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Sapphire HD 7970 3GB Review



When you get down to it in the end what we all want from a new release is to see it out perform not only the prior generation parts it replaces but the competitors best part in its class. The Sapphire HD 7970 does that in spades as the saying goes. It delivers performance well above that of the Northern Islands Cayman based HD 6970 as well as Nvidia's GTX 580 in just about every game tested (HAWX 2 not withstanding). This is what you want as a successor to a good product and AMD and its partners have delivered. Not only is the gaming performance at stock speeds impressive, but the overclocking headroom makes it that much more appealing from a performance perspective. And it should get better from here. I was easily able to increase both the GPU core clock and memory clock speeds to the limits of AMD's Catalyst Control Center at 1125MHz on the core and 1575MHz on the GDDR5 memory, both increases of 200Mhz without any effort at all. By doing so the performance in games scaled upward significantly in most cases. This added performance drives the ability to use just a single card to run an Eyefinity gaming setup at resolutions up to 5760 x 1080 with the eye candy turned on. A wider field of view makes for a more immersive gaming experience. With the HD 7970 it's possible not probable. A new wrinkle with the new architecture is Eyefinity 2.0 that offers a host of improvements including individual media streams for each output, new 5x1 monitor configurations, 16kx16k configurations, bezel correction, and new task bar positioning.

Cooling performance is another area that AMD improved its standing. In both the stock and overclocked temperature testing the HD 7970 bested the HD 6970 by as little as 4 degrees Celsius at stock idle speeds and as much as an 8C delta in the rest of the testing. The new fan design has thinner blades coupled with a more free flowing exhaust port on the mounting bracket that drives more airflow through the card. This they did while improving the noise generated by the card as it is no longer a pitchy whiny beast when the fan speed is ramped up for max cooling. That not to say its not loud but it is not as annoying as the fan on the 6970 so this would be progress. Baby stepping as they say. Power consumption under load ended up higher than the HD 6970 at stock speeds yet the effects of AMDs ZeroCore power technology help drop the consumption in a 2d and idle states as well as dropping power to secondary cards in Crossfire configurations to reduce noise.

So the cost of admission into the ownership club starts at $550 dollars and may provide some sticker shock to those looking for a new card. While the cost is high the performance gains over the previous generation are significant with the HD 6970 still holding value. If you search you can get two HD 6970's for about $50 more than the cost of the HD 7970 and get HD 6990+ performance albeit at the cost of more noise and power consumption. Not to mention no benefits of the new architecture. For your money you get the fastest single GPU card on the market that offers tangible great improvements across the board and should easily play any game out today! AMD and its partners have laid down the gauntlet! Again!



  • Fastest Single GPU card out
  • Great overclocking
  • High performance
  • Eyefinity gaming
  • New Architecture
  • Zero Core power
  • Noise improvement



  • Pricing
  • Still loud at 100% fan speed


OCC Gold

  1. Introduction & Closer Look
  2. Closer Look: Continued
  3. Specifications & Features
  4. Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  5. Testing: Metro 2033
  6. Testing: Batman Arkham City
  7. Testing: Battlefield 3
  8. Testing: HAWX 2
  9. Testing: Unigine 2.5
  10. Testing: Dirt 3
  11. Testing: Mafia II
  12. Testing: 3DMark 11
  13. Testing: Eyefinity & Surround
  14. Testing: Temperatures
  15. Testing: Power Consumption
  16. Conclusion
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