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Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Welcome to one of the oddest reviews we’ve done here at Hardware Canucks. The subject in question is Gigabyte’s quietly released HD 7970 Super Overclock and before you go on a pointless trip looking for a press release, specifications, availability, price or any other bits of information, we’ll save you some time: it’s not available in North America. Anyone in the EU, Middle East or Asia on the other hand will be able to find the HD 7970 Super Overclock at their local retailers.

So why are we reviewing the SOC when it isn’t available in our home and native land? We could explain that traffic to HWC from overseas is reaching new levels or that we’re doing this all for posterity and both would be right. However the real method behind our madness is a favor to Gigabyte, a litmus test if you will. This article is supposed to judge what kind of interest this iteration of the storied Super Overclock series generates on the western side of the Atlantic. Considering the HD 7970 continues to generate great sales volume even now, we were certainly game.


Typically, Super Overclock cards are known for their ultra high clock speeds, hand binned components and willingness to overclock but only a few of these points are valid for the HD 7970 version. This time around, the same basic genetics are in place but the initial, out-of-box clock speeds have suffered somewhat. While the core speed remains well above the levels achieved by a reference GHz Edition card, the HD 7970 SOC’s memory speeds remain at a somewhat pedestrian 5.5Gbps. Is this a disappointment? We’d say so considering Super Overclock cards are supposed to represent the cream of the crop and be built without compromises. It seems like memory binning was a bit too complicated…

With memory clocks stuck at reference specs and a core that screams along at 1.08GHz, performance will certainly be within the upper market echelons. However, with an estimated price of $499USD, it may not go down particularly well even if the HD 7970 Super Overclock ever hits our shores. Our hesitation is mostly due to the presence of Gigabyte’s own HD 7970 OC with a Windforce 5X heatsink that goes for less than $450 and boasts not only higher clock speeds but a more recognizable cooling solution as well.

Speaking of the heatsink, this is one you will have to see to believe. Gigabyte is looking to completely rewrite the book on GPU cooling with a new Windforce 5x solution that houses five miniature fans that draw heat away from the card. It will take some getting used to but we hope Gigabyte succeeds in this respect.

What we have here is a unique card that may or may not do well within a saturated market. It will also have to go up against ASUS’ own HD 7970 Matrix which is being released in the next few weeks. So, with the HD 7970 Super Overclock only available in Europe and Asia, is it worth Gigabyte’s time, money and effort to bring it over to our shores? We’re about to find out.

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock

A Closer Look at the Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock



With a triple slot heatsink, a length of just over 11.5” and a weight that tips the scales at a sumo-like 3 1/4 pounds, the Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock is one of the largest, heaviest AMD cards on the market. The reasoning behind this massive footprint is quite simple: Gigabyte needed excess heatsink thermal mass to ensure the exhaust fans operate at peak efficiency. If a smaller design was used, there was no way to guarantee that the innovative cooling design would work as advertised.


The triple slot Windforce 5X fan assembly looks like something straight out of a medieval torture chamber and boasts five tiny fans. These fans are set up in an atypical pull configuration likely have some people worried about acoustics, which is no wonder considering they run up to a blistering 10,000 RPMs in this application. Luckily Gigabyte has equipped the Super Overclock with an advanced fan controller that rapidly samples ambient and ASIC temperatures in order to best control fan RPMs. With that being said, we still had a visceral cringing sensation when we saw this setup.

Unlike typically downdraft heatsinks, the WindForce 5x draws heat away from the card instead of pushing air towards an internal fin array. This is supposed to lower component temperatures while reducing ambient heat around the motherboard. If it works, we could be seeing a revolution in graphic card heatsink design.


According to Gigabyte, this controller actually reduces the fan’s rotational speed to a bare minimum when the card is at idle and temperatures stay below the 30 degree mark. Meanwhile, they ramp up speed as load temperature increases, hopefully keeping temperatures below the 60 degree mark since after that point, the Super Overclock could get uncomfortably loud.


In addition to nine huge 6mm heatpipes that run the heatsink’s length, Gigabyte has used a large copper encased vapor chamber that covers the GPU core, memory and PWM components. We’re guessing that the vast majority of the Super Overclock’s premium is taken up by the WindForce 5X since it is one of the most complex heatsink designs around.


In order to increase the value of their Super Overclock for overclockers, Gigabyte has added a number of features including substantially upgraded components and an LN2 BIOS which can be accessed with a button placed directly behind the backplate. Overclockers can either use the primary BIOS with the higher clock speeds or the secondary LN2 setting which is supposed to overcome potential old bugs. Unfortunately, in our testing this modified BIOS didn’t seem to increase voltage or clock speeds so it will likely be of limited use to anyone using air cooling.


The flip side of the SOC shows us a full coverage heatsink which is used to further dissipate any built up heat. There are also five Proadlizer chips which provide high capacity switching speeds and low ESR. These are supposed to help with graphics card stability as clock speeds are increased to extreme levels. While the Super Overclock’s topside may look like a mashup of different components, the underside is both sleek and understated.


As one may expect, the Super Overclock receives a power connector upgrade as well with a pair of high current 8-pin inputs. Meanwhile, the backplate retains AMD’s reference design with a pair of mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs, a single HDMI and a DVI connector.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
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: Gigabyte Z68X-UD3H-B3
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 306.23
AMD 12.8


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


Batman: Arkham City

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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>​


Skyrim

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Wargame: European Escalation

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" 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
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
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
12,857
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
12,857
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
12,857
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
12,857
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
12,857
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
12,857
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

 
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