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Sapphire Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition Review: Gaming On 6 GB Of GDDR5

Sapphire Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition Review: Gaming On 6 GB Of GDDR5
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Sapphire gives its new flagship graphics card 6 GB of very fast memory, compared to the mere 3 GB on AMD's reference card. Does this give Sapphire's Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition a real-world speed boost? We connect it to an epic six-screen array to find out.

Sapphire’s new flagship graphics card, the Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition 6 GB, has two times as much GDDR5 memory as AMD's reference Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition board. The company employs the same GPU discussed in AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Review: Give Me Back That Crown!, allowing its own Lethal Boost technology (essentially automatic overclocking) to take the chip up to 1200 MHz and the memory to 1600 MHz when thermal headroom allows. The combination of a faster clock rates and extra memory should yield a nice performance boost for the folks who know how to capitalize.

Wait. There are ways to take advantage of all of that memory, aren't there?

Lots of extra RAM is most effective at high resolutions and with lots of anti-aliasing applied. So, that's what we'll be looking most closely at today.

Nothing says big resolutions like an Eyefinity setup composed of six monitors. You might think that we'd need a special Eyefinity Edition of the Radeon HD 7970 to achieve such a thing, but it's indeed possible using a trio of splitters. The only question to answer is whether the card's single Tahiti GPU is fast enough to drive such a massive setup.

Speaking of massive, we decided to go all-out for this little experiment, making it a public event. Our point of comparison was the Radeon HD 7970 from Gigabyte, which we recently reviewed in Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock: Now With Windforce 5X. For the sake of our head-to-head, we overclocked the Gigabyte board to 1200 MHz, giving us a good baseline for 3 GB versus 6 GB of memory.

Technical Specifications and Features

Sapphire naturally went with AMD's Tahiti GPU for its top-end board, including the built-in TDP limiter that throttles clock rate beyond a set thermal ceiling. We'll be testing to see if that turns out to be a good move. The card's 6 GB of memory running at 1600 MHz represents the most you'll probably ever see from this platform.

Here's how the card's technical specifications size up to AMD's original Radeon HD 7970, the GHz Edition card, and Gigabyte's take on the board:


Sapphire Toxic HD 7970 GHz EditionGigabyte Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
Radeon HD 7970
Stream Processors
  20482048
2048 2048
Texture Units
128
128
128128
Full Color ROPs
32
32
3232
GPU Clock
Standard:
1050 MHz Base
1100 MHz Boost

Lethal Boost:
1100 MHz Base
1200 MHz Boost
1080 MHz
1000 MHz Base
1050 MHz Boost
925 MHz
Texture Fill Rate
140.8 MHz Gtex/s
153.6 Gtex/s
138.2 Gtex/s
134.4 Gtex/s
118.4 Gtex/s
Memory Clock
1500 MHz
1600 MHz
1375 MHz
1500 MHz
1375 MHz
Memory Bus
384-Bit
384-Bit
384-Bit
384-Bit
Memory Bandwidth
288 GB/s
307.2 GB/s
264 GB/s
288 GB/s
264 GB/s
Graphics Memory
6 GB GDDR5
3 GB GDDR53 GB GDDR53 GB GDDR5
Die Size
365 mm²
Transistors
4.31 Billion
Process Technology
28 nm
Power Connectors
2 x 8-pin
2 x 8-pin
1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin1 x 8-pin, 1 x 6-pin
Maximum Power
Consumption (TDP)
320 W300 W
275 W250 W


Sapphire's card features one dual-link DVI, one single-link DVI, one HDMI, and two Mini DisplayPort connectors. This makes the Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition 6 GB more flexible than even AMD's reference design. The card's bracket employs openings for better ventilation, though its axial fans don't necessarily promote effective exhaust.


