Great Buy or Just Adequate for the Price?
There's no denying the Radeon HD 7970 has earned its status as the world's fastest single-GPU card. AMD's new flagship offers huge performance gains over the HD 6970 -- a tad over 40% in the dozen games we tested. That's a significant boost compared to past generational improvements we had seen more recently.
Unfortunately for consumers, AMD plans to charge quite handsomely for the HD 7970's pixel-crunching prowess. When it replaced the HD 5870, the 6970 delivered 24% more performance and it only cost ~10% extra. At $549, however, the HD 7970 is priced 60% higher than the HD 6970 despite offering "only" 42% more speed.
Naturally, that means the HD 7970 doesn't provide gamers with the same value as the 6970 -- yet, anyway. Although it's pricey, the HD 7970 strikes somewhat of a balance in AMD's premium lineup when you compare it to the HD 6990. The dual-GPU card was 17% faster while costing 27% more and consuming 30% more power.
The HD 7970 might not deliver the same bang for your buck proposition as AMD's previous generation flagship cards, but it has secured the performance crown for the time being. Based on the dozen games that we tested, the HD 7970 was 17% faster than the GeForce GTX 580 at 2560x1600 and just 14% slower than the GTX 590.
This actually makes the HD 7970 a better value alternative to the GTX 580 as it provides 22% more performance while costing ~10% extra. AMD's new arrival also consumes much less power across the board. Before you get all hot and bothered, the GTX 580 is still valid in our eyes (22% slower is a mere 9fps on average).
Because this is a soft launch you'll have to wait until January 9 to even have the possibility to get your hands on an HD 7970. Early 2012 should also bring the dual-GPU HD 7990 (codenamed New Zealand) along with the HD 7950 (codenamed Tahiti Pro), which is a more affordable version of what we've seen here today. It's also quite possible we'll hear something more concrete about Nvidia's plans by the time CES hits the second week of January. Hang tight until then.
Pros: Excellent gaming, true next-gen performance on a single GPU. 22% advantage over GTX 580, over 40% over previous-gen Radeon. Good power consumption, especially at idle.
Cons: Not the best value, priced like other very high-end graphics cards. GCN means nothing to gamers.