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HIS HD 7970 IceQ X² & HD 7950 IceQ X² Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
As today’s GPU architectures age gracefully, board partners have gone through the process of releasing many overclocked, custom cooled cards with upgraded components which enhance their appeal for overclockers and gamers alike. Amongst all of these new and improved versions of current graphics technology, a few stood out to us. Among them was HIS’s new IceQ X² series which updates the original IceQ heatsink design with additional thermal capacity and a completely revised fan design.


For this review, we will be looking at HIS’s HD 7970 GHz Edition IceQ X² and HD 7950 Boost Clock IceQ X². They remain at AMD’s reference clock speeds and instead rely upon offering excellent overclocking headroom and some advanced cooling features to justify a slight premium. Now, HIS does sell an overclocked version of the HD 7970 GHz Edition which uses the “Turbo” moniker but we decided to focus upon two more affordable alternatives.

The price for these cards isn’t all that bad with the HD 7970 GHz version going for about $460 while the HD 7950 Boost Clock hits the $320 mark. Considered the reference editions retail for $440 and $300 respectively, it’s good to see HIS offering significant technological improvements for a $20 premium. However, since AMD’s major game promo ended last month some luster has been taken off the higher end Radeon GPUs as they no longer have a value added bundle.


Both of HIS’s cards are based off of the same PCB and use identical IceQ X² heatsink designs. The only real difference is the GPU core installed onto each card and the power connector requirements. Gone is the original push / pull configuration of HIS’s original IceQ heatsink and in its place is a downdraft style affair that’s similar to most other custom heatsinks these days.


The IceQ X² doesn’t necessarily chart a new course in cooling design but it is supposed to achieve excellent temperature results without having to resort to a larger triple slot design or a higher acoustical profile. In order to achieve this, HIS has used a pair of 90mm fans which push fresh air down onto a large aluminum heatsink. These fans are equipped with specialized corrugated blades that are designed to dramatically increase airspeed velocity.


HIS’s heatsink design may be par for the course these days but that doesn’t mean it is overly generic. There are five heatpipes (two 8mm and three 6mm) which are hooked up to a huge fin array that’s over 10” long and 4” wide and provides more than enough thermal capacity for some incredible overclocking feats.

The cooling assembly extends down to the PWM and memory as well with dedicated anodized aluminum heatsinks for each. Meanwhile, a “metal rib” carries down the edge of the PCB in order to provide additional rigidity and prevent warping.


Both cards included an almost reference PCB (more on the changes a bit later) so a Dual BIOS option has been included. As with most other board partners, HIS has decided to populate both BIOSes with identical files, ensuring the second one can be used as a fail-safe.


One of the differentiating factors between HIS’s HD 7970 and HD 7950 is their respective power connectors. While the HD 7970 IceQ X² receives a pair of 8-pin connectors (which seems to be the standard number among custom versions nowadays), the 7950 IceQ X² is equipped with a single 8-pin and lone 6-pin. According to HIS, these expanded layouts should allow for increased stability at higher clock speeds.


Flipping the cards over, we see that HIS has indeed equipped both with the same PCB and 5+2 all-digital PWM. Unfortunately, the components used for this card are geared towards efficiency and performance rather than silence. As such, IceQ X²’s PWM noise is significantly higher than some other cards.


Length is another factor to take into account before taking the plunge into HIS’ territory. With the heatsink pushing its way past the PCB by a good 1 ¼”, both IceQ X² cards are about 12” long, making them a tight fit in certain enclosures.


The cards’ backplate connectors remain in their reference layout with a pair of mini DisplayPorts, one HDMI and a single DVI output.


Since this review would pit two stock-clocked graphics cards against reference designs, resulting in identical performance from one card to the next, we decided to do things a bit differently this time around. We have used HIS’s included iTurbo software to overclock both GPUs to a level that ensures 24/7 stability without voltage increases.

The benchmark charts on the following pages will show the HD 7970 GHz Edition IceQ X² running at 1203MHz / 6648MHz (graphics / memory) and HD 7950 Boost Clock IceQ X² clocked at 1124MHz / 5384MHz. These are decent clock speed increases all things considered and additional voltage will be applied within the overclocking section.
 

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 306.97 WHQL
AMD 12.11 Beta

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

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Crysis 2

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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

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Metro 2033

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Shogun 2: Total War

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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

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*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





5760 x 1080

 

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



5760 x 1080

 

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





5760 x 1080

 

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



5760 x 1080

 

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





5760 x 1080

 

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





5760 x 1080

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
Shogun 2: Total War (DX11)

Shogun 2: Total War (DX11)


Due to its very nature, Shogun 2 is a tough game to benchamark since the in-game tool doesn’t accurately convey an in-game experience. So we took a pre-recorded battle which pits three large armies against one another and includes camera zooms, fog, gun smoke and other items. Using a pre-recorded sequence also effectively removes the CPU from the equation since it doesn’t have to process AI.

1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600





5760 x 1080

 
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