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HIS Radeon HD 7970 6GB IceQ X2 (Dual GPU) Video Card Review

HIS brings a dual GPU Radeon HD 7970 video card to the market and we find out if it's something you want. Is there really any question about it, though?

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Jan 3 2013 7:59 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 99%Manufacturer: HIS

Introduction and Package

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In October of last year we looked at the PowerColor Devil 13 HD 7990 6GB video card which brought with it two HD 7970 cores on a single PCB to make for an absolutely massive video card. We found ourselves extremely impressed with what PowerColor offered us, but found ourselves a little disappointed that it was tested just before we introduced our new benchmark line up.

Thinking that it was probably the first and last card of this type we'd see it was a little upsetting that we wouldn't get a chance to see how this dual GPU offering would perform in our updated benchmarks. Jump forward just a couple of months, though, and we find ourselves looking at another dual GPU offering based on the HD 7970.

This particular one comes from HIS and falls under the IceQ naming scheme which as we've mentioned before is one we really enjoy. What does the IceQ name mean to a video card that has such a large focus on power, though? Well there's only one way to find out.

Normally the first thing we'd do from here is check out the bundle to see what exactly HIS is offering us. Because this card hasn't hit retail yet, though, the final retail package hasn't been organized. Instead we've just got a black box and the card itself. It's fairly safe to assume we'll see a fairly standard HIS bundle, though, with a couple of convertors and power connectors. The normal line up of paperwork a driver CD and no doubt another CD that will include the iTurbo software. Of course we can't say with 100% accuracy this is what we're going to see, but it's a fairly safe assumption.

Because we don't have the package to look at we'll instead jump straight into the card itself where we'll take a look at what exactly HIS is offering us today. Once we've done that we'll head into the specification side of things to take a closer look at the clocks before we finally get into our testbed section.

We'll quickly cover our testbed and from there we'll quickly talk about the cards that we'll be including in our graphs here today before we of course get into the performance side of things to see just what this beasty dual GPU video card is capable of doing.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Having a look at the card you can tell we're dealing with quite a big one by the amount of length that ends after the PCIe x16 slot at the bottom. You can see we've got two big fans on the card and behind that we're got a huge pair of heatsinks along with a whole bunch of copper that can be seen. The overall shroud design isn't anything too new as we've seen it with other cards that fall under the new IceQ X2 name.

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Moving to the top of the card we can see the huge amount of power that is required to get the card up and running. In this case it's three 8-pin PCIe power connectors. You also get a better look at the thickness of the card here.

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Moving to the back quickly before continuing across the top we can see what's going on with the heatsink. You can see looking through the back of the card we're dealing with some massive heatsinks and some massive copper pipes are coming out. It will be interesting to see how well the cooler performs with those two GPUs sitting on the PCB.

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Moving closer to the front of the card you can see we've got a single CrossFire connector here instead of the normal two that you'd see on a HD 7900 series based card. This is of course due to the fact that the maximum number of cores we can have is only four and being a dual GPU card means that we can only have a maximum of two of these video cards installed.

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Looking at the I/O side of things we get an idea as to just how big the card is thanks to that massive triple slot setup. We also see behind the grills on the top half of the card the massive heatsink setup again. When it comes to the connectivity side of things we've got a DVI Port along with a HDMI port and four Mini DisplayPort connectors.

Specifications

Having a look below we can see the clock speeds which sees both cores come in at 1050MHz. This is the same speed that we see on the new GHz Edition HD 7970's when boost kicks in. This is of course stronger than the original HD 7970 clock which came in at a lower 925MHz and Boost was not an option.

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As for the massive 6GB of GDDR5 memory that comes in at 6000MHz QDR which is again the same speed as the GHz Edition HD 7970 and 500MHz QDR quicker than the original HD 7970.

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 we've mentioned a few times already, because we only recently updated our testbed line up we're slowly building up the video cards we have in our results.

Today you'll see the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition along with the reference AMD HD 7970 GHz Edition and the other HD 7950 Ice X2 Boost clock overclocked to 1200MHz on the core and 5300MHz QDR on the memory.

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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3DMark 11 is always a great benchmark to give us an idea of where new video cards sit. Against the others you can see some fantastic gains with the best gains being seen at the higher resolution when more pressure is placed on the card.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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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Firing up Heaven we again see some awesome performance gains. At both resolutions we can see a massive boost which should translate into our gaming benchmarks.

Benchmarks - Phantasy Star Online 2

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.sega.com/?t=EnglishUSA

Product Homepage: http://www.pso2.com/us/html/index.html

Play Phantasy Star Online 2 and experience revolutionary combat in an action-driven, free-to-play multiplayer online RPG from SEGA. Take a journey into an immersive sci-fi fantasy narrative and explore mysterious worlds to unravel their secrets. Join fellow adventurers and fight against the legions of darkness to banish them from the galaxy.

Score explanation: Less than 2000: Please adjust your game settings because the processing load is quite heavy.

2000 through 5000: The game runs fine at the setting, if you have room, you can adjust some settings.

5001+: The game works wonderfully at this setting.

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Looking at PSO2 numbers you can see we don't not only see any gains, but a slight decrease in performance. Score wise we're well above that 5,000+ that is recommended, though, and the intensity of the game is probably the main reason we don't see any kind of massive increase in performance.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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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Looking at Lost Planet 2 numbers you can see some awesome performance gains which translate into almost 100% at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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 like Lost Planet 2 we see some simply awesome gains for Just Cause 2. Across the boards the increases are big, but again we see that when we move to the highest resolution, the increases are best as more pressure is placed on the card.

