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HIS 7970 X2: The Challenger

Radeon HD 7990 And GeForce GTX 690: Bring Out The Big Guns
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HIS 7970 X2: Can It Become The New King?

We first contacted HIS about its 7970 X2 during Computex, earlier this year, and followed the card's development after that. After beta testing a an early sample with the serial number of 7, we now have a production-ready card with the number 616. This is the version you should be seeing for sale soon, so we can finally share it with you.

Our card has the same technical specifications and features as the final version, except for its somewhat-makeshift plastic cover.

The black box containing the 7970 X2 is similar to what we've received other HIS cards in, so it should also be pretty close to the final version.

HIS is employing a controversial triple-slot design, which consumes quite a bit of expansion space. The idea would be that a card like this one would save you from having to buy two dual-slot boards in CrossFire, yielding a net gain of one slot, though.

More room to work inside gave HIS' engineers space to address cooling aggressively. Note the two 95 mm fans centered right above the Tahiti GPUs.

Up on top of the 7970 X2 you find three eight-pin power connectors. Each of those inputs is able to provide up to 150 W, necessary (and still not enough) to satisfy the card’s massive power requirements.

A look at the bare board shows us that HIS split up the power supplies for each GPU, separating them on the PCB. PowerColor does not do this on its own design.

What the HIS and PowerColor boards do share in common, however, are six power phases for each GPU and two phases for each 3 GB bank of GDDR5 memory. HIS uses Magic R30 coils on its implementation, leading to less coil whine. This is a much bigger issue for the competition, unfortunately.

HIS takes a unique approach to cooling. Instead of using one large heat sink across two GPUs, the company deploys two separate coolers. Each sits on top of its own GPU, and is controlled independently.

The way this card was designed, its heat pipes run horizontally, while the cooler's fins are oriented vertically. We don't like this. Half of the heat blown through the sinks ends up on the motherboard. The other half gets blown out of the card's top. There are corresponding advantages, of course. Since heat isn't blown out the back of the board, your hard drives don't receive the brunt of the exhaust. More than likely, HIS expects its 7970 X2 to end up in chassis with side fans, but we aren’t so sure we agree.

The visible dent you see in the shroud is there on purpose, due to a capacitor that was in the way. Our newer version of the card (the one that we benchmarked) doesn't have this dent.

The 7970 X2’s two GPUs are connected to a Lucidlogix LT22102, a 48-lane switch configured into one 16-lane upstream port and two 16-lane downstream ports. Unfortunately, it's limited to PCI Express 2.0 signaling. As a result, the PCI Express 3.0-capable Tahiti GPUs are forced back to second-gen transfer rates. Do we see this as an issue? Not really. Modern graphics processors still don't fully saturate a 16-lane PCIe 2.0 link.

Although our benchmark sample isn't representative of the final retail 7970 X2, it's fully functional. Once HIS has more to tell us about its official launch date and pricing information, we'll pass that information along.

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Top Comments
  • 25 Hide
    twinshadow , November 8, 2012 8:47 AM
    if you are spending 1000$ dollars on a video card paying a Power bill is not an issue
  • 24 Hide
    abbadon_34 , November 8, 2012 7:57 AM
    wow, microstuttering is a now a non issue , at least AMD
  • 21 Hide
    Anonymous , November 8, 2012 6:43 AM
    thanks for the in depth analysis with adaptive V-sync and radeon pro helping with micro stutter.

    not to take away anything for the hard work performed; i would have liked have seen nvidia's latest beta driver, 310.33, included also to see if nvidia is doing anything to improve the performance of their card instead of just adding 3d vision, AO, and sli profiles.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , November 8, 2012 5:40 AM
    IMHO, the GTX690 looks best. There is something really alluring about shiny white metallic shine and the fine metal mesh. Along with the fluorescent green branding.
    Maybe i am too much of a retro SF buff :) 
  • 12 Hide
    tacoslave , November 8, 2012 6:03 AM
    i wept
  • 18 Hide
    hellfire24 , November 8, 2012 6:04 AM
    your test system is sexy!!!!!!!
  • 20 Hide
    willyroc , November 8, 2012 6:05 AM
    You can't really go wrong either way with these generally insane(so to speak) cards.
  • -7 Hide
    amuffin , November 8, 2012 6:34 AM
    Is it just me or do the 7970X2 and 7990 coolers look so fast and fugly? :heink: 
  • 21 Hide
    Anonymous , November 8, 2012 6:43 AM
    thanks for the in depth analysis with adaptive V-sync and radeon pro helping with micro stutter.

