When AMD released their HD 7000 series of cards, they had a pretty hefty lead on the competition. These cards outperformed the then current NVIDIA cards at every price point, but a lot of people were dismayed that AMD was not more disruptive of the price/performance curve with this new generation of chips. The previous high end HD 6970 was introduced at a $399 price point, but the new HD 7970 was given a $549 MSRP. That is a pretty significant increase when talking about a last gen top end card to a new one. I guess we should have expected this type of pricing considering the performance advantage that AMD had at the time. Make hay when the sun shines, right?

The top view shows the 2 x 6 pin PCI-E power connectors.  It really is a good looking card from most angles.

Unfortunately for AMD, NVIDIA has not stood still. The GTX 680 is faster than the HD 7970 and has an MSRP of $499. The recently released GTX 670 nips at the heels of the much more expensive HD 7970 but is only priced at $399 MSRP. AMD has been able to survive this onslaught only due to the extreme lack of availability of the top end cards from NVIDIA and their partners. This has allowed AMD to keep their prices up, and the availability of the HD 7000 series of products has been excellent since about two weeks after their respective launches.

The HD 7950 is in the same vein as the GTX 670. It is a slightly cut down version of the full featured product, with a lower clockspeed, and a lower asking price. Initially these were in the $449 range at introduction, but happily for consumers that price has dropped since the introduction of the GTX 600 series from NVIDIA. The current running price for the MSI R7950 Twin Frozr 3GD5/OC is now $399, but goes down to $379 after rebate. To sweeten the pot AMD has included $99 worth of games in the form of DiRT Showdown, Nexuiz, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution + Missing Link DLC. This is a pretty good bundle, especially since DiRT Showdown was just released last week.

The MSI card is a well built unit. Though it uses the reference PCB, I have found no issues with it. The TFIII cooler is still one of their best yet. Under heavy use and overclocked, the cooler was able to deliver sub 70C temperatures with a minimum of noise. The card has a lot of heft to it and is a fairly large unit. The solid construction and extra bracing that it has does not allow it to warp or bend when installed in a tower case.

We see the R7950 compared to the last gen (and spiritual predecessor to the R7950) HD 6950 Twin Frozr II OC.  Progress is good!

I do have two concerns about this product. First off the price is still a bit high (and we are not going to go into how overpriced the HD 7870 series are currently). This particular card will lose out to a GTX 670 in pretty much every game except AvP, and they are both in the same price range. Mail in rebates are nice, but I would rather see users given that difference at the register rather than wait a few months for that extra $20 to be sent. The three games are an added bonus, and are really the only saving grace for the HD 7950 as a whole. I like the card, but AMD really needs to adjust their pricing a bit more aggressively. The second issue is the outputs. We still do not have many DisplayPort capable monitors at reasonable prices. While DVI and HDMI are very common, DP is still very much uncommon. If a user is going to use multiple monitors, then they need to purchase active DP to DVI adapters which can add another $25 per adapter to the total price. If a user has three 2560×1600 monitors, then they need to make the additional purchase of a powered/active DP to DVI adapter that can handle dual link resolutions. Those particular products are $100 a pop. I really would have much rather seen AMD and its partners continue to support two dual-link DVI capable outputs on each card.

Other than those issues, the MSI HD 7950 is a really good card. I had no problems with it, and the latest Catalyst 12.6 beta drivers fix a lot of the outstanding issues that HD 7000 series cards have exhibited. MSI includes a decent bundle with the product, throwing in the standard DVI to VGA adapter, CrossFire connector, and a mini DP to full DP adapter. The card could be overclocked to the max 1100 MHz that the drivers/BIOS allows, it did not pull all that much power at load at stock speeds (it was only slightly more than the smaller R7870), and the 3GB of frame buffer allows it to store an amazing amount of data locally that is accessed by the 240 GB/sec of bandwidth afforded by the 384 bit memory bus.

Progress… unless we count the deletion of a DVI output as progress.

Personally, if I were looking into purchasing a setup that would include multiple cards for use with multiple monitors, the MSI HD 7950 is pretty close to the top of the list. It is available, it is decently priced (the extra games are nice, and I can gift that extra set out to friends, or exchange for beer money), and I have no real qualms about the quality of the card. It also appears that AMD has smoothed out the CrossFire experience with a combination of improved software/drivers and possibly some hardware modifications in the 7000 series that gets it closer in performance/smoothness as NVIDIA’s SLI. More testing on that later.

The final price of $379 after rebate firmly puts this card ahead of the HD 7870. It is quite a bit faster than the 7870, and as we see here it does not pull all that much more power at load. We also saw that overclocking was quite robust, and it will quickly outpace that other card that is being offered at essentially the same price. AMD really needs to adjust their prices. Am I repeating myself?


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