Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock: Now With Windforce 5X

Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock is huge, heavy, overclocked, and very different-looking. Its Windforce 5X cooler employs five 40 mm fans. We benchmark the card, spend some time tweaking it, and measure the noise those blowers make.

Editor's Note: I don't want to spoil the end of today's story, but this card technically isn't available in the U.S. Instead, Gigabyte is selling the few it made in Europe and Asia, which works out well for our international audience. However, the company was kind enough to redirect one board to the States for the purpose of giving to a lucky Tom's Hardware reader. You're going to want to read through to the end of our coverage of the Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock for your chance to win!

Apparently, there is still such thing as cool-looking and technically-impressive graphics cards. Take Gigabyte’s Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock with Windforce 5X as an example. The company didn't necessarily reinvent the wheel here, but it did introduce a new idea in cooling. Contrary to what we’re accustomed to seeing from axial-flow fans that pollute the inside of a chassis with heated air or centrifugal fans that push exhaust out of an I/O bracket, this particular product sucks warm air away from PCB, pushing it up and out the side of a case.

Of course, in order for this to work, you need an enclosure with an opening on the side. That's going to be a difficult prerequisite for many enthusiasts to satisfy. But the advantage you get is that warm air doesn't recirculate and impact other components inside of the system. 

Gigabyte's approach is interesting. Large-diameter fans naturally won't fit. And air needs to be sucked in across the entire length of the card. So, the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 Super Overclock uses a quintet of 40 mm fans.

Today, we want to answer three questions about this new card: How loud is it? How warm does it run? And how does it perform?

At first, we were most afraid that five small fans cooling a large GPU were going to generate a ton of noise. Fortunately, that wasn't the case. But we still needed to make some modifications of our own before we were satisfied with the card's performance.

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  • unksol
    While the cooler is an interesting concept, and the cards components are solid build quality and attention to detail seem to be severely lacking. The cooler isn't even designed for this board. Loose screws? thermal pads and TIM you have to scrape off/replace and void your warranty? And on a review sample of all things. I can't imagine one off the line would improve that situation...

    And while good on Toms for reporting it why isnt the card tested as it comes from the factory so we know what to actually expect...
  • I will surely like to have that Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock graphics card and be the only one in the US to claim so.
  • amuffin
    The Gigabyte SOC Cards were always on of the most intriguing series out there of GPU's!
  • jase240
    I like the idea of this card, but really that thing is LOUD. I have an Asus GTX 670 Direct CUII TOP and its silent even at load its barely audible. Personally I think if someone is going to overclock to the extent that they need a card that keeps the ambient temps to be low, they will probably be liquid cooling their CPU with a radiator at the top of their case(that's what I'm doing).

    Honestly though if this card could be a little quieter it would be a great standard considering most people do still overclock with air coolers, and one thing bad for air coolers is a hot GPU blowing air towards the CPU.
  • goodguy713
    To be honest i think its a pretty sexy card.. loud yea.. but still a sweet card.. ill keep my fingers crossed..
  • JeanLuc
    Yikes at the fan noise. Makes me glad I invested in a water cooling loop!
  • Over 90 degrees celcius? That card might not last too long if its under load all the time!
  • hellfire24
    gigabyte gtx 7970 *house brick* edition.
  • gsxrme
    Water cooling is truly the only option for really overclocking. Those fans are way to noisy. I wish toms had a 1300Mhz GTX680 listed because my factory ASUS reference board even hits 1300Mhz Core / 6750Mhz Ram with no mods or voltage tweaks. I don't see this as a breakthrough and with the cost of 2500 res monitors less than 1% of the market are running that high.
  • nforce4max
    This card isn't meant for the chickens that want cards to mostly silent but is for those who are much more aggressive in overclocking while being more forgiving when it comes to noise. This card isn't that loud compared to some rack mounted servers, I think that you guys could have pushed it further (why not) despite the power consumption. I like the build quality despite the R10 rated inductors that are driving the memory and gpu Q_Q As for the cooler I wonder if the heat pips only make contact with the vapor chamber or actually part of it? It isn't hard to design a good cooler but will cost more to produce.

    A lot of noise is a lot cheaper than going liquid cooling and as hot as it gets where I live you Need a really good cooling solution.
  • razor512
    For those complaining about the fans, remember that cooling design is designed around a multi videocard config.

    With that design, you can have 2 cards right next to each other and not have any cooling issues such as 1 card blocking the air intake of another card.

    these cards run hot when just alone, a standard cooling design with a SLI or crossfire config where the back of one card is very close to the air intake of the other, can cause the second card to overheat, especially when overclocking.

