HIS HD 7970 3GB Overclocked Video Card Review

We check out the new HIS HD 7970 video card and take the time to overclock it to see how the new GPU model goes from AMD.

Manufacturer: HIS
15 minutes & 44 seconds read time

Introduction and The Package

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Like any launch of a product we find ourselves looking at offerings from lots of companies. We started off with the reference HD 7970 which we then followed up with by checking out the new XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation which really impressed us.

Today we're moving over to a HIS HD 7970 video card and since it follows the reference design and MSI have just released a new version of Afterburner that allows voltage adjustment on the new HD 7970, we figured it was time to see how the overclocking capabilities of the new card is.

Before we cover the overclocking ability, the first thing we need to do is take a closer look at the package HIS has going on before we move in closer to the card itself. Once that's done we'll check out the specifications and how we went with overclocking. Then as always we get into the testbed and of course check out the performance of the card.

The main thing we'll be looking at is the kind of performance we're able to get out of the card when compared to the reference clocked card.

The Package

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Checking out the box we've got that typical HIS design going on with the main difference being that this one sits slightly larger. The front gives us the main information including the model and amount of memory while turning over expands on some of the main features that the card offers while also giving us a really good run down on the benefits those particular features offer.

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Moving inside the box we've got a manual, driver CD, case sticker, CrossFire bridge and DVI to VGA connector to round out the typical inclusions. Along with that we've also got two convertors - one is a HDMI to DVI connector, while the other is an Active mini DisplayPort to DVI connector. What isn't included, though, is a mini DP to DP connector, again something we're seeing companies skip this time around.

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Something extra in the bundle which we haven't seen before is the "Weight Lifter" that's designed to be installed in your case and assist in helping reduce the strain placed on your PCIe slot. It's kind of funky, but unless you're moving your PC around a lot, it's probably not something that you really need.

The Card & Specifications

The Card

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Moving onto the card the first thing you're going to notice is that it looks nearly identical to the reference card with the only difference being two HIS stickers on the front of the card. We've got the same fan design on the right that helps push air over the GPU and straight out the back of the case, along with the same black and red combination.

More often than not we see companies stick to the reference cooler design at launch of these high-end cards because they don't normally have the time to have their own design ready. XFX seemed to buck that trend this time around, though, hopefully we'll see companies like HIS offer us an IceQ model sooner rather than later.

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Taking a quick spin around the card we've got our two power connectors at the back in the form of a single 6-Pin and 8-Pin PCIe power connector, closer to the front we've got two CrossFire headers that support up to four cards and next to that we've got our BIOS switch which we continue to say doesn't have the largest of use on this model. Like the HD 6900 series, we'll see how the BIOS switch develops over the upcoming models.

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Finally we finish up with the IO side of things which sees a Dual-Link DVI connector, full size HDMI port and two mini DP connectors rounding out the bottom half. The top half is of course our vents to help let the hot air be pushed out the back of the case.


Moving into the specification side of things there's no real big surprise with the reference clocks that are present on the card. That means 925MHz on the core and 5500MHz QDR on the 3GB of GDDR5 memory. Since we've already looked at the performance of a reference clocked card we've chosen to look at the HIS card with it overclocked via the latest version of MSI Afterburner.

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We ended up running our core at 1130MHz while our memory was running at a nice 6100MHz QDR. This is a really nice overclock from the stock clocks and should bring with it a strong performance increase. If you looked at our XFX review, though, you might've noticed that we achieved over 1200MHz on the core. It's worth noting that the XFX card was only tested at that speed under 3DMark 11 and the fan was set to 100%. Today we want to find an overclock that is usable across all our benchmarks, essentially something that people could use in day to day setup.

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.

Looking at the testbed you're not going to find any surprises with the X79 setup we've been using since launch. On the card front we've got the NVIDIA GTX 570 and GTX 580 along with the HD 6970, HD 6990 and HD 7970.

The main thing we want to know today is the kind of performance this overclock gives us when compared to the reference clocked card.

What we're hoping is that those few times we see our reference HD 7970 come in under 60 FPS at 2560 x 1600 no longer are present. Still, there's only one way to find out the performance we're able to get 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

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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Firing up 3DMark 11 we can see extremely strong performance out the gate with the HD 7970 doing an excellent job of separating itself from the other cards here thanks to that strong overclock on offer.

