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Sapphire HD 7970 OC

Five Radeon HD 7970 3 GB Cards, Overclocked And Benchmarked
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Sapphire’s HD 7970 OC is the company's top-of-the-line option, currently selling for $479.99 on Newegg (Update [6/1/2012]: Newegg recently jacked the price up to $580, destroying this card's originally-cited value. If you're interested in this board, we'd recommend shopping around.). At 11.5” by 5” x 1.75”, it's the thickest card in our competition, eating up slightly more than two expansion slots. Despite its width, the HD 7970 OC weighs 1 lb 14 oz, making it the second-lightest board in our round-up. That's less than AMD's reference design, even.

Rather than using the Radeon HD 7970's second firmware as a backup, Sapphire chose to do something else with AMD's BIOS switch, allowing enthusiasts their choice between an already-overclocked 950 MHz core and 1425 MHz memory frequency, or a more aggressive 1000 MHz GPU and 1450 MHz memory clock. This is a neat way to allow enthusiasts to easily squeeze more performance out of their hardware with the flip of a switch, literally.

As an aside, Sapphire’s submission sports the fastest factory memory clock of any Radeon HD 7970 we’ve seen. And yet, The card requires the same six- and eight-pin auxiliary power connectors as AMD's reference model.

The Dual-X cooler features two 90 mm axial-flow fans, three 6 mm and two 8 mm copper heat pipes, a copper block, and aluminum cooling fins. The shroud is plastic, but nicely detailed and stylized.

Sapphire opts for AMD's default output configuration, consisting of one dual-DVI port, HDMI, and a pair of mini-DisplayPort connectors.

Sapphire’s 7970 OC bundle includes a CrossFire bridge, a DVI-to-VGA adapter, an HDMI-to-DVI adapter, a mini-DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter, a mini-DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort adapter, a four-pin Molex-to-six-pin auxiliary adapter, a dual four-pin Molex-to-eight-pin auxiliary adapter, a software install CD, a quick-install guide, and a registration card. This is by far the most robust bundle in our round-up, and it'll accommodate a triple-monitor DVI-based setup right out of the box. Sapphire earns our praise for its value-added inclusions.

Overclocking Sapphire's HD 7970 OC

Sapphire's TriXX overclocking utility is a great little program that clearly comes from the same developers as HIS’ iTurbo app; both offer similar options, but with different skins. This isn’t a problem, since the two programs work well. Again, though, we're missing support for AMD's PowerTune technology, so we have to max it out at +20% in Catalyst Control Center to prevent the clocks from throttling back under load.

Whereas Catalyst Control Center's Overdrive applet tops out at 1125 MHz core and 1575 MHz memory clocks, the TriXX utility allows adjustments up to 1500 MHz and 2100 MHz, respectively, with a 1.3 V maximum voltage. 

We were able to push Sapphire's card to a stable 1175 MHz core and 1800 MHz memory overclock at 1.2 V.

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Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    aznshinobi , May 2, 2012 5:40 AM
    I need a new pair of pants. Definitely graphics card eye candy. Specially the Sapphire one IMO. Do I hear giveaway THG?
Other Comments
  • 12 Hide
    aznshinobi , May 2, 2012 5:40 AM
    I need a new pair of pants. Definitely graphics card eye candy. Specially the Sapphire one IMO. Do I hear giveaway THG?
  • 3 Hide
    schnitter , May 2, 2012 6:08 AM
    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.
  • -1 Hide
    hellfire24 , May 2, 2012 6:14 AM
    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.

  • 3 Hide
    confish21 , May 2, 2012 6:22 AM
    Nice write up! Really helps when trying to peg down a card. Will be revisiting alot!
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , May 2, 2012 6:26 AM
    The gigabyte card pcb was BLUE, not BLACK :( 
  • 4 Hide
    nekromobo , May 2, 2012 6:38 AM
    visiontek for "Particularly at its modest $279 price."

    $379 or $479??
  • 4 Hide
    blazorthon , May 2, 2012 6:47 AM
    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.
  • 3 Hide
    weatherdude , May 2, 2012 7:48 AM
    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".
  • 2 Hide
    Reynod , May 2, 2012 8:41 AM
    Good review Don.

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

    :) 
  • 3 Hide
    cangelini , May 2, 2012 9:58 AM
    Fixed the typos; thanks weatherdude and nekromobo.
  • 7 Hide
    supall , May 2, 2012 10:15 AM
    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 Hide
    EzioAs , May 2, 2012 11:32 AM
    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 :) 
  • -1 Hide
    shoot you , May 2, 2012 12:10 PM
    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
  • 0 Hide
    rdc85 , May 2, 2012 12:15 PM
    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?
  • 1 Hide
    redemptionse , May 2, 2012 12:20 PM
    The 12.4 Catalysts raise the overdrive OC limits and have been available for over a week now, why weren't they used?
  • 2 Hide
    halls , May 2, 2012 12:51 PM
    The first Gigabyte card certainly doesn't look like it has a black PCB...are my eyes messed up?
  • -2 Hide
    meat81 , May 2, 2012 1:04 PM
    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.
  • 4 Hide
    jaquith , May 2, 2012 1:05 PM
    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!
  • 5 Hide
    cknobman , May 2, 2012 1:30 PM
    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.
  • 7 Hide
    cleeve , May 2, 2012 1:55 PM
    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
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