AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB Video Card Overclocked

We take the time to overclock our reference AMD Radeon HD 7950 to see just what kind of performance we can expect from the new model.

Manufacturer: AMD
14 minutes & 24 seconds read time


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While we'd normally look at the reference AMD card before anything else, due to the fact it was running a little late, we ended up checking out the XFX HD 7950 Black Edition Double Dissipation which came overclocked out of the box alongside the reference clocked HIS HD 7950 3GB.

Because we've already looked at a reference clocked card it seems completely pointless to turn around and benchmark the AMD HD 7950 in exactly the same way as we know that performance is going to be almost identical outside a bit of fluctuation. For that reason we'll be taking the time to overclock the new model and see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of a standard HD 7950.

What's even better is that the new Beta 11 of MSI Afterburner brings with it voltage adjustment for the new HD 7950 which means we'll be able to get a true idea of overclocking performance. Before we cover the overclocking side of things, there are a couple of things we need to do beforehand.

Normally we'd check out the package, but because we're dealing with a reference AMD card there is no package, instead on the next page we'll just move onto the card itself to see what the reference card looks like. Once we've done that we'll quickly cover the default clock speeds and then go into a bit more detail on the overclocking side of things. From there we'll move into the testbed side of things before we of course get into the performance of the AMD HD 7950 at our maximum overclock today. So with everything said and done, let's take a closer look at the card.

The Card & Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the AMD HD 7950 reference card you instantly get the feel you're checking out a HD 7970. Really the only change that stands out when comparing the two models comes in turn of the power side which consists of dual 6-Pin PCIe power connectors instead of the 6-Pin / 8-Pin PCIe power connector setup seen on the HD 7970.

Closer to the front we've got two CrossFire connectors and we've again got a dual BIOS switch that at the moment we don't have much use for. Hopefully that changes in the coming weeks.

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Looking at the I/O side of things, we've got a Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI and two mini DisplayPort connectors across the bottom half. The top half is just a bunch of vents which is going to help push the hot air out of the case.


Out of the box this AMD HD 7950 of course just carries with it the reference clock speeds. That means that the core comes in at 800MHz and the 3GB of GDDR5 carries a clock speed of 5000MHz QDR. As we mentioned, though, since we tested our HIS card at these speeds, we'd instead go down the overclocking path and see what kind of performance we could get out of the AMD HD 7950 under MSI Afterburner.

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Overclocking actually took ages because the ceiling was considerably higher than I thought it would be. I spoke to a few companies and they said we should expect around the 1100MHz mark, but as you can see above, our core ended up running at a massive 1215MHz. As for the 3GB of GDDR5, that got a really nice speed boost to 5800MHz QDR too.

This is a really strong overclock and should yield some massive performance gains when compared to the stock numbers. Before we get into the performance side of things, though, we need to look at the testbed setup on the next page.

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.

Moving over to our testbed you're not going to see anything out of the ordinary and everything is fairly self-explanatory in the above image. Before we get into our benchmarks, though, we just want to quickly cover the cards we'll be using today and how we're going to be comparing.

Of course the main thing we want to know is how much the overclock boosts performance over the stock HD 7950. Along with that we want to see how close we are to the more expensive HD 7970 when it's running at stock.

Because the overclock was so strong, we've also decided to include the HIS HD 7970 in the graphs today when we overclocked it to 1130MHz / 6100MHz QDR. Along with those setups we've also got the GTX 570 and GTX 580 for good measure.

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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Straight away we can see the massive gains that are brought to the table with the overclock we've got on offer today.

The overclock and performance is so strong that you can see that we're not even that far off the heavily overclocked HD 7970. This is great news for people interested in going down the path of the cheaper HD 7950.

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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Moving into Heaven we again see some awesome performance gains thanks to that massive overclock. You can see the overclocked HD 7950 actually performs only slightly behind the HD 7970 when it's been heavily overclocked.

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:

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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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Moving into H.A.W.X. 2 we continue to see that awesome performance carry over with the HD 7950 overclocked even being able to outperform the overclocked HD 7970 here.

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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Looking at Mafia II performance we can again see strong performance across the board with very playable numbers at every resolution.

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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Checking out the performance under Lost Planet 2 we see an awesome boost in performance. The best gain is seen at 2560 x 1600, though, where we move from an average of 52 FPS which we consider to be unplayable to an average of 65 FPS, which we consider playable.

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 sees a good performance boost, but it's nothing like we've seen in some of our other games. You can see at the highest resolution the massive jump in MHz gives us only a single FPS.

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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Just Cause 2 sees a really nice boost in performance and the most important gain comes at 2560 x 1600 as we move from below 60 FPS to well over it with an average of 73 FPS when overclocked.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage:

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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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The super intensive Metro 2033 sees strong performance gains across the board, but like we saw under Just Cause 2, the overclock help moves us from below a 60 FPS average at 2560 x 1600, to a 60 FPS average at the same resolution when overclocked.

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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We continue to see these strong gains, but the stand out once again comes at 2560 x 1600 where we move from below 60 FPS at stock to over it when overclocked.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage:

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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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Strong gains across the board under FarCry 2 and just very playable numbers.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

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

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Cranking up the detail in a couple of games we see some strong gains.

The most appreciated again comes when we move from below 60 FPS to over 60 FPS under 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 side of things we can see a decent jump in load temperature due to the overclock and the extra voltage running through the core. It's nothing too worrying, though, with it lining up with high-end NVIDIA cards.

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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On the noise front we see that we do climb to the top half of the table. Noise levels do line up with the HD 7970, though, when it was heavily overclocked.

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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Even with this massive overclock you can see that power draw continues to look extremely attractive. Sure, it jumps up around 100 watts at load, but at 452 watts, the overall power draw is extremely impressive.

Final Thoughts

I find myself legitimately shocked at the moment! It comes as no surprise to me that the HD 7950 was able to offer a strong overclock; it does come as a surprise that it was able to offer an overclock that was this strong. With the overclock here today you can see we move from those unplayable numbers to playable ones, and that was the biggest issue we had with the HD 7950 when compared to the HD 7970.

Something that is really worth noting, though, is the fact that we were benching as high as 1275MHz on the core under 3DMark 11 and Unigine Heaven. One thing we always aim to do in our overclocking articles, though, is tell you what kind of overclock you're able to achieve across everything and not just one or two benchmarks like some other websites do. Because of that we had to shave 60MHz off the core and we found ourselves at a point that was stable across all of our benchmarks. If you wanted to play it really safe, you could move down to something like 1150MHz and you shouldn't run into any problems at all.

Something else that's really impressive, though, is the fact that this is done on the reference cooler. What's going to happen when we start to see TwinFrozr versions from MSI, IceQ from HIS and TOXIC from Sapphire? Are we going to see even more overclocking potential?

The HD 7950 is ultimately going to be the card to buy over the HD 7970 if you're interested in doing a bit of tweaking yourself. There's huge potential to be had if you're happy to go into something like MSI Afterburner and have a play around with it.

Out of the box a reference HD 7950 or even one clocked to around the 900MHz will fall shy at the highest resolution. You can see today that if you move up to the 1200MHz on the core, a number that equates to a 50% overclock, there's simply some massive performance to be had here.

The HD 7950 price, combined with the potential, makes this a really fun card. We'd highly suggest you take the time to do a bit of overclocking, though, as that's where you're going to have the most fun and benefit.

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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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