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Diamond Radeon HD 7970 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2

We check out the Diamond HD 7970 and see how it goes with the first official WHQL Catalyst driver from AMD.
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Published Sun, Mar 11 2012 11:14 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:30 PM CDT
Rating: 95%Manufacturer: Diamond Multimedia

Introduction and Package

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I have had this Diamond video card floating around for a little bit now, but wanted to make sure when we got around to testing it that we did it in a way that stands out and makes it a bit more interesting than just running it at stock through our lineup of benchmarks.

Since we knew that the Catalyst 12.2 drivers weren't far away we figured it was a good chance to look at the driver in a bit more detail than just our typical Catalyst benchmark line up, so that's exactly what we'll be doing today as we see how the Diamond HD 7970 with the series' first WHQL driver goes against the original launch driver we used.

Of course there are a few things we need to do before we get into the performance side of things and we see exactly what's going on with the latest AMD driver. Since we haven't looked at the Diamond HD 7970, the first thing we need to do is take a closer look at the bundle to see exactly what's going on.

Once we've done that we'll move into looking at the video card itself before we check the specifications. Once that's done we'll quickly cover our testbed and some of the other cards we've got here, which will then lead us into our benchmarks. First, though, we need to look at the package, so let's check it out.

Package

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Diamond Radeon HD 7970 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 04 | TweakTown.com
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Checking out the bundle of the Diamond video card we've got the normal paperwork and driver CD along with a mini catalog. We've got a Mini DP to DVI and HDMI to DVI cable included along with the standard CrossFire bridge.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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I know it's only a sticker, but Diamond have made the reference cooler look so sweet on this Radeon HD 7970. I wasn't the only one to notice it, when Cameron came over he also noticed how sweet the card looked in our testbed. While a lot of companies still only have reference coolers, a good looking sticker is one of the things that separate them at the moment.

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Diamond Radeon HD 7970 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 08 | TweakTown.com

Quickly jumping around the rest of the card we've got an 8-pin and 6-pin PCI Express power connector up the back while closer to the front we've got two CrossFire connectors and a Dual BIOS switch.

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On the I/O front we've got a Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI port and two mini DisplayPort connectors to round off that area of the card. You can also see the air vent across the top of the card that will help the air extract out of the back of the case.

Specifications

Like most HD 7970's we've seen at launch, the Diamond card we're looking at today uses the default clocks which as you can see below puts the core at 925MHz and the 3GB of GDDR5 at 5500MHz QDR.

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What's really interesting, though, is the fact that the WHQL Catalyst 12.2 driver shows up as the 12.3. The 12.2 pre-certified driver also shows up as the 12.3 driver. If it wasn't for the fact that it said 12.2 when you clicked the .exe, you'd think this was the 12.3 driver. Who knows what's going on with that Catalyst team these days.

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 above you can see nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to our testbed. When it comes to our graphs today the main piece of information we'll be comparing is the performance of the Diamond HD 7970 on the just released Catalyst 12.2 WHQL driver against the original launch driver that's on the reference HD 7970.

While we're dealing with two different brands, you need to remember that the clock speeds on both cards are exactly the same and the Diamond card we'll looking at today follows the reference design.

Along with those two cards we've also got the HD 7950, HD 6990 along with the GTX 570 and GTX 580 to help round off our line up here 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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Starting off with 3DMark 11 we can see a nice little boost in performance with the new driver. Let's hope it's not just something that is in the synthetic benchmarks, though.

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 Heaven we can again see a little bump in performance. Let's find out what happens when we get into some real-world games.

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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Under H.A.W.X. 2 the new driver seems to have a slight negative effect at the lower resolutions. When we move to 2560 x 1600, though, we can see a slight boost in overall performance and that's always the place we want to see our gains if there are any.

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 you can see across the board there are no differences with the new driver with performance sitting exactly the same at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

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

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Moving onto Lost Planet 2 we can a little bit of movement in FPS, but nothing too major. For the most part we've got similar FPS across all resolutions and more importantly we continue to be above that 60 FPS mark 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 across the board sees a nice little boost in performance and you can see the extra two FPS at 2560 x 1600 bringing us one FPS away from that 60 FPS number we always aim for.

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 Cause 2 sees an extra FPS here and there, but nothing too major. More importantly performance continues to just be strong under this game at all resolutions.

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 across the board sees a couple of extra FPS and you can see at the highest resolution we end up just 3 FPS from that 60 FPS number again we always aim to hit.

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.

Diamond Radeon HD 7970 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 28 | TweakTown.com

Dirt 3 manages to see nice little gains across the board and at the highest resolution the 3 extra FPS equates to a 5% increase helping us get a little bit more breathing room from the launch driver that scored a dead even 60 FPS.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

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

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

Diamond Radeon HD 7970 3GB Video Card tested with Catalyst 12.2 29 | TweakTown.com

While not really needed, under Far Cry 2 we do see some extra FPS at all resolutions, which is of course always appreciated.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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We see some nice gains again under the AA and AF tests and the strongest is seen under Far Cry 2 with a nice jump in the minimum.

The most important jump, though, comes under Aliens vs. Predator, as we see a move from 58 FPS on the launch driver to 63 FPS on the new WHQL 12.2 driver.

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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On the temperature side of things we don't see anything out of the ordinary since we're dealing with a reference cooler here.

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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The same can be said with the sound tests with no surprises again here.

Power Consumption Test

Using our 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 isn't shocking either with the numbers lining up just as you'd expect.

Final Thoughts

As funny as it sounds, Diamond have got the best looking HD 7970 that we've seen so far that uses the reference cooler. Sure it's only a sticker, but for most companies, that's all that separates them at the moment and the setup that Diamond has opted for makes the card stand out amongst a sea of reference cards.

The Diamond HD 7970 is just another great reference card and that's thanks so much to AMD who have been able to offer such a good base when it comes to performance and other areas like power draw. We've got little to complain about when it comes to the HD 7970 and this Diamond offering is no different.

As for the performance of the card with the latest driver, you can see across the board there are some really nice gains and in some scenarios, we come ever so close to that 60 FPS mark we aim for or even pass it. Other times we can see when we're close to it, the latest driver helps give us a bit more breathing room.

If you're in the market for a HD 7970 and happy to go down the reference cooler path, then the Diamond offering is another stand out HD 7970 that is deserving off your money.

What's even better is that the latest driver from AMD just helps the model perform even better again than it did just over two months ago when it first launched.

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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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