the HD 7970 however it fares better by costing about 10% more than a reference-based HD 7970, consuming about the same amount of power and netting a 9% improvement across all benchmarks.

With Tahiti XT-based products clocked at 1GHz already well entrenched within the retail channel, we can’t help receiving this card with a sense of déjà vu. AMD just seems to be reminding us that their board partners have developed cards that can run with a GTX 680 for a similar price and in our opinion, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The HD 7970 was always a strong alternative to the Kepler-based products and it’s now received something of a face lift to make it even more appealing.

While we may have seen this all before from other pre-overclocked HD 7970 cards, under no circumstance should you overlook the GHz Edition. Performance per watt has certainly taken a step in the right direction, AMD’s Boost works when it has to and pricing is actually quite fair considering its framerate advantage at higher detail settings. In our opinion and with all other things being equal, the HD 7970 GHz Edition is the card to have for ultra high resolution gaming. Just remember that not all GHz Edition cards will have the same specifications or performance.
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