We test the latest Beta drivers to see who is the single-GPU champ
Earlier this year both AMD and Nvidia released all-new 28nm GPUs, resulting in AMD taking the single-GPU performance crown momentarily with its HD 7970 before Nvidia swiped it away a few months later with its GeForce GTX 680. It’s been awhile since we’ve even thought about either of these cards as we’ve been busy testing their binned counterparts for most of the year, but this past week AMD released a new Beta driver that it claims provides "significant" performance improvements for its already-potent HD 7000 series cards. Just one day later Nvidia pounced, releasing its own Beta driver which also claimed to boost performance in a wide variety of popular titles. This happens all the time; as soon as one manufacturer holds an advantage the other strikes back in order to help drag the performance crown back to its own camp, typically via an overclocked card, improved drivers, or both.
GPU bragging rights now belong to Sapphire, which claims its new HD 7970 6GB Toxic Edition graphics card features the highest clockspeeds of any consumer grade videocard on the planet. It also has a massive 6GB frame buffer, which is twice as big as your 'run-of-the-mill' Radeon HD 7970 graphics card, if there can be such a thing. Getting back to the clockspeeds, however, this thing comes straight from the factory sporting a 1050MHz GPU (1100MHz via PowerTune Dynamic Boost) and 6000MHz (effective) memory. That's just the beginning.
By far the most common question we get asked here at Maximum PC is: “should I upgrade”? The answer to this one is never easy, however AMD just dropped word that should make anyone on the hunt for a new GPU sit up and take notice. The price of the 7000 series parts are about to see another price cut, and they are finally starting to make a pretty compelling price vs. performance case for themselves vs. Nvidia.
My first X79 build, back in November 2011, was pretty modest. Well, as modest as a PC with a 1,000-dollar processor can be. It performed well in CPU-intensive benchmarks, but it had only a single GTX 580, so it did about a third as well as top-tier systems in graphics tests.
Back when I built that PC, the Core i7-3960X was the only Sandy Bridge-E CPU available to us, and the GTX 580 was the fastest single-GPU card on the market. Well, this time I’m going to build a Sandy Bridge-E system with the new quad-core Core i7-3820 and the new fastest single-GPU videocard on the market: AMD’s Radeon HD 7970.
Wait, just kidding. I’m not going to use a 7970. I’m going to use three of ‘em!
Sapphire is getting ready to launch an AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card with a massive 6GB frame buffer, which is twice as much as found on every other variant. The card was actually first seen at CeBIT earlier this year, but has now been picked up by a Russian website, stripped naked, and photographed from top to bottom. Sapphire has yet to announce a release a date or offer up any pricing information, but given the photo gallery, we suspect it will start shipping soon.
PowerColor has proven to be quite the tease these past few weeks by leaking pictures of custom cooled AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series graphics cards, including one with a waterblock. More recently, PowerColor posed a dual-fan Radeon HD 7970 videocard for a single-shot photo shoot, which apparently served as a short precursor to its official debut.
Thanks to the wonder of social networking, we're able to catch an early glimpse of PowerColor's upcoming 'LCS HD7970' graphics card. PowerColor posted a photo of the liquid cooled card on its Facebook page with a promise that "Something cool is coming soon!" That "something cool" is a Radeon HD 7970 videocard stripped of its air cooled heatsink and replaced with a single-slot full cover water block from EK Waterblocks.
For those of you who prefer not to roll your own gaming machines and would rather have a boutique system builder do it for your, Maingear, based out of New Jersey, announced it has begun equipping its Shift and F131 rigs with AMD's new Radeon HD 7950 and 7970 graphics cards (check out our performance preview of the 7970 here), and will soon be offering them in its Vybe series.
While most of us were sitting around watching football and ringing in the New Year over the holiday weekend, our friends over at VR-Zone were getting their geek on by modding and benchmarking AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards. They started with a single HD 7970 board, of which they quickly modded with a special BIOS that allowed them to bump up the core voltage from 1.15V to 1.25V.
GPU-Z is one of our favorite tell-all utilities to carry around on a USB stick. It doesn't require any installation, it has a small footprint (around 900KB), and it reveals just about everything you could want to know about your videocard, from the BIOS version to the number of ROPs. TechPowerUp is pretty good about keeping GPU-Z updated, and the latest build adds support for AMD's Radeon HD 7970 and 7350 graphics, as well as a few other enhancements.