Power Management, Eyefinity and Video Codec Engine
PowerTune technology was introduced by AMD with the 6000 series of cards in order to address the issue of "problem applications" that cause the usage and thermals of a graphics card to get out skew with reality. Programs like Furmark and OCCT SC8 that were built basically as stress tests for graphics cards and GPUs had a bad habit of frying components when pushed to their limits. AMD and NVIDIA both saw this as a negative for the industry – it caused them to be more tentative with their clock speeds on GPUs in order to save thermal headroom for those rogue programs.
PowerTune is a solution that monitors and calculates the power signature of a piece of software to keep it from exceeding the maximum threshold set by the GPU vendor.
In a sense, this allowed both GPU companies to set higher default clock speeds for running games at on current generation GPUs without the worry of a user running Furmark, frying their card, and asking for a refund. AMD’s PowerTune is a hardware-based solution that keeps things in check and adjusts the clock speeds as necessary to keep things in bounds.
The initial worry from users and the media was that this would mean variable performance on a card to card basis – but this fear never came to be.
A new technology AMD is introducing with the Radeon HD 7970 is ZeroCore Power that puts the GPU in a nearly completely powered off state when your display goes to sleep.
During a long idle state, which is defined as when your screen is put to sleep in the Windows power settings, the GPU will enter a new power state that borrows technology from AMD’s mobility line of graphics chips. When in this mode the GPU actually consumes less than a watt of power while the entire 7970 card uses less than 3 watts! The fan turns off (it doesn’t just slow down) and you have basically a silent running, yet powered on and ready for you to just move the mouse, PC.
Maybe even more interestingly, this technology allows the non-primary GPUs running in a CrossFireX configuration to completely power down when you are in Windows mode. If you are running a set of three HD 7970s then while doing basic web browsing the second and third GPUs will be running at a sub-watt level and won’t be contributing to the noise levels of your system either. This will even apply to multi-GPU cards when they are released later in the year.
This is the kind of innovation we want to see to push the further adoption of multi-GPU gaming rigs!
AMD’s Eyefinity was the first to bring multi-display gaming to the masses and it continues to be the leading detriment to gamer’s wallets everywhere. With the Southern Islands architecture the team at AMD is bringing a few new changes to the ecosystem.
Even though we saw it released with the 11.12 and 12.1 driver this month, the added ability to run both Eyefinity and AMD HD3D gaming at the same time is welcome addition to the Radeon HD 7970. Yes NVIDIA has had this option for a while with 3D Vision Surround but only the AMD offerings will be able to do it from a single graphics cards – NVIDIA still requires an SLI setup.
And, as we’ll see later in the benchmark portion of our review, with the performance the HD 7970 provides, running Eyefinity and even HD3D is a viable option for those of you with the funds.
Another really awesome update is the inclusion of discrete digital multi-point audio. DDM Audio allows for a lot of cool functionality, one of which is the ability to output independent audio streams to each display that is connected via HDMI or DisplayPort. As indicated in the above slide, this allows for conferencing where the audio actually comes from the display associated with that sound. Of course, the complication here is that video conference software like ooVoo will be required to specifically target this functionality.
Side note – AMD and ooVoo tried to demonstrate this at the technology day in Austin, TX and while it was functional, it obviously needed some more tweaking. Be sure you try a demo of any software out before shelling out the money for it.
My absolute favorite capability of DDMA is that you can now have a central computer act as your entertainment hub while getting different audio streams to different parts of your house. If you have ever wanted to share a computer with another user (one watching Netflix while you surf the web) then you already know how important this could be.
With the Radeon HD 7970 it is now possible to both play a game and (either you or another person) to watch video with support for audio, at the same time! Who says ADHD is an outdated trait?
Another much-requested feature is the ability to set custom resolutions in the control panel as well as moving the taskbar and default desktop locations to the center monitor. AMD is going to be addressing both of these Eyefinity quirks with the 12.2 driver release due in February!
