Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC 6GB Video Card Review

Sapphire finally brings TOXIC back. We check out the new AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC that carries a massive 6GB of onboard memory.

@TweakTown
Published Fri, Jul 13 2012 8:24 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 29 IMAGES

Sapphire's TOXIC name isn't one we've heard for a while. Originally we heard about the branding a little bit behind the scenes in January, but nothing eventuated. For the most part we think it was a combination of Sapphire trying to get the clocks they wanted combined with the fact that stock wasn't the best earlier in the year.

Jump forward over six months, though, and we've got the new GHz Edition HD 7970 from AMD which means we've got some higher binned GPUs. That should ultimately mean we've got a chance to get even better clock speeds than ever. The TOXIC series is one that has always impressed us and we hope this trend continues with the latest model.

As always, though, there are a few things we need to do before we find out just what the new TOXIC based HD 7970 GHz Edition video card is capable of. The first thing we're going to do is check out the package and bundle. Because Sapphire got the card to us nice and early, we didn't have the full retail package and bundle included.

Sapphire was able to send us over an image of the box, though, so we can work off that and we have got the cable bundle included so we can cover that as well. Next we'll move onto the card itself to see what's going on with the cooler that Sapphire has opted for before we check out the specifications and see just what the TOXIC branding brings in terms of clock speeds.

We'll quickly cover the testbed and the cards that will be included in our graphs today before we finally get into the fun stuff and see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of this bad boy before we wrap everything up in our final thoughts. First, though, let's get into the package to see just what's going on.

Package

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Having a look at our box render we can see that the video card is clearly part of the TOXIC series and based on the new GHz Edition of the Radeon HD 7970 GPU which just launched last month. The other big stand out on the box, though, is the massive 6GB of GDDR5 that is present. This is something we haven't seen from anyone yet and it's great to see Sapphire make the move.

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While we're missing the likes of a driver CD, manual and CrossFire bridge, you can see starting from the left we've got a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort connector, Mini DisplayPort to DVI, full length HDMI cable, two dual Molex to 8-pin PCIe power connectors along with a DVI to VGA connector to round off the bundle side of things. Sapphire has been strong when it's come to connectors on the HD 7000 series and this time is no different.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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It comes as no surprise that Sapphire has opted for a dual fan solution on the HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC. The next piece that really stands out to us is the all black PCB that you can see bits off. Along with that you can see copper heatpipes coming out the bottom and of course we've got a massive aluminum heatsink on offer that takes up majority of the card. You can see we've also got a pretty sweet fan shroud going on that has some see through bits making for a really good looking card.

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While we'd normally take a quick spin around the card at this point, we have turned it over this time around, as we've got a massive plate that covers the back of the card. We can also see some heatsinks on the back of the card along with some Vapor-X branding which is what the cooler is. Front and back, the new Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC is really good looking.

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Looking towards the back you can see the power connector setup which in this case is a dual 8-pin PCIe setup. The original HD 7970 and GHz Edition that was released last month carried an 8-pin + 6-pin PCIe setup, but we see higher end models opt for a dual 8-pin setup.

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Closer to the front you can see we've got two CrossFire connectors present that would give us the ability to run up to four of these cards. That would be near impossible, though, as the cooler does just tip over the normal dual slot width. Sapphire has opted to drop the BIOS switch, though, for a button which looks a lot nicer. It also comes in really helpful. We'll cover that more in just a moment when we move over to the specification side of things.

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Finally we finish up with the I/O side of things and you can see we've got two DVI connectors in the form of a Dual-Link one and Single-Link one Along with that we've got a single HDMI port and two Mini DisplayPort connectors. You can see Sapphire has also opted for a slightly custom back plate which opens the card up a little more to give the fan a little bit more breathing room. Normally we'd just have the vent across the top, but in this case, you can clearly see that it's been opened up a bit more around the Mini DisplayPort and HDMI area.

Specifications

Out of the box we know the new GHz Edition HD 7970 from AMD carries a core clock of 1050MHz while the 3GB of GDDR5 comes in at an even 6000MHz QDR. The TOXIC version from Sapphire comes in at 1100MHz while the increased 6GB of GDDR5 comes in at the same 6000MHz QDR.

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Pressing the button that sits next to our CrossFire connectors, though, pushes the core to 1200MHz while the 6GB of GDDR5 is pushed even higher coming in at 6400MHz QDR. These are some attractive clocks and should bring with it some excellent performance.

Again, though, I find myself a little puzzled as to why Sapphire really worry about the lower clocks / button option when they could just have the card running at 1200MHz / 6400MHz QDR out of the box. If you're buying this card, I'm not sure why you'd bother with the 1100MHz / 6000MHz QDR option when an even stronger overclock is a push away.

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.

One of the main cards we want to compare the HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC against today is of course the reference clocked HD 7970 GHz Edition. We also want to see how the numbers look against the original HD 7970 that was launched back in December of last year.

More importantly, though, for probably both AMD and Sapphire is how this TOXIC version compares against the current crop of high-end NVIDIA GEFORCE video cards. That's why we've got both the reference GTX 670 and GTX 680 on offer along with the 4GB GTX 680 from Palit and the pre-overclocked Phantom model from Gainward.

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 some excellent performance coming from our Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition 6GB which comes out very strong. Against our GTX 680s you can see we're between our 4GB card and right on top of our pre-overclocked version from Gainward.

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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Jumping into Unigine Heaven we can see some strong performance that shows clear gains over our other HD 7970s. Against our NVIDIA options you can see we're looking good against the GTX 670, but as usual we fall behind the GTX 680s, which handle tessellation very well.