Description
Dimensions
275 (L) x 115 (H) x 42 (D) mm
Included Software
Driver CD
Sapphire TriXX
In the Box
CrossFire Bridge, DVI-to-VGA Adapter, Mini DP-to-DP Adapter, Active Mini DP-to-DVI Adapter, 6-pin to 2 x 4-pin Power Cable, 1.8 m HDMI 1.4a Cable


Sapphire's Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition 6 GB in Pictures

Sapphire’s Vapor-X cooler was developed specifically for this card. Visually, it looks similar to Sapphire's other cards. However, you can see the special vapor chamber under the plastic shroud and two 90 mm fans.

Sapphire deviates from AMD’s reference design with a 12-layer PCB populated with what the company calls its Black Diamond chokes and MOSFETs with DirectFET packaging technology on both sides. The card’s backplate is used to both stabilize and cool the card. We'll go into more depth on this, of course.

The top of Sapphire's Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition 6 GB has two much-needed eight-pin power connectors.

Sapphire's logo lights up, which looks pretty sharp in the dark.

The cooler employs four heatpipes.

The Sapphire Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition 6 GB is quite thick, almost making it a three-slot card. You need the right motherboard to run two of these in CrossFire.

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Top Comments
  • 32 Hide
    Youngmind , September 4, 2012 4:55 AM
    The 6gb of memory might not have much of an effect with only a single card, but I wonder if it will have a larger impact if you use in configurations with more graphics cards such as tri-crossfire and quad-crossfire? If people are willing to spend so much money on monitors, I think they'd be willing to spend a lot of money on tri/quad graphics card configurations.
  • 15 Hide
    FormatC , September 4, 2012 6:19 AM
    Quote:
    Tom's Hardware, if you are going to be reviewing a graphics card with 6 GB of VRAM you have to review at least two of them in Crossfire.
    Sapphire was unfortunately not able to send two cards. That's annoying, but not our problem. And: two of these are cards are deadly for my ears ;) 
  • 14 Hide
    tpi2007 , September 4, 2012 5:44 AM
    YoungmindThe 6gb of memory might not have much of an effect with only a single card, but I wonder if it will have a larger impact if you use in configurations with more graphics cards such as tri-crossfire and quad-crossfire? If people are willing to spend so much money on monitors, I think they'd be willing to spend a lot of money on tri/quad graphics card configurations.


    This.

    BigMack70Would be very interested in seeing this in crossfire at crazy resolutions compared to a pair of 3GB cards in crossfire to see if the vram helps in that case


    And this.

    Tom's Hardware, if you are going to be reviewing a graphics card with 6 GB of VRAM you have to review at least two of them in Crossfire. VRAM is not cumulative, so using two regular HD 7970 3 GB in Crossfire still means that you only have a 3 GB framebuffer, so for high resolutions with multiple monitors, 6 GB might make the difference.

    So, are we going to get an update to this review ? As it is it is useless. Make a review with at least two of those cards with three 30" 1600p monitors. That is the kind of setup someone considering buying one of those cards will have. And that person won't buy just one card. Those cards with 6 GB of VRAM were made to be used at least in pairs. I'm surprised Sapphire didn't tell you guys that in the first place. In any case, you should have figured it out.
Other Comments
  • 32 Hide
    Youngmind , September 4, 2012 4:55 AM
    The 6gb of memory might not have much of an effect with only a single card, but I wonder if it will have a larger impact if you use in configurations with more graphics cards such as tri-crossfire and quad-crossfire? If people are willing to spend so much money on monitors, I think they'd be willing to spend a lot of money on tri/quad graphics card configurations.
  • 6 Hide
    robthatguyx , September 4, 2012 5:10 AM
    i think this would perform much better with a trifire.if one 7970 reference can handle 3 screens than 3 of these could easily eat 6 screen,in my op
    YoungmindThe 6gb of memory might not have much of an effect with only a single card, but I wonder if it will have a larger impact if you use in configurations with more graphics cards such as tri-crossfire and quad-crossfire? If people are willing to spend so much money on monitors, I think they'd be willing to spend a lot of money on tri/quad graphics card configurations.

