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XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation 3GB Video Card Review

Retail models start to show up on the HD 7970 and we check out the brand new XFX Black Edition Double Dissipation version.
@TweakTown
Shawn Baker
Published Mon, Jan 9 2012 2:45 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: XFX

Introduction and The Package

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The HD 7970 had a bit of a weird launch that was split into two dates, the first one was just days before Christmas Day which I have already expressed my fondness about in our reference card review, that date was all about the reference card unlike today which is not only about cards from AMDs partners, but also the day we'll see them start to hit store shelves.

What's really cool is that today we're not just looking at a reference designed card from one of the AMD partners, instead we're looking at a card that not only carries an out of the box overclock, but also carries with it a new cooling solution.

The Black Edition naming in the new XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation isn't anything new to us, the new Double Dissipation tag is, though, and that refers to the cooling solution they're using today.

Before we have a look what's going on with the card and the cooler we need to check out the package, an area that XFX tend to be pretty strong in. Once we've done that we'll take a closer look at the card before we check out the specifications and see what kind of overclock is on offer from the Black Edition naming scheme. Once we've done that it's time to get into the testbed and then the fun stuff; the benchmarking. First things first, though, let's check out what's going on with the box and bundle.

The Package

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Checking out the box we've got a pretty funky design going on with a different setup to what we've seen from XFX in the past. We can see that they highlight the new Double Dissipation cooler which we'll look closer at on the next page. As for the rest of the box we can see the back expands on some of the main features that the new HD 7970 offers.

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Moving inside the box we've got a heap of paperwork going on showing off some of the other products XFX offer, some information on your warranty, a quick install guide, a really cool sign to hang off your door knob and the typical driver CD.

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Along with all the paperwork we've got a HDMI to DVI cable, CrossFire bridge and a cool little XFX Black Edition case badge that will no doubt look awesome on your case letting you display your graphics card loudly and proudly.

The Card & Specifications

The Card

Moving away from the package and onto the card we can see the dual fan cooling solution that XFX has opted for under the "Double Dissipation" name. We've got a pretty slick Silver / Chrome / Black setup going on and we can see the massive heatsink behind the fan including some copper parts to make sure everything runs as cool as possible.

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Moving away from the reference cooler has its pros and cons, generally a cooler like this should cool better and run quieter; on the other hand the reference cooler while normally running a bit louder and warmer is often the better option when going down the path of two or more cards as it pushes the air out the back of the case. It will be interesting to see the kind of numbers we're able to get out of the new Double D cooler from XFX.

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Moving in a bit closer and around the card we can see the same power setup that's present on the reference card which brings a single 6-Pin PCIe connector and single 8-Pin PCIe power connector. Staying across the top and moving closer to the front we've got two CrossFire connectors which allow up to four cards while our BIOS switch gives us the ability to flash the card and safely resort back to the default one if something goes wrong.

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As mentioned in our reference card review, this isn't something that people will probably make much use of at the moment, it could be more popular on the higher end Dual GPU model if it switches between a stock and OC BIOS while it might come in handy on the model below if it allows us to flash to a HD 7970 BIOS.

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Finally we finish off with the IO side of things which sees a Dual Link DVI connector, HDMI port and two mini DP ports. Unfortunately the bundle doesn't include any mini DP to DP connectors so if you're going to be making use of the mini DP connection, it's something worth remembering.

Specifications

Moving onto the specification side of things the fact that we've got the Black Edition naming scheme on the card means that out of the box we've got an overclock. Looking below we can see that the core comes in at a nice round sounding 1000MHz or 1GHz. This is pushed up from the default 925MHz and to be honest with word on the overclocking ability of these cards, we've probably got a whole lot more room on top of that.

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What's great, though, is that XFX has chosen to bump up the 3GB of GDDR5 memory as well moving from 1375MHz or 5500MHz QDR to 1425MHz 5700MHz QDR. Overall this isn't a huge overclock, but it should bring with it a nice overall boost in performance. We'll look closer at the gains we're able to get in just a moment, first we want to see what's going on with our test system today and what cards will be included in our graphs.

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.

With the XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation being a pre-overclocked card the main thing we want to know is what the extra core and memory clock does for performance when compared to a reference clocked card.

Along with the reference clocked card we've also got the dual GPU beast that is the HD 6990, the previous generation single GPU king from AMD the HD 6970 along with the GTX 580 and GTX 570 from NVIDIA.

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 away we can see a nice little boost in our 3DMark 11 score in both the P and X preset. The overclock just helps extend the lead over other single GPU options from both NVIDIA and AMD here.

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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Moving into the Tessellation heavy Heaven benchmark we again see a nice boost in performance which sees the score for the 1680 x 1050 test jump just over 2000 points. This is a strong 30% faster than the GTX 580 which has always handled Tessellation tests extremely well.

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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Moving into H.A.W.X. 2 we can see a small dip in performance at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. Unfortunately this isn't unusual as H.A.W.X. 2 often can see a slight drop in performance when AMD cards are overclocked. Fortunately we see a little boost at 2560 x 1600 and at the other resolutions we see massive FPS still with 172 FPS and 190 FPS respectively.

