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AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB Reference Video Card Review

By: Shawn Baker | AMD Radeon GPU in Video Cards | Posted: Jan 7, 2012 4:59 am
TweakTown Rating: 97%Manufacturer: AMD

Final Thoughts


With the last generation of video cards from AMD and NVIDIA, a lot of people felt a bit hard done by. Sure, the GTX 480 to GTX 580 and HD 5970 to HD 6970 brought with it some nice performance gains, but there wasn't the technological leap that we would've liked to have seen. The move to a 28nm manufacturing process and a whole bunch of new optimizations from AMD, though, this time, bring a proper next generation card verse the refresh we saw out of the last generation cards.


It would've been nice to say that the new HD 7k series card from AMD is the fastest card on the market, but the lack of a dual GPU option means that the HD 6990 continues to be the fastest card on the market. That means we move over to the whole "Fastest Single GPU" line of thought which is one that bugged me during the GTX 480 era. None the less, the HD 7970 is indeed the fastest single GPU offering on the market at the moment, a title that AMD hasn't really held for a while. Fortunately for them, though, they now have the fastest card on the market and the fastest single GPU card on the market.


It's a pity that AMD can't see the same success on the CPU side of things. For the last few months they've been a bit back and forth with NVIDIA when it comes to being the better option. The lead they're going to take over NVIDIA in the coming months should see them be the clear winner for at least a few months after that as we see a new dual GPU offering come from them and the mid-range segment get filled out with new models in the coming months.


The biggest issue with the HD 7970 doesn't have anything to do with the product itself, but simply the way AMD chose to handle the launch of this item. Launching so close to Christmas in itself is just terrible, but for it to be a pure paper launch makes it so much worse. I thought we'd left the days of paper launches, it's possible that the plan was to stop any last minute purchases on high-end NVIDIA offerings, though, and if you work your way through the results, you'd probably find yourself thinking, what's just a few more weeks.


The coming days we should see a flurry of retail samples hit and e-tail stores like Newegg will be stocking up. I do wonder, though, how close are we going to be to the $549 US launch price that AMD has set. To be completely honest I wouldn't be surprised if we see pricing sit closer to $599 US. $50 - $100 more than the GTX 580 is going to make it an easy purchase over it, though and that brings us to both the GTX 580 and NVIDIA.


We still seem to be a few months away from seeing a new high-end offering from NVIDIA, so what do they do in the mean time? No doubt they're not going to want to sacrifice all high-end purchases to AMD, the next step for them is going to be a price drop, the issue with that is you're going to have a cascade effect down to the mid-range offerings and we could find ourselves with a real price war on our hands. As good as the GTX 580 is, if you're able to get in to a HD 7970 for $50 - $100 US more, you'd be crazy not to.


The other interesting model is the HD 6990; ultimately still a faster card than the HD 7970. The issue is it's essentially discontinued almost. Stock is near impossible to find these days, this isn't a huge surprise, though, as we've seen the HD 6990 really struggle with supply since launch. Partners have always said they've never been able to get enough of them. People wanting a dual GPU option still have the GTX 590...but that's one model that has never got off the ground for NVIDIA. The fact that Newegg list only two and only one is available paints that picture pretty clearly.


The HD 7970 really has just come in and shaken everything up a bit and it's only for the better. We know about the performance, the problem is we don't really know about the price and availability. We know the price set by AMD, but leaked pricing from other parts of the world show it sitting much higher, stock is also a question as we hear of companies having pre sold their first and second batches.


Outside of the crappy timing, this is ultimately a good launch for AMD, and let's be honest, going back over the last few months they haven't had the smoothest time. The VGA team continues to do extremely well for the company and the fact they're going to be a good few months earlier than NVIDIA is only a good thing. What I can tell you, though, is that the next generation single GPU offering from NVIDIA is going to be faster. It's going to be faster because it has to be faster. I don't think that's going to be a shock to anyone, the cloud surrounding when we'll see it, though, is going to turn people off. Throw in the fact that AMD will have a good few months on them when it comes to sales means they're going to have room to move in price, considering that AMD is generally the cheaper option anyway, this is only good news for them.


Without some serious movement on the GTX 580 price, this is going to be the card to buy. Sure it's expensive at the MSRP $549 US price tag, but we'd expect no less out of a high-end part. As AMD fill out the HD 7k series of cards as well it's fairly safe to assume that they will gain more and more momentum in the coming months and expand market share. Combined with strong sales in the APU segment, at least two thirds of AMD business looks extremely strong. If only they could become a real contender in the high-end CPU market.


It's going to be easier for HD 6970 users to make the jump to the HD 7970, GTX 580 users on the other hand might prefer to hold off. HD 6990 users are either going to ignore it and wait for the HD 7990, or just go out and buy two of these come the 9th of January. Either way people are going to buy these cards and I think we'll see "out of stock" signs show up pretty quickly at popular e-tail sites over the next few weeks.



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