Sapphire HD 7950 FleX Dual-X Edition 3GB Reviewairman -
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Although the Dual-X cooling system on the Sapphire HD 7950 FleX edition does appear to make the card a little bit longer than a reference HD 7950, it is not longer by much. The Sapphire blue PCB is exposed through the cooler and looks good next to the copper heatpipes on the inside. The design is not plain but it is also not overdone with plastic "bling", as I would say. It offers an aggressive look that I think anyone would be okay with. The other view provides a better look at the blue PCB along with its layout and component location. On the side of the cooler that will be seen from the outside of the case is a simple Sapphire logo and nothing else.
Having two DVI ports on the card is what makes it a FleX edition. Although many folks have moved to HDMI and DisplayPort monitors, DVI monitors are inexpensive and can still provide excellent display quality. So, a FleX edition card can ease the budget of a multi-monitor setup by allowing the use of two or three DVI monitors without the need to buy expensive adapters. The other side of the card shows us that the cooler has an open-style shroud, meaning that it will technically evacuate heat from the video card into the computer case. Although some may feel this is a bad thing, it allows for cooler temperatures of the video card as well as quieter operation. After all, appropriate case fan placement would no longer render this as an issue to those who may be concerned of the extra heat.
The Sapphire HD 7950 FleX Dual-X Edition is powered by two 6-pin connectors — a welcome sight for power-conscious folks. The HD 7970 uses at minimum a 6-pin and an 8-pin, but with past reviews I know that an HD 7950 can come close to keeping up with an HD 7970. On the other side of the PCB is the CrossFire bridge locations; there are two present, allowing for triple or quadfire. Just next to the CrossFire bridge locations is a micro switch that allows the user to select two separate BIOS locations. This is particularly helpful during BIOS updates. In case something goes wrong, the other BIOS can be used to recover a corrupted flash attempt.
Separating the cooler from the card only requires the removal of the four screws at each corner of the GPU core location. Once removed, the GPU core and the rest of the components are exposed, with the exception of those covered by an additional heatspeader attached to the board with the rest of the screws. This metal heatspreader remains in contact with the memory chips, VRMs, and other heat-sensitive or high-heat components that could affect high-end performance of this card. This is the first time I have seen something like this, although this is also the first HD 7900 card I have disassembled!
Further disassembly is required to separate the metal cooler from the plastic shroud. The heart of the cooler is made of a copper base and copper heatpipes attached to aluminum fins. There are two 8mm heatpipes on the edge of the copper plate and three 6mm heatpipes through the inside of the copper plate. These heatpipes will carry the large majority of heat produced by the GPU that isn't transferred directly to the aluminum fins by the copper plate; the rest of the heat will simply escape to the air around them. Despite the cooler's complexity, it is rather slim in height. After all, it can't be too tall if we expect it to fit inside the shroud! The two fans are attached to the shroud share a single power source — a 4-pin header on the PCB.
I was taken by a little bit of a surprise to find that there is no writing or description on the GPU core as I have been accustomed to for years. The 28nm Southern Islands Tahiti core and accompanying components are slightly protected by a raised metal plate that surrounds them all. Some of these components could be damaged by the cooler during installation, so this is a cheap solution to protect them. The Tahiti core features 112 texture units, 32 ROPs, and 1792 shader cores running at clock speeds of 800Mhz. Hynix memory chips, Part number H5GQ2H24MFR-T2C, as expected, are the ones of choice on this video card and there is 3GB of it. This GDDR5 memory is rated for operation at 1250Mhz but will clock higher.
Now that we've taken a really close look at the card and its components, it's now time to take a quick look at its specifications and features. After this, we can get into the testing and explore the performance realm of this video card from Sapphire.