HIS Radeon HD 7970 X Turbo 3GB Overclocked Video Card Review

HIS bring a beasty new GHz Edition Radeon HD 7970 to the table with the new HD 7970 X IceQ X2 Turbo.

Manufacturer: HIS
17 minutes & 10 seconds read time

Introduction and Package

HIS Radeon HD 7970 X Turbo 3GB Overclocked Video Card Review 02

AMD's GHz Edition of the Radeon HD 7970 GPU was a bit of a funny launch due to the fact that AMD tend to want to have the product ready for market when it hits. Mind you, this hasn't been the pattern for the HD 7970, as when we saw the model launch originally in December, it also wasn't ready for the market.

Over the last week, though, we're starting to see the new GHz Edition model show up from manufacturers in a fairly big way. Saying that we're still yet to really see it hit the retail side. It seems that part of the delay is that companies are choosing to move away from the reference design and in quite a big way.

The first company to give us something was Sapphire in the form of the HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC 6GB. Today we've got another one that comes from HIS under the HD 7970 IceQ X2 Turbo naming scheme.

Sapphire did an excellent job of impressing us with their rendition of the HD 7970 GHz Edition, today we want to find out if HIS is able to do it as well. Like always, though, we've got to do a few things before we find out with the first being the package as we see just what HIS are offering us.

Once we've done that we'll move onto the video card itself and the specifications side of things in which we'll also be covering overclocking since that's clearly one of the best features with these new GHz Edition cards. We'll then get into the performance side of things before we finally wrap everything up.


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The first thing we notice is the new box design that HIS is offering which looks fantastic. The all black look is extremely sleek looking with the blue HIS text throughout. You can see we've got the new GHz Edition labeling on the box along with the Turbo name present and the new HD 7970 X tag which HIS is giving the GHz Edition card.

Turning the box over we get a run down on some more features including the X Elements side of things which helps with stronger overclocking while we also get an idea of the new Show and Tell technology that gives us an idea on what's going on with the card itself. We've also got a run down on the new IceQ X2 cooling technology that is present.

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Inside the bundle you can see a lot of the regular inclusions with a driver CD, iTurbo CD, manual, sticker and some information on the Weight Lifter that HIS have been including for a while now. The big bonus here, though, is the inclusion of the DiRT Showdown voucher. It feels like ages since we've got any form of game in a bundle.

Along with all this, though, we've got a Mini DP to Single-Link DVI Adapter, HIS Weight Lifter, DVI to VGA connector and a CrossFire bridge.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 Turbo we can see the new cooler design which is huge and is highlighted with those two 89mm fans and the giant X logo in the middle. We can see on the left side we've also got the IceQ X2 and X logo while the right side again lets us know that the card is a Turbo model.

Behind the two fans you can see a massive heatsink that goes from one end of the PCB to the other and actually shoots over the back by an extra couple of centimeters. Also present are a total of five heat pipes to help push heat away from the core itself. Hopefully outside of all this fancy naming we see some strong performance from the new IceQ X2 cooler.

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Moving in a little closer you can see at the back HIS have opted for a dual 8-pin power connector setup instead of the normal 8-pin / 6-pin setup that we see on the reference HD 7970 GHz Edition. We saw Sapphire do the same thing and the change is meant to bring with it a cleaner line of power and more of it to help with overclocking. Staying across the top you can see two CrossFire connectors at the front in the event you want to run up to four of these bad boys together.

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Finally we finish up with the I/O side of things which brings with it a little bit of an interesting setup. Looking above you can see we've got four Mini DP connectors and a HDMI port alongside the typical Dual-Link DVI connector. We've also got a button present which changes the setup.

To make use of all those connectors some of the display lanes have to be divided and the Dual-Link DVI has to become a Single-Link type. We actually saw MSI do this on the Lightning video card. The HIS setup is a lot nicer, though, thanks to the fact that if you have a Dual-Link DVI monitor and you don't have an expensive Active DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI convertor, you don't need to buy one in this case.

What HIS does is with a push of a button you can make it a Single-Link DVI connector with all our DP connectors available or a Dual-Link DVI connector with the loss of a MiniDP connector. It's a really smart setup and it's something we should see more companies do when they want to move to the heavy DisplayPort connector setups. As much as I love DisplayPort, some people simply need the Dual-Link DVI connector still and they shouldn't be forced to buy an expensive adapter when they're already buying an expensive video card. Very good move HIS!


Out of the box the new HD 7970 GHz Edition carries a default clock speed of 1050MHz while the 3GB of GDDR5 come in at 6000MHz QDR. Out of the box the new HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 Turbo carries a core clock of 1180MHz while the 3GB of GDDR5 comes in at the same 6GHz QDR memory clock.

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Looking above you can see that we managed to push the core up to a solid 1250MHz while we pushed the 3GB of GDDR5 went to 6600MHz QDR. This is a really strong overclock that should yield some excellent performance gains, so let's get into the testing side of things to see just what we can get.

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.

You can see above our testbed which doesn't hold any surprises. With everything covered above let's get into the video cards that will be included in our graphs here today. Alongside the HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 Turbo overclocked we've got the Sapphire HD 7970 GHz Edition TOXIC 6GB we looked at the other week.

