AMD finally has an answer at hand to dethrone the mighty GeForce GTX 580, and with a decent enough margin. The new GPU architecture seems to work out well and definitely is more capable then the last generation GPUs.
We noticed offset in the older titles though, where the game is not really GPU bound the GTX 580 would lead marginally here and there. However where the GPU really matters in the latest game titles, that's where the Radeon HD 7970 shows it's strength, and leads with a very decent margin. Really our ultimate tests always have been Crysis 2, Metro 2022, Battlefield 2&3 and Anno 1404. In all titles the Radeon HD 7970 with an excellent margin of 20, 30 sometimes even 40% Especially in the uber-high resolutions the card marches onwards fast in performance.
Why the older titles like COD, Far Cry 2 etc slack a little is unclear, but my hint is processor utilization at driver level. Upcoming driver releases will probably make a difference there. Remember, we only had a beta driver available whereas the GTX 580 drivers have been refined for over a year now.
So yeah, AMD has a a good graphics card in their hands for now, hopefully they'll do the clever thing, and that's pricing it at roughly 449 EUR / 499 USD. That way it will compete perfectly with that GTX 580, and if that happens the logical choice would definitely be the Radeon HD 7970. The latest prices we got however indicate 500 EUR / 549 USD, but we'll just have to wait and see what volume will become available and what kind of an effect that will have on pricing.
If you allow me to step away from game performance for a minute then the rest of the product is good as well. The cooling is certainly sufficient enough and during gaming temperatures will stay at or below 80 Degrees C. The IDLE noise levels are close to NIL really, and when stressed massively the card will be audible at a very normal level. So that's looking rather good.
Quite impressive is of course the power consumption of this product. The board is rated with a 215 Watt TDP, that means when you completely stress it that's the power consumption. Our measurements showed that the board TDP is actually consuming 15 Watts lower then advertised. But give or take roughly 200 Watt for this kind of performance is truly admirable. Even more impressive is the boards IDLE power state, in desktop mode when not in use it can throttle down and disable huge segments of the GPU allowing it to draw 2.7 Watt only. It's something we can not measure well though so for now we'll take AMD's word on that. But even if it was 5 Watt... it's just impressive.
When you look at the overall package, performance, the new Eyefinity updates, PCIe gen 3 compatibility and all other stuff then we can only conclude that we happily embrace the Radeon HD 7970 in the enthusiast graphics card arena. For those that embrace multi-monitor gaming, it's for you guys that AMD decided to go for that massive 3GB framebuffer / graphics memory. They could have opted the 1.5 GB route but with extreme resolutions graphics memory starts to really matter. So it might seems a little excessive, but we are very happy that in terms of graphics memory no compromises have been made.
Overclocking then, our own AfterBurner was not yet ready so we could not voltage tweak. Regardless of that there seems to be massive headroom for overclocking. 1050 MHz on the graphics core was just not an issue (we didn't even try that hard to overclock), the memory will likely run at 6000 MHz as well. So yeah, I expect to hear about your overlock and tweak experiences in our forums a lot in the months to come. That again was something impressive to witness.
We hope that within the next week or two, AMD will be able to place enough volume on the market and catch momentum. Right now it is very unclear what's going on inside NVIDIA, the latest rumors suggest that their next generation flagship graphics card would be released late next year. That remains a mystery and unfounded chitchat though, but yeah until then the new king of single GPU graphics is the Radeon HD 7970.
It's doesn't stop here of course, in week 2 of 2011 the Radeon HD 7950 will be released, then the 7800 series and we expect something really breathtaking in February / March 2012. Yes the Radeon HD 7990 is scheduled for launch around that date as well. You've see what one Tahiti GPU is capable of, now imagine two of these gems on one board. It will obliterate everything in its path alright. We're looking very forward to testing that product alright :)
With all that has happened to AMD recently we are glad to see a product of this caliber, we hope to see good volume availability real fast though with more competitive prices as the 549 USD seems a little too steep though. When that happens, we can very much so recommend the product, the Radeon HD 7970 is a very pleasing product and left us a very solid impression.
But wait there's more content ... check out our Radeon HD 7970 CPU scaling performance article right here as well as a new R7970 overclock guide right here.
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