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HIS Radeon HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2 Overclocked Video Card Review

HIS Radeon HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2 Overclocked Video Card Review

We overclock the HIS Radeon HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2 video card with its new "iPower" improved power setup and see how it performs under our benchmark tests.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Jan 16 2013 4:24 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: HIS

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 30 IMAGES

As we start a new year it's time to get back into the swing of things and the first video card to be tested this side of 2013 comes from HIS who sent us a bunch of cards before the new year. The latest is one of our favorite models, the HD 7970 3GB, which has served us extremely well for over a year now when it launched last January.

After a year, though, it does come as a bit of a surprise that we're seeing companies continue to release new variants of the model. Considering at one point we had companies on a six month cycle for high-end cards, we're surprised not to be hearing more about the upcoming Radeon HD 8000 series which we thought would have showed part of its face by now.

We continue to not really hear anything about the HD 8000 serious, though, when it comes to desktop parts and the latest we're hearing from companies is the second half of 2013 for launch. For anyone interested in grabbing a new video card the good news is that while the HD 7000 series might be a year old now, they're going to be around for at least another six months - at least that's what we're hearing.

Let's find out exactly what HIS is doing with its latest offering. The first thing we need to do is take a closer look at the package to see what's going on in terms of the bundle. Once we've done that we'll take a closer look at the video card itself along with the specifications, and here we'll also take the time to cover overclocking. We'll then quickly cover our testbed and the cards that are in our graphs today before we get stuck into testing side of things to find out just what kind of performance we're able to get.

Package

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HIS Radeon HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2 Overclocked Video Card Review 04 | TweakTown.com

We've got all the usual information highlighting most of the main features with the biggest of course being the cooler which assists the video card to not only operate cooler, but also at lower noise levels. We can see the back of the box then goes on to highlight some of the main features slightly more with again the emphasis being on the IceQ X2 cooler.

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Looking at the bundle you can see a fairly standard HIS setup with a manual, case sticker, driver CD along with a second CD that includes the iTurbo software. Along with those items we've also got a CrossFire bridge and DVI to VGA connector. The only extra that really stands out is the Mini DP to DisplayPort connector.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Moving away from the box and onto the video card itself you can see that the IceQ X2 cooler stands out straight away with its dual fan setup. We've got a honeycomb X in the middle with the HIS logo and on each side you can see an 8.9cm fan. Behind the fans you can see the massive heatsink and if we look at the top and bottom of the card you can see a number of heatpipes present to help pull heat away from the GPU core.

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As we move around you can see a typical dual power setup. Instead of the typical 6-pin + 8-pin PCIe power connector setup, we've got a dual 8-pin PCIe power connector setup. This all goes along with the new iPower feature that HIS have implemented into some of its latest cards.

iPower ultimately brings with it higher quality power which in turn brings with it higher quality overclocking ability. On the card we're looking at today the most obvious physical aspect is the power connectors that we just mentioned. What that does is move the current output from 200 amps which is seen on a reference HD 7970 to 235 amps on this video card.

The PWM phase setup is also improved moving from a 5+1+1 setup for a total of seven to a 6+1+1 setup bringing that number to eight. We should see a strong overclock and strong performance as a result.

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When it comes to the I/O side of things you can see that typical HD 7970 setup which consists of a Dual-Link DVI connector, HDMI port and two Mini DisplayPort connectors. Across the top you can see a vent that is designed to let hot air escape out the back of your case.

Specifications

Out of the box this HIS offering follows the standard GHz Edition clocks which means that the core comes in at 1050MHz while the 3GB of GDDR5 carries a clock speed of 6000MHz QDR. Because we've already looked at a couple of GHz Edition based video cards in the past at reference clocks, we figured that we'd take the chance today to see what happens on the overclocking side of things. It should be interesting considering the work HIS has put into the iPower side of this product, as discussed above.

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We ended up pushing the core up to an impressive 1205MHz. As for the 3GB of GDDR5 memory we pushed that from 6000MHz QDR to 6800MHz QDR. This should bring with it some strong performance gains - we'll find out just what it was capable of doing in a moment, over the next several benchmark test pages.

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.

We won't go into any real detail with our testbed as everything is really covered above in detail for you. Instead we'll cover the video cards that will be included in our graphs today with the main one of course being the HIS HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2 running at 1205MHz on the core and 6800MHz QDR on the memory.

Alongside that we've also got the Sapphire HD 7870 OC Edition and the reference HD 7970 GHz Edition which comes clocked in at 1050 / 6000 MHz QDR. Finally we finish everything off with the HIS HD 7950 3GB IceQ X2 which we overclocked to 1200MHz on the core and 5300MHz QDR on the memory.

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 strong performance as you'd expect. We're ahead of the reference clocked HD 7970 GHz Edition as you'd expect, and also ahead of the heavily overclocked HD 7950 IceQ X2.

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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Looking at Heaven performance you can see we take a slight hit here. Unfortunately this isn't as unusual as you may think. When we overclock video cards manually we occasionally get the odd application that doesn't like to play nice. Fortunately we've got very strong performance overall, so it's not a big deal.

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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PSO2 performance is extremely strong. We're double the recommended 5000 score here. You'd have no issue cranking up the AA and AF under a game like this.

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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Lost Planet 2 performance across the board is excellent and you can see the overclock helps push us out of the 60 FPS area into the 70 FPS area at the highest resolution helping make sure we've got extremely strong gameplay performance.

