Sapphire HD 7970 Dual X ReviewBluePanda -
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The Sapphire HD 7970 OC edition comes in with a bit of length to accommodate the addition of the Dual-X, two fan setup at 280mm (just over 11"). The nifty shroud used for the dual fan setup is quite different from the usual reference cooler for the card. The standard cooler passes heat out the back of the case, which tends to keep low case temps at the expense of being a bit louder than other coolers. The setup we have here dumps heat into the case and out the back, but takes down the noise level quite a bit while maintaining good temperatures.
The back of the card is a bit different from what you have likely seen. Since there is no VRAM sitting on the backside of the PCB there's no need for a back plate to help the memory stay cool. There isn't even an X-bracket on the back of the core that you normally might find on other cards. It's just a simple, pretty PCB. You can see a bit of one of the heat pipes from the back here – but the other side really provides its true beauty.
The CrossfireX connectors are just like any other high-end card, with two sets of fingers you can run up to quad CrossfireX with these cards. To the left of the fingers is the switch to flip between the Dual BIOS mentioned earlier to allow you to get that guaranteed bonus overclock (as well as give it more if you so desire).
An 8-pin as well as a 6-pin are the only requirements to fire this card up, just like many cards today. Nothing too special about the way that works out, plug it in and you should be good to go (provided you and your PSU can handle this). Remember just because it uses these two plugs doesn't mean it sucks more power all the time – at idle AMD has gotten this card to draw very little power compared to cards from the past.
The back end of the card shows off the usual outputs of a card like this. Like previously mentioned you can see the DVI, HDMI, and two mini-DisplayPort plugs to connect a variety of monitors without adapters. The included adapters also allow for a variety of monitor configurations without having to buy any additional adapters. The grill on the top vents some of the heat out of the case, but due to the cooler design the majority of the heat seems to dump into the case.
Taking off the shroud and heatsink assembly to get a better look at what we are dealing with, we see the VRMs and RAM are cooled passively with black heatsinks. The flow through the GPU heatsink cools the heatsinks below. The cooling on the GPU seems very robust with five heat pipes moving out to the various fin assemblies. Overall it's a pretty simple design and should work fairly well without atrocious levels of noise.
From the next view you can get a better look at the memory and VRM cooling. There isn't a whole lot to talk about here if you have ever seen any other 7970 with the heatsink removed. It's a bunch of capacitors, resistors, and other components to make the card tick. It looks rather naked, but you can see remnants of thermal compound on the GPU itself. A lot of people like to replace this with "better" paste for slightly better temperatures, but just remember this will void your warranty if you decide to do so.
This last shot shows again a close up of the cooler. You can see just how beefy it is with the five heat pipes soldered to the cooling fins. If any heatsink can keep this card cool, without the use of water, I'm sure this is one of the better ones. It is something I at least noticed being quite a bit quieter in use, as well as something you'll note in the temperature results for load.