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HD7970 My Review (HD7970 vs BF3)

Discussion in 'Videocards - AMD Radeon' started by Xaser04, Jan 11, 2012.

  1. Xaser04

    Xaser04 Ancient Guru

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    Hi all.

    After receiving my Powercolor HD7970 at 9:30 yesterday morning I decided to work a half day and get some BF3 Eyefinity benchmarks done and write a "brief" review putting across my opinion on the card and how it compares to my "old" HD6970.

    First things first, we all know the architectural changes that have happened between the HD6970 and this card (move from VLIW4 to GCN), therefore I won't bore you with going into the details here. The likes of Anandtech and Bit themselves can do a much better job in this area.

    Anyway, onto the card itself.

    The HD7970 I ended up going for is a Powercolor model which I managed, by a stroke of luck, to get for under £420 from Ebuyer. The same card is still available for £444 if anyone does want one for a decent price. Considering all of the cards are reference design and basically the same, I didn't see the point in spending more for the same card with a difference sticker on it.

    [​IMG]

    The card itself is literally the reference design with a sticker on the fan itself. There isn't much more to say in this area as in the end it looks like every other HD7970 for sale bar the XFX DD model.

    [​IMG]

    Size wise it is basically identical to a HD6950/HD6970 reference card. It measures just under 11" nose to tip.

    [​IMG]

    Connectivity consists of a single DVI port backed up by a single HDMI port and 2 mini DP connections. The mini DP connections can be connected to a hub to provide more connections for Eyefinity if you so wish.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    In the box you get the normal user guide and driver CD (Very useful in my case as the 12.1 drivers I downloaded didn't work... :grr:). You also get the following:

    - Crossfire bridge
    - DVI-VGA adaptor
    - 6 pin to 8 pin PCI-e adaptor
    - HDMI to DVI adaptor
    - Active mini DP to DVI adaptor
    - Mini DP to DP cable

    Basically you have the ability to run Eyefinity right out of the box assuming you run 3 DVI equipped monitors. Considering the active adaptors still cost £15+ this is a pretty good bundle and not doubt goes some way in explaining the relatively high ticket price of the card itself.

    You also get a voucher for a copy of Dirt 3, great if you don't already have the game (like me). Interestingly the voucher has a validity date that runs out at the end of December 2011. I wonder if it will actually work?!

    Overall I think the card itself looks good, connectivity is good especially as the relevant adaptors are included in the box.

    To close out this portion of the "review" I thought I would post a picture of the card in my case. The case is a Fractal Design Define R3.

    [​IMG]

    (Yes I know I am still running the stock Intel cooler. I really need to get an better one but for now it does its job admirably).

    Now onto the Eyefinity performance.

    I should point out that I have only run performance numbers for BF3 & Arcania (Gothic 4) at the moment. I will look at some other games at a later point. I will not be running any synthetic benchmarks as quite frankly I find them a waste of time.

    Anyway onto BF3:

    Benchmark is a 5 minute FRAPS run through ( I actually play the game) taken from The first real level - Operation Sword breaker. I have found performance in this level to be nigh on identical to performance online so it should be a good indication of what you can expect in "real world" scenarios.

    Resolution is: 3560x1920 (technically 3588x1920 but I won't split hairs)
    Settings: All high bar Shadows and Decoration which are on medium. No Deferred AA, Medium Post AA no HBAO/Motion blur (the latter makes feel very queasy).

    System setup: Per Signature

    Drivers: HD6970 - 11.11a / HD7970 - "On disc" - 11.12

    "HD6970 Playable Settings"

    HD6970

    Min - 26.00
    Avg - 35.54

    HD7970

    Min - 34.00
    Avg - 46.63 (+31.2%)

    First up I was genuinely surpised at how well my HD6970 held up at this resolution / settings combo, 36FPS isn't exactly bad all things considered. Look at the HD7970 fly though, 31.2% faster at the same settings running the "on disc" drivers (which appear to be Cat 11.12).

