AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3GB Video Card Overclocked

We've already seen the new GHz Edition Radeon HD 7970 at stock speeds. Now let's see how it goes when it comes to overclocking.

Manufacturer: AMD
14 minutes & 3 seconds read time

Introduction and Overclocking

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The other day we looked at the brand new HD 7970 GHz Edition from AMD and something that we thought would be big for this model is the overclocking ability. To offer such a strong clock out of the box AMD would've no doubt had to make sure they have cherry picked GPUs.

What we're hoping is that not only have these GPUs brought with them a stronger stock clock, but also a stronger overclock that helps boost performance even further. So that's exactly what we're going to do today; find out just what kind of overclock we're able to get out of the new HD 7970 GHz Edition.

Of course there's not a whole lot to cover as we're not only dealing with a reference card which has no bundle, but we also looked at the video card the other day. If you're interested in a closer look at the card I recommend that you check out our original launch article we just linked to above.

From here we'll simply move into the overclocking side of things and with the help of MSI Afterburner we'll find out just what kind of MHz we're able to get out of the video card here today. Once we've done that we'll move into the test system side of things and cover the cards that we'll be using in today's graphs before we finally get into the performance side of things and find out just what this new HD 7970 is able to offer us on the overclocking side.


Before we cover what we achieved today, let's just quickly go over the original speeds we saw on the HD 7970 and the ones on the GHz Edition. In December when the HD 7970 launched we had a core clock of 925MHz and the 3GB of GDDR5 came in at 5500MHz QDR. The new GHz Edition that just launched pushed those clocks to 1050MHz and 6000MHz QDR.

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Looking above you can see with the help of MSI Afterburner we ended up pushing the core to 1165MHz while the 3GB of GDDR5 came in at 6800MHz QDR.

This compares to the original HD 7970 which found itself sitting around the 1100MHz / 6100MHz QDR mark when overclocked.

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.

Having a look at the testbed you can see nothing has changed and everything is fairly self-explanatory in the above image. So with that said let's quickly look at the video cards that sit in our graphs today.

Of course we've got our overclocked HD 7970 GHz Edition card and we'll be looking at that against the original HD 7970 and the GHz Edition model when it's running at its stock speeds.

Along with those cards, though, we've got the GTX 670 and three GTX 680s in the form of a 2GB and 4GB one running at stock and a pre-overclocked 2GB model from Gainward in the form of the Phantom. All these cards are important today when it comes to being compared against each other.

We saw the HD 7970 GHz Edition perform strong in our testing the other day, but it continued to struggle at times against both the GTX 680 and GTX 670. Let's find out what the extra clocks do for the card today.

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

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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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Starting off with 3DMark 11 we can see a nice boost in performance where we can see against the reference clocked GTX 680 we're looking good. Against the 4GB and pre-overclocked version we're a little bit behind still.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

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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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Heaven sees some really nice gains, but you can see even when overclocked, we're still a bit behind the GTX 680s thanks to the superior tessellation performance that is on offer from the NVIDIA cards.

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

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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 sees a nice bump across the board, but it's not really necessary. We also see that we're still behind all the GTX 600 series cards here thanks to the fact that H.A.W.X. 2 has always favored NVIDIA offerings because of the dependency on tessellation.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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 a boost in performance across the board, but nothing too crazy. We can see at the highest resolution, though, the overclock helps cement the HD 7970 GHz Edition as the fastest card here when overclocked. Before we could see that the pre-overclocked GTX 680 was able to come out ahead.

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

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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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Lost Planet 2 sees gains at all resolutions with some extra breathing room being seen at 2560 x 1600. At that resolution we see that we're able to sneak ahead of the reference clocked 2GB GTX 680, but the 4GB and pre-overclocked model continues to come out ahead. The main thing is that we've got playable numbers at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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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Aliens vs. Predator continues to be strong for the AMD cards and you can see we've got some extra performance at all resolutions. The most appreciated gains come at 2560 x 1600, though, as we get a bit more breathing room in that 60 FPS area for a smooth gaming experience.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

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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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At the highest resolution we saw the GHz Edition out perform all our other cards here while offering us playable FPS. You can see overclocked we're able to extend that lead a little and we of course still have very playable FPS.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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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We see a slight boost across the board, but nothing too major. Saying that though, the extra couple of FPS at 2560 x 1600 is appreciated, since we manage to only just sneak past the 60 FPS average at stock speeds.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

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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 numbers already looked good and you can see overclocked we see a nice improvement that helps keep the HD 7970 GHz Edition ahead of the pack.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

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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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Across the board we see a bump in performance, but let's be honest, it's not needed on these high-end video cards here.

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.

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Looking at the numbers above you can see the overclock helps push our 2560 x 1600 number to over 60 FPS. When we move from below 60 FPS to over it, this is the times where we really appreciate what an overclock does for us.

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Aliens vs. Predator sees a slight boost in performance with a couple of extra FPS at both resolutions. Unfortunately it's not enough to make the game playable at the higher 2560 x 1600 resolution.

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Far Cry 2 sees a boost across all our numbers and we continue to just have very strong FPS here with a 43 FPS minimum at 2560 x 1600.

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Metro 2033 gets a bump at both resolutions and we close the gap a little at 2560 x 1600 when it comes to getting that 60 FPS average, but you can see we're still 10 FPS out.

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Just Cause 2 sees an extra 3 FPS at 2560 x 1600 which moves our average from 55 FPS to 58 FPS. We're so close to that 60 FPS number we aim for; a small detail drop would bring that number up to a place we want it to be.

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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The extra voltage and clock speeds really cause the video card to jump up in the heat department like we can see the GTX 680 did just below it. The bigger issue is the big jump in idle temperature, though, that's going to hurt when it comes to those warm summer days.

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 also jump up on the card with more noise being heard at both idle and load.

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.

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As you'd expect power draw also jumps up. Anyone buying this kind of card though shouldn't have an issue with it as long as they are using a quality power supply.

Final Thoughts

Overclocking ability on the new AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is really strong and we can see some awesome gains when it comes to the memory. I think we'll end up seeing some really good pre-overclocked HD 7970 GHz Edition video cards come out soon.

I think what will be interesting is if we see someone like MSI do a second version of the Lightning - maybe with 6GB of GDDR5 and these new GHz Edition cores being used. With the added voltage, we could really see some truly amazing performance.

It will be interesting to also see what other companies do with these chips, companies like Sapphire and HIS. I think one of the biggest issues is going to be supply, though. I don't think this is going to be a product that is going to be available easily to companies and the amount of chips that companies will be able to get will be quite limited compared to what they see from other models.

This is ultimately something that we will only know 100% in time, though, and we'll be keeping a close eye on stock levels over the coming weeks when we see the model hit the retail market.

If you're going to go down the AMD path and you were interested in a HD 7970, if you've got the extra money that is needed for the GHz Edition, this is a good pick. It's going to become even better when we see some companies change the cooling on the video card if you want to wait till then.


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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.

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