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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Moving into Just Cause 2 you can see the strong performance continues to be seen, and again compared to the reference clocked HD 7970 GHz Edition, you can see a nice bump in performance at all resolutions.

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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F1 2012 seemed to hit a little bit of a wall at around the 130 FPS mark which is seen at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. Moving to 2560 x 1600 you can see we manage to sneak ahead of all the other setups with an extra 10% being seen against the reference clocked GHz Edition.

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 again see nice little gains across the board, but the most appreciated comes at the highest resolution. Out of the box a standard HD 7970 GHz Edition just scrapes past that 60 FPS mark we want for a solid gameplay experience. Overclocked, though, you can see we jump up to 67 FPS which ultimately gives us a bit more breathing room.

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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Moving into Dirt Showdown you can see strong performance across the board with some very playable numbers.

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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Looking at Nexuiz numbers we can see on all video cards when we move to 1920 x 1200 and above we just don't get playable numbers. At 1680 x 1050 you can see the only video card that's able to get into the 60 FPS area is the overclocked HIS HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2, which manages to just squeeze in that 60 FPS number.

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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Looking at Sniper Elite V2 performance you can see we're looking good across the board and the overclock helped push us out of the 60's range and into the 70's FPS range at the highest resolution.

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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Sleeping Dogs is a little like Heaven when it comes to overclocking where we can sometimes see the performance go slightly backwards. At the highest resolution, though, we can see that performance jumps slightly coming out ahead of the other 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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As you'd expect Far Cry 2 performance just across the board is extremely strong. This HIS offering comes out ahead of the other options.

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 we've got strong performance at both resolutions; more importantly, though, we've got playable numbers at both.

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Looking at Metro 2033 performance we can see that 1920 x 1200 with AA and AF cranked u is an option. Moving to 2560 x 1600, though, you can see we're below that 60 FPS number we need.

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Just Cause 2 performance looks good and at the highest resolution we can see the overclocked HD 7950 fell short of that 60 FPS number we want. The stock GHz Edition on the other hand manages to just scrape in with a 60 FPS number and finally this overclocked HIS HD 7970 gave us a bit of breathing room coming in at 65 FPS.

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While we did manage to see a boost in performance when compared to the reference GHz Edition of the HD 7970, you can see at both resolutions we failed to hit that 60 FPS number.

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 you can see we're sitting almost square in the middle of the pack. Looking at the other video cards around it you can see the older HD 7970's and a newer GHz Edition model from Sapphire. The idle number is extremely strong, though, and you can see the load one is really quite excellent considering the overclock in play 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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When it comes to the noise side of things you can see we're sitting in the upper half of the pack. Overall the number isn't too bad sitting around the mid 60dB 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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Power wise we're sitting close to the 500 watt mark at load. This isn't much of a surprise considering we've overclocked this HIS video card. As for idle you can see the number looks extremely impressive with a low 160 watt being drawn.

Final Thoughts

HIS has put together a really nice video card here with the Radeon HD 7970 3GB IceQ X2. We're a huge fan of the cooler that HIS are using on its new high-end models and while this is of course not the first time we've seen the IceQ X2 cooler, it continues to impress us. The fan noise levels sit in the upper half, but cooling numbers sit directly in the middle of the pack. What's probably really impressive is the idle number that sees the video card sitting at just 28c.

The main thing to remember is while this video card does run a little louder than other options we're dealing with a card that was overclocked to over 1200MHz on the core. With the increased voltage that's of course going to bring with it added heat which in turn makes the fan work a bit harder making it a little louder.

Moving away from the cooling side of things and looking at the "iPower" side, we think this is a good feature. Anything that improves the quality of the card and can help give it better overclocking is always a good thing. The issue we have with iPower at the moment is the lack of promotion. While the IceQ X2 cooler is of course an extremely strong feature, the new iPower feature that HIS has bought to the table is also a very strong one that needs to be highlighted better.

This is one of the main features that HIS want to promote on the latest crop of AMD based video cards, but the problem is they're not even promoting it on the box in any form. We've expressed this with HIS and we're pretty sure we'll see the company do something about it in the near future. For now, though, the only way people really know they're getting a card that is more than just a reference based one with a new cooler is via these reviews or closer inspection on the HIS website.

As for performance it performs as you'd expect. Out of the box you're going to see it perform like a normal GHz Edition HD 7970 due to the simple fact it carries with it the reference clock speeds. Where it really shines, though, is in the overclocking side of things as we push the core over 1200MHz. We see some great numbers in our benchmarks and we manage to get some extra breathing room when compared to the reference GHz Edition as we move into the higher end of the 60 FPS realm or break into the 70 FPS area.

As for the bundle side of things it's as you'd expect, fairly light. Apart from the Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort connector included in the package, there's not much else outside the standard happenings. This is fairly standard these days as we continue to see companies offer less and less in video card bundles as they let the actual product do all the talking.

If you're a little worried that the HD 7900 series is going to be replaced soon with something higher end form AMD (i.e. HD 8000 series models), like we said earlier, you shouldn't be worried. We continue to hear from partners that the roadmap shows nothing on the high-end front coming in the first half of this year. So, if you're looking for a high-end single GPU solution, this is an extremely strong option. At $609.99 it's not a cheap option, but it's a strong option due to the great custom design that HIS is offering.

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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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