Five Radeon HD 7970 3 GB Cards, Overclocked And Benchmarked

AMD's Radeon HD 7970: More Affordable, More Available

After a handful of price drops on AMD's highest-end graphics cards, the Radeon HD 7970 is now more attractive than it was immediately after the introduction of Nvidia's $500 GeForce GTX 680. Particularly because Nvidia's flagship card is still very difficult to find more than a month after its launch. 

With that in mind, added to the fact that AMD's board partners have had ample time to make their own improvements to the company's top-end model, we have a great opportunity to revisit the Radeon HD 7970. Five different vendors sent models for us to consider, resulting in an impressive round-up of Tahiti GPU-based graphics cards.

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Header Cell - Column 0 GigabyteR797OC-3GDHIS IceQ X2Turbo (Turbo X)MSI R7970LightningSapphire HD 7970 OC (Alt. BIOS)VisionTekHD 7970
GraphicsClock1000 MHz1050 MHz(1120 MHz)1070 MHz950 MHz(1000 MHz)925 MHz
MemoryClock1375 MHz1400 MHz1400 MHz1425 MHz(1450 MHz)1375 MHz
GDDR5Memory3 GB3 GB3 GB3 GB3 GB
CoolerWindforceIceQ X2Twin Frozr IVDual-XReference
Size(PCB & Cooler)10.5" x 4.75" x 1.5"12" x 5.5" x 1.5"11.75" x 5.5" x 1.5"11.5" x 5" x 1.75"12" x 5.5" x 1.5"
Weight1 lb 10.6 oz2 lb 1.3 oz2 lb 7.6 oz1 lb 14.1 oz2 lb 1.3 oz
Connectors1 x DL-DVI, 1 x HDMI2 x mDP1 x DL-DVI, 1 x HDMI 2 x mDP2 x SL-DVI,4x mDP1 x DL-DVI, 1 x HDMI 2 x mDP1 x DL-DVI, 1 x HDMI 2 x mDP
Form FactorDual-slotDual-slotDual-slotMore thanDual-slotDual-slot
GPU VoltageAdjustmentMSI AfterburnerHIS iTurboMSI AfterburnerSapphire TriXXMSIAfterburner
SpecialFeaturesAnd SoftwareN/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Warranty3-Year2-Year3-Year2-YearLimited Lifetime
Price$499.99(Newegg)$499.99 (MSRP)($519.99 MSRP)$549.99(Newegg)$499.99 (Newegg)$579.99(Updated)$479.99(Newegg)

Note that HIS has two models represented on the chart. We were sent the company's "Turbo X" model for testing, and we believe it has the highest factory core overclock of any Radeon HD 7970 in the world at 1120 MHz. Unfortunately, though, this product is not expected to be available in the U.S. (only in Europe and Asia). Instead, we'll be getting the "Turbo" model, with no X and a 1050 MHz core clock. Thus, we benchmarked the card a second time with HIS' more conservative specification to demonstrate what North America can expect.

In lieu of HIS' Turbo X, MSI's 7970 Lightning sports the highest-clocked core available for sale to our U.S. audience, running at 1070 MHz. Sapphire's HD 7970 OC enjoys the distinction of shipping with the fastest memory compared to all other Radeon HD 7970s. However, its core operates a more modest 1000 MHz.

Operating frequencies aren't the only variables affecting our decision of what Radeon HD 7970 to recommend, though. Software bundles, acoustics, thermals, price tags, support, and overclocking headroom all come into play. Let's break down each model and explore what these five vendors offer.

  • aznshinobi
    I need a new pair of pants. Definitely graphics card eye candy. Specially the Sapphire one IMO. Do I hear giveaway THG?
  • schnitter
    I need to replace my 5870 HD I bought over 3 years ago. I can still play any game on HIGH at 1080p, but I want ULTRA on BF3 and Max Payne 3.

    Lets hope the 680 GTX becomes available to see what price these AMD cards end up at. I like AMD and how they don't rebrand their cards like nVidia, but $20 cheaper than 680 GTX is not cheap enough to sway me that way.
  • hellfire24
    why a reference card(visiontek 7970) with non reference competitors?
    i am impressed with HIS IceQ X2 Turbo X but still MSi lightning is my favorite.they have beefier VRMs,great cooling and are overclocking beasts.

  • confish21
    Nice write up! Really helps when trying to peg down a card. Will be revisiting alot!
  • The gigabyte card pcb was BLUE, not BLACK :(
  • nekromobo
    visiontek for "Particularly at its modest $279 price."

    $379 or $479??
  • blazorthon
    nekromobovisiontek for "Particularly at its modest $279 price." $379 or $479??
    $479.99 (USD) is more or less the cheapest price point for any Radeon 7970.
  • weatherdude
    Cool review. It'd be nice if SI units were included in the weights and lengths though. Guess I'll have to do a little math. It's very nice to know that the non-reference coolers are much quieter (excluding Gigabyte's) than the original design.

    Let's see some typos:

    In the 'Test System Setup And Benchmarks' page in the Operating System row it is written as Microsoft Windows 7 x6. I assume it's supposed to be x64.

    In the first paragraph of the 'Sapphire HD 7970 OC' page the card is described as "HD 7970 PC".
  • Reynod
    Good review Don.

    I agree with your first and second choices ... well thought out.

  • cangelini
    Fixed the typos; thanks weatherdude and nekromobo.