    Ultra settings up next:

    Ultra Settings without AA (SBAO not HBAO)

    HD6970

    Min - 16.00
    Avg - 27.83

    HD7970

    Min - 22.00
    Avg - 36.96 (+32.8%)

    Interesting results here. Firstly the performance delta has increased to ~33% which is excellent. The biggest suprise was the fact that I can now play at "Ultra" settings without AA at roughly the same level of performance as my HD6970 managed at High/Medium. Great stuff TBH.

    Ultra Settings with 4x AA - AKA "LOL" Settings

    HD6970

    Min - 8
    Avg - 14.68

    HD7970

    Min - 15
    Avg - 20.21 (+37.7%)

    Well, I have nicknamed this "LOL" for a reason. My HD6970 simply ran out of VRAM and despite posting a average FPS of 14.68 it was completely unplayable (hard to play to even get the result TBH). The HD7970 ends up 37.7% better at this setting but in minimum terms it is 87% faster. Overall though this is academic as neither card can manage this setting. VRAM usage on the HD7970 peaked at 2400MB.

    Overclocked Performance:

    "HD6970 Playable Settings"

    HD6970

    Min - 26.00
    Avg - 35.54

    HD7970

    Min - 34.00
    Avg - 46.63

    HD7970 OC @ 1075/6000

    Min - 38.00
    Avg - 52.98 (+49%)

    ***Update regarding CPU Overclocking results:***


    "HD6970 Playable Settings"

    HD7970 OC @ 1075/6000

    Min - 38.00
    Avg - 52.98

    HD7970 OC @ 1075/6000 with 2500k at 4GHz

    Min - 38.00
    Avg - 52.97

    Small caveat - For reasons I am looking into (possibly PSU related) I am unable to run my card with the core at 1125. It technically runs but the voltage is too low to be stable (stock is 1.112 but it runs at 1.047).

    Finally we can see the HD7970 start to stretch its little legs. At the this OC level it ends up being ~ 50% faster than the HD6970 at the same settings. More importantly, the minimums are now higher than the average on the HD6970!. It is amazing to see over 50fps at this resolution on a single card and what is basically "high"settings.

    Overall BF3 Eyefinity performance has left a massive smile on my face which at the end of the day is what really matters. I can finally really enjoy Eyefinity in my favourite game currently which is just fantastic.

    I have also run some Eyefinity benches on a game that no-one is probably playing but I am. I got this game for under a fiver in the Steam holiday sale along with the rest of the Gothic line-up and was amazed when it literally brought my HD6970 to its knees.

    I thought I would include the results as a point of interest so here they are:

    HD6970

    Min - 19.00
    Avg - 27.30

    HD7970 OC @ 1075/6000

    Min - 30.00
    Avg - 38.76 (+42%)

    Another instance where the minimum on the HD7970 is higher than the Average on the HD6970. You may note a lack of stock HD7970 benches for this game. The reason is simple - it took a number of attempts to get the game to play (thanks to a small change in resolution due to bezel management) and once it finally opened I couldn't see FRAPS :)sigh:).

    Overall the HD7970 (OC) is 42% faster than the HD6970 in this game.


    Now the benches I have run had been put to bed I can move onto the conclusion.

    Based on my own experiences I am very pleased with the performance that the HD7970 has offered in Eyefinity. It has shown itself to be much faster than the HD6970 it replaces whilst pulling similar levels of power and outputting similar levels of heat. My own PSU issues aside it also clocks like it has 100 weight of TNT up its bottom.

    The price is obviously the biggest sticking point for a lot of people. At £500 there is no way I would purchase this card. At £450-£475 (where alot of them are residing) I would be very reluctant to part with my own money but at £450 and under I can see the attraction. Now, I got my card for a relative steal but can still see why it has been priced like it has. Who is to blame for the pricing is still up in the air with alot of fingers pointing to the UK retailers taking a nice chunk. Pricing in the US seems much more reasonable at $479-$500, so it does look like a case of "rip off Britain" once again.

    Would I recommend the HD7970 to anyone potentially interested in it? Yes but only if they are running a resolution that actually requires it and only if they don't pay more than £450.

