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Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB OC Video Card in CrossFire

With a pair of dual fan OC Radeon HD 7950's from Sapphire, we find out how CrossFire performance goes on the new model.
@TweakTown
Published Thu, Feb 2 2012 11:58 PM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and The Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 28 IMAGES

AMD Radeon HD 7950 CrossFire was one setup that I found myself really excited to test, with what we've seen so far from the single HD 7950 in terms of the pre-overclocked XFX offering, reference clocked HIS offering along with the reference AMD model heavily overclocked.

The big issue we knew we would run into at the launch of the HD 7950 was getting two cards that would carry the same cooler because AMD had given its partners the chance to do whatever they wanted when it came to the fan this time around.

Thanks to Sapphire, though, we had the opportunity to get a pair of HD 7950s that we knew would carry the same cooler making it the perfect setup for CrossFire testing. Since we haven't looked at these cards yet the first thing we need to do is check out the package.

Once we've checked out the package we'll move onto the card, check out the specifications of these overclocked cards, have a quick look at our testbed and then of course get into the performance side of things to see just how this setup scales.

The Package

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Getting into the bundle there's not much different when it comes to the paperwork side of things, what does stand out is the selection of cables, an area that is lacking from a lot of companies recently.

Looking above, though, you can see we've got a pair of Molex to 6-Pin PCIe power convertors, HDMI cable, HDMI to DVI, MiniDP to DP, CrossFire bridge and DVI to VGA.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Checking out the card we can see the dual fan setup with a really aggressively shaped shroud over the top, which looks great. You can see the heatsink between the fans and a number of copper heatpipes across the bottom. Taking a spin around the card we can see two 6-Pin PCIe power connectors up the back as you'd expect while closer to the front we have two CrossFire connectors and the dual BIOS switch.

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The I/O side of things houses a Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI connector and two mini DisplayPort connectors. Across the top we've got a typical vent setup, but with this kind of fan setup, it isn't as useful, as the air isn't pushed just outside the case.

Specifications

As we mentioned in the introduction we're dealing with an OC video card today and looking below you can see that Sapphire has chosen to bump the core from 800MHz to 900MHz. Unfortunately they didn't do anything with the 3GB of GDDR5 which carries the default 5000MHz QDR clock.

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Before we move onto the testbed, though, we want to make sure that CrossFire is up and running and as you can see at the bottom of the image, it is enabled via 2 GPUs. Of course the best way to make sure it's working is to fire up 3DMark 11, which we'll do in just a moment.

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.

The main piece of information we want to walk away with today is what kind of performance increase we get when we move from a single HD 7950 to a CrossFire HD 7950 setup. Because our Sapphire HD 7950s are overclocked, though, we've included both the reference clocked HIS HD 7950 and the slightly higher clocked XFX Black Edition.

Along with those two cards we've also got the HD 7970, GTX 580 and GTX 570 to round out our selection.

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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At least we know CrossFire is working and working very well as you can see above.

3DMark has always done well showing the potential of CrossFire and SLI - let's hope this transitions into some real-world situations.

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 some fantastic performance out of the setup.

You can see the gains are just absolutely massive equating to around the 100% mark, which is exactly what you'd hope to see.

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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Looking above at H.A.W.X. 2 performance we can again see a massive boost in performance and again we see that those 100% gains aren't hard for the new HD 7950 CrossFire setup.

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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Looking at Mafia II we can see that the 134 FPS wall that's present on the HD 7000 series card is present at the lower resolutions. At 2560 x 1600 you can see we don't hit that wall, though, and instead see some awesome performance gains. Not quite 100%, though.

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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Lost Planet 2 is just a really intensive game and engine that's extremely tessellation heavy and you can see in CrossFire we get some massive performance with an average of over 100 FPS at the highest resolution.

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 is another really intensive benchmark and engine and you can see that the single card setup struggles with those playable numbers at the highest resolution. Throwing a second card into the mix, though, sees massive gains and you can see there's just no issue with FPS at any resolution.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.2

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Just massive performance gains again as we move into Just Cause 2. We continue to see that 2560 x 1600 isn't an issue when we move to the dual card setup.

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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Metro 2033 continues to be one of our most intensive benchmarks, you continue to see under CrossFire, though, performance is just extremely impressive with an awesome 99 FPS at 2560 x 1600.

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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Getting into Dirt 3 performance we continue to just see those massive gains again under CrossFire that equate to around the 100% mark at the highest resolution.

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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Moving over to our last non AA / AF benchmark we can see massive performance under Far Cry 2. No real surprise that we've got playable numbers across the board here.

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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It comes as no surprise that even with AA and AF on that the CrossFire HD 7950 setup has no issues in our benchmarks.

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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The hottest GPU at idle came in at 35c and at load came in at 61c. I found myself shocked with these kind of numbers, in CrossFire, with two cards quite close to each other, these aren't the kind of numbers you'd expect to see under a setup that offers this kind of performance.

Let's see if this is coming at the cost of some serious noise levels.

Sound Test

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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The noise levels are just insanely low, considering the power of the setup and the temperature the cores are running at under load, these numbers are just so low.

They were so low that I found myself triple and quadruple checking that the numbers were correct. This is a real testament to not just the quality of the dual fan cooler, but also the 28nm AMD GPUs.

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 of course jumps up which comes as no surprise, what's a little surprising is the fact that the power draw sits a little higher than the reference clocked HD 7970s.

Final Thoughts

I'm not surprised with what we're seeing here today. After having tested the new AMD Radeon HD 7000 series in a number of ways, the fact that we're seeing 100% gains under CrossFire doesn't shock me one bit. Overall there's no real surprise when it comes to performance, it does exactly what we thought it would do, offer amazing performance with super superb scaling.

The biggest shock for the setup today comes from the cooler, the temperature of the GPUs and the noise levels and I mean shock in only the best possible way. Considering the power of the setup, the temperature the cards run at combined with the extremely low noise levels are amazing. I'm not sure which other way you can put it. Like I mentioned, it's a real testament to the 28nm GPU and the Sapphire dual fan coolers.

Priced at $479.99 US as well, the model is a good option for people who want just one card, or want to go down the path of CrossFire. For the most part, this is actually a better setup than the HD 7970 in CrossFire. Not because of raw performance, of course the HD 7970 CF setup sits faster, but from the perspective of the extremely playable numbers offered at any resolution along with the more aggressive price tag.

Move onto the Sapphire version, they look even better again thanks to the extremely low noise levels of the setup when running in CrossFire along with just the overall low temperature of the setup. Again, considering the performance you get out of this setup, the noise and temperature numbers are just so much lower than you'd expect.

For a setup that falls in under $1,000 US, I really feel you're not going to get one that looks better than the one we've tested here today with what is on the market at the moment. The HD 7900 series continues to be a strong performing series that just gets better from every angle we look at it. I can't wait to see what happens when we overclock these two cards considering what we saw in our single GPU overclocking article.

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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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