AMD's Pixel-Crunching Extravaganza: Radeon HD 7970 Review

By on December 27, 2011, 3:04 AM

The Radeon HD 7970 is the first of a series of upcoming graphics cards that are making the jump to the 28nm fabrication process. The new HD 7970 will effectively become AMD's new flagship single GPU graphics card come January, when the board is expected to ship.

The die shrink means AMD can cram more transistors into the same space, a lot more. Although the die size is only slightly smaller, at 365mm2 there are some 1.7 billion more transistors, taking the total count to a whopping 4.3 billion. This number whales that of the GeForce GTX 580 which boasts 3+ billion transistors in its massive 520mm2 die.

With a mere two weeks before it’ll be possible to get your hands on a new Radeon HD 7970 graphics card, it’s definitely nice to get a look now at how they perform. But before we jump into our gaming benchmarks, let’s take a moment to check out the new card's capabilities and features in greater detail.

Read the complete review.




User Comments: 51

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fimbles fimbles said:

Anyone understand why they only use shroud coolers these days?

Real pain in the bum to clean, and i get better cooling from a dual fan palitt card than i do from a shrouded bfg.

Guest said:

One reason I can think of to use shrouded coolers is to protect components. I screwed up a perfectly good card once by damaging a cap as I was putting it in a tight space.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

These high-end cards throw out so much heat that unless you have exceptional case cooling it's going to heat up everything else in there. The shroud design allows the heat generated by the graphics card to be efficiently removed from the case regardless of the cases cooling setup.

Guest said:

"These high-end cards throw out so much heat that unless you have exceptional case cooling it's going to heat up everything else in there. The shroud design allows the heat generated by the graphics card to be efficiently removed from the case regardless of the cases cooling setup."

And its Load.

Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

For purely academic reasons I'm curious what happens if you pair this card with a 32bit OS?

Since all of the PCI devices must share the same 4GB address space in a 32bit OS will it even be able to boot up properly?

I've got a Dell M1710 XPS laptop here with Win7 x64 and 4GB RAM just as an example, but due to it's Intel I945PM Chipset only 3.25GB is usable, that is with a 128MB video card, so I can only imagine what would happen with a 3GB video card

Guest said:

Such an amazing card, can't wait for the 7990 to see what happens with their flagship card against nVidia. My guess is that it trumps even 2 590s in SLI by about 20-30%

Guest said:

If you're using a multiple monitor setup then, AMD really takes the cake with performance. But for single monitor use, Nvidia really holds the upper-hand.

Guest said:

I hope Nvidia releases their answer to the HD 7000 series soon so AMD lowers their prices.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

The 7970 looks nice but judging from these results its not much of an upgrade for a GF-110 owner.

Even in the demanding games the 580 is right on its tail.

Looks like I will be going SLi with my 570.

The rant/nag comment about it beating/matching 590's/6990's is always funny and once again shows this Country's low intellect. 4 GPU's is a TERRIBLE, buggy, glitchy, poorly supported setup and not much has changed.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

And the comment about AMD having better performance with more monitors makes no sense.

It's about performance at large eyefinity/3D Surround resolutions.

Both Nvidia and AMD have great solutions/performance for Eye-finity/3D Surround.

Nvidia has the best driver set on average with less hassle and more features.

AMD is bang for your buck.

darkzelda said:

Great card, I wish I had money to replace my HD 6850 with one of this beasts!

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

It's depressing looking at the 1920x1080 results in relation to the 5870 and 6970, and then the 7970. I feel sorry for people that "upgraded" from a 5870 to a 6970. The $549 MRSP is justified hands down. Add the potential of a 200MHz+ overclock on the core and 6Gbps+ on the memory, and you have a BEAST. If I didn't already have Crossfired 6950's I would want a 7970 (or two 7950's), but I will wait for Kepler or AMD's 8000 series. With AMD giving up trying to compete with Intel on the CPU side, their GPU's should only be getting better from here. Kudos to AMD, they did a great job here.

Good review as always.

Why was the 5970 left out of this review?

Can I suggest putting the card that is being reviewed in bold or a different colour to make it easier to find on the charts?

