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PowerColor Radeon HD 7950 3GB PCS Overclocked Video Card Review

PowerColor Radeon HD 7950 3GB PCS Overclocked Video Card Review

We take a look at the PCS wielding Radeon HD 7950 video card from PowerColor and see what it can do when overclocked.

@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Tue, Jan 22 2013 2:34 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: PowerColor

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 30 IMAGES

As we started the New Year the last thing I thought I would be looking at was going to be video cards. With the HD 7000 series having been out for around a year now we really thought that the series would've ran its course by now. Quite to the contrary, though, we've seen a bunch of new video cards for partners lately and the launch of the new Tahiti LE based HD 7870.

Today we're checking out one of our favorite models; the HD 7950. While out of the box the model is a little slower than its big brother, the HD 7970, the price point of the model along with the overclocking potential has always been something that we've loved.

The latest one to hit our office comes from PowerColor and is part of the popular PCS line from the company. How does it differ to some of the other video cards we've looked at? Well there's really only one way to find out. As always, though, we've got a couple of things we need to do.

We'll move from here into the package to see what PowerColor is offering us on the box along with its content. Once we've done that it's onto the video card itself to see the cooler we've got along with the connection options before we move onto the specification side of things which today will be slightly expanded as we've decided to overclock this card. Finally we'll check out the testbed and get straight into the testing side of things to see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of the card here today. First, though, let's get into that package and see what's going on.

Package

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I love the look of PowerColor boxes recently. They really stand out and look great. You can see we've got the brand and model on the front along with some of the main details. Turning the box over we get a lot more detail into what's going on with the PowerColor HD 7950 3GB PCS.

Across the top part of the box you can see we've got a little bit of information on the PCS system or Professional Cooling System. Across the bottom we get more details including some information on the fans, heat pipes and cooper base. Across the middle of the box we've got some information on the Gold Power Kit which has improved components including Digital PWM, Multi Phase Design and Ferrite Core Choke helping improve power.

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Moving inside the box we've got a fairly standard bundle which is ultimately code for a light bundle. Along with the Quick Installation Guide and driver CD we've also got a DVI to VGA connector, CrossFire bridge and Mini DP to DisplayPort connector.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the video card the first thing we notice is just how great it looks thanks to the fact PowerColor decided to choose a black PCB. We really wish more and more companies would opt for the black PCB, especially when they're going down the path of non-reference designed coolers.

On the topic of the cooler, in typical fashion, it's what's taking up majority of the video card. Across the top you can see the PCS labeling and the dual 92mm fan setup. You can see the massive heatsink behind the fans and on the heatpipe front we've got three 8mm heat pipes which pull the heat away from that copper base that's present.

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Moving away from the front and taking a quick spin around you can see we've got two 6-pin PCIe power connectors at the back. Staying across the top, but moving closer to the front you can see the typical dual CrossFire connector setup which gives us the ability to throw up to four of these video cards together.

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We finish off with the I/O side of things which sees a Dual-Link DVI connector on the right followed by a HDMI port and two Mini-DP connectors. Across the top you can see a vent that covers half of the I/O shield that lets the hot air escape out the back of your case.

Specifications

Out of the box the PowerColor HD 7950 carries with it an 800MHz core clock while the 3GB of GDDR5 comes in at 5000MHZ QDR. Since these clocks aren't anything exciting we figured that we'd fire up MSI Afterburner and do a bit of overclocking to see how this PCS cooler handles the HD 7950 when overclocked.

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Looking above you can see we managed to push the core up to a solid 1110MHz. As for that 3GB of GDDR5 that came in at 5600MHz QDR. This is a nice overclock and should yield with it some good performance.

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 too much detail with our testbed since all the main information required is in the above image. Instead we'll cover the video cards that you'll be seeing in our graphs here today. The first is of course the overclocked PowerColor HD 7950 PCS 3GB card running at 1110MHz on the core and 5600MHz QDR on the 3GB of GDDR5 memory.

Outside of the PowerColor HD 7950 we've got the Sapphire HD 7870 OC along with two Tahiti LE based HD 7870 video cards. One is the Myst Edition from PowerColor, and the other is the Sapphire model which we overclocked to over 1200MHz on the core. And finally to round everything off we've got the AMD HD 7970 GHz Edition card for good measure.

