AMD Radeon HD 7970: Promising Performance, Paper-Launched

Power, Temperature, And Noise Benchmarks

Let’s say that the Radeon HD 7970 has the potential to be an amazing performer. Would it still be worth $550 if its maximum power load were enough to cause blackouts at Candlestick Park during a 49ers game? Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate.

Surprisingly, the 7970 draws less load power than a GeForce GTX 580, while pulling less at idle than a Radeon HD 6970. AMD’s power management advancements should pay dividends amongst our European audience, which has to pay significantly more for electricity than the North American readers.  

Now it’s time to turn our attention to GPU temperatures. We should mention that the GeForce GTX 580 we’re testing with is a Gigabyte GV-N580SO-15I clocked down to reference frequencies and equipped with an aftermarket cooler.

The temperatures are right where we’d expect them to be in comparison to the Radeon HD 6970, a card with a similar TDP.

Finally, let’s have a look at the noise generated by these products. Once again, keep in mind that the GeForce GTX 580 isn’t a reference card, and its aftermarket cooler provides an advantage you’d typically have to pay extra for.

Uh-oh. That’s a significant amount of noise, which gives us our first concerning design-oriented issue seen thus far. I’m almost afraid to mention it, because when Chris Angelini railed the Radeon HD 6990 for its noise problems, he got a lot of negative feedback. But I’m not willing to bury it, so there it is.

Concerned about a possible heat sink seating issue, I took the card apart and put it back together again with fresh thermal paste. Now, AMD doesn’t recommend this because it claims the phase-changing thermal interface material it uses enables a few-degree advantage over normal thermal paste. In light of our negative results, though, we had little to lose by at least trying. In the end, my surgical procedure made no difference, and we recorded the same acoustic output playing through Battlefield 3.  

Unfortunately, AMD’s time frame for this launch didn’t make testing a second card possible. However, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for a replacement and follow-up should our findings change.

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    Top Comments
  • danraies
    cangeliniStart treating your SO super-nice and ask for one for Valentine's Day!


    If I ever find someone that will buy me a $500 graphics card for Valentine's Day I'll be proposing on the spot.
    42
  • thepieguy
    If Santa is real, there will be one of these under my Christmas tree in a few more days.
    30
  • cangelini
    ZombeeSlayer143WOW!!! I love the conslusion; all of it, which basically is interpretted as "I'm biased towards Nvidia," and trys [desperately] to say don't buy this card! Has the nerve to mention Kepler as an alternative; right, Kepler, as in 1 year away. The GTX580 just got "Radeon-ed" in it's rear. I'm not biased towards either manufacturer, just love to see and give credit to a team of people with passion, vision, and hardwork come together and put their company back on the map, as is shown here today with AMD's launch of the 7970. It's AMD's version of "Tebow Time!!"


    Not at all, actually. It offers great gaming performance, and for everything else...we have to wait, because it's not fully baked yet. They say fools rush in. This thing launched today. We were given less than a week with it. It won't be available to even *buy* for another three weeks. Are you telling me you're ready to crown a paper winner, and you're not biased? Please...
    25
  • Other Comments
  • thepieguy
    If Santa is real, there will be one of these under my Christmas tree in a few more days.
    30
  • a4mula
    From a gaming standpoint I fail to see where this card finds a home. For 1920x1080 pretty much any card will work, meanwhile at Eyefinity resolutions it's obvious that a single gpu still isn't viable. Perhaps this will be something that people would consider over 2x 6950, but that isn't exactly an ideal setup either. While much of the article was over my head from a technical standpoint, I hope the 7 series addresses microstuttering in crossfire. If so than perhaps 2x 7950 (Assuming a 449$) becomes a viable alternative to 3x 6950 2GB. I was really hoping we'd see the 7970 in at 449, with the 7950 in at 349. Right now I'm failing to see the value in this card.
    -29
  • mi1ez
    Damn, that's a good looking GPU!
    12
  • cangelini
    a4mulaFrom a gaming standpoint I fail to see where this card finds a home. For 1920x1080 pretty much any card will work, meanwhile at Eyefinity resolutions it's obvious that a single gpu still isn't viable. Perhaps this will be something that people would consider over 2x 6950, but that isn't exactly an ideal setup either. While much of the article was over my head from a technical standpoint, I hope the 7 series addresses microstuttering in crossfire. If so than perhaps 2x 7950 (Assuming a 449$) becomes a viable alternative to 3x 6950 2GB. I was really hoping we'd see the 7970 in at 449, with the 7950 in at 349. Right now I'm failing to see the value in this card.


    I'll be trolling Newegg for the next couple weeks on the off-chance they pop up before the 9th. A couple in CrossFire could be pretty phenomenal, but it remains to be seen if they maintain the 6900-series scalability.
    11
  • cangelini
    thepieguyIf Santa is real, there will be one of these under my Christmas tree in a few more days.


    Hate to break it to you, but there won't be, unless you celebrate Christmas in mid-January.

    Start treating your SO super-nice and ask for one for Valentine's Day!
    7
  • Darkerson
    Well I know what I want at tax time :D
    16
  • danraies
    cangeliniStart treating your SO super-nice and ask for one for Valentine's Day!