Staff
Julio Franco Julio Franco, TechSpot Editor, said:

@hahahanoobs, indeed, the Radeon 7970 scores are all highlighted in red and its main competitor (GTX 580) has been colored green. The rest of the pack are in yellow.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

The $549 MRSP is justified hands down.

How about the $600-620 that the card is likely to retail at *?

I'd be a little inclined to reserve judgement (based on pricing) until :

1. The card actually hits retail

2. If the HD 7950 meets its price points ( $449 for 3GB, $399 for 1.5GB versions)

2a, How the pricing affects HD 6970 and GTX 580.

*3. Availability is known. As far as I'm aware, supply is likely to be very constrained. How constrained should become evident by the yeild/availability ratio of 7970 to 7950 - and followed by a second salvage part (Tahiti LE- HD 7890 by all accounts).

At $549 - $600 the card represents an ok single card solution- which is probably the only viable reason for choosing it over the hit-or-miss vagaries of multi-GPU. I'd still suspect Crossfiring two HD 6950's for $420 -480 represents better value for the most part.

princeton princeton said:

dividebyzero said:

At $549 - $600 the card represents an ok single card solution- which is probably the only viable reason for choosing it over the hit-or-miss vagaries of multi-GPU. I'd still suspect Crossfiring two HD 6950's for $420 -480 represents better value for the most part.

Especially when certain 6950s like the Sapphire versions can unlock to 6970s.

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Princeton, I havnt seen any information on that subject. Can you provide some good links?

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

amstech said:

The rant/nag comment about it beating/matching 590's/6990's is always funny and once again shows this Country's low intellect. 4 GPU's is a TERRIBLE, buggy, glitchy, poorly supported setup and not much has changed.

Well amstech, I have built 4 quad GPU machines for myself over the last 24 months (and several for customers) and none of them have been either "TERRIBLE, buggy,glitchy,or poorly supported. Unless "buggy" Glitchy", and Terrible" are the names of games, you have no idea what you are talking about.

Nvidia has the best driver set on average with less hassle and more features.

BS. I work extensively with both and have no more problems with one than the other.

AMD is bang for your buck.

More boilerplate regurgitation.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Princeton, I havnt seen any information on that subject. Can you provide some good links?

Ooooooopen wide, here comes the choo-choo.

Ok, that's enough spoon feeding for one day. I hope you're grateful for the 23 seconds of work it took to find you that link.

More boilerplate regurgitation.

Be careful when questioning someone's religious beliefs.

I believe "AMD is bang for your buck" is sandwiched between "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thine image quality", and "Thou shall forsake all TWIMTBP titles" in the official fanboy stone tablets.

Guest said:

lol. Now that's funny

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Dividebyzero said"

Be careful when questioning someone's religious beliefs.

I believe "AMD is bang for your buck" is sandwiched between "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thine image quality", and "Thou shall forsake all TWIMTBP titles" in the official fanboy stone tablets.

ROFL, I did forget I was on sacred ground there for a minute.

(I am now picturing Chuck Heston's tablet with an # 11 on it now.)

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Julio said:

@hahahanoobs, indeed, the Radeon 7970 scores are all highlighted in red and its main competitor (GTX 580) has been colored green. The rest of the pack are in yellow.

*Wipes egg from face.*

How come you didn't test the 5970 though?

fimbles said:

Anyone understand why they only use shroud coolers these days?

It's simply AMD's reference design. Once AMD allows their vendors to change the design, shrouds like these are hardly used, except maybe when keeping the core and memory clocks at stock and adding nothing to the PCB to aid in overclocking.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Perhaps, but scaling with more than 2 GPU's is usually not worth the cost due to very poor or no scaling.

another person who last checked in around 2008. if you can agree that triple/quad GPU makes no sense at 1080P or less, I get scaling to all four cards at 5760 x 1080, and significant at that. what more important is what it allows you to do with the graphic settings such as DOF, AA, etc,etc.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I am now picturing Chuck Heston's tablet with an # 11 on it now.