You can see, though, when we move to 1920 x 1200, performance between the two models becomes closer.

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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H.A.W.X. 2 has always favored the NVIDIA offerings and while we do see a nice boost in performance here you can see that we still fall behind the NVIDIA based models. Compared to the other HD 7970s, though, we do see a nice boost in overall performance and our numbers are extremely impressive at all resolutions.

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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Getting into Mafia II we start to see what AMD is really good at. Looking at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 performance we can see that the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC sits around the same level as the GTX 680 4GB and pre-overclocked Phantom model.

Where we see the card really shine, though, is when we move to 2560 x 1600 in where we see the Sapphire offering come out ahead of everything else.

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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Under Lost Planet 2 we can see that 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 performance is below even the reference clocked GTX 680. As soon as we move to 2560 x 1600, though, and really apply the pressure, we see that the Sapphire offering again manages to outperform all of the others.

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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The new HD 7000 series have been performing very well under Aliens vs. Predator and the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC helps extend that lead. The most appreciated gains are at 2560 x 1600 where we see more breathing room as we break into the 70 FPS area.

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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Across the board we can see that we're ahead off everything at all resolutions here with the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC doing extremely well including some excellent performance at the highest resolution.

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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Looking above at Metro 2033 performance we've got good looking numbers across the board. At 2560 x 1600 we can see the Phantom GTX 680 pulls in a solid 60 FPS. The GHz Edition of the HD 7970 pulled in an improved 62 FPS and you can see the Sapphire TOXIC version manages to pull in a very solid 67 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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Moving into Dirt 3 we can see performance is strong at every resolution with playable numbers that come out ahead of everything else that is on offer here.

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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Far Cry 2 performance is extremely strong as you'd expect and at the highest resolution we can see that the Sapphire offering again manages to come out of everything else with some fantastic numbers.

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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Mafia II performance is really strong and you can see the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC manages to be the only video card that breaks the 60 FPS barrier at 2560 x 1600.

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Unfortunately we don't have the same success at 2560 x 1600 under Aliens vs. Predator. The TOXIC does manage to come out ahead of everything else, though, and the only other card to break the 70 FPS mark is the GHz Edition reference clocked card.

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Far Cry 2 performance is very strong as you'd expect and you can see we've got very playable FPS at both resolutions, which is exactly what we love to see.

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We can see all our cards perform strong under Metro 2033 when it comes to 1920 x 1200. Moving to 2560 x 1600, though, we see everything struggle and while we do see a nice boost on our Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC card, it's not quite enough to provide what we consider a solid gaming experience.

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Just Cause 2 numbers look awesome and you can see the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC card is the only one that's able to break the 60 FPS mark. Even if it's just by a single FPS, it's ultimately all we need.

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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Looking at the temperature numbers of the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC we can see that the Vapor-X cooler clearly does a very good job with a very healthy looking load number considering the amount of performance that this video card puts out.

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 are a little on the higher side, but considering the amount of performance that is coming out of the card and the temperature we're getting, this number isn't too bad at all and the larger fans mean that the noise levels aren't as aggressive verse a card that has smaller fans.

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 numbers like most HD 7000 series based cards look good and if you're buying a card like this then you should have a good quality power supply all ready that won't have an issue dealing with this model from Sapphire.

Final Thoughts

Sapphire has put together a really nice video card here and this is the first retail model we've seen that falls in under the new GHz Edition labeling that we saw AMD launch last month. Looking at what Sapphire is offering us out of the box we get a good idea of just what the new crop of GPUs are capable of achieving.

The thing is, though, looking at the TOXIC model, you can't just thank Sapphire for doing such a good job. Without the foundation that AMD has put forth on the new GHz Edition cards which carrier a higher binned GPU, Sapphire wouldn't have been able to offer a product with such strong performance out of the box and performance is what this video card does extremely well.

We can continue to see that the area AMD shine in is at 2560 x 1600. It's here that we see the Sapphire card be the only one that breaks the 60 FPS barrier at times or just offer us generally better performance than its NVIDIA counterparts. While the TOXIC name took a while to show up again, Sapphire has been able to do it very quickly with these new GHz Edition based GPUs.

Moving away from the raw FPS side of things and looking at the card itself we can see the cooler does an excellent job of keeping our GPU cool. The biggest problem is that it's ultimately come at the cost of extra noise as the trade off. While on the loud side of things, though, the noise isn't aggressive and considering the temperature of the core and the performance of the card, we're not too worried about the number. Outside of the clocks and the cooler, the other big feature is of course the huge amount of memory. It's great to see that Sapphire has opted for 6GB of GDDR5 and I think we'll see some other companies follow in the coming weeks.

As far as the bundle goes we've got a strong one which offers us those extra cables that we're used to seeing from Sapphire helping them stand out a bit more than the competition. Really the only piece of the puzzle that needs to be filled now is the price of the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC 6GB. Pricing continues to be a bit of an unknown area, though, not just for this model, but for the new GHz Edition cards in general. Of course this variant is going to cost even more as we not only move over to a really strong overclock, but see the memory doubled to 6GB of GDDR5.

I think over the next few months we'll start to see companies release stronger versions of the GHz Edition card as they get a chance to play with the new GPUs a bit more. For now, though, this Sapphire version is very much a standout model from every aspect with overall performance being the highlight.

If you're in the market to jump on the new GHz Edition and you're after something that can perform stronger than a GTX 680 that is pre-overclocked, this is going to be a simply awesome purchase. Sapphire using the new GHz Edition HD 7970 as a base has done an awesome job with the TOXIC here and doubling the memory out to 6GB is really the cherry on top.

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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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