Reference 7970 + Aftermarket Cooler

So I'm looking to get a 7970, I've heard that most of the cards recently have had poor ASIC scores and poor OC ability (like, getting about 1200Mhz core is now considered lucky). I am wondering if getting a reference card like this one http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161399 and dropping on this cooler http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835186064 will get me more performance than a cheaper card with a specialized cooler, such as MSI's http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814127732 or Sapphire's http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202008. Thanks!

Build:
3570k w/ Hyper 212 EVO
ASrock Z77 Extreme4
2x4GB Corsair Vengeance
Corsair TX650 v2
Samsung 840 120GB SSD
Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM
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  1. I have that sapphire card. I'm really happy with it, but (1) it is non-reference pcb, so it would be a pain in the ass to do an aftermarket cooler; (2) it suffers from the (relatively) lower overclocking potential you speak of. At max, I can hit 1180core/1675vram clock speeds. The sapphire cards do have unlocked voltage control. However, for $400, you can't beat it - for everyday use, I overclock it without overvolting (just adjust the board power to +20) to 1100/1500 and I get really amazing performance in any games I play at 1080p (paired with an i5-3570k @ 4.2ghz). I can easily maintain ~60+fps and max out every setting (except using 4xmsaa instead of 8x in games like Far Cry 3 or Crysis 3). The difference between a 1100 clock and a 1200 clockspeed is probably not going to make much of a perceptible difference in 95% of your real world games, but the inability of these cards to hit that 1200 mark is nonetheless a consideration.

    Before I ended up with this card, I actually bought this MSI "OC" 7970 reference PCB card with a blower, thinking I would add an aftermarket cooler, but the thing had the worst case of coil whine I have ever heard. Like, screeching banshee kind of thing right out of the box. Had to RMA immediately. Also, aftermarket coolers void your warranty on any of these cards. This is another are where the sapphire card shines: The "Dual x" sapphire cooling works really well, the card stays cool under load without sounding like a jet engine even when it's like 76 degrees Fahrenheit in the room. If you really want to make sure you are going to hit 1200 clocks, I say get on of the Vapor-x GHZ edition ones that are only $450 @ Super-biz. They are supposed to be binned higher than the 2013 non-GHZ cards, and the vapor-x cooling is so good you really won't need the aftermarket cooler.

    IMHO, you should just go with one of the two sapphire cards. If you absolutely must have 1200+ mhz clock speeds, get that vapor-x for the $40 extra dollars and rest easy knowing you don't have to install that aftermarket cooler and your warranty remains intact should anything go wrong in the next couple years.
  2. Thanks guys! I was just worried becuase I've been hearing a lot lately that its hard to find 7970's with an ASIC above the 60s. I guess I'll go with the Sapphire card. Does anyone have any experience with the new MSI 7970 TF/BE card, the new-ish one? I can't seem to find any professional reviews on it, and its definately an option to consider for me.
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