Five Radeon HD 7970 3 GB Cards, Overclocked And Benchmarked

Power, Temperature, And Noise

Now that we know it's possible to achieve very similar performance by taking AMD's Tahiti GPU and its GDDR5 memory as far as they'll go, it's equally important to evaluate power use, thermals, and acoustics.

The blue bar represents idle power usage, and the green bar shows load consumption at each card's stock frequencies. There’s a 23 W spread between the contenders under load, likely reflecting a number of factors, including cooling solutions and voltage settings.

The dark grey bar is indicative of power consumption under load of the overclocked configurations. The only real surprise is a relatively high result from Sapphire's board.

Despite an eclectic range of cooling solutions, measured temperatures are quite similar at idle and under load using factory-supplied frequencies. The exception is VisionTek's card, perhaps as a result of its reference heat sink and fan. The rest of the field’s overclocked thermal results mirror the power draw chart.

Noise is a critical consideration when comparing graphics cards with the same GPU, particularly when we consider that AMD's reference implementation was observed to be quite noisy under load back when the card launched.

A majority of today's contenders perform much more admirably, regardless of whether the card is resting idle or working hard under a load. Of course, VisionTek’s board struggles as a result of its reliance on that familiar cooler from AMD. Overclocked and under load, both the Gigabyte and VisionTek cards generate more noise than we'd like, even as the rest of the pack is significantly quieter.

MSI’s Twin Frozr IV performs exceptionally well in this situation, generating slightly more noise than idle under load, and just a tad more than that overclocked.

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    Top Comments
  • aznshinobi
    I need a new pair of pants. Definitely graphics card eye candy. Specially the Sapphire one IMO. Do I hear giveaway THG?
    12
  • Other Comments
  • aznshinobi
    I need a new pair of pants. Definitely graphics card eye candy. Specially the Sapphire one IMO. Do I hear giveaway THG?
    12
  • schnitter
    I need to replace my 5870 HD I bought over 3 years ago. I can still play any game on HIGH at 1080p, but I want ULTRA on BF3 and Max Payne 3.

    Lets hope the 680 GTX becomes available to see what price these AMD cards end up at. I like AMD and how they don't rebrand their cards like nVidia, but $20 cheaper than 680 GTX is not cheap enough to sway me that way.
    3
  • hellfire24
    why a reference card(visiontek 7970) with non reference competitors?
    i am impressed with HIS IceQ X2 Turbo X but still MSi lightning is my favorite.they have beefier VRMs,great cooling and are overclocking beasts.
    -1
  • confish21
    Nice write up! Really helps when trying to peg down a card. Will be revisiting alot!
    3
  • Anonymous
    The gigabyte card pcb was BLUE, not BLACK :(
    7
  • nekromobo
    visiontek for "Particularly at its modest $279 price."

    $379 or $479??
    4
  • blazorthon
    nekromobovisiontek for "Particularly at its modest $279 price." $379 or $479??


    $479.99 (USD) is more or less the cheapest price point for any Radeon 7970.
    4
  • weatherdude
    Cool review. It'd be nice if SI units were included in the weights and lengths though. Guess I'll have to do a little math. It's very nice to know that the non-reference coolers are much quieter (excluding Gigabyte's) than the original design.

    Let's see some typos:

    In the 'Test System Setup And Benchmarks' page in the Operating System row it is written as Microsoft Windows 7 x6. I assume it's supposed to be x64.

    In the first paragraph of the 'Sapphire HD 7970 OC' page the card is described as "HD 7970 PC".
    3
  • Reynod
    Good review Don.

    I agree with your first and second choices ... well thought out.

    :)
    2
  • cangelini
    Fixed the typos; thanks weatherdude and nekromobo.
    3
  • supall
    I'm surprised the Asus DirectCUII didn't make it on here. Still, the MSI Lightning seems to be the best of the bunch in terms of performance, wattage, cooling, and noise, but at $50 more than the other cards, it's not very appealing.
    7
  • EzioAs
    Nice review.

    I hope you guys do another one like this later on the Radeon 7870 since imo, that is the best 7000 series card in terms of price to performance. It's just a shame that there are no new nvidia cards to push the price of the 7800 series lower. Please include the MSI 7870 hawk and the asus direct cu card as well if you do make the review :)
    7
  • shoot you
    I have to admit the 7970 really has quite a big OC headroom. I mean compared to the GTX 680 it really can catch up. hahahaha
    -1
  • rdc85
    I'm wondering why HIS do not sells IceQ X2 Turbo in NA......

    Is the shiping + tax will drove the price to high, or the market is too small and HIS brand not strong enough in NA?
    0
  • redemptionse
    The 12.4 Catalysts raise the overdrive OC limits and have been available for over a week now, why weren't they used?
    1
  • halls
    The first Gigabyte card certainly doesn't look like it has a black PCB...are my eyes messed up?
    2
  • meat81
    schnitter I like AMD and how they don't rebrand their cards like nVidia, but $20 cheaper than 680 GTX is not cheap enough to sway me that way.


    is that the only thing you like about AMD? Sad.
    -2
  • jaquith
    Nice Article & Thanks!

    From lead-in
    Quote:
    "GeForce GTX 680 cards are nowhere to be found, and the Radeon HD 7970 recently dropped to a much more attractive price."


    It would have been nice to toss-in a some GTX 680 benchmarks for comparison sake. Just reuse some of Chris's benchmarks -> http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/geforce-gtx-680-review-benchmark,3161.html or run your own.

    Otherwise this is only a reference vs non-reverence HD 7970 article. You 'should' have been able to OC theses cards all the same and the difference should be within margin of error. No doubt effective cooling & Noise is a critical part, but I'm a little confused here -- I assume both Temps & Noise data is based on Factory (OC if applicable) settings which is fine BUT what about your OC Temps & Noise data?? To me this is critically important, what's the use in OC benchmarks if you need Jet rated earmuffs and temps that (exaggerating) to melt lead? Duh, I misread the data.

    The HIS IceQ X2 Turbo (Turbo X) & MSI R7970 Lightning are the standouts with noise and temps with OC. Since I know how both noise & temps can change in a snap of a finger, both are fine. -- Thanks for that data!
    4
  • cknobman
    Love the review.

    Would have been cool to see one or two charts with all the cards overclocked vs a ref 680 just to see if highly overclocked 7970's can just about even the performance delta.
    5
  • cleeve
    hellfire24why a reference card(visiontek 7970) with non reference competitors?


    Two reasons:

    - It's the sample Visiontek submitted
    - Aside from that, it's great to see the lower-priced reference model represented
    7