XFX Radeon HD 7950 Black Edition Review

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XFX Radeon HD 7950 Black Edition Review

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.

8

BENCHMARKS

Sapphire HD 7950 OCXFX HD 7950 Black Edition
XFX Radeon HD 6970EVGA GTX 580 SCEVGA GTX 580 ClassifiedXFX Radeon HD 7970 Black Edition
Price                
$480$490
$350$480$560$600
3DMark 11 Perf
7,475
7,5565,7506,7477,3218,393
3DMark Vantage Perf
31,26931,33124,45326,93628,55932,813
Unigine Heaven 2.5 (fps)
2828
17222329
Shogun 2 (fps)26
26
19222429
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps)
90
92
758592100
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps)
111113
73120128120
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps)
33
33
25282939
Just Cause 2 (fps)
44
45
31414850
Batman: Arkham City495136454753
Metro 2033192014151718
DiRT3545544505564
Core / Memory Clocks900 / 1250900 / 1375880 / 1375797 / 1013855 / 10531,000 / 1,425
System Power @ idle (W)115119126140140124
System Power @ full throttle (W)288290296344385349

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.

SPECIFICATIONS

Radeon HD 7950
Radeon HD 7970
Manufacturing Process
28nm28nm
Transistor Count
4.31 billion4.31 billion
Reference Core Clock
800MHz925MHz
Frame Buffer
3GB GDDR53GB GDDR5
Memory Clock1,250MHz1,375MHz
Memory Data Rate5.0 gigapixels/s5.5 gigapixels/s
Memory Bandwidth240GB/s264GB/s
Memory Bus384-bit384-bit
Stream Processors1,7922,048
Compute Performance2.87 single-precision TFLOPs3.79 single-precision TFLOPs
Texture Units112128
Texture Fill Rate (peak)89.6 gigatexels/s118.4 gigatexels/s
ROPs3232
Z/Stencil128128
Maximum Board Power200W250W
Idle Power (active)15W15W
Idle Power (long dark)3W3W

 

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