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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Moving into Mafia II we continue to see a nice little bump in performance and the HD 7970 Black Edition Double D from XFX does a good job of expanding the HD 7970s lead over the other cards.

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 super intensive Lost Planet 2 we see again a nice little boost in performance. The most notable comes at 2560 x 1600 which moves us just a little further away from that minimum 60 FPS average we aim for. The further away we can get from 60 FPS, the smoother your overall gaming experience will be.

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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Aliens vs. Predator also sees a nice little boost, unfortunately at 2560 x 1600 we're a single FPS away from that 60 FPS mark. With just a little more overclocking, though, I don't doubt we'll be breaking that number with ease which is fantastic news for a single GPU card.

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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Again, we've got a nice little performance boost across the board, a lot like Lost Planet 2, the boost at 2560 x 1600 is the most appreciated as it helps push us again a bit further from that 60 FPS average we aim for.

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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Similar to the Aliens vs. Predator picture we've got a nice boost across the board, but at 2560 x 1600 we're still just a few FPS shy of that 60 FPS average we want. It will be interesting to see just what kind of numbers we can get when we start to overclock the new HD 7970 from AMD.

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 is another intensive game and you can see at 2560 x 1600 the HD 7970 manages to just scrape in at 60 FPS, throw in the XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double D, though, and we can see a 11% boost in performance, which sees our average move to 67 FPS.

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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Looking at FarCry 2 we've got no real surprises as we see a nice boost in performance across the board. The HD 7970 really offers us some excellent performance when compared to other single GPU cards.

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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Looking at all three games we see a nice boost in performance, more importantly, though, we can see that the overclock XFX is offering us pushes our Aliens vs. Predator HQ tests from a 58 FPS average to that 60 FPS average we aim for.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests

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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Looking at the temperature test we can see the new Double Dissipation cooler does a good job. We've got a couple degrees shaved off the load temp and a solid 9c shaved off the idle making it run considerably cooler than the other cards here.

Sound Tests

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 really strong, we can see that idle and load sit a nice chunk lower than the reference card with a solid 4.7dB shaved off the load temperature.

Power Consumption Tests

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 doesn't hold any surprises, we've got awesome numbers in the idle department that see it line up with the reference HD 7970, at load we see a little bit more power drawn due to the overclock but at an even 400 Watt, this is an impressive amount of power draw considering the performance of the card.

Final Thoughts

First thing is first, I legitimately find myself surprised that we've got a card that not only carries with it an out of the box overclock at launch, but also a new cooler. Normally it takes a month or two before we see companies move away from non-reference designed cards, especially when it comes to the higher end models.

XFX have been able to offer us something different from the reference card today, though, and not only do we get a bit of extra performance thanks to the overclock, more importantly we have a cooler that helps our core run cooler while operating at a lower noise level than the reference card. Throw in the fact that this is done on a card that's also running at a higher clock speeds and the XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation ultimately is just full of win.

Moving away from the card for a moment and getting into the package we're seeing something that companies are beginning to do more, the removal of the plethora of included cables. Looking inside we've got some cool little extras like the sweet looking case badge and the little sign to hang off your door knob, what we don't have, though, are mini DP to DP cables that we see from a lot of companies.

The lack of mini DP to DP cables is a bit of a mixed bag. DisplayPort continues to be a connection that isn't used by a lot of people, especially if you're not making use of Eyefinity, the lack of cables also helps bring the price down. The issue is if you're buying the card to setup a new Eyefinity machine, you could quickly find yourself disappointed with the lack of cables. This is something that holds true to a lot of cards these days, so if you want to make use of DisplayPort, and the card itself has a mini DP connector, just double check the included bundle. Worst case you might need to pick up a convertor or two at the same time as buying the card. On a whole, though, the bundle is pretty sweet and the inclusion of those little XFX extras make it stand out.

In the end the XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation is just a really nice version of the card and to be honest, it's here a lot earlier than we thought it would be. The out of the box overclock via the Black Edition naming is nice, but the stand out for the card is the new Double Dissipation cooler that helps our card run not only cooler, but at less noise.

Before we finish off we've been hearing strong word about the overclocking ability of the new HD 7970. Just after the launch of the reference card, though, word was that the samples that came from companies couldn't overclock as well. With the latest version of MSI Afterburner just released, we fired it up and saw what we could do.

We ended up at 1225MHz on the core and 6000MHz QDR on the 3GB of memory which as you can see below resulted in a massive P10006 score under 3DMark 11, this is just a massive score for a single GPU card and give us a real idea of the potential of the new AMD GPU.

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Just in case you can't be bothered jumping back to the 3DMark 11 test results, to put it into perspective the stock HD 6970 scored P5929, stock HD 7970 scored P8123, this card out of the box scored P8583 and the HD 6990 scored P10681. We'll be looking at overclocking potential more in the coming days with our reference HD 7970 to give you a better idea of what a reference cooled card can do.

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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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