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AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Review: Give Me Back That Crown!

New Drivers Deliver; Radeon HD 7970 Claims A Symbolic Win

AMD’s driver team deserves to take this weekend off. Its beta Catalyst 12.7 build does stellar things to the performance of several games in our benchmark suite. No longer is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 670 faster than the Radeon HD 7970. And, in fact, these new drivers are largely responsible for the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition card outmaneuvering GeForce GTX 680 in most of the tests we ran.

Suddenly, the vanilla Radeon HD 7970 looks a lot more attractive priced between $460 and $480. So, where does that leave this new GHz Edition card?

Rather than simply replacing the original Radeon HD 7970, AMD sees its 1000+ MHz model coexisting. Prices are going to start at $500, the company says, and we’re assuming that covers the reference-class board. Cards with aftermarket cooling will almost certainly cost more. Expect to start seeing availability next week, with broader supply rolling in the week after.

Again, AMD’s factory cooler is disturbingly loud, so avoid that. But if board partners can tack on more interesting solutions, like the ones we saw in our Radeon HD 7950 round-up, and still manage to keep prices close to $500, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition will take its place in front of the GeForce GTX 680.

Here's the rub, though. In a world without GeForce GTX 670, Nvidia’s 680 might still be on our radar, and we’d have a proper grudge match on our hands in the high-end space. That’s simply not the case anymore, though. Today, there are other high-end GPUs that offer nearly as much performance at much more attractive prices, dissuading us from either company’s single-GPU flagship.  

We already know that GeForce GTX 670 performs within a few percentage points of 680, and for $100 less. Moreover, once Catalyst 12.7 goes public and puts the older 7970 in the same league as GeForce GTX 680, it’d simply make more sense to save the $50 and do a little overclocking of your own. Shoot, I have two retail 7970s here that both hit the core frequency limiter in Overdrive at 1125 MHz, and have no troubling achieving the same 1500 MHz memory settings as the GHz Edition card.  

There’s no guarantee that 7970s will continue overclocking as well as they have been, particularly now that AMD is saving the top-binned ASICs for this new model. However, we’d rather save some money and come close. For that reason, the original Radeon HD 7970 and GeForce GTX 670 remain our favorite gaming graphics cards.