    not to take away anything for the hard work performed; i would have liked have seen nvidia's latest beta driver, 310.33, included also to see if nvidia is doing anything to improve the performance of their card instead of just adding 3d vision, AO, and sli profiles.
  • 18 Hide
    esrever , November 8, 2012 6:45 AM
    can we get some quadfire benchmarks too? :D 
  • -6 Hide
    RazorBurn , November 8, 2012 6:55 AM
    AMD's Dual GPU at 500+ Watts of electricity is out for me.. Too Much Power and Noise..
  • 7 Hide
    mohit9206 , November 8, 2012 6:56 AM
    2 670's in sli is better than spending on a 690 and 2 7950's in Xfire is better than spending on a 7990. this way you save nearly $300 both ways
  • 24 Hide
    abbadon_34 , November 8, 2012 7:57 AM
    wow, microstuttering is a now a non issue , at least AMD
  • 10 Hide
    ojas , November 8, 2012 8:02 AM
    Good read!

    But, would have liked to see 680s in SLI, to see how they scale now compared to the 690.

    Also, would using two single GPUs in CF/SLI make a difference to the micro-stuttering charts? iirc, the PCIe controller is tied to the CPU for SB/IB chips? So that would mean no 3rd party bridge in between the two GPUs as in the case of the 7990 and 690. Would that make a diff?

    How do you manage to isolate the cards' power consumption at load (idle is simpler)? And noise too: how do you block out the case fans and CPU cooler?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , November 8, 2012 8:07 AM
    The radeon pro is saving AMD's butt

    But In the end, 690 was slower than 7990 average framerate but with Radeon Pro, it is the 7990 which is slower right?

    So yes it's better than without, but the 690 is faster, as smooth, and use a built in technology

    AMD really need to work on it's crossfire technology
  • 12 Hide
    blazorthon , November 8, 2012 8:08 AM
    amuffinIs it just me or do the 7970X2 and 7990 coolers look so fast and fugly?


    I don't think they look "fast and ugly", although I do think that the HIS model could do with some more finesse.
  • 10 Hide
    FormatC , November 8, 2012 8:17 AM
    Quote:
    How do you manage to isolate the cards' power consumption at load (idle is simpler)? And noise too: how do you block out the case fans and CPU cooler?
    The noise was measured with the open benchtable, not in case (no extra case fans and an ultra silent fan on the hidden CPU cooler)

    For the power consumption: 3 current clamps with monitoring ;) 
  • 17 Hide
    Novuake , November 8, 2012 8:42 AM
    Interesting, AMD has a winner at the top tier! That hasn't happened in a while. CODOS to that.
  • 25 Hide
    twinshadow , November 8, 2012 8:47 AM
    if you are spending 1000$ dollars on a video card paying a Power bill is not an issue
  • 6 Hide
    blazorthon , November 8, 2012 8:47 AM
    NovuakeInteresting, AMD has a winner at the top tier! That hasn't happened in a while. CODOS to that.


    Technically, HIS has a winner, not AMD because AMD didn't launch a 7990/7970X2 reference;)
  • -5 Hide
    blazorthon , November 8, 2012 8:54 AM
    twinshadowif you are spending 1000$ dollars on a video card paying a Power bill is not an issue


    Actually, the only person who I ever recommended a GTX 690 to wanted it specifically because of its low power consumption literally being enough to pay for itself compared to his previous graphics setup due to his high cost for power. Some people looking for such high end cards most certainly do care about power consumption.
  • 18 Hide
    FormatC , November 8, 2012 8:56 AM
    1 kW/h in Germany: 0.25 Euro (approx. 0.34 USD)
    This IS an issue. ;) 
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