The oft-discussed, never-released MST Hub, that allows for splitting of a DisplayPort 1.2 connection into three DP ports, will finally be available in the Summer of 2012 according to AMD. These devices won’t be cheap though – expect to pay ~$150 each for the ability to run 6 monitors off of your standard 6000 or 7000-series graphics cards.
Finally, AMD’s HD 7970 graphics card will be the first to support the new HDMI 3 GHz standard that allows for higher resolutions across the connection that has become the video standard. 3 GHz HDMI will allow for true 60 Hz per eye on a 1080p resolution 3D configuration as well as running 4K displays off of a single input (as opposed to the two they require today). While this is a great feature, no displays that I know of in the consumer market yet support the 3 GHz standard, but at least you will have the option with a Radeon HD 7000-series card for the future.
Video Codec Engine
Another new addition to the Southern Islands GPU is support for the AMD Video Codec Engine that changes the way video encoding is done on the GPU. At its core the VCE offers an H.264 fixed function encoder that is both power efficient and faster than real-time working on 1080p 60 Hz content. This technology can be seen as an answer to Intel’s QuickSync technology.
There are two modes this technology can run in – full and hybrid. The "full mode" runs completely on the fixed hardware and is the most power efficient HD encoding process on the AMD platform.
In the "hybrid mode" the VCE takes advantage of the compute power of the GPU and improves performance with the scalable pipeline that SI provides.
We didn’t have any applications that implemented this technology available quite yet but we are curious to see how the image quality of each implementation compares and how it stacks up to the QuickSync technology offered on Sandy Bridge.
I have two 5870’s in
I have two 5870’s in Crossfire connected to three Dell 24″(something like 6080×1200 with bezel compensation on). If I sell both of my cards for ~$300 is it worth the $250 to get a 7970 or should I pick up another 5870 ($150) for triple crossfire or even two 6970’s ($300 each)? I can’t really play BF3 with crossfire enabled and using all three displays, av. FPS is around 20 on high, but I can play on a single display, 1900×1200, on high, av. FPS 55, with crossfire.
In the end I probably wait for the 7970 to get down to $375 and put my 5870’s in an old pc and use it as a space heater.
I want to purchase the 6970
I want to purchase the 6970 MSI Lightning today. I’ll be happy with this card as it overclocks to 1ghz stable. When do you think the “older” cards will drop in price? I’m afraid i’ll have to wait a month, I WANT MY TOYS NOW! (jk)
Will hold on to my 9800GTX+
Will hold on to my 9800GTX+ until prices come down or performance across the board doubles again.
If you have a small monitor,
If you have a small monitor, by all means do it.
I’m holding on to the 9500GT
I’m holding on to the 9500GT because it rocks out in BF3 at 12-15 fps and that’s on a lower end pentium D with 256×4 of 533ddr2 and a 40g ide drive.
Whoo hoo, we iz gamin’ !
It doesn’t crash, at all, either, unlike the red cards.
omg did you test those
omg did you test those benchmarks with 0% power control at the CATALYST control center ?. You shoulda test it with +20 power setting, and then try to OC it… you might even get a higher oc since other reviewers get more then 1100mhz out of the core.
We will give that a shot
We will give that a shot after the holiday.
I wonder how the 3 gb Frame
I wonder how the 3 gb Frame buffer affects 3D gaming w/ eyefinity.
It might not help THAT much
It might not help THAT much for 3D as the amount of memory required for 3D isn’t much than standard – just processing power. The reasoning: the textures / data need for the left eye are usually a pretty close match to what is needed for the right eye.
But doesn’t doing 3d require
But doesn’t doing 3d require twice as much processing then traditional graphics? For instance, the metro 2033 normal AVG FPS is double what is in 3d. I wonder if the frame buffer would allow more things to be in VRAM or something would happen to give a boost, slight if any. It doesn’t seem likely from what you are saying, but it would be something interesting to see.
