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AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB Reference Video Card Review - The Card & Specifications

After a holiday and a move overseas I've finally been able to get down and dirty with the HD 7970. Let's check it out.

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

The Card

 

Looking at the card head on we don't see anything too different to what we've seen in the past from AMD. We've got a fairly standard black and red setup going on with a fan placed towards the rear of the card which helps draw cool air in, push it across the GPU in the middle of the card and straight out the back of the case. Compared to the HD 6970, though, the fan is a little wider now and has been improved slightly to help push more air over the card, hopefully not at the cost of noise.

 

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The fan design continues to be one of the strongest thanks to the way it pushes the air straight out the back of your case. It makes it an ideal solution for people who are going down the path of multiple cards. The biggest issue with the fan design has always been that it tends to carry higher noise levels when compared to some of the aftermarket cooling options. It will be interesting to hear what kind of numbers the new HD 7970 puts out when placed under load.

 

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Making our way around the card we can see towards the back we've got a power setup which consists of the same setup we saw on the HD 6970; a single 8-Pin PCIe connector alongside a single 6-Pin PCIe connector. This is the typical setup we've seen out of high-end single GPU cards and we don't doubt we'll see in time companies like Sapphire and MSI offer us overclocked models which swap out the 6-Pin PCIe connector for a second 8-Pin one.

 

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Moving closer to the front we can see our two CrossFire connectors which means we're able to run up to four of these cards together. No doubt in time we'll also be able to do configurations which include a single HD 7990 with one or two of these cards to make up three and four GPU configurations. Also here we can see just to the left we've got that little switch we saw pop up with the release of the HD 6900 series. Just like we could do previously, it gives us the ability to switch over to the unprotected mode and flash the BIOS of the card. If everything heads south, we can flick back over and go back to the default BIOS.

 

While a cool feature, it wasn't something that was really used on the HD 6970, instead we saw it used on the HD 6950. Early batches of the card saw the ability to flash a HD 6970 BIOS to the HD 6950 at what seemed to be with no risk. We also saw the switch used on the higher end dual GPU HD 6990 with the ability to switch between the stock speeds of the card and the overclocked ones that AMD offered via "AUSUM Mode".

 

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Moving to the IO side of things we can see what's going on with the connectivity of the card. Starting from the right we've got a Dual-Link DVI cable for all your ultra-high resolution 2560 x 1440 / 1600 screens along with full support for 120Hz monitors. Next to that we've got a full size HDMI 1.4a port which supports HD Audio and 3D support for Blu-ray movies and finally we end with two mini DisplayPort 1.2 connectors. The rest of the IO side of things is of course taken up with that vent in the top half of the card which helps push the hot air out the back of your system.

 

Specifications

 

One of the biggest changes for the HD 7970 is a reduction in the manufacturing process which sees us move from a 40nm process to a smaller 28nm one. The smaller process brings with it a chip that will run cooler; this intern brings with it an ability to then run our GPU at a higher clock rate which ultimately means that we end up with even more performance.

 

The main pieces of information you want to know are probably how does it compare to the HD 6970. On the Stream Processors front we've got a nice boost from 1536 to 2048, texture units have also seen a big boost from 96 to 128, while ROPs come in at the same 32.

 

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On the clock speed side of things, the core has gone from 880MHz to 925MHz while the memory carries the same 5500MHz QDR clock. The big change in the memory not only comes in with the move to 3GB from 2GB, but also a wider memory bus that is now 384-bit verse 256-bit. Overall we've also seen a big boost in the transistor count moving to 4.31B from 2.64B.

 

Outside of improvements in the general core architecture, we find AMD promoting a few other key areas including Eyefinity 2.0 which brings with it Discrete Digital Multi-Point Audio which translates into each output in a multi output scenario is able to have its own independent stream, something handy for multi person video conferencing. Support for 4k resolution is also available and just a general uniting of AMD Eyefinity, HD3D and CrossFire is all bought together to work in harmony.

 

App acceleration has also been improved with the latest generation of UVD supporting more video formats making the encode process not only better than before, but also faster. Along with hardware acceleration for the encoding side of things, we've got hardware acceleration for Chrome, Flash, Silverlight, PowerPoint and Google Earth to name just a few of the programs. The HD 7970 is ultimately not only designed for people who want to play faster, but for those who want to work faster.

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