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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
13,264
Location
Montreal
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (DX9)

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (DX9)


Being one of the most popular and best looking RPG games released in the last few years, Skyrim needed to be included in our reviews, regardless of the fact that it uses an older DX9 rendering engine. For our test sequence we used a typical runthrough interspersed with some combat. A modded .ini file along with the official high resolution texture pack was used in order to ensure image quality was up to expectations.

1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600





5760 x 1080

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Wargame: European Escalation (DX11)

Wargame: European Escalation (DX11)


This may not be the most popular game on the market but through its DX11 rendering path it can display some amazing visuals. For our benchmark we used a combination of wide angle zooming, close quarters combat and camera pans in order to simulate as many in-game scenarios as possible.


1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600





5760 x 1080

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Temperatures & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Temperature Analysis


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped. For this test we use the 3DMark Batch Size test at its highest triangle count with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled and looped it for one hour to determine the peak load temperature as measured by GPU-Z.

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.



HIS’s IceQ X² heatsink allows for extremely low temperatures when the two cards are at stock speeds and that doesn’t change too much when higher clock speeds are applied. These are actually quite impressive results since it proved this heatsink isn’t operating anywhere near its thermal limits.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Heave 2.5 is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 20 minutes.


There are a number of things we have to point out here. First and foremost, both cards’ heatsinks operate at extremely low decibel levels but a stock speeds HIS’s high efficiency PWM’s noise output actually outstrips the fans. When higher clock speeds are used, the fans do increase their speed but not to a level which will be noticed over ambient gaming noise.

Will you actually hear the PWM wailing away when in game? That all depends on how loud the volume is cranked. At reasonably levels, there’s just no way it would intrude so we won’t let this detract from an otherwise excellent experience. Just be aware that the PWM’s acoustical profile is quite high so it will be distracting for some people.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


While the PWM does pump out some excess noise, there is some reasoning behind HIS’s madness. As our power consumption numbers show, these are some extremely efficient cards at both stock and overclock speeds.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
HIS’s iTurbo Software / Overclocking Results

HIS’s iTurbo Software



Like many other manufacturers, HIS has decided to get into the overclocking software game. Their new iTurbo is a reasonably well rounded and straightforward application which grants access to most fine-grain clock speed and voltage controls. Its layout is clean and easy to understand so it won’t present a daunting challenge for first-time users.

There are five separate panels covering system information, fan speeds (where custom profiles can be set) and general application settings but the one you’ll spend the most time in is Overclock. In this section, iTurbo allows for complete control over the graphics card’s memory and core clocks as well as their associated voltages. Naturally, a Power Limit slider is included as well.


Overclocking Results


On all of the previous pages, we have seen how the IceQ X² cards perform when they are overclocked at their default voltage (alongside a Power Limit of +20%) but there was a whole lot more left in the tank. The core and memory voltage of both cards was increased by 10%, a “safe” setting that shouldn’t impede long-term ASIC life.

The final results are below (core/mem):

HD 7970 IceQ X²: 1322MHz / 6888MHz

HD 7950 IceQ X²: 1125MHz / 5804MHz

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


In such a competitive GPU market, uniqueness usually garners a great amount of interest but it rarely sells graphics cards. The reason behind this is quite simple: gamers may love looking at the newest Matrix, Classified, Lightning or Super Overclock card but they can rarely afford such an expensive upgrade. So while there may be very little to differentiate the HIS HD 7970 IceQ X² and HD 7970 IceQ X² from their immediate competition due to a true lack of game changing features, there’s still plenty to like.

Without taking any risks or building additional cost into their IceQ X², HIS was still able to release a pair of highly appealing products. They accomplished this by combining a top notch heatsink and great overclocking abilities with decent software by way of the new iTurbo application. The result is a pair of cards which overclock extremely well without a substantial increase in fan noise or heat.

While we actually achieved some reasonably high clock speeds sans voltage changes, HIS’ iTurbo application was more than willing to take things to the next level. With slight modifications to the core and memory voltages, the HD 7970 IceQ X² and HD 7970 IceQ X² were really able to fly.

Unfortunately for some, HIS has equipped the HD 7970 IceQ X² and HD 7970 IceQ X² with a high efficiency PWM design which is quite loud when under load. Regardless of the fairly impressive reduction in power consumption, the components tend to buzz, sounding like a pack of pissed off cicadas. Once the card is installed into a case and game sounds start blaring, you’ll never hear it but the noise created did drive up the decibel readings in our tests.

The real question here is quite simple: why should you, the end users consider one of these cards? Sure, they overclock well, run at low decibel levels and remain cool even in the most intense gaming scenarios but there are two dozen or so competitors which can claim the exact same thing. In addition, AMD has let their value-added free game promotion run its course and a replacement hasn’t been announced so buying a HD 7900-series product isn't as "rewarding" as it used to be.

HIS’ selling point isn’t chart topping performance, boatloads of extreme features or other items which will prove pointless for most gamers. Rather, these are no-frills products with a great heatsink and a killer price. By spending a mere $20 more than the reference version (and in some cases less than that), a gamer can upgrade to a significantly more capable card without breaking the bank. That’s a small price to pay for what HIS is bringing to the table.


 
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