Especially considering how the 69xx series has had 2 and 1 gb variants and the slight hits in perf. on those cards.
Thanks for the
Thanks for the review..luv your shows. I’ve got a pair of 5870 2Gb’s in Crossfire powering 5760×1080 and an i7930 oc to 3.8ghz. I’m thinking of a pair of these for my next build or maybe just buying a pair of these and clunking them in the existing unit. Of course money and value are an issue. And would I really see any multi player benefit from just upgrading the gpu’s? I guess you’ll be doing a comparison against my setup or similar and that would help for sure. But in the real world would there be any “real” improvement in multi player for me. I mostly need the performance for the hi twitch games–for me COD. I play other games too but don’t need more computing power for them. Goodluck with the new fiber optics….I’m green with envy..that’s where I have problems and limitations.
What I’m getting out of the
What I’m getting out of the 7970 is that they realized Nvidia had a superior architecture and mimicked it. Now how this will affect their drivers will be interesting. If anything this equalizes the 2 companies.
Their charging a high premium for cards because they can. Prices will go down SIGNIFICANTLY when Kepler rears its turtle head……TURTLE!!!
Pretty much all this says is that AMD was early this round but Nvidia again will take the performance crown because if they don’t surpase a product released 6-9 months prior to theirs then it will not bode well for the green machine.
God I sound like a Nvidia shill….
The prices will go down and
The prices will go down and quite quickly. AMDs top end cards are cheaper than Nvidia’s at present and this series will follow suit.
These cards have a premium at the moment (and we are only speculating at present since they arent yet on sale) but competition amongst AMD resellers will see it go down anyway.
I cant blame them for making hay while the sun shiones at the moment. This card is the top end and represents a small percentage of the overall market and they will sell like hotcakes no matter where they are priced to people who want the top end.
Im happy AMD has at least one division thats actually making great product and competing strongly.
I hope you are right Davo.
I hope you are right Davo.
Cheaper by what ? $10 per
Cheaper by what ? $10 per three hundred, or 3 percent…
Yeah, cheaper by three percent.
$10 bucks is not enough to suffer through the driver issues, the crash issues, the lack of new game support issues, the no PhysX issue…
To all those who’ve “never had a problem with their radeon cards” congratulations, miracles still do happen.
Gee Mark, telling the truth,
Gee Mark, telling the truth, while calling Nvidia “turtle!” a couple of times is shilling for the eeevil “them” ?
Is this place that much pop culture red amd fanboy that you have to excuse yourself even after calling Nvidia names?
It’s a sad biased world when what is patently obvious to a truthful mind must be parsed and dissed just to try to get along and not be attacked.
I’m frankly sick of it.
It’s okay ot say AMDATI is a copycat and came in late to superior Nvidia styled architecture and they will get beaten by Nvidia in the next release – it’s OK to say it.
In fact, we’ve all probably heard the latter part already in leaked rumor – at which point, for those who keep up, the AMD fanboys went angry wild and screamed it was a group of Nvidia marketing team spammers who leaked $299 and faster… even though Charlie claimed he saw the benchmarks…
Well, in this case time will tell, and thanks for speaking your mind, and no thanks for calling Nvidia turtle twice, and don’t apologize just because red fanboys will attack you, that is, if you can help yourself. Is it really that bad, the attacking of anyone who says a single bad word against AMD and has a good prediction for Nvidia that just makes sense based upon endless years of patterns…that you have to caveat some simple truths and cover the bases with some armor ?
From what I see, AMD takes
From what I see, AMD takes over GTX580 by a ridiculous margin, being absurdly priced. Ryan, raise GTX580 gpu and memory clocks to meet HD 7970 ones, and GTX580 will show same or better performance. In the result, HD 7970 can be buried straight away.
That’s an interesting
That’s an interesting thought. If that pans out, we shouldn’t be hearing about “superior architecture” from those who promote AMD, endlessly, it seems.