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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Here you can see we manage to sneak ahead of the GHz Edition HD 7970 in the Performance preset, but fall slightly behind it in the more intensive Extreme test.

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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Heaven recently has been taking a slight hit when we overclock our video cards and you can see here is no different as the numbers sit around the HD 7870 mark. Fortunately this trend doesn't carry forth in our other benchmarks so let's see what else is going on.

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 as you'd expect very strong with some impressive numbers being seen. You can see we're well above that 5000 point area that SEGA recommend for smooth gameplay.

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 you can see some strong performance and the overclock gives us a solid 66 FPS at 2560 x 1600, which is perfect.

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 Cause 2 numbers across the board look strong and you can see we're sitting only slightly behind the HD 7970 GHz Edition in this case.

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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At all resolutions you can see we've got some great numbers with playable figures at every resolution including a very solid 91 FPS at the highest.

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 looks good at all resolutions and you can see overclocked we're able to just hit that 60 FPS number that we're always on the hunt for at the highest resolution.

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 numbers look strong and at the highest resolution you can see with the overclocked PowerColor HD 7950 PCS we're able to get an impressive 66 FPS. This is a great number as it gives us a bit more breathing room compared to just the minimum 60 FPS we are always looking for to provide a solid gaming experience.

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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While the overclock of course manages to give us a boost in performance, the intensity of Nexuiz means that no matter what resolution we're at, we're still a decent chunk away from that 60 FPS we require.

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 performance isn't bad, but you can see the overclock isn't quite enough to hit that 60 FPS number at the highest resolution. Looking above, though, you can see we're very close falling shy just 2 FPS. With just a slight detail drop you'd be able to get to that 60 FPS number.

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 performance across the board is great with a solid 78 FPS at the highest resolution. Moving down the resolution table performance is of course even stronger.

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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In typical Far Cry 2 fashion you can see solid numbers across the board.

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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With AA and AF turned on you can see the overclocked PowerColor HD 7950 manages to still break that 30 FPS minimum we want at both resolutions.

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Looking at Metro 2033 we can see that while 2560 x 1600 isn't an option, we're able to get a solid 65 FPS at 1920 x 1200 with AA and AF turned on.

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Like Metro 2033 we can see that 1920 x 1200 is playable with AA and AF turned on, but not 2560 x 1600. The difference, though, is that we're close to that 60 FPS number here meaning that if you wanted to drop the AA or AF slightly we might be able to get that 60 FPS number we're looking for.

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Moving to Sleeping Dogs you can see that we're below that 60 FPS number at both resolutions as soon as we turn AA and AF on.

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 side of things you can see we're towards the middle of the pack with a decent 64c at load.

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 also look good coming in at just over 60 dB at load which you can see again places us towards the middle of the pack.

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 sit towards the bottom of the pack with just under 400 watt being seen at load.

Final Thoughts

With AMD continuing to remain quiet on the Radeon HD 8000 series, the HD 7000 series continue to be extremely relevant. Coming in at that mid $300 price bracket as well, the HD 7950 is a great option for people who want to step up from the mid $200 price bracket that the HD 7870 hits at.

As for the option we're looking at today from PowerColor, it is a nice HD 7950 with a strong cooler that helps provide a solid overclock. It also manages to do this while keeping the card at a good temperature with decent noise levels.

Outside of just the quality of the cooler, the overall look of the card is great thanks to the fact that PowerColor has opted for a black PCB against the black and blue heatsink. While it's of course purely cosmetic, we can't deny the amount of time people mention the color of PCBs on video cards, motherboards and RAM. On the bundle side of things the card falls into the same category as most cards these days with a fairly light bundle. It's not a bad thing and really these days it's expected.

The PowerColor HD 7950 PCS 3GB video card is a product that does a good job of ticking all the right boxes. It manages to stand out in a heavily populated segment and that in itself is always something when it comes to video cards. If you're looking for a HD 7950 series card and you're thinking that you'll take the overclocking side of things into your own hands, this is a really nice option from PowerColor.

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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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