    Anywhoo I have come to the end of my "little" (LOL) review of the HD7970. I hope you have found the content interesting. If you have any queries please feel free to ask in this thread or my PM.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2012
  2. Kohlendioxidus

    Kohlendioxidus Maha Guru

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    nice review, thanks :3eyes:. Now about eyefinity, I want to buy a similar setup but I own 2x5870. From paper now I see that 2x5870 are performance wise as fast as 1x7970 (or littl' faster if CrossfireX really kicks in), the only difference is much lower memory. Should I expect issues under this high resolution?? What do yo think?
     
  3. Xaser04

    Xaser04 Ancient Guru

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    I assume your cards are 1GB models?

    Whilst you have the raw GPU grunt (assuming 80%+ CF scaling) you will quickly run out of VRAM in games like BF3 at even medium settings.

    For reference my HD6970 pulled 1500MB easily at Medium/High settings whilst my HD7970 pulls 1800MB. At ultra settings with 4xAA VRAM usage is above 2400MB.

    Some games you will be fine on (COD series most likely) but in general I would say 1GB VRAM is not enough for Eyefinity.
     
  4. Kohlendioxidus

    Kohlendioxidus Maha Guru

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    yeah I have the 1 G models, standard Sapphire models that I bought more than 2 years ago. At 1920x1200 at ultra and 4x AA I see more than 2.4 Giga of memory used but the gameplay is smooth. I have 8 Gig of RAM and an SSD maybe that's why it doesn't feel choppy. I would say in all newest games I have more than 1 Gig usage but really don't feel it.

    Now back to your great card, how are the temps at 99% load:3eyes:? What are the temperatures of the VR's, can you read them all?? A print screen would be awesome.

    Please test also Unigine 2.0 with tess on default at 1920x1200 if possible.

    I'm very pleased with my cards wright now (expecially after I put 2 Zalman VF3000a on them) but want to know how can be compared with a 7970.
     

  5. Xaser04

    Xaser04 Ancient Guru

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    Temps at load are very dependant on the fan profile set (either by AMD or manual in Afterburner).

    In BF3 I saw temps peak at 77 degrees with the fan at about 45% - audible but not distracting.

    No idea on the VRM temps as I don't think GPU-z has been updated read them yet - it doesn't read the core Voltage correctly either so it is difficult to tell.
     
  6. Netherwind

    Netherwind Ancient Guru

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    Well written review and the card is indeed cute :)
    Even though you get ~30% boost in FPS the cost in Euro for the upgrade from 6970 to 7970 is 40%. Worth it or not? :)
     
  7. pcgamers

    pcgamers Master Guru

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    I would say it's worth it..I'm actually downgrading from 2xHD6970 to HD7970 but so far I am satisfied with this card due to it's OC capability which is far exceeds any other cards out there.

    Just OC this card and it'll definitely boost up its performance up to 170%-200% performance of 6970 :).
     
  8. Netherwind

    Netherwind Ancient Guru

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    Hehe, did I understand you correctly when you wrote 170-200%? :) According to OP he gained about 50% when OCd from a 6970.

    Anyway I myself have a 5850...or actually CFX but I have problems with too much heat from the top card (got a post running about that issue). I would gladly buy a 7970 which un-OCd would boost my FPS by 100% and I guess OCd by 120% which exceeds what 5850CF would do. I just hope to god that the price of 7970 will go down 50€ or something. An alternative would be 7950 but is it enough of an upgrade? I guess well see next month.
     
