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XFX HD 7950 Black Edition Double Dissipation Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Montreal
More HD 7950 Launch Coverage:

- Reference version review HERE
- Sapphire HD 7950 Dual Fan OC HERE



With AMD’s 28nm Southern Islands architecture finally upon us, gamers are finally getting a taste of high performance without the high power consumption associated with previous generations’ flagship offerings. The HD 7970 was first released and for the most part it pulled far ahead of NVIDIA’s GTX 580 and now we’re being introduced to AMD’s more affordable Tahiti-based card: the HD 7950.

The HD 7950 retains most of the HD 7970’s heart and soul while being offered at a more reasonable $449 for the reference version courtesy of a cut down core and lower clock speeds. Naturally, board partners have been quick to differentiate themselves from the competition and XFX is among the first to take an aggressive stance towards cooling and overclocking the HD 7950. Their HD 7950 Black Edition Double Dissipation may be a mouthful to say but it currently ranks among the most appealing cards currently on the market.


At launch, the XFX Black Edition will be one of the highest clocked HD 7950 cards available with a core speed of 900MHz and memory running at 5.5Gbps. This should allow it to pull ahead in our charts but whether or not that difference will actually be noticeable in game is what we’re going to find out in this review. We have a funny feeling that the combination of memory and engine overclocks should result in significant performance gains.

One thing we have to mention up front is XFX’s revised warranty practice for HD 7900-series cards. Their Double Lifetime Warranty has gone the way of the dodo and in its place is a mishmash of different policies. We went over the new warranty in detail a few days ago but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say that any Double Dissipation-branded card will have a Lifetime Warranty if registered within 30 days of purchase.


The design of XFX’s Double Dissipation heatsink certainly makes this HD 7950 look the part of a high end graphics card. With a pair of 80mm fans surrounded by a silver and black fan shroud and just the right amount of red via an aluminum side panel, this is actually one of the best looking cards we’ve seen in a while. It should also be mentioned that XFX has retained the reference length of 11” so their DD edition won’t have any problem fitting in your case.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, pricing for this card straddles the market between the HD 7970 and HD 7950. $500 is a hefty chunk of change to spend but if XFX can deliver on their promises of performance, low temperatures and a reduced acoustical footprint, the Black Edition DD may be worth the extra money.


Alongside what is obviously a carefully designed heatsink, XFX has included a number of additional features on their Double Dissipation Black Edition. There is an integrated vapor chamber within the heatsink, a carefully binned core that is supposed to offer more overclocking headroom, a mental stiffening bracket that runs the card’s entire length and “dust proof” bearing technology that should prolong the fans’ life. Oddly missing from this equation is AMD’s stock BIOS switch which has been removed for some odd reason, thus limiting the appeal of this card for enthusiasts.


We don’t see anything out of the ordinary in the connector department with XFX offering the standard dual DisplayPorts alongside single HDMI 1.4 and DVI outputs. It is however good to see the inclusion of an airflow-increasing stamped exhaust grilled and XFX has also included a HDMI to DVI converter. Unfortunately, a mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adaptor is conspicuous by its absence, particularly when you consider this card’s $500 asking price. Without that one adaptor, anyone wanting to use this card for Eyefinity will have to spend the money on yet another cable.


The Black Edition’s underside shows us some hints of XFX’s 2oz copper PCB which is supposed to help component cooling but otherwise, the layout looks identical to the reference card. There are also some upgraded VRM components hiding under that heatsink.

XFX has traditionally included a “modder friendly” warranty with their cards and for those of us in North America, this trend continues with the HD 7900-series regardless of the included “warranty void if removed” stickers. For anyone else in the world, pay special attention since your card doesn’t come with XFX’s expanded warranty for DIYers. Just make sure to call XFX before making any heatsink modifications to your card.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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12,861
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup / Benchmark Sequences

Main Test System

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2500K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
AMD Beta for HD 7900-series (January 20th)
AMD 12.1 WHQL + CAP 11.12 CAP3
NVIDIA 285.62 WHQL

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
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
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

 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
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
12,861
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
12,861
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
12,861
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
12,861
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

 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
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



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,861
Location
Montreal
The Witcher 2 (DX9)

The Witcher 2 (DX9)


The Witcher 2 may be a DX9 based game but its graphics quality is beyond reproach. In this benchmark we take an area out of The Kayran mission and include one of the toughest effects the graphics engine has in store for the GPU: rain. Throughout this sequence, rain plays a large part but explosions, combat and even some sun shafts are included as well.

1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600



 
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