Reference Card and GPU Testbed

Did you like the way the Radeon HD 7970 3GB graphics card looked last year when it launched? Good news, because if you are looking for something a bit different to make the "GHz Edition" stand out you are out of luck (sorry).

The reference model from AMD for the HD 7970 GHz Edition is physically identical to that of the previous card. 

That’s not really bad news though, as we know that the HD 7970 had a great set of features including the output configuration seen here.

Despite the added clock speed, the new GHz Edition will still only require one 8-pin power connection and one 6-pin.

On the back, nothing has changed and yes it still supports CrossFireX configurations as deep as four GPUs. 

(Psst, these photos are actually from our ORIGINAL HD 7970 review!)

Testing Configuration

For the Radeon HD 7970 3GB review (and all those going forward) we decided it was high time we replaced the somewhat dated Nehalem-based infrastructure (even though honestly, it was fast enough) with something a bit more current. Obviously that meant going with the new Intel Sandy Bridge-E processor and X79 motherboard. By combining support for 40 PCI Express lanes and 3-4 full size GPU slots, it makes for the perfect GPU base.

From this point on, our reviews will based around the following system:

  • Intel Core i7-3960X CPU
  • ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard
  • Corsair DDR3-1600 4 x 4GB Vengeance memory
  • 600GB Western Digital VelociRaptor HDD
  • 1200 watt Corsair Professional Series power supply
  • Windows 7 SP1 x64

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The ASUS P9X79 Pro

The Intel Core i7-3960X gives us the fastest consumer-level CPU on the market to help eliminate the possibility of any processor-based bottlenecks in our testing (whenever possible). There are still going to be some games that could use more speed (Skyrim comes to mind) but for our purposes this is as good as you get without getting into any kind of overclocked settings. The ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard has enough space for three dual-slot graphics cards when the time comes for testing 3-Way SLI and CrossFire, and 8 DIMM slots should we want to go up from our current setup of 16GB of Corsair Vengeance memory

I chose to stick with the 600GB VelociRaptor hard drive rather than an SSD as our total installation size with Windows 7 SP1 x64 and 6+ games was already hitting the 115GB range. Finally the 1200 watt power supply from Corsair offers up more than enough juice for three power hungry graphics cards while running quietly enough to not throw off our noise testing drastically.

Speaking of noise, for this article we are re-introducing our sound level testing thanks to the Extech 407738 Sound Level Meter capable of monitoring decibel ratings as low as 20db. This allows me to accurately tell you the noise levels generated by the graphics cards that are tested in-house at PC Perspective.

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Along with the new hardware configuration comes a host of new games. For this review, we will be using the following benchmarks and games to evaluate performance:

  • Battlefield 3
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • DiRT 3
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Metro 2033
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • 3DMark11
  • Unigine Heaven v2.5

This collection of games is both current and takes into account several different genres as well – first person role playing, third person action, racing, first person shooting, etc. 3DMark11 and Unigine Heaven further allow us to see how the cards stack up in a more synthetic environment while the real-world gameplay testing provided by the six games completes the performance picture.

The new Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

The original Radeon HD 7970

Obviously, the new Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition will be compared to the first iteration of this GPU as well as the high-end GeForce GTX 680. Our fourth and final card in the suite of products today will be the GeForce GTX 670 – a product that upon its launch was nearly able to keep up with HD 7970 as well. 

Our testing used NVIDIA drivers 301.42 and AMD drivers 12.7 beta.

The comparisons you should be paying particular attention to:

  • Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition vs HD 7970 Base – How much performance does the new AMD flagship single-GPU card gain from the increase core and memory clock speeds?
     
  • Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition vs GeFroce GTX 680 – The GeForce GTX 680 is the current king of GPU performance but does the new GHz Edition of the HD 7970 really allow AMD to crown it as the "world’s fastest GPU"?

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get on with the results and see how the new Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition card performs!

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