PowerColor LCS HD7970 3GB Reviewccokeman - March 11, 2012
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As one might guess, the HD 7970 is built around AMD's 28nm Southern Islands Tahiti GPU core. The Tahiti core features AMD's all new GCN architecture to go along with the process shrink. The new core features 4.31 billion transistors, 2048 stream processors,128 texture units, 32 ROPs, and 3GB of GDDR5 memory running through an increased 384-it bus. PowerColor's LCS HD 7970 differs from the normal reference version of this card with the inclusion of the EK-FC7970 full cover waterblock. By partnering with EK to use its high end waterblock, PowerColor is able to run the clock speeds up to 1050MHz on the Tahiti core and 1425MHz on the 3GB of GDDR5 memory, making it the fastest factory offering of an HD 7970 to date. The EK-FC7970 waterblock is nickel-plated copper with a black acetal cover featuring the PowerColor logo cut into the top. The back plate used on the card is used to stiffen the PCB to remove any concerns over flex and cracking of the traces or solder joints. The back plate also has the PowerColor and LCS HD 7970 logo embossed. Functional as well as informative, so your peers know you are running a PowerColor graphics card. The HD 7970 is PCIe 3.0 ready, while supporting Eyefinity 2.0 and Stereo 3D technologies. Fitting more than one of these cards into a system should be easy enough with the amount of fittings available, as a single slot solution space is opened up on the PCIe bus for an additional card or device.
The EK-FC7970 has a total of four ports on it to allow multiple tubing and connection configurations. Two of the ports are plugged, but these can be relocated to fit just about any flow path needed. The supplied 3/8" and 1/2" barbed adapters actually fit without having to use the supplied spacers to fit the hex flats between the PCB and 1/4" pipe threaded bung. This means you will not have to resort to other fittings at added cost. PowerColor states that the maximum temperatures for this card will be below 50 ºC and after testing it out, I am inclined to agree.
On this LCS HD 7970, the connectivity options have remained the same as the reference specification, with a single DL-DVI, a full size HDMI port that supports the HDMI 1.4a specification, and a pair of Mini DisplayPort 1.2 ports. Up to four monitors can be natively supported by the LCS HD 7970, but up to six monitors in an Eyefinity setup can be connected by using an MST Hub or by taking advantage of DisplayPort functionality, daisy chaining DisplayPort-equipped monitors. Eyefinity 2.0 has some improved features with the Southern Islands GCN architecture, allowing independent audio streams to follow the individual video streams. The back end of the card is purely the PCB and installed components. The fan header can be seen on the reference PCB. A Chil CHL82280 voltage controller is used to facilitate software-based voltage tuning. A full cover waterblock is not always full cover, as it will not cover the full size of the PCB. The covered components are the GPU core, the VRM circuit, and the memory modules.
The PowerColor LCS HD 7970 is much the same as any HD 7970, in that it supports CrossFireX with up to four GPUs in a motherboard that supports this feature. Most motherboards for enthusiasts will support either two or three 16X PCIe slots for use with a pair or more of these cards. A 500 watt power supply is the minimum requirement for using this card, although a higher powered unit offers a power cushion, as well as running it efficiently. A Dual BIOS switch can be toggled between a protected BIOS in position 1 and an unlocked BIOS to be used to flash that latest BIOS mod. Power is supplied by a 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe connection, in addition to what is supplied via the PCIe slot. The maximum board power is a rated 250 watts and the power connections support this rating. AMD's ZeroCore power states are supported on this card.
The addition of the EK-FC7970 waterblock makes the card look good, in addition to allowing the company to deliver best-in-class clock speeds with over 1GHz on the cores right off the shelf.