On the testbed side of things there's nothing out of the ordinary with the same X79 setup being used for a while now. On the comparison front we've got a number of setups including the Sapphire HD 7950 CF setup, Sapphire HD 7970 CF setup at stock and overclocked, a reference clocked HD 7950 and HD 7950 along with a standard GeForce GTX 580.
Of course the main thing we want to do before we get into the testing side of things is have a look at the overclocking we managed to get. When we looked at the reference HD 7950 and overclocked it we got some amazing results with a core exceeding 1200MHz.
Looking below you can see that we managed to break just over 1000MHz on the core front with a final clock speed of 1035MHz. Adding a second card into the mix does always limit overclocking and we're of course dealing with a different cooling setup. The first time we tested the Sapphire cards we found them to be extremely quiet - a less aggressive fan profile means that the fans aren't going to spin up as high and that could also cause a limiting factor.
From the reference 800MHz core, though, it's still a very strong overclock and over the default 900MHz core seeing on the Sapphire cards we should see a nice boost in performance. Of course we can't forget the 3GB of GDDR5 which we pushed from 5000MHz QDR to 5800MHz QDR.
Let's get started!
The FPS Numbers Explained
When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.
30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.
60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.
120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.