Hey, why not? Chuck's acting dial also goes to eleven

/unfortunately the acting scale is 0 - 100

As for the argument against tri/quad SLI/CFX, I would have thought that there were enough articles on the net to dispel any myths.

What is often mistaken for no increase in scaling performance is usually a product of CPU limitation.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Dividebyzero said"

Quote: Be careful when questioning someone's religious beliefs.

I believe "AMD is bang for your buck" is sandwiched between "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thine image quality", and "Thou shall forsake all TWIMTBP titles" in the official fanboy stone tablets.

ROFL, I did forget I was on sacred ground there for a minute.

(I am now picturing Chuck Heston's tablet with an # 11 on it now.)

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

How come you didn't test the 5970 though?
5970 is kind of old tech these days - you're talking 2 generations back.

Guest said:

1. Amazing upgrade for GTX2xx or HD48xx users who have been holding out all this time.

2. GTX570 and HD6950 @ 6970 users will probably have to skip this generation (unless they feel like paying $300 more) if they planned to get a much faster GPU at the $300 level. It doesn't look like $299 HD7870 will be much of an upgrade for these users since the flagship 7970 is barely 42% faster.

3. For GTX580 users who are gaming at 2560x1600, this card changes nothing though. They are probably the disappointed group. 22% more performance isn't that amazing. NV's 28nm GPU should probably add 40-50% over this.

4. Looking forward to see if HD7950 unclocks and overclocks as well as the 7970.

Great review Steve. Would have loved to see noise levels measured among the cards.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

LNCPapa said:

How come you didn't test the 5970 though?
5970 is kind of old tech these days - you're talking 2 generations back.

Not quite. Do you see a 7990 on newegg yet?

jeffz6 said:

Mighty 5970! Still a kick ass card

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Per Hansson said:

For purely academic reasons I'm curious what happens if you pair this card with a 32bit OS?

Since all of the PCI devices must share the same 4GB address space in a 32bit OS will it even be able to boot up properly?

Only a window onto the card's RAM is mapped into the CPU's memory map. A 3GB card will look no different than a 512MB card.

Guest said:

5970 is still beast and still relevant imo. And it didn't get much attention even a year ago in bencmarks. Not sure if DX11 performance has anything to do with that though.

Guest said:

Before the 7000 series saw the light of day, I hazarded a guess that dollar to percentage point ratio would remain 1:1 and you would still be paying for what you get. It's actually a lower value at this point when you compare 7000 and 6000 series. The 7970 is king for now , but it will be up to Nvidia to match it blow for blow or hopefully surpass AMD to get prices to come down across the board. I think maybe I'm just being a little too naive to expect an encore of the hd 4000 series.

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the 5970 is not a beast... I'm just saying that it's two generations behind and it has to be pretty difficulty to try testing everything from previous generation let alone including the generation before. Look at my sig and you'll see I'm running a pair of 5970s in my current rig... having had the card since it came out I know about where it lies in the charts (one 5970 is roughly equivalent or a little faster than a GTX 580 except on TWIMTBP titles) and then I have to take into account slightly poorer scaling with a pair of 5970 vs a pair of 580. I'd like to assume I have performance right around a 6990 or a little faster for the games that will use all 4 GPUs. Also, those with 5970s already know the limitation imposed by having only 1 GB of VRAM per GPU so anytime the resolution gets higher than 2560 or with high AA + fairly high resolution we'll see a pronounced decline in performance. Highly tessellated scenes will do the same.

Again, I'm not saying the 5970 isn't fast, just that it's been out for quite some time and the people who own them should have a really good idea where they lie in the charts anyway. Also, the number of people who own them is much lower than any of the other 5xxx cards so it wouldn't make sense to include the 5970 over those.

AlienOverlord said:

I'm planning on building a new PC this year. I've currently got a 4850 and want a considerable performance increase but want to spend less than $200, should I wait for a 7000 series to come out in that price range or get something currently available? I don't want to wait longer than the beginning of summer.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

I'm planning on building a new PC this year. I've currently got a 4850 and want a considerable performance increase but want to spend less than $200, should I wait for a 7000 series to come out in that price range or get something currently available? I don't want to wait longer than the beginning of summer.