  • 8 Hide
    palladin9479 , September 4, 2012 5:20 AM
    YoungmindThe 6gb of memory might not have much of an effect with only a single card, but I wonder if it will have a larger impact if you use in configurations with more graphics cards such as tri-crossfire and quad-crossfire? If people are willing to spend so much money on monitors, I think they'd be willing to spend a lot of money on tri/quad graphics card configurations.


    Seeing as in both SLI and CFX memory contents are copied to each card, you would practically need that much for ridiculously large screen playing. One card can not handle multiple screens as this was designed for, you need at least two for a x4 screen and three for a x6 screen. The golden rule seems to be two screens per high end card.
  • 14 Hide
    tpi2007 , September 4, 2012 5:44 AM
    YoungmindThe 6gb of memory might not have much of an effect with only a single card, but I wonder if it will have a larger impact if you use in configurations with more graphics cards such as tri-crossfire and quad-crossfire? If people are willing to spend so much money on monitors, I think they'd be willing to spend a lot of money on tri/quad graphics card configurations.


    This.

    BigMack70Would be very interested in seeing this in crossfire at crazy resolutions compared to a pair of 3GB cards in crossfire to see if the vram helps in that case


    And this.

    Tom's Hardware, if you are going to be reviewing a graphics card with 6 GB of VRAM you have to review at least two of them in Crossfire. VRAM is not cumulative, so using two regular HD 7970 3 GB in Crossfire still means that you only have a 3 GB framebuffer, so for high resolutions with multiple monitors, 6 GB might make the difference.

    So, are we going to get an update to this review ? As it is it is useless. Make a review with at least two of those cards with three 30" 1600p monitors. That is the kind of setup someone considering buying one of those cards will have. And that person won't buy just one card. Those cards with 6 GB of VRAM were made to be used at least in pairs. I'm surprised Sapphire didn't tell you guys that in the first place. In any case, you should have figured it out.
  • 15 Hide
    FormatC , September 4, 2012 6:19 AM
    Quote:
    Tom's Hardware, if you are going to be reviewing a graphics card with 6 GB of VRAM you have to review at least two of them in Crossfire.
    Sapphire was unfortunately not able to send two cards. That's annoying, but not our problem. And: two of these are cards are deadly for my ears ;) 
  • 3 Hide
    jupiter optimus maximus , September 4, 2012 6:23 AM
    tpi2007This.And this.Tom's Hardware, if you are going to be reviewing a graphics card with 6 GB of VRAM you have to review at least two of them in Crossfire. VRAM is not cumulative, so using two regular HD 7970 3 GB in Crossfire still means that you only have a 3 GB framebuffer, so for high resolutions with multiple monitors, 6 GB might make the difference.So, are we going to get an update to this review ? As it is it is useless. Make a review with at least two of those cards with three 30" 1600p monitors. That is the kind of setup someone considering buying one of those cards will have. And that person won't buy just one card. Those cards with 6 GB of VRAM were made to be used at least in pairs. I'm surprised Sapphire didn't tell you guys that in the first place. In any case, you should have figured it out.

    Why not go to the uber-extreme and have crossfire X (4gpus) with six 2500X1600 monitors and crank up the AA to 4x super sampling to prove once and for all in stone.
  • -1 Hide
    esrever , September 4, 2012 6:35 AM
    The normal 7970s seem much better than the ghz edition.
  • 2 Hide
    freggo , September 4, 2012 6:55 AM
    FormatCSapphire was unfortunately not able to send two cards. That's annoying, but not our problem. And: two of these are cards are deadly for my ears


    Thanks for the review. The noise demo alone helps in making a purchase decission.
    No sale !

    Anyone know why no card has been designed to be turned OFF ( 0 Watts !) when idle, and the system switching to internal graphics for just desktop stuff or simple tasks?
    Then applications like Photoshop, Premiere or the ever popular Crisis could 'wake up' the card and have the system switch over.

    Or are there cards like that ?