We've also got an older but very current reference clocked HD 7970 along with the new reference clocked HD 7970 GHz Edition. We've also got some NVIDIA cards on hand in the form of the GTX 680 2GB, GTX 680 4GB from Palit and pre-overclocked GTX 680 2GB Phantom 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 with 3DMark 11 we can see strong performance out the box which sees performance pretty much equal to the pre-overclocked GTX 680 Gainward at both presets. We'll have to see how the HIS card goes when we start to test it in some games in just a moment.

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 has always favored NVIDIA offerings due to the strong emphasis on Tessellation. We continue to see that here with our HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 Turbo trailing behind all our GTX 680s, even when overclocked higher.

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 sees some awesome performance across the board, but in no surprise we do see the AMD offerings trail behind the NVIDIA ones in this benchmark. Fortunately we've got super strong FPS across the board and playing at any resolution isn't going to be an issue.

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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Mafia II performance is very strong for the HIS video card here and we can see at the highest resolution, the area AMD tend to do best in, the card comes out ahead of everything else with 20 FPS being seen on the reference clocked GTX 680.

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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Again due to the heavy focus on Tessellation under Lost Planet 2 we tend to see NVIDIA always come out ahead extremely well here. You can see at the highest resolution the HIS offering manages to beat out the NVIDIA card with it only falling behind at the lower resolutions where it continues to offer very strong FPS still.

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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We see really strong FPS across the board here with playable numbers at every resolution. Looking above you can see only the pre-overclocked GTX 680 managed to hit 60 FPS while the HIS card overclocked by us busted into the 70's range.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used:

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 the new GHz Edition based HD 7970 from HIS manages to offer some extremely strong FPS with playable numbers across the board that manage to get ahead of NVIDIA at every 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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We see numbers again that are ahead of NVIDIA, but more importantly, we've got numbers that are playable at every resolution including the intensive 2560 x 1600 setup.

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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We continue to see the HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 perform extremely well at all resolutions coming out ahead of everything 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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No surprise that Far Cry 2 performance on all these high-end video cards here is very strong as we see HIS is able to pull out another win with very little issue.

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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Starting our AA tests with Mafia II we can see very strong performance out of our HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 with it being the only video card alongside the GHz Edition based Sapphire offering which is able to break the 60 FPS mark at 2560 x 1600.

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Alien vs. Predator doesn't fair as well at the higher resolution, but we do see some fantastic numbers come out of the HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 at 1920 x1200 while we see the NVIDIA offerings really struggle.

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Far Cry 2 manages to still perform great with the AA and AF detail cranked right up with some very playable numbers at both resolutions.

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Metro 2033 sees some great performance at 1920 x 1200, but just like Aliens vs. Predator, we see all of the video cards struggle to hit the 60 FPS mark at the higher 2560 x 1600 resolution.

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Finishing off with Just Cause 2 we can see the GHz Edition based video cards are again the only ones that are able to break the 60 FPS mark at 2560 x 1600.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Checking out the temperature numbers we can see the new HIS IceQ X2 cooler seems to do a good job with its overclock numbers looking similar to the TOXIC when we checked that out. The main difference is that the HIS offering keeps the core a lot cooler at idle.

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 extremely good. Considering the amount of power we're seeing come out of this card when overclocked, you can see we've got numbers similar to the reference cooler when the card was running at stock.

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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At over 500 Watts we can see that power draw is pretty high. If you're buying a high-end card like this, you should have a quality branded power supply that is more than capable of handling it.

Final Thoughts

When we first saw the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition from AMD we knew that it was about reclaiming their top spot as the fastest single GPU video card on the market. Thanks to what partners like HIS and Sapphire are doing, you can't deny that they've managed to do this with some truly awesome versions of the model coming out so far.

HIS have gone the extra mile, though, by putting together a really nice bundle that includes the new DiRT Showdown game alongside an awesome connectivity setup which is going to be fantastic for people who want to make use of three DisplayPort monitor in Eyefinity.

Price continues to be a little up in the air as we continue to not see the new GHz Edition cards hit the retail market yet. Saying that partners are telling us that they're not far away and considering we've got samples starting to come in now, we'd be inclined to agree with them.

On the performance side of things the one piece of information that has to be taken out of the results is the simple fact that when we move to the most intensive situations (in our case 2560 x 1600), we see that AMD is able to consistently outperform what NVIDIA bring to the table. Considering the money that goes into buying high-end video cards, we hope that you're throwing that display signal out to an equally high-end monitor; be it a 120Hz one or 2560 x 1440 / 1600 one. In these situations we see the AMD video cards perform extremely well.

I think if you're going to jump on a GHz Edition based Radeon HD 7970 you want to move away from a reference design and pick up something like we're looking at today from HIS. The strong out of the box overclock is going to give you great performance while the cooler is going to assist you in getting even more performance if you choose to overclock.

Along with that we've got a really strong I/O configuration that is ahead of almost every other company and a really good bundle; something we're seeing less and less of these days. In the end all these bits and pieces help make the HIS HD 7970 X IceQ X2 3GB Turbo an awesome video card that we highly recommend.

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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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