[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

When it was released last December, the Radeon HD 7970 was the fastest single-GPU video card available on the market. However, the GeForce GTX 680, released in April, proved to be faster. To counter the faster GPU from NVIDIA, AMD first dropped the price of the Radeon HD 7970, and now is releasing a second version of the Radeon HD 7970, dubbed “GHz Edition,” with higher clock rates. Was the increase of the clock rates enough to take the crown away from the GeForce GTX 680? Let’s check it out.

As you can see in the table below, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition’s core clock rate was increased 75 MHz, from 925 MHz to 1 GHz, an 8.1% increase. The memory clock rate was increased 500 MHz, from 5.5 GHz to 6 GHz, a 9% increase. All other specifications remained the same, so the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is simply an overclocked Radeon HD 7970. For a more complete analysis of features present on the Radeon 7970 GHz Edition, please read our review for the original Radeon HD 7970.

In the table below, we compare the main specifications of the video cards included in our review. The prices listed below do not include rebates. The prices for the original Radeon HD 7970 were researched at Newegg.com, and the prices for the GeForce GTX 680 were researched at Tigerdirect.com on the day we published this review. The price for the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is the price advertised by AMD. Due to availability issues, the price for the GeForce GTX 680 is above NVIDIA’s suggested price of USD 500. It is interesting to see that the suggested price for the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is USD 50 lower than the suggested price for the original Radeon HD 7970 when it was launched.

Video Card Core Clock Memory Clock (Effective) Memory Interface Memory Transfer Rate Memory Shaders DirectX Price
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 1 GHz 6 GHz 384-bit 288 GB/s 3 GB GDDR5 2,048 11.1 USD 500
Radeon HD 7970 925 MHz 5.5 GHz 384-bit 264 GB/s 3 GB GDDR5 2,048 11.1 USD 440 – 530
GeForce GTX 680 1,006 MHz 6,008 MHz 256-bit 192.2 GB/s 2 GB GDDR5 1,536 11 USD 530

You can compare the specs of these video cards with other video cards by taking a look at our “AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table” and “NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table” tutorials.

Now let’s take a complete look at the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.

[nextpage title=”The AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition”]

Below we have an overall look at the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition reference model. It requires one six-pin and one eight-pin auxiliary power connectors.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz EditionFigure 1: AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Radeon HD 7970 GHz EditionFigure 2: AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

One of the highlights of this video card is the possibility of connecting up to six video monitors at the same time, which is achieved by using a DisplayPort hub or a DisplayPort monitor that provides daisy-chaining capability. The card provides one DVI-D, one HDMI, and two mini DisplayPort connectors.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz EditionFigure 3: Video connectors

[nextpage title=”The AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition (Cont’d)”]

The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition uses the same cooler as the original Radeon HD 7970, based on vapor chamber technology, which is similar to the technology used by heatpipes. AMD says you can’t remove the GPU cooler, because the performance won’t be the same after you put the video card back together. That is why we didn’t disassemble this video card. Figure 4 was provided by AMD.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz EditionFigure 4: Video card cooler

The reviewed video card has two BIOS chips, selectable through a switch. This way you can select between the default configuration or an overclocked configuration, which you created and saved “permanently” to the second BIOS chip.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz EditionFigure 5: BIOS switch

Before seeing the performance results, let’s recap the main features of this video card.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications “]

The main specifications for the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition reference model include:

  • Graphics chip: Radeon HD 7970 running at 1 GHz
  • Memory: 3 GB GDDR5 memory (384-bit interface) running at 6 GHz QDR
  • Bus type: PCI Express 3.0 x16
  • Video Connectors: One DVI-D, one HDMI, and two mini DisplayPort
  • Video Capture (VIVO): No
  • Cables and adapters that come with this board: NA
  • Number of CDs/DVDs that come with this board: NA
  • Games included: NA
  • Programs included: NA
  • More information: https://www.amd.com
  • MSRP in the US: USD 500.00

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions, the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
  • Video resolution: 2560×1600 @ 60 Hz

Driver Versions

  • AMD video driver version: Catalyst 12.7 beta
  • NVIDIA video driver version: 301.42
  • Intel Inf driver version: 9.2.3.1020

Software Used

[nextpage title=”StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty”]

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a very popular DirectX 9 game that was released in 2010. Though this game uses an old version of DirectX, the number of textures that can be represented on one screen can push most of the top-end graphics cards to their limits. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty uses its own physics engine that is bound to the CPU and thus does not benefit from PhysX.

