On the topic of many sites and columns is the Radeon HD7970 – AMD’s current flagship graphics card with 3GB of RAM in the reference designs. An insanely incredible card, it is currently retailing for R6500 to R7000 at most online retailers but it’s a very far stretch for most enthusiasts who love the punch, but lack the money to go for the full monty. Enter the HD7950.
Also starting off with 3GB of RAM, the newcomer is a bit scaled down compared to its big brother. Remember those Compute Units we looked at when I discussed GCN? The HD7950 has some disabled, giving it 28 CUs compared to the HD7970 which sports 32. Standard clocks sit at 800Mhz for the core and 1250Mhz for memory. In this configuration, the HD7950 sports more memory bandwidth than the GTX580 and the HD6970 – at 240Gb/s, there’s going to be very little bandwidth throttling, even for the most taxing games and resolutions. Performance-wise, we can expect the card to sit a little below the HD7970, but above the HD6970 and GTX570 in most applications. We can’t fully expect it to beat the GTX580 in everything because a lot of games out there take advantage of NVIDIA’s architecture more often than AMD’s.
Performance differences, at the most, will be around 10-15FPS. NVIDIA cards handle games that include DX9 code better, though in DX11 it’s pretty much an even match with the GTX580. Of note is that Crossfired HD7950s should hang with SLI’d GTX580s easily, matching or beating them for performance while being cheaper and much more efficient, quieter and cooler. The configuration is certainly far more economical than two HD6990s – adding the complexity of two extra physical cores to the mix is a huge power drain and heat producer, and with no end in sight to Crossfire/SLI stutter in some games enthusiasts and gamers would be better off choosing the cheaper cards.
It also helps to note that for previous multi-GPU solutions ALL the cards would clock down when the system was idle or not doing anything taxing. With AMD’s improvements to power management, only the unused GPUs idle down to their lowest speed while the one or two cards in use handle the low-end grunt work. In Tom’s Hardware’s review of the card, their test findings showed a high-end system with an HD7950 to consume an average of 90watts less power than a GTX580 – that is a staggering feat, even by AMD’s standards.
Even more impressive is the overclocking gains to be had. Tom’s also overclocked their board to 1025Mhz – that’s 225Mhz over the stock clocks – and easily matches or beats a HD7970 in most games and resolutions. That’s a bargain of note, and I hope that in future I’ll be able to upgrade to one in my system. On average, this should give you an extra 10-20 frames per second in most games.
Mind you, it bears reminding that this card isn’t designed for HD screens – its real territory is 30-inch resolutions and Eyefinity (especially Eyefinity). AMD’s changes to Eyefinity bring noteable improvements: multi-stream audio to different sources, resolution corrections for monitors of different sizes and more that I’ll be covering next week Monday. HD would be wasted here, and you’d be much better off with the inevitable HD7850 or HD7870 when they launch. And for the first time in a very long time, AMD has complete rule over the market; its simply impossible for Nvidia to touch it now without drastically reducing prices.