However, they will just claim superior tech anyway and blame the “release” drivers and claim future releases will unleash the “true power”. The next breath they will claim AMDATI no longer has driver issues and is now equivalent to Nvidia…
YES I say, let’s see an apples clocks comparison.
that makes my life even
that makes my life even harder…
Now I don’t know what to do, buy a 6990 or one 7970 and upgrade later by getting a second one, or even if I should wait for the 7990.
what do you guys think?
Hard to say – as I noted in
Hard to say – as I noted in my review, I almost always pick a single GPU over a dual-GPU solution if performance is close the same. Less hassle to deal with and fewer potential problems.
Since the release of AMD’s
Since the release of AMD’s 7900 series video cards is just
the corner, its best to wait for the release of the mighty
7990, so your options as far as future proof gaming will be
much longer and may infact (if you are using a single full HD
monitor) will never have to upgrade video card again because
that 7990 for sure is one helluva long, bad ass, intimidating,
very very fast video card that will give you the gaming
performance more than you expected and if you’re into movie
editing, its performance (as far as openCL GPU acceleration
support is concerned) will even give you faster renderings
like never before that includes 3d renderings that supports
Man, is there
Man, is there an easy way to get your hand on gfx cards in general and get them shipped overseas? As of right now the 580’s are averaging at $680 over here (in Sweden) and I’d like to upgrade from my 5850.
Upgrading from 5850 to
Upgrading from 5850 to 7970?
Well, sounds like a very good upgrade decision for me!
go for it! 🙂
try amazon .uk/.de or
try amazon .uk/.de or somewhere
They have shipped stuff to me in the US, they might do it to your location as well. especially .uk to Sweden.
HOW DO PEOPLE HAVE REVIEWS
HOW DO PEOPLE HAVE REVIEWS OUT ? the PROPER drivers for PCI-E Gen3 are not even out !-?
Just wondering how much WATTS
Just wondering how much WATTS does my power supply have to be to support it?
i think minimum is 450 Not
i think minimum is 450 Not quite sure ^^
I think nVIDIA will come with
I think nVIDIA will come with a new card that will beat this and be cheaper 🙂
Hey Ryan..you mention a
Hey Ryan..you mention a future review of Eyefinity/Crossfire…For sure I’d like to see that.
Nice review thanks.
This is a great card. I was a
This is a great card. I was a little hesitant to fire sale my 2 MSI 6970 Lightnings (which are amazing) and buying a single 7970, but it was unwarranted. The performance, once easily overclocked (by ATI/AMD’s stock overdrive), is on par with my previous setup on games that supported crossfire. The games that didn’t support it, well this card just blows my previous setup out of the water in that scenario.
Another point that ALMOST made me sit on my hands for a while and wait was going from top of the line custom cards (msi lightnings)to launch day OEM cards. I’ve only purchased cards with after market coolers for the past 3 generations but I just couldn’t wait to try out the 7970. I’m happy to say that while gaming, I don’t notice a difference in fan noise. If anything, it runs cooler than my previous setup (obviously crossfire had a lot to do with it) and it may be actually quieter. While the Lightnings had an excellent HSF along with all sorts of other custom parts, the 7970’s 28nm process just really nullifies the need for a monster HSF setup.
Plenty of great reviews out there on the interwebz, go read those. Just wanted to 5 star this because of the fool with the 3 star review spreading FUD.
just a question..
just a question..
i’ve bought one of this cards… but i have a problem. When i start gaming the Graphic card heats so much, over 70 degrees Celcios.
Any idea of what the problem?
but will it play Wolfenstein
but will it play Wolfenstein 3d in ultra settings. Just kidding this card rocks add a second card in xfire unstopable
I get 10 or 20 fps of choppy,
I get 10 or 20 fps of choppy, erratic performance in TF2 on w8000 in linux. A software renderer would probably be faster. The linux drivers are garbage.