The Radeon HD 7850 should cost around $200 and if the rumors are correct it will perform like a 6950 in most games. It should also be out within the next month or so.

AlienOverlord said:

Awesome, thanks for the info. Looks like I'm on the right buy cycle since this generation looks much better than the last just as the 4000 generation was much better than the preceding generation.

Guest said:

I am currently running a single 5870 with EyeFinity (6024x1080 with bezel correction) for playing SWTOR. I have been getting between 30-45fps most of the time with some stuttering here and there, but nothing major although I do have some of the graphics tuned back a bit. What do you guys think is the better option, should I upgrade to a single 7970, or would it be better to put in a second 5870, or some other option?

GaMEChld said:

LNCPapa said:

How come you didn't test the 5970 though?
5970 is kind of old tech these days - you're talking 2 generations back.

I'd have liked to see the 5970 in there myself, but pretty much just because that's what I am upgrading from. Just from eyeballing the charts, it looks like I'll get some improvement all around, and much better Tesselation to boot.

I don't know about that two generations back argument though, since the 5870 is present.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

As others have said the Radeon HD 5000 series is getting too old now. The Radeon HD 5870 is included as a representative of that series but will be dropped later this year. We favored it over the 5970 because far more people invested in the 5870 than the 5970.

If we included the 5970 then we might as well have included the 5850 and then why not the 5770, that was the most popular card from the series after all especially for Crossfire builds.

Also you should be able to work out where the Radeon HD 5970 stands in relation to other graphics cards such as the Radeon HD 5870 and 6990.

Guest said:

Using the 6970 price of $369 cited on page 1 and the price of $549 for the 7970 your price difference of 60% in your wrap up is off.

The price difference is 49% (369 * 1.49 = 549).

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Using the 6970 price of $369 cited on page 1 and the price of $549 for the 7970 your price difference of 60% in your wrap up is off.

The price difference is 49% (369 * 1.49 = 549).

Thanks I get the maths but you are confusing the MSRP with the actual retail value.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Even the 60% might be more than a little conservative...

XFX HD 6970 $310 (MIR)...

First confirmed "sold at" price I've seen for the HD 7970...$608 (470 euro's)

I'm sure there's a degree of "new tax" added to the price, but I'd be surprised if retailers will be selling at MSRP, and it's probably a given that the 6970 drops in price relatively quickly.

EXCellR8 EXCellR8, The Conservative, said:

that amounts to around $750 US dollars; without shipping/taxes etc... i think i'll wait lol

fpsgamerJR62 said:

I hope that the HD 7970 price will drop to lower levels after a few months. At the current pricing, Crossfire configurations using the 7970 are just not viable except maybe for those with really deep pockets. Meanwhile, I'll just have to make do with my "Last Gen" HD 6990 .

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

It's not necessarily deep pockets that justify it... it's just a difference in priorities. Take me for instance... I will pass up an SSD all day long to get a faster GPU(s). Others will probably want a little more balance. A gaming system for me focuses on the GPU. A productivity machine will go more toward balance and maybe even lack a bit on the GPU, but not so far as to use IGP.

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

It's not necessarily deep pockets that justify it... it's just a difference in priorities. Take me for instance... I will pass up an SSD all day long to get a faster GPU(s). Others will probably want a little more balance. A gaming system for me focuses on the GPU. A productivity machine will go more toward balance and maybe even lack a bit on the GPU, but not so far as to use IGP.

I am afraid you are making entirely too much sense Papa

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

but not so far as to use IGP.

What's IGP ? Insignificant Graphics Performance ?.....Infrequent Gamescreen Postcards ?

Guest said:

looks like i only have to wait a few more days before my zr30w gets playable framerates

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

Good lord, look at the condition this Yang fellow keeps his test bench, he obviously has no idea what he is doing.

[link]

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

A lot of liquid nitrogen benches look like that. Problem is they can't be used like that for extended periods of time.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Multi-stage cascades look even worse. The one I had tended to look like the car from Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang had attempted to actually bang Robbie the Robot while stoking a pot still.

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