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AMD Radeon HD 7970: Promising Performance, Paper-Launched

Power, Temperature, And Noise Benchmarks

Let’s say that the Radeon HD 7970 has the potential to be an amazing performer. Would it still be worth $550 if its maximum power load were enough to cause blackouts at Candlestick Park during a 49ers game? Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate.

Surprisingly, the 7970 draws less load power than a GeForce GTX 580, while pulling less at idle than a Radeon HD 6970. AMD’s power management advancements should pay dividends amongst our European audience, which has to pay significantly more for electricity than the North American readers.  

Now it’s time to turn our attention to GPU temperatures. We should mention that the GeForce GTX 580 we’re testing with is a Gigabyte GV-N580SO-15I clocked down to reference frequencies and equipped with an aftermarket cooler.

The temperatures are right where we’d expect them to be in comparison to the Radeon HD 6970, a card with a similar TDP.

Finally, let’s have a look at the noise generated by these products. Once again, keep in mind that the GeForce GTX 580 isn’t a reference card, and its aftermarket cooler provides an advantage you’d typically have to pay extra for.

Uh-oh. That’s a significant amount of noise, which gives us our first concerning design-oriented issue seen thus far. I’m almost afraid to mention it, because when Chris Angelini railed the Radeon HD 6990 for its noise problems, he got a lot of negative feedback. But I’m not willing to bury it, so there it is.

Concerned about a possible heat sink seating issue, I took the card apart and put it back together again with fresh thermal paste. Now, AMD doesn’t recommend this because it claims the phase-changing thermal interface material it uses enables a few-degree advantage over normal thermal paste. In light of our negative results, though, we had little to lose by at least trying. In the end, my surgical procedure made no difference, and we recorded the same acoustic output playing through Battlefield 3.  

Unfortunately, AMD’s time frame for this launch didn’t make testing a second card possible. However, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for a replacement and follow-up should our findings change.