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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We again see some really nice gains in performance when we fire up Unigine Heaven and the overclock helps bring the HIS HD 7970 numbers with in throwing distance of the HD 6990. Not only does this give us a good idea of just how powerful the card is when overclocked, but it also paints a picture of how AMD has improved the tessellation performance on the latest generation card.

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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Like our XFX review, we see that H.A.W.X. 2 is a little wonky at the lower resolutions, as mentioned in that review, when overclocking H.A.W.X. 2 can see a slight negative impact. Fortunately we've got strong FPS across the board and you can see at 2560 x 1600 we see a really nice boost in performance that translates to around 15%.

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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An issue that has plagued AMD card for ages under Mafia II was the 120 FPS wall that was hit. We saw this change with the HD 7970 and overclocked we can see that the HIS HD 7970 has no issues passing those numbers putting it ahead of everything else including the dual GPU HD 6990.

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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Getting into Lost Planet 2 we can see our reference clocked card managed to scrape in at 62 FPS when benched at 2560 x 1600. Thanks to the extra MHz on offer, we can see that we're a good 14 FPS above that 60 FPS average we like making sure we'll achieve silky smooth game play.

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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Unlike Lost Planet 2, we saw under Aliens vs. Predator that the HD 7970 at stock clocks couldn't quite get that 60 FPS average. Throw in an 1100MHz+ clock on the core and you can see the 10%+ performance increase equates to a 63 FPS average, which is exactly what we hope to achieve when overclocking.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

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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Firing up Just Case 2 we continue to see that strong overclock cement the playability of these intensive games at 2560 x 1600 with in game settings maxed out.

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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The super intensive Metro 2033 is very much like the modern day Crysis and we continue to see single GPU offerings struggle to hit that 60 FPS target we want at 2560 x 1600. At stock the HD 7970 is no different, overclocked on the other hand we see our HIS offering is able to sneak over the 60 FPS mark by a single FPS.

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 benefits strongly from the overclock as we see our 2560 x 1600 performance which comes in at 60 FPS with the reference card get blown out to 71 FPS when we're overclocked this high.

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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No surprise under FarCry 2 we see strong FPS out of the card, but when overclocked the HIS HD 7970 cements itself as a performance powerhouse.

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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Across the board with AA and AF turned on we see very strong FPS that see playable numbers in every game including the highly intensive Aliens vs. Predator.

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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Checking out the temperature of the card it comes as no surprise that we're running a good chunk warmer than the other HD 7970s we've tested, this is of course due to the extra voltage running through the card.

Overall we continue to see load temps come in lower than the NVIDIA GTX 570 and GTX 580, even if it is only by a few degrees.

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 a bit and you can see it does separate itself from the other cards. While not as extreme as the HD 6990; when overclocked, the HD 7970 is going to bring with it some extra dBs as it works to keep the card as cool as possible.

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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Finally we finish off with power draw and we can see a bump in both idle and load numbers. No surprise at all considering the fact we've upped the voltage on the card. Any good quality 650 watt power supply isn't going to have an issue with the card, though.

Final Thoughts

Remove the overclocking out of the picture and the HIS HD 7970 is everything you'd expect from a reference card and this is ultimately a good thing as the out of the box performance on the HD 7970 is great and from a technology stand point, we've got lots of improvements and tweaks across the board.

Stepping away from the reference clocks, though, for a moment and checking out the overclock we've got, we're able to see the kind of potential we're able to get out of the model using just the reference cooler. What's important to note is that the overclock we're running today is 100% stable in all of our benchmarks.

This is important to note - we've seen sites bench as over 1200MHz on the core, we did it ourselves with the XFX HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation, but we ran the fan at 100% and the only benchmark we did was 3DMark 11. When it comes to benchmarking other games you'll quickly find that your max clock in 3DMark 11 isn't exactly stable for everything.

Around the 1100 / 6100 QDR mark should be fairly reachable by most people. At this level you should also find that everything is playable at 2560 x 1600 at a solid 60 FPS. This is going to come at the cost of some extra heat, power draw and noise, but if you want to stretch the performance of your new HD 7970 even further, it's a good option.

If you want to just do some flat out benchmarking, then you can crank that fan speed up to an unbearable 100% and crank the clocks even further. With the overclocking range of the card, you can have a real blast doing some 3DMark 11 benchmarking because of the massive jump in score you're able to achieve when compared to the out of the box clocks.

If you want to get in on the HD 7970 action, you really can't go wrong with the HIS offering today. We really look forward to seeing what the company does later on, though, as they'll no doubt expand the popular IceQ line of cards with this new GPU from AMD.

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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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