XFX & Sapphire HD 7950 3GB Reviewccokeman - January 30, 2012
Category: Video Cards
Price: XFX $499, Sapphire $479
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The 7 series cards from AMD were officially launched right before CES, with plenty of fanfare and early performance numbers on paper a couple weeks earlier. This time around, AMD chose not to repeat the paper launch and instead, has decided to go with a hard launch today to introduce the second card in the HD 7900 series product stack, the HD 7950. Equipped with all of the features of AMD's Southern Islands (Tahiti) Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture which include Zero Core Power, PCIe 3.0, DX 11, AMD Powerplay technology, and a shrink to AMDs 28 nm process, the HD 7950 looks to impress and follow on the performance delivered by the HD 7970. Right out of the gate, we have a pair of cards that come factory overclocked and with improved cooling to help deliver both a cooler-running GPU and one that is much quieter than the traditional squirrel cage fan design used on the AMD's reference design cards. Both Sapphire and XFX have sent out their factory overclocked cards that come with clock speeds of 900 MHz on the 28 nm Tahiti core, alongside a memory speed of 1250 MHz on the Sapphire HD 7950 Overclocked Edition and 1375 MHz on the XFX HD 7950 Black Edition Double Dissipation. Previously, we saw how the HD 7970 3GB delivered world-class performance as the fastest single GPU video card on the market. Can AMD and their partners follow up by avoiding the sophomore slump and delivering that second punch to truly define the performance of their latest architecture? Let's see how the latest from both Sapphire and XFX perform, and compare them to past generations.
The packaging for each of these cards is as unique as the company that sends them to market. XFX has loaded the packaging with the full 'what really matters' approach to selling the card, with a list of the technologies supported and attributes on the front, back, and sides. Highlights for the Black Edition Double Dissipation HD 7950 include Double Dissipation cooling, 3 GB of onboard memory, Ghost Thermal technology, and on the back, AMD's GCN Architecture, Power Tune Technology, and XFX X-factors that include Duratec capacitors and ferrite core chokes, HydroCell technology for cooling, GPU Edging, and 4K monitor support. Sapphire's packaging, on the other hand, is not as graphically intense, but gets the message across nonetheless. On their box, Sapphire has an iteration of Ruby all decked out for some war...games? The Radeon HD 7950's features are listed along the bottom of the front panel, while to the right, are images that list the amount of onboard GDDR5 memory, indicate that this is a factory overclocked version, and that Sapphires Trixx utility is included. The back panel goes into detail on AMD's GCN architecture, Eyefinity 2.0, and more.
Inside the outer sleeves are the boxes that hold each of the HD 7950s and associated hardware bundles. Sapphire's box is not illustrated and is a bit spartan compared to the XFX's packaging, which is black in color and displays XFX's logo and slogan. I think these small cost savings allow Sapphire to put together a more robust accessory bundle – more on that below. The bundle and card are held oppositely in each package – the bundle is on top in the XFX packaging and on the bottom in the Sapphire package.
The accessory bundle included each card is adequate to get the card installed and running, so that putting it in on a Saturday night for an all-night session does not end up being a one-sided affair, with you having difficulty finding that one last power connection to the card. Sapphire includes a pretty substantial bundle which include a 6-foot HDMI cable, DVI to D-sub adapter, two 4 pin molex to 6 pin PCIe power connections, a Crossfire Bridge connector, HDMI to DVI and mini DP to DP adapters, and last but not least, the documentation. XFX has a much slimmer bundle on the hardware side, with a HDMI to DVI adapter, Black Edition badge, and a Crossfire bridge connection.
Having looked at the XFX HD 7970 Black Edition already, expectations are high for this card from XFX – Sapphire's build looks equally appealing at this point and comes with a better bundle. It will be interesting to see which of these cards deliver the best performance, based on the difference in memory clock speeds. If overclocking potential is what we've seen on the HD 7970 series cards, then the second offering from AMD's 7 series lineup may look to keep itself in a dominant position for a while.