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MSI Radeon HD 7950 Twin Frozr III 3GB Overclocked Video Card Review

MSI strap the popular Twin Frozr III cooler to the new AMD Radeon HD 7950. We take the time to overclock it and see how it goes.
@TweakTown
Published Fri, Mar 2 2012 7:39 AM CST   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 97%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 29 IMAGES

Moving away from the HD 7700 series which has really left us a bit flat, we get to move back into the HD 7900 series which we quickly fell in love with earlier in the year. Having a look at the first one we've looked at in a while comes from the team over at MSI who didn't have anything for us come launch time, but now they do.

Considering we've seen the company jump fairly quick into the Twin Frozr cooling setup, we figure it was simply because they were hard at work making something that was going to stand out. The Twin Frozr cooler has always been one of our favorite coolers, especially if you're looking exclusively at dual slot cards.

How's the beloved Twin Frozr III cooler go with the new 28nm HD 7950, though? Well, there's only one way to find out and we want to make sure we can see what it's really made out of which can only be done one way, overclocking!

As always, though, there's a few things we need to do before we get into the overclocking side of things and of course its performance. First we need to get stuck into the package and see what MSI is offering us before we take the time to take a closer look at the card itself and the Twin Frozr III cooler.

Once we've done that we'll get into the specification side of things to see what the out of the box clocks are on this OC model along with the kind of OC we managed to achieve. We'll then check out our testbed before we then get into the performance side of things to see just what kind of boost the overclock managed to give us. First things first, though, let's see what's going on with the package.

Package

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MSI recognized we're such huge fans of the Twin Frozr cooling series that they even put a comment on the inside of the box mentioning our thoughts along with our Best Overclocking award. Let's hope that MSI continue with a good thing and we see some strong performance again out of the Twin Frozr cooler on the new model. (Ed: Super cool MSI!)

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Moving inside the bundle we've got some paperwork and a driver CD along with two dual Molex to 6-pin PCI Express power connectors, CrossFire bridge, DVI to VGA connector and mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort connector.

It's not a bad bundle and it's good to see the inclusion of a Mini DP to DP connector, something that companies are choosing to ignore lately.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the card there's nothing too out of the ordinary to be honest with the Twin Frozr III cooler being one which we've seen in the past. Thanks to it taking up just about all of the card there's not a lot to see apart from the cooler itself. Along with the dual fans we can see the copper heatpipes coming out the bottom and the massive heatsink that sits across the top of the card.

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Looking around the rest of the card you can see we've got two 6-pin PCI Express power connectors towards the back of the card while closer to the front we've got two CrossFire connectors and the dual BIOS switch that we haven't found a real good use for yet.

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On the I/O side of things we also don't see anything out of the ordinary with our Dual-Link DVI connector on the right followed up with a HDMI port and two Mini DP ports on the far left.

Specifications

The MSI HD 7950 Twin Frozr III card is overclocked out of the box and looking below you can see the core has been pushed up from a default 800MHz to 880MHz. The 3GB of GDDR5 memory on the other hand carries the default 5000MHz QDR memory clock.

Today, though, we're not going to be paying much attention to those clocks and instead we'll be heading into Afterburner to see just what kind of overclock we're able to get with the MSI offering.

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Looking above you can see we ended up pushing our core up to 1185MHz which is a massive 385MHz over the default 800MHz clock. As for the 3GB of GDDR5, we pushed that up to a massive 6400MHz QDR. These are some huge numbers and should bring with it some massive performance gains.

Before we see exactly, though, the kind of performance on offer, let's look at what's going on with our testbed and the cards we'll be including today 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.

As always we'll be using our trusty overclocked X79 testbed with all the main details mentioned above. Along with that we'll have a bunch of cards in our graphs today and the main compare we want to make is see how our overclocked MSI HD 7950 Twin Frozr III card goes against the reference clocked HD 7950 and HD 7970.

Along with those we've got the slightly overclocked XFX HD 7950 Black Edition card and some representation from NVIDIA via the GTX 580 and GTX 570. Let's see what kind of boost we're able to get from the overclock on offer today, though.