  • 2 Hide
    FormatC , September 4, 2012 7:03 AM
    For noise comparison between oc'ed Radeons HD 7970 take a look at this:
    http://www.tomshardware.de/Tahiti-XT2-HD-7970-X-X-Edition,testberichte-241091-6.html
  • 3 Hide
    dudewitbow , September 4, 2012 7:06 AM
    freggoThanks for the review. The noise demo alone helps in making a purchase decission.No sale !Anyone know why no card has been designed to be turned OFF ( 0 Watts !) when idle, and the system switching to internal graphics for just desktop stuff or simple tasks?Then applications like Photoshop, Premiere or the ever popular Crisis could 'wake up' the card and have the system switch over.Or are there cards like that ?


    I think that has been applied to laptops, but not on the desktop scene. One of the reasons why I would think its not as useful on a desktop scene is even if your build has stuff off, the PSU is the least efficient when on near 0% load, so no matter what, your still going to burn electricity just by having the computer on. All gpus nowandays have downclocking features when its not being on load(my 7850 downclocks to 300mhz on idle) but I wouldnt think cards will go full out 0.
  • 0 Hide
    mesab66 , September 4, 2012 7:27 AM
    Nice review. However, most of us would have been able to work out the benchmarks in our heads - we've all seen similar reviews and understand that, beyond a minimum, more memory in a single card setup makes little/no difference. The company is trying to lure us into a multi-card setup - hoping that the memory benifits there override/mask out the obvious significant noise issue.

    If these companies - or ourselves - can tackle the noise then such card's traget senario would be realised. Of course, even here, for the rest of us mere mortals we still have one more significant 'hurdle'........cost......so we'll keep waiting.
  • 2 Hide
    spat55 , September 4, 2012 9:36 AM
    far too much money, would rather buy a TV with that!
  • 0 Hide
    hellfire24 , September 4, 2012 10:25 AM
    for a single monitor,this is waste! 3GB is enough.
  • 3 Hide
    spentshells , September 4, 2012 11:31 AM
    This did not feel like an enthusiast review.

    I realize it is expensive but the review needed another tox for CF and some proper monitors.

    Lack luster to say the least. Nothing to say wow about here, I have a feeling 2 or 3 these in cf on water or phase change is something I will have to hunt down myself on the internet
  • 0 Hide
    shin0bi272 , September 4, 2012 11:48 AM
    Would like to see a comparison at 3 monitors against a Galaxy GeForce GTX 680 SOC White Edition ...

    You know since an even number of monitors means youre looking at a lovely seam running right down the middle of your view.
  • 3 Hide
    Yuka , September 4, 2012 2:05 PM
    "All of that makes Sapphire's Toxic HD 7970 GHz Edition an answer in search of a problem. We can’t think of a usage scenario for which we’d recommend it. If you really dig the effort Sapphire put into its Vapor-X cooling solution, we recommend you check out the Vapor-X HD 7970 GHz Edition 3 GB card, and use the difference to take your better half out to a nice dinner."

    Really? I can think Crossfire and use 6x30" monitors. If you're getting an expensive set up, why not go all the way? This is the Beyron of setups after all!

    And yes, it was a very unfair conclusion, since regular people is no the target customer of this kind of card. I thought Toms had more enthusiast blood.

    Cheers!
  • 0 Hide
    myufox , September 4, 2012 2:22 PM
    I heard the same thing said about 1GB and 2GB. Hang tight for a year or so and 6GB will be there. Also high resolution screens like the retina displays will demand much much more from our graphics cards, as they become more popular. Only just now has IPS panels really start becoming in demand for computer monitors thanks to Ipad, and next will be the retina displays.
  • 1 Hide
    rebel1280 , September 4, 2012 2:24 PM
    Why not just hook it up to a 1080P projector 0.o ... or THREE 1080P projectors?!!!! that would be awesome!
  • 0 Hide
    rthorington , September 4, 2012 2:29 PM
    How effective would the 6GB of video RAM be for Microsoft's RemoteFX (giving multiple users -- single or possibly dual displays)?
  • -1 Hide
    rmerwede , September 4, 2012 3:06 PM
    Who the heck would run at that rez in Eyefinity 6? Why not 5760x2160?
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