    (anyone remember 8800GTX and how it handled overclocking+ SLI)

    A better solution will be some kind of duct work to have a single large fan located at the side of the card. Or better yet, a sealed liquid cooling solution. many quality cases will have space for 1 to 2 120mm fans on the side panel as well as 1-2 rear 120mm fans, there is more than enough space to add a few radiators.
  • zhuddo
    I wish they made the comp international.. /:
  • jaquith
    45 dBA is way too noisy to enjoy 'quite' gaming -- water cooling is really needed. Also, small fans are too high pitched for 'my' ears, and 2 or 3 larger side fans IMO would be a better option.

    Example - Gigabyte's GV-R797TO-3GD Radeon HD 7970 -

  • ojas
    aren't jets engines louder than 100 dB(A)? :P
  • maxinexus
    Nice card but...40mm fans will always make noise and you need a case with a side exhaust. Why in the heck they don't use better memory modules? If mems could be pushed to 6k-7k that would def overtake ovrcked 680.
    gsxrme the highest resolution is needed to stress these cards to the limit...anything lower is overkill for em
  • larkspur
    Razor512For those complaining about the fans, remember that cooling design is designed around a multi videocard config.

    Yes and there are only 200 of these being sold in Europe/Asia so unless you combine it with some other 7970 (one that pollutes the inside of the case with hot air or one that makes a ton of noise blowing all its air out the back I/O) you aren't going to be using two of them in a multi-card setup. So the heat/noise you would have saved is lost to the 2nd card. Couple that for the need for a side panel for this card's exhaust (while most other video cards can use the side panel as an intake) and you'll have turbulent, inefficient and noisy airflow inside the case.

    Not very smart to design a card for XFire that won't have enough availability to actually get two of them. For a card whose strength is multi-card setups, they sure didn't send Tom's two to test, you think with 200 cards available someone will manage to land two of them? Only 200 cards total? There's no shortage of 7970 GPUs - It's pretty clear that Gigabyte aborted this one somewhere along the way.
  • zaxevil
    cool ! very nice looking
  • jase240
    I'm here to add to a comment I posted,

    This card would be GREAT for Crossfire, I didn't think of it before but if they would make more cards designed like this it would make tight crossfire/SLi setups easier. Without the worry of the cards overheating due to bad airflow.
  • ElMoIsEviL
    Oh boy... why do people always mention the nVIDIA GTX 680. It is a good Gaming card but HORRIBLE for compute. It sucks so much that a GTX 285 can compete with it in that domain.

    Try running OpenCL apps like Bitcoin/Litecoin mining apps. Try running OpenCL Raytracing. This card just plain sucks.

    Now a Radeon 7970... that's a beast. At 1,300MHz it can produce over 850 Mhash/s using OpenCL/Java AES Decryption software. How does a GTX 680 fare? 90 Mhash/s (no joke).
  • Once again, another heat pipe design where the heat pipes are UPSIDE DOWN! So, all the refrigerant just sits at the end of the heat pipes and doesn't go anywhere. Do companies even think anymore before they design this garbage? I bet if Toms were to turn the case upside down (so the refrigerant actually falls to the correct area), the windforce 5x would cool a lot better than 90 deg. C.

    Still waiting for this heatpipe fad to die out and copper coolers to hit the market again. Then we wouldn't have to worry about orientation of the heatsink, and no 90 deg C (194 deg f for us yanks) temps!

    just my 2 cents.
  • FormatC
    In 99% of cases the card should be installed in the case. There is no up or down for the heatpipes, because there are oriented horizontally. ;)
  • falchard
    I think the fail cooling would be obvious since nearly all of us assemble our own computers. Its very simple, a large low rpm fan cools better then many small high rpm fans.
  • pezonator
    Lol, this card is available in Australia for $519, the OC version is $499 and the Ghz edition is $529. I would have thought this would be more expensive than the Ghz edition, but given the lower clocks, I suppose it makes sense. The cheapest 7970 is a stock reference model from HIS for $469 followed by reference Sapphire at $479. Not sure if my 670 FTW was worth the $529....
  • funguseater
    falchardI think the fail cooling would be obvious since nearly all of us assemble our own computers. Its very simple, a large low rpm fan cools better then many small high rpm fans.

    Ha Ha, haven't used any Deltas eh? 120mm fan with 250CFM and yeah its a little loud... but NOTHING cools a serious OC better.