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 just see massive performance gains and the MSI HD 7950 has absolutely no issue separating itself from all the other single GPU solutions we've got 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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Heaven paints exactly the same picture as we saw in 3DMark 11 with just some utterly ground breaking performance gains. It fills like we've moved to CrossFire or something similar.

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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Getting into some games and we just continue to see massive gains across the board with some huge FPS.

We can see that the MSI offering has absolutely no issue taking on the NVIDIA offerings here under a game that has always heavily favored the green team.

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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We continue to see those big gains moving over to Mafia II and the overclock helps make 2560 x 1600 gaming a much better option as we shoot up.

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 something really intensive we can see that the performance gains continue to be massive. The most important thing is we just smash that 60 FPS barrier, a barrier that the HD 7970 at stock only breaks by 2 FPS.

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 sees some great gains at the lower resolutions, but at the highest there's only a couple of extra FPS being seen. Aliens vs. Predator has never been the biggest fan of overclocked cards and that continues to be proven here once again.

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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Out of the box a HD 7950 struggles to hit that 60 FPS average at 2560 x 1600, crank up the clock speeds, though, and you can see we're tipping almost 80 FPS with the MSI offering here today.

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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Like Just Cause 2 and Lost Planet 2 we can see the massive overclock helps propel us from a lonely sounding 49 FPS at 2560 x 1600 to an awesome 65 FPS making the MSI offering here overclocked by us the only card to break the 60 FPS mark at the highest resolution.

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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Like our last few tests we can again see the overclock helps smash that 60 FPS barrier at the highest resolution, providing a very playable gaming experience.

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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Under Far Cry 2 we can see our overclock simply helps improve upon an already good thing with just massive FPS across the boards. The gains are just insane!

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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With AA and AF on we could see that Mafia II and FarCry 2 were already giving us playable FPS on a stock clocked HD 7950. Aliens vs. Predator as always fell behind, cranking up the clock speeds, though, we again see our MSI offering smash through the 60 FPS barrier we always aim for.

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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Heat numbers aren't bad considering the performance we've got - the most important numbers to look at would be the 73c seen from the Twin Frozr III cooler and the 77c number on the overclocked reference card.

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 as you'd expect sit towards the top of the pack due to the extra clocks and voltage we're running through the card. The numbers aren't too bad, though, considering the performance we're getting out of the setup.

Power Consumption Test

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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With the clock speeds and extra voltage ramped up we see a jump in power draw. At just over 500 watts, though, they're not at a level that would worry most people.

Final Thoughts

How my feelings can sit at one end of the spectrum for the HD 7700 series and the other for the HD 7900 series is quite amazing. Normally when we see NVIDIA or AMD release a new series, your feelings are pretty much similar across the board, but it seems like they've just missed the mark with the HD 7700 series while they've hit the ball out of the park with the HD 7900 series.

The HD 7970 is great, but the true apple of my eye would have to be the HD 7950. Out of the box it's great, but falls shy at 2560 x 1600. What's great about it, though, is the overclocking potential which gives you so much fun. Along with that you get this massive sense of value as you get all this extra performance by simply firing up a bit of software, in this case MSI Afterburner.

I absolutely love this version of the HD 7950; honestly, these days, MSI never disappoint when it comes to these high-end video cards and this one is no different. The Twin Frozr series of cooler as always also just never disappoints. What it gives us the ability to do is fantastic and combined with the massively overclockable 28nm HD 7950 core, we end up with just a simply awesome card.

The only thing we're not too sure about at the moment is the price of the card as it still hasn't hit store shelves. Stock shouldn't be far away and as usual you'd expect to pay a small premium over other HD 7950 offerings, but really, looking at the overclocking potential of the card here, it's really worth paying extra.

If you've followed MSI cards over the last few years you'll know that they're some of the best on the market. The HD 7950 Twin Frozr III 3GB card we've got here just helps cement that legacy. If you're after an awesome HD 7950 that you want to have some serious fun with, then this is the card you should be looking at without a doubt.

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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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