  9. pcgamers

    pcgamers Master Guru

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    i suggest you to wait for the price drop a little bit and buy a 7970..if you're currently having a 5850s CF setup, you will see improvement in raw performance especially when playing DX11 games. Before I moved to 2x6970, I have an experience in gaming with single, CFx and Trifire 5850s so I know that single hd7970 is more superior than 2x5850s, The gap will become bigger when you start to OC this card :).

    when i say up to 1.7 and 2xhd6970 above, i meant from my benches results between 6970 vs 7970 both at stock & OC'ed, maybe OP is using an older driver than mine..

    edit: I realize now that OP was testing and comparing those on eyefinity setup...no wonder :).
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2012
  10. Xtreme1979

    Xtreme1979 Maha Guru

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    Just an FYI you can run that 2500K at up to and including 4Ghz on the stock cooler. Might give you a little more headroom for that 7970. Temp's will of course be higher than stock, but nothing the CPU can't easily handle 24/7. This is how I run my work system which I use 8+ hours daily, sometimes under full load without any issues. Now my 2600K at home forget overclocking on the stock cooler. :eek:
     

  11. Xaser04

    Xaser04 Ancient Guru

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    Well at 1075/6000 it is around 50% faster than a HD6970 at the same settings in BF3. Considering the resolution I run at it has definately been worth it.

    I gained 50% over and above a HD6970. In other words the card is now 150% the performance of a HD6970.

    It is just a different way of representing the same performance increase.

    150% increase from a HD6970 won't happen unless you run very high clocks (LN2 cooling)

    It isn't wrong to say this card is about as fast as HD5850 CF at a medium overclock.

    I am thinking of trying 4GHz on my 2500k but I am concious of how close I am to the 12v rail max rating on my PSU. It shouldn't make a massive difference but TBH I would rather wait until I get a new PSU before pushing the system any further.
     
  12. Xaser04

    Xaser04 Ancient Guru

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    Quick BF3 Eyefinity update regarding CPU Overclocking results:


    "HD6970 Playable Settings"

    HD7970 OC @ 1075/6000

    Min - 38.00
    Avg - 52.98

    HD7970 OC @ 1075/6000 with 2500k at 4GHz

    Min - 38.00
    Avg - 52.97

    As thought no difference in BF3.
     
  13. Xtreme1979

    Xtreme1979 Maha Guru

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    Yeah you are pushing it right now with your current config; prob right about waiting for a new PSU before overclocking.
     
  14. mitzi76

    mitzi76 Ancient Guru

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    eh something doesnt look right there to me. are you saying an overclocked cpu makes zero diff to your fps?

    that seems very odd to me. some games i admit dont show much of a diff when ocing cpu but i'd say all would at least some show improvement, not the same results...

    (not dissing the card but just strikes me as wierd...maybe it's me being a noob :) )

    generally the more gpu muscle you have the better it is to have an oc'd cpu.
     
  15. flopper

    flopper Member

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    BF3 seems to show little to no cpu scaling even at higher resolutions. I bet it has to do with the physics destruction of it.
    other games show different result when oc the cpu.
     

  16. mitzi76

    mitzi76 Ancient Guru

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    ok. guess the op should test with something like res evil5 bench then...

    on a side note therefore is the physics destruction the same then for amd and nvidia? (i guess it isnt physx but the new frostbite engine).
     
  17. S†v0r

    S†v0r Banned

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    They are kept "cool", much cooler then custom fan edition or 6970's. Actually its cooler then most custom 580gtx too..

    XFX custom fan vs Stock 7970
    http://www.hardware.fr/focus/59/xfx-radeon-hd-7970-overclocking.html


    Various 580gtx, btw, gigabyte SOC, Gainward PhanotmIII and Zotac AMP2 (custom) are one of the hottest yet..

    http://www.hardware.fr/articles/840-13/thermographie-infrarouge-cartes-graphiques.html
     
  18. Rich_Guy

    Rich_Guy Ancient Guru

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    I wouldn't call it a downgrade tbh, as the 7970 with a little overclock, is about as fast as the 2x 6970's, plus it doesn't have microstuttering, and it also doesn't have to lower its performance, as in some games with Xfire, one of the cards has to be disabled, the 7970 will run at its fullest all the time. :)

    Be a miracle if i can hold out the weekend at this rate :D
     
  19. WhiteLightning

    WhiteLightning Don Illuminati Staff Member

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    stop resisting rich guy, if you order now, you should have it in the weekend :D
     
  20. flopper

    flopper Member

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    I assume its the frostbite engine and good multicpu threading.
     

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