Unpacking the XFX HD 7950 Black Edition caused a bit of déjà vu. The card bears a strong resemblance to its big brother, the HD 7970 Black Edition (reviewed April 2012), clad in svelte brushed aluminum. If graphics cards dressed up for black tie galas, then the XFX Black Edition is ready to attend.
XFX pushes the reference clocks higher than stock, hitting 900MHz for the core clock and 1,375MHz for the memory clock. The additional memory cycles translate to a peak memory bandwidth of 5.5 gigabytes per second—the same as the HD 7970, and higher than the 5GB/s of the stock 7950. The question is: Can the GPU keep up? There’s always a balance between memory bandwidth and how much of that bandwidth the GPU cores can actually use. Plus, as more games become shader- and tessellation-intensive, bandwidth isn’t as big a part of the equation.
Can this younger sibling to XFX’s HD 7970 Black Edition keep up under pressure from the competition?
In our performance testing, the XFX Black Edition mostly tied with the Sapphire HD 7950, which ran at the same core clocks, but slower memory clocks. The XFX card did post higher scores in a few benchmarks, but we’re talking low single-digit differences for the most part. However, both system idle power and peak power on the XFX card are a bit higher than on the Sapphire card. Noise levels are marginally higher, too.
XFX has stopped including adapters inside the box, instead charging extra if you need a Mini DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort or a single-link DVI connector. So even if you have a DisplayPort-capable monitor, you may end up shelling out for a dongle to connect the card. Given that the Black Edition is priced about $10 higher than the Sapphire HD 7950 OC, which does include a set of adapters, this move is disappointing.
Overall, the XFX Radeon HD 7950 is a solid card, offering excellent performance in its class. It’s only marginally faster than the Sapphire HD 7950 OC, however, and if you don’t have the cables and adapters for your particular monitor, you’ll need to spend a little more. Overall, the nod goes to Sapphire this time, since Sapphire’s whole package seems a little more well-rounded. Still, this is one fast card, and if you build one into your gaming rig, you won’t be unhappy about the performance.
XFX Radeon HD 7950 Black Edition
Khan Noonien Singh
Great performance; sleek appearance
Harcourt Fenton Mudd
Pricier than the competition; no monitor adapters included; less power efficient than similar cards.
Sapphire HD 7950 OC
XFX HD 7950 Black Edition
XFX Radeon HD 6970
EVGA GTX 580 SC
EVGA GTX 580 Classified
XFX Radeon HD 7970 Black Edition
3DMark 11 Perf
3DMark Vantage Perf
Unigine Heaven 2.5 (fps)
Shogun 2 (fps)
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)
Just Cause 2 (fps)
Batman: Arkham City
Core / Memory Clocks
900 / 1250
900 / 1375
880 / 1375
797 / 1013
855 / 1053
1,000 / 1,425
System Power @ idle (W)
System Power @ full throttle (W)
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus P979X Deluxe motherboard with 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 and an AX1200 Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4x AA except for the 3DMark tests.