Benchmarks - F1 2012

F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

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

In F1 2012 players will feel the unparalleled thrill of becoming a FORMULA ONE driver with a host of new features, wide-ranging technical and gameplay advancements and extensive competitive and co-operative multiplayer components. F1 2012 will feature all of the official teams, drivers and circuits from the 2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, including the debut of the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX at Austin, Texas and the return of Germany's famous Hockenheim circuit to the calendar.

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Looking at F1 2012 numbers you can see the card seems to hit a wall around the 115 FPS mark. This means at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 that performance is slightly down, but at the highest resolution performance is about 25% higher.

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 sees some strong gains across the board and just some very healthy performance overall. While the single GPU setups just hit that 60 FPS number at the highest resolution, you can see that we're able to break the 100 FPS number on the HD 7970 X2.

Benchmarks - Dirt Showdown

Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/dirtshowdown/360/

DiRT Showdown is the new arcade racing game from the team that brought you the award-winning DiRT series, uncaged in 2012. Pick up and play controls combine with electrifying events, frenzied crowds and stunning graphics to deliver high octane, dive in and drive thrills from event one.

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Dirt Showdown again sees some excellent performance and while we're not seeing the biggest percentage increase, we do see a nice jump in overall performance when we move to 2560 x 1600 as we're able to break that 100 FPS mark.

Benchmarks - Nexuiz

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.alientrap.org/

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

Nexuiz is an Arena First Person shooter coming soon to consoles. Nexuiz is fast paced with extremely competitive game play. IllFonic brings Alientrap Software's Nexuiz to next-gen gaming consoles around the world while staying true to the game play refined over the years through development. IllFonic introduces a new Victorian influenced art style that is simultaneously futuristic and sophisticated. Nexuiz for consoles is powered by CryENGINE 3.

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Nexuiz doesn't seem to take advantage of CrossFire at the moment which is a disappointment as it's such an intensive game. If CrossFire worked and we could see strong gains of over 90%, that would mean playable numbers at both 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://sniperelitev2.com/us/age.html

Sniper Elite V2 features detailed sniping simulation with advanced ballistics, taking into account gravity, wind, velocity, bullet penetration, aim stability and more. Guaranteed to provide players with the most realistic simulation of military sharpshooting yet available.

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Sniper Elite V2 unlike Nexuiz seems to take full advantage of CrossFire and you can see some fantastic gains and just overall fantastic performance here on this HIS HD 7970 IceQ X2 video card.

Benchmarks - Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://eu.square-enix.com/en

Product Homepage: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/

The core gameplay of Sleeping Dogs consists of giving the player an open world environment in which to move around freely. Sleeping Dogs is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game with role-playing elements. The player controls Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer, as he goes undercover to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. On foot, the player character has the ability to walk, run, jump, climb over obstacles and swim, as well as use weapons and martial arts in combat. Players also drive a variety of vehicles including cars, boats, and motorcycles.

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While we've got playable numbers across the board at every resolution it's disappointing to see that Sleeping Dogs doesn't seem to be making use of CrossFire as the numbers are similar between all HD 7900 series video cards.

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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Looking at Far Cry 2 numbers we can just see extremely strong performance across the board as you'd expect.

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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Turning on AA and AF you can see some massive gains under Far Cry 2, but they're really not needed.

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Metro 2033 sees some great gains and you can see this HIS offering is the only card that gives us playable numbers at 2560 x 1600.

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Just like Metro 2033 we see some fantastic performance and we see the HIS offering is able to power straight past that 60 FPS number we are always looking for to provide a solid gaming experience.

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Just like our non AA tests we see no difference in overall performance with the dual GPU offering. This is really disappointing as it would've been great to see a strong boost in performance bringing some playable numbers to Sleeping Dogs when AA and AF is turned on. Maybe we'll see this fixed in a future AMD driver update, but we'll have to wait and see.

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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It comes as no surprise that this HIS HD 7970 6GB IceQ X2 video card sits in the bottom half of our graph here. While we're dealing with an extremely powerful card, the heatsink setup is just insane.

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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On the noise side of things you can see we're sitting towards the top. It's not too bad, but you can see we do creep just into the 70dB mark.

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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When it comes to power draw it comes as no surprise that we're sitting towards the top of the graph with almost 600 watt being drawn under load. Naturally you're going to want a beefy, branded and quality power supply if you're considering this video card.

Final Thoughts

This is just an awesome video card and much like the Power Color HD 7990 Devil 13 we looked late last year. If you're after performance this is going to be the kind of video card you should be looking at and while it's not available yet, it's probably safe to assume we'll be looking at a price tag of around the $999 mark like the Devil 13.

The only problem we have comes from AMD and not HIS. In 2012 AMD didn't show the same attention to CrossFire as we've seen in previous years. It could be to do with the fact that because AMD didn't bring out a dual GPU card out in 2012 itself that they haven't concentrated on it as much. The other reason could be the simple fact that the AMD driver team just didn't do a very good job in 2012.

The latest 12.11 driver is fantastic, but up until now, 2012 was really hit and miss by AMD. It's the first time in years that they missed the monthly WHQL driver updates and when we did get updates it wasn't rare that we saw little to no performance boost with the new driver.

Under games like Sleeping Dogs and Nexuiz which are two games that would really benefit from a strong increase in performance, we see absolutely no gains. Hopefully this is something that will happen over time. When we tested CrossFire HD 7800's the other week we also saw the same kind of problem.

Away from the issues we're seeing from AMD, though, this is just a fantastic video card and while a few pieces are missing like the price and the bundle, it's fairly safe to assume that the price will be high and the bundle will be fairly standard. We could be wrong about the latter, but we're pretty sure that HIS are going to let the card do all the talking.

If you're after some serious 3D gaming performance from a single video card this is what you should be looking at buying. Just remember it's indeed a triple slot card and the only thing bigger than the heatsink is going to be the price.

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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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