We tested this game at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600. The “Graphics Quality” was set to “Extreme” and the “Texture Quality” was set to “Ultra.” We then used FRAPS to collect the frame rate of a replay on the “Unit Testing” custom map. We used a battle between very large armies to stress the video cards.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty 1920×1200 Difference
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

114.4

 
GeForce GTX 680

113.6

1%
Radeon HD 7970

104.6

9%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty 2560×1600 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

92.8

1%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

91.8

 
Radeon HD 7970

84.5

9%

[nextpage title=”Far Cry 2″]

Released in 2008, Far Cry 2 is based on a game engine called Dunia, which is DirectX 10. We used the benchmarking utility that comes with this game at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600, setting overall quality to “ultra high,” maximizing all image quality settings, adjusting anti-aliasing to “8x,” and running the “Ranch Long” demo three times. The results below are expressed in frames per second and are an arithmetic average of the three results collected.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

FarCry 2 1920×1200 Difference
GeForce GTX 680 126.2 1%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 124.4  
Radeon HD 7970 93.8 33%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

FarCry 2 2560×1600 Difference
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 85.2  
GeForce GTX 680 84.4 1%
Radeon HD 7970 72.4 18%

[nextpage title=”Aliens vs. Predator”]

Aliens vs. Predator is a DirectX 11 game that makes full use of tessellation and advanced shadow rendering. We used the Aliens vs. Predator Benchmark Tool developed by Rebellion. This program reads its configuration from a text file. (Our configuration files can be found here.) We ran this program at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600, with texture set at “very high,” shadows set at “medium,” anisotropic filtering set at “8x,” and anti-aliasing set at “2x.”

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Aliens vs. Predator 1920×1200 Difference
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 71.0  
GeForce GTX 680 70.6 1%
Radeon HD 7970

68.4

4%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Aliens vs. Predator  2560×1600 Difference
GeForce GTX 680 44.8 0%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 44.6  
Radeon HD 7970

41.8

7%

[nextpage title=”DiRT3″]

DiRT3 is a DirectX 11 game. We measured performance using this
game by running a race and then playing it back using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1920×1200 and 2560×1536 with image quality set to “ultra,” with anti-aliasing set at “8xMSAA.”

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

DiRT3 1920×1200 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

94.4

2%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

92.3

 
Radeon HD 7970

79.4

16%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

DiRT3 2560×1600 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

65.6

2%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

64.4

 
Radeon HD 7970

58.7

10%

[nextpage title=”Deus Ex: Human Revolution”]

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is another DirectX 11 game; we used the in-game introduction to measure the number of frames per second, using FRAPS. We ran the introduction in two resolutions, 1920×1200 and 2560×1536, maximizing all image quality settings, configuring anti-aliasing as “MLAA Mode” and anisotropic filtering at “16x.”

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Deus Ex: Human Revolution 1920×1200 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

162.8

1%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

161.4

 
Radeon HD 7970

152.4

6%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Deus Ex: Human Revolution 2560×1600 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

110.3

1%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 109.5  
Radeon HD 7970 101.4 8%

[nextpage title=”Battlefield 3″]

Battlefield 3 is the latest installment in the Battlefield franchise released in 2011. It is based on the Frostbite 2 engine, which is DirectX 11. In order to measure performance using this game, we walked our way through the first half of the “Operation Swordbreaker” mission, measuring the number of frames per second using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1920×1200 and 2560×1536, maximizing all image quality settings, configuring anti-aliasing as “4xMSAA” and anisotropic filtering at “16x.”

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Battlefield 3 1920×1200 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

68.4

3%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

66.4

 
Radeon HD 7970

58.5

14%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Battlefield 3 2560×1600 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

42.7

2%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

41.8

 
Radeon HD 7970

38.2

9%

[nextpage title=”3DMark 11 Professional”]

3DMark 11 Professional measures Shader 5.0 (i.e., DirectX 11) performance. We ran this program at 1920×1200 and 2560×1600, selecting the four graphics tests available and deselecting the other tests available. We used two image quality settings, “performance” and “extreme,” both at their default settings. The results being compared are the “GPU Score” achieved by each video card.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

3DMark 11 – Performance 1920×1200 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

4857

2%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

4768

 
Radeon HD 7970

4066

17%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

3DMark 11 – Performance 2560×1600 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

2849

1%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

2821

 
Radeon HD 7970

2483

14%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

3DMark 11 – Extreme 1920×1200 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

2966

4%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

2842

 
Radeon HD 7970

2446

16%

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

3DMark 11 – Extreme 2560×1600 Difference
GeForce GTX 680

1756

4%
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

1692

 
Radeon HD 7970

1538

10%

[nextpage title=”Media Espresso 6.5″]

Media Espresso is a video conversion program that uses the graphics processing unit of the video card to speed up the conversion process. We converted a 449 MB, 1920x1080i, 18,884 kbps, MPEG2 video file to a smaller 640×360, H.264, .MPG4 file for viewing on a portable device such as an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

Media Espresso 6.5 Seconds Difference
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition

29

 
GeForce GTX 680

29

0%
Radeon HD 7970

30

3%

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

It was very interesting to see that with a little tweak at its clock configuration, the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition now has the same performance level as the GeForce GTX 680, while it is currently up to 33% faster than the original Radeon HD 7970.

Costing exactly the same as the GeForce GTX 680, it is definitely just a matter of if you prefer a GPU from brand “A” or brand “N.” At least in theory: right now it is hard to find video cards based on the GeForce GTX 680. Because of that, the resellers that have them in stock are asking for a premium, so while the “official” price for the GeForce GTX 680 is USD 500, you can’t find it for less than USD 530 today.

The new Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is not available yet, but it should arrive on the market within the next few days. AMD probably won’t have the availability problems NVIDIA has at the moment, so the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition will most likely cost less than the GeForce GTX 680, making it a better option. But don’t take our word for it: watch prices closely, so you can make the best decision about which video card to buy.