AMD Radeon HD 7950 Review: Up Against GeForce GTX 580

Tessellation Performance And Audio Output


I like to use the HAWX 2 benchmark sequence as a way to gauge tessellation performance, since the feature can be turned on and off independently and I’ve seen what wireframe models of the geometry actually look like.

This was a metric that AMD very much did not like back when its Radeon HD 5870 was its best basis for comparison. The Radeon HD 6800-series cards improved the company’s handling of excessive geometry, and the 6900-series boards were even better.

Now, we can see that, in relative terms, the Radeon HD 7900s aren’t particularly great performers in HAWX 2. The 7950 trails Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 570 with tessellation turned on and off.

However, we’re not interested in the frame rate result. Rather, we want to know how much performance each card manages to retain when switching tessellation on.

Here, the Radeon HD 7900s shoot to the top as they post 82% of their tessellation-off frame rate. That’s better than any of the Nvidia cards, and a 10% improvement over the previous-generation flagship.

Audio Output

AMD was the first company to facilitate bitstreaming high-definition lossless audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Prior to that, your DVD playback software would have been responsible for decoding the compressed audio into linear PCM and sending that 16-bit/48 kHz signal over HDMI to your receiver. With the right Blu-ray, however, bitstreaming can get you 24-bit resolution and 96 kHz sampling. Now, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever be able to tell the difference. But for the folks who take comfort in knowing their equipment is running at its peak potential (yes, I’m personally OCD about this), this is a feature of interest.

Granted, the Radeon HD 7950 is too high-end of a card for most HTPCs. It’s long, its TDP is too high, and it makes too much noise under load. Nevertheless, I got it running in my own home theater environment and confirmed that bitstreaming works just as well on the Radeon HD 7900 series as it did in the two generations prior (using CyberLink’s PowerDVD 11).

Some of the card’s other audio-oriented features, like discrete digital multi-point audio, remain untested, as we’re not using any speaker-equipped displays in the lab. However, AMD’s driver framework for supporting multiple, independent audio streams appears to be in place.

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.