AMD Radeon HD 7950 Review: Up Against GeForce GTX 580

Power, Temperatures, And Noise


When most folks set up their machines, Windows 7, by default, is configured to shut off attached displays after a certain period of time and then put the entire system to sleep at some point thereafter. When we test, we don’t want those variables affecting our results, though, so we turn it all off.

Thus, the power numbers in the chart above reflect idle power consumption sitting on the Windows desktop—and they’re impressive to say the least. AMD’s single-GPU boards—current-generation and last-generation—prove themselves to be the best in this metric.

But the company went one step further with the ZeroCore feature set we introduced in AMD Radeon HD 7970: Promising Performance, Paper-Launched. The result of ZeroCore is even lower power draw once output to the display is cut.

The Radeon HD 7950 leads the way, with an idle system power consumption just over 93 W (that’s a Core i7-3960X-powered platform with 16 GB running at 4.2 GHz, remember).

If you think that’s cool, it gets better on the next page.

Clearly, AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 590 are the highest power consumers. Comparatively, the Radeon HD 7950, which averages 315 W of system power use across this test to the 6990’s 450 W and the GTX 590’s 490 W, is downright eco-friendly.


The two 28 nm Tahiti-based GPUs run significantly cooler than the 40 nm competition at idle.

Whereas most of the cards tested in a Metro 2033 loop are cooled in a way that keeps them from exceeding 86 degrees C, the Radeon HD 7900s want to stay in the 70s—and their fans blow hard enough to make sure that happens.


From exactly one meter behind each card’s rear I/O port, idle noise is fairly similar. In fact, although we went so far as to use a closed-loop liquid cooler for its quiet operation, the unit’s built-in pump was the loudest component on our test bench.

In an effort to keep each card within preset thermal limits, these boards all employ different fan speed profiles.

The Radeon HD 6990 is notoriously obtrusive. Despite AMD’s claims that we ended up with a defective sample, we have two of these things running in the lab, and they’re both noisy beasts.

Despite lessons we would have hoped AMD's engineers would have learned from the Radeon HD 6990, though, and even though this new architecture doesn’t get particularly hot under a normal load, the Radeon HD 7970’s fan is also disturbingly loud. It’s not as outright-obscene as the dual-GPU card. However, the company’s design guys could certainly take a hint or two from the effort that went into Nvidia’s GF110-based boards. Even the power-hungry GeForce GTX 590 runs quieter than the new Radeon HD 7950 on display today.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • bak0n
    More good GPU news. Keep em coming!
  • Im not Paying $450 for barely better then GTX 580 performance a year after its released. They will have to knock that down to like $300, $250 for a 2gb version when Nvidia releases their next gen cards. Wait those money grubers out imo.
  • thesnappyfingers
    stm I was thinking the same thing. But then agian it is still cheaper, more efficient compared to the gtx 580. Still, I am waiting it out till kepler.
  • rmpumper
    7950/7970 should be priced ~$50+ of 6950/6970 prices. So as it is now, if nvidia's gtx680 will be better than 7970 they will price it at >$600? That's a load of crock.
  • Derbixrace
    great value compared to the 7970 because you can OC it to be faster than it on stock voltage and even further with voltage tweaking ;)
  • esrever
    I'd love to have one once kepler comes and these drop in price. Im gonna start saving.
  • It beats the GTX580 one on one in most benchies and that's not taking into account the overclocking headroom these things have, they're also power friendlier and with XFX, cooler, quieter and expected to be cheaper so what's the problem? Me thinks me smell's NV fanboys!!
  • hardcore_gamer
    According to W1zzard's review, this card tops the Performance / Watt chart.
  • primonatron
    Are the Skyrim benchmarks on the v1.4 beta patch?

  • dragonsqrrl
    rmpumper7950/7970 should be priced ~$50+ of 6950/6970 prices. So as it is now, if nvidia's gtx680 will be better than 7970 they will price it at >$600? That's a load of crock.Every rumor and leak I've seen so far on gk104 pricing seems to indicate otherwise...
    According to Nvidia's AIB partners the initial price set for the first gk104 based graphics card is $300. Of course this can go up or down based on the competition. Unfortunately, I have the feeling it'll be going up.