GIVEAWAY: Gaming peripherals upgrade thanks to Corsair worth $280

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked

The only thing better than one MSI HD 7970 Lightning overclocked is a pair of them overclocked in CrossFire mode. Let's go!
@TweakTown
Published Tue, Apr 3 2012 10:48 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 02 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 19 IMAGES

The other day we checked out the MSI HD 7970 Lightning 3GB and in typical MSI Lightning fashion we found ourselves really impressed with what was on offer. Strong overclocking performance, a good out of the box overclock, awesome cooler and just a huge amount of features make it a stand out video card.

We figured what's better than a single HD 7970 Lightning 3GB overclocked, though? Two MSI HD 7970 Lighting 3GB video cards overclocked and in CrossFire mode! So that's exactly what we did - we organized another MSI HD 7970 Lightning 3GB, paired it with the one we had and then proceeded to overclock them both in CrossFire. Much fun prevailed, of course.

Because we've already looked at the video cards we're using in more detail in our original review, we don't need to cover it again. Instead for a more detail look check out the original review we just linked above.

Instead, we'll get into the good stuff pretty quickly today as we know that is all you want to see. On the next page we'll check out our Test System Setup and cover the video cards we'll be using in our comparison today. On the same page we'll also check out the overclocking ability of the setup. CrossFire always brings a slight hit in overclocking ability and we'll find out just how moving to the two card setup affects our maximum overclock today.

Once we've done that then we'll just get into the performance side of things to see how this CrossFire setup compared to other single card setup and CrossFire ones. So with all that said, let's get into the test system setup and the overclocking side of things to see just how we went.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Overclocking

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 99 | TweakTown.com

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

Looking above you can see our testbed and there's nothing out of the ordinary when we compare it to previous ones. On the comparison front we've got a number of setups including both single card and dual card setups.

We won't go into too much detail as everything can really be seen in our graphs today. Before we get into the performance side of things, though, we do need to look what is going on in the overclocking department.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 01 | TweakTown.com

Like our standalone review we took the time to overclock the two Lightning video cards to see what kind of performance we could get out of them. As always you never expect to get the same overclock when add another card into the mix and looking below we did take a slight hit from the original 1225 / 6300 QDR setup.

It wasn't much of a hit, though, with both cores still coming in at a very strong 1200MHz. As for the 3GB of GDDR5, we saw both cards also continue to offer a strong overclock with a clock of 6000MHz QDR being seen.

We'd rather see more of a hit taken on the memory then the core as the increased core clock helps boost overall performance more. With that all sorted now I think it's time we get into the performance side of things to see just what two Lightning cards are able to offer us.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 20 | TweakTown.com

Straight away we can see some massive performance that sees the Lightning cards stand out in a big way.

You can see over the reference card CrossFire setup we've got a strong boost, and over the overclocked reference cards, we also have an awesome performance gain being seen.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 21 | TweakTown.com

Moving into Heaven we continue to see the strong numbers present in both the presets.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 22 | TweakTown.com

Moving into H.A.W.X. 2 we've just got massive numbers across the board and while you can see nothing changes at 1680 x 1050; you can see we get a bit more of a gain at 1920 x 1200 and an even larger one at 2560 x 1600 compared to the reference design overclocked cards.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 23 | TweakTown.com

Moving into Mafia 2 you can see that we're hitting that 130ish FPS wall that is present on a lot of AMD cards. At least we're hitting a wall at a really playable level.

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."

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 24 | TweakTown.com

Moving into the intensive Lost Planet 2 we can just see some awesome performance across the board. The best gains are of course seen at the highest resolution where the most pressure is being applied to the cards.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 25 | TweakTown.com

Aliens vs. Predator also sees some awesome performance gains and just some awesome performance overall. The best gains are as usual being seen at the highest resolution.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 26 | TweakTown.com

Moving into Just Cause 2 we just continue to see awesome performance across the board and performance that puts the Lightings cards in CrossFire ahead of the other setups here.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 27 | TweakTown.com

Moving into Metro 2033 we can just see some awesome performance and this is the kind of numbers we'd want to see with something like a 120Hz monitor.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 28 | TweakTown.com

Dirt 3 continues the trends of strong performance and as usual we can see the best gains are present at the highest resolution when comparing this setup to others.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 29 | TweakTown.com

Far Cry 2 you can see is just bouncing off a wall that is a 150ish FPS minimum and 300 FPS average. Just some huge numbers for this older game that we see higher end cards really have no trouble with.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 30 | TweakTown.com
MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 31 | TweakTown.com
MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 32 | TweakTown.com

Moving into our AA and AF tests we can see not only strong gains again, but just overall strong performance that makes for ultra-playable gameplay at any setting.

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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 40 | TweakTown.com

Adding a second video card into the mix does little to adding extra heat to the system.

We can see we're still sitting around that high 70c area for our hottest card in the setup. Considering the clock speeds, the fact we're dealing with a CrossFire setup and the fact we're pumping all that extra voltage through the setup, the number is fine.

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).

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 41 | TweakTown.com

Noise levels while almost identical to the single card setup are still very much on the loud end when you overclock so high.

Of course if you're going to use the card at the default speeds you're not going to have a setup as loud. But if you want to crank up those clock speeds and increase the voltage that does come at the cost of extra noise and temperature.

Power Consumption Test

Using our 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.

MSI Radeon HD 7970 Lightning 3GB Video Cards in CrossFire Overclocked 42 | TweakTown.com

Power draw on the MSI HD 7970 Lightning is pretty high and you can see two cards here are tipping over 900 watts with no issue when overclocked.

We don't see it as too much of a problem for the simple fact if you're buying a high-end setup like this you should already have a high-end PSU or at least be buying one at the same time. Needless to say, make sure you do.

Final Thoughts

The MSI Lightning based AMD Radeon HD 7970 video card is no doubt one of, if not the best on the market at the moment. As we said in our standalone review, it's not just the overclocking ability of the model, but the mean looks and awesome feature set. MSI know exactly what they are doing here.

There's no denying that if you're looking for a serious HD 7970 CrossFire setup this is one you should be looking at without any doubt in my mind. Sure, it's going to cost you more, but the MSI HD 7970 Lightning cards have no issue showing their worth, especially when you fire up MSI Afterburner and unleash the raw power that's on tap.

I think the biggest surprise from the testing was that adding the second video card into the mix did little when it came to affecting overclocking performance. Normally we'd expect a larger hit than 25MHz on the core. This is again a real testament to the quality of the Lightning cards.

The biggest issue with the cards comes in the form of heat and noise when overclocked this high. We won't poke at this too much, though, as the simple reason is it's a common tradeoff when you start to clock cards this high and run this much voltage through them. It's something you'd need to accept as well.

If you just wanted to get the Lightning cards and do some light overclocking, or none at all and just leave them at the pre-OC speeds, you're not going to be dealing with noise levels as high or temperatures this high. The Lightning cards are all about overclocking, though, and you're going to get the best out of them when you go into MSI Afterburner and play around.

In typical fashion you're going to pay to use a Lightning based video card, but at the same time, though, you're going to get yourself one of the best video cards on the market. The only thing better than a single HD 7970 Lightning is two of them!

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

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.

Related Tags

Newsletter Subscription

Latest News

View More News

Latest Reviews

View More Reviews

Latest Articles

View More Articles