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Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked

Shane is back and out of hospital and to celebrate he checks out two Radeon HD 7950's in CrossFire and when overclocked.
@TweakTown
Published Thu, Feb 23 2012 10:08 AM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction

Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 02 | TweakTown.com
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After a bit of a hiatus due to a 20 day stint in hospital, I'm back and with a vengeance and ready to get back into the samples that have been piling up over the last few weeks.

While we unfortunately missed the HD 7700 series launch, the last thing sitting in my testbed before getting shipped off to the emergency department was a pair of Radeon HD 7950 video cards from Sapphire that we looked at a few weeks ago.

Before I pulled out the cards, though, I wanted to head in to Afterburner, clock both cards a bit and see just what kind of performance we could get out of the CrossFire setup and see how it compares to some of the other setups we've looked at recently. Because we've already looked at the Sapphire card in good detail, we won't be looking at the card and or the package, instead we'll be getting straight into the testbed side of things. At the same time we'll also cover the overclock we managed to achieve via Afterburner.

Once we've done that we'll of course get into the performance side of things to see just what kind of performance boost we're able to get from the overclocked setup. Once that's done we'll wrap everything up, first let's get into the testbed system setup and see just what kind of overclocked we managed to get.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

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.

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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.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Straight off the bat we see a nice boost in performance which sees our numbers sit in line with the more expensive Sapphire HD 7970 CrossFire setup. Hopefully we see this kind of performance translate throughout all our benchmarks.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Getting into Heaven we see some great performance which in this case puts it ahead of the HD 7970 CrossFire setup. You can see we still lag behind that overclocked setup, but not by a huge margin at all.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx

Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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H.A.W.X. 2 has never been one to benefit greatly from overclocks and you can see here that doesn't change. We get a bit of a boost at 2560 x 1600, but there's nothing too much to write about at the resolutions below that.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/

Buy It Here

Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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We can see that Mafia II is sitting around that 130 FPS wall we seem to hit on AMD cards. We've got nice performance across the board, but nothing too much to talk about in the way of gains over the cards clocked at stocked.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Moving into the intensive Lost Planet 2 we can see some really nice gains across the board and again we see the overclocked setup is able to boost our HD 7950 CF setup to speeds greater than the Sapphire HD 7970 setup.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Checking out another intensive engine, we can see some nice boosts again are seen under Aliens vs. Predator.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.2

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Looking at Just Cause 2 we don't see much in the way of extra FPS at the lower resolutions, but as we climb, we can see the gains become better and better. Again we see the setup is able to outperform the Sapphire HD 7970 CF setup.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Metro 2033 doesn't normally benefit that much from overclocking, but across the board we can see some extra FPS with the best gains being seen at the highest resolution that equate to around 7%.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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Dirt 3 also manages to see some good performance gains and we continue to see that the overclock helps push the setup ahead of the more expensive HD 7970 CF setup when clocked at stock.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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FarCry 2 already sees some big numbers and we can see a bit of movement in the 2560 x 1600 average. For the most part, though, we can just see solid numbers across the board.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Cranking up the AA and AF detail we can see across the board there's a nice boost in performance thanks to the extra MHz on offer.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Overclocked we can see that the Sapphire cards continue to run extremely cool with the hottest card coming in at just 64c at load.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Noise levels are also fantastic with numbers coming in only just slightly higher than the cards when running at stock.

Power Consumption Test

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw jumps up a little, but the numbers continue to be very strong, thanks to the great 28nm technology utilized.

Final Thoughts

The first thing I noticed when overclocking the Sapphire cards here today was that we didn't quite have the same success when it came to the core speed as to when we looked at the reference card. Really it doesn't all come to fruition until the very end of the article as well when we look at the temperature and sound numbers.

Sapphire has clearly opted for a fan profile that favors on the quiet side of things and that comes at the cost of overclocking ability. You've always got the option to push the fan speed up manually, but you can see today with these extremely low noise levels, and even low temperature levels, we're able to push the performance of our HD 7950 CF setup to past that of the HD 7970 CF setup when running at stock.

Considering the more attractive price tag of the AMD Radeon HD 7950, you can see it's a clear option over the HD 7970 for people who are interested in jumping on the HD 7900 bandwagon without blowing the bank. Combined with the excellent CrossFire scaling when you move to a second HD 7950, this becomes a really optimum setup for people who want some serious gaming performance.

The biggest shock with the cards today continues to be the cooling and noise numbers from the Sapphire HD 7950 video cards. They're just amazing and you can see they stand out for all the right reasons against all the other setups in our graphs today.

Looking at the performance numbers and looking at the temperature and noise numbers, they just don't seem right. You expect a setup like this to run both warmer and louder, it simply doesn't, though, and that's a real testament to the latest generation of cooler from Sapphire.

If you want to spend closer to $900 instead of $1100, the AMD Radeon HD 7950 CrossFire option is going to be a perfect choice as it stays under that dreaded "$1k" mark. The Sapphire version is going to set you back a little more, but if you're after a solution that is not only fast, but quiet and cool, then you're not going to have much trouble justifying the extra cost associated with the Sapphire offering in my opinion.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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