    If I ever find someone that will buy me a $500 graphics card for Valentine's Day I'll be proposing on the spot.
    42
  • a4mula
    cangeliniI'll be trolling Newegg for the next couple weeks on the off-chance they pop up before the 9th. A couple in CrossFire could be pretty phenomenal, but it remains to be seen if they maintain the 6900-series scalability.


    While I have little doubt that 2x of these cards would be very impressive, so would the $1100+ pricetag. I guess coming from the 580 SLI standpoint it might not seem like much, but if you've been considering the $750 ($900 for mobo+psu difference) 3x 6950 route like myself it seems like a major jump.

    Of course this is all just initial reaction towards the earliest of benchmarks. Given awhile to really dig around the new 7xxx, while allowing it to mature from a driver standpoint might make the 3x6950 seem foolhardy.
    -10
  • Zombeeslayer143
    WOW!!! I love the conslusion; all of it, which basically is interpretted as "I'm biased towards Nvidia," and trys [desperately] to say don't buy this card! Has the nerve to mention Kepler as an alternative; right, Kepler, as in 1 year away. The GTX580 just got "Radeon-ed" in it's rear. I'm not biased towards either manufacturer, just love to see and give credit to a team of people with passion, vision, and hardwork come together and put their company back on the map, as is shown here today with AMD's launch of the 7970. It's AMD's version of "Tebow Time!!"
    -21
  • Zombeeslayer143
    No hard feelings to the author...thanks for the review nonethless..
    -3
  • cangelini
    ZombeeSlayer143WOW!!! I love the conslusion; all of it, which basically is interpretted as "I'm biased towards Nvidia," and trys [desperately] to say don't buy this card! Has the nerve to mention Kepler as an alternative; right, Kepler, as in 1 year away. The GTX580 just got "Radeon-ed" in it's rear. I'm not biased towards either manufacturer, just love to see and give credit to a team of people with passion, vision, and hardwork come together and put their company back on the map, as is shown here today with AMD's launch of the 7970. It's AMD's version of "Tebow Time!!"


    Not at all, actually. It offers great gaming performance, and for everything else...we have to wait, because it's not fully baked yet. They say fools rush in. This thing launched today. We were given less than a week with it. It won't be available to even *buy* for another three weeks. Are you telling me you're ready to crown a paper winner, and you're not biased? Please...
    25
  • Zombeeslayer143
    cangeliniHate to break it to you, but there won't be, unless you celebrate Christmas in mid-January.Start treating your SO super-nice and ask for one for Valentine's Day!


    Dude!!! I'm will be glued to NewEgg via my PDA and PC...I'm sooooo ooohhhh getting two of these!! If they sell for $549, I still think they provide the best value based on current high-end single GPU solutions (e.g., GTX 580, 6970, etc). Nvidia may want to consider a 20%-30% price reduction on the 580's once the 7970's are out.
    10
  • Zombeeslayer143
    ZombeeSlayer143Dude!!! I'm will be glued to NewEgg via my PDA and PC...I'm sooooo ooohhhh getting two of these!! If they sell for $549, I still think they provide the best value based on current high-end single GPU solutions (e.g., GTX 580, 6970, etc). Nvidia may want to consider a 20%-30% price reduction on the 580's once the 7970's are out.


    You have a valid argument there. However, it's not like we need to wait for Windows 8 to see what this GPU is made of, as was the case with Bulldozer. What you see is what we will get give or take 5%?????? Heck, I don't even care for the overclocking potential. If the performance was capped at what is shown here today, I'm certain everyone will be happy. But, of course thats not the case, which brings me back to your point; it's too early, don't get excited, it's just on paper right? LOL...sure buddy...I'm so glad NewEgg was sold out of the GTX580 Classified's the past few weeks; would have regretted that purchase.
    -8
  • masterofevil22
    Ahhh....I'll be on the EGG myself and on E of Bay with my 6950 (unlocked) the day this beast this arrives!!!!!!! :D

    WOW...Go ATI!!!!
    6
  • jdwii
    Well Amd you did it, Wow it's been a while since i was able to say that, I'm so impressed with these results everything you guys used to fail on you fixed at your GPU division. I'm not going to lie i did not think Amd would pay it off but they did. All i can say is Nice and well done. You guys beat Nvidia with a 28nnm gpu. I just wonder what's going on at nvidia and why their behind on the 28nm die, And their is rumors that Nvidia wont get their new card out until 2Q of 2012!!


    To bad these cards wont be out this year they would make a lot of money. Oh well parents usually buy them self stuff after christmas i guess.
    15
  • aznshinobi
    OMG DAT OVERCLOCKING!
    I can't wait to get the 7850 or 7870 and OC the crap out of it!
    23
  • Anonymous
    well when i read this review it did not really leave me with a "positive" outlook on these cards, and a moment ago i just checked another hardware review and they did not come close to this glominess, so i wont blame the amd fans for feeling that this review is biased becouse it sure as hell seems like it^^
    -12
  • Zero_
    Overclocking like a baws! It DOES beat a GTX590!
    10
  • bavman
    Damn, I didn't see this coming from AMD. This card is a beast...it takes on multi-gpu cards...price is a little high, but compared to the performance it looks like an amazing value.
    13
  • hardcore_gamer
    I'm getting one of these for my <30nm build (28 nm GPU and 22nm CPU). I'm callin it the "MOORE'S AR$E"
    19