Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition Review
Today I will be taking a look at another AMD 7970 graphics card, this is the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition (GV-R797TO-3GD). This will be the first Gigabyte Graphics card that we have tested here at pcGameware; it will be interesting to see how the Gigabyte card compares to the other 7970 GHz cards that we have tested in the past.
The GHz Edition of AMD’s Tahiti GPU is the same as found in the standard 7970 with a couple of basic exceptions. The first is that the clock speed of the new GHz Edition has been upped and is now 75MHz higher than a basic 7970 (925MHz), this has been achieved solely through chip binning (the GPU is identical!). In addition to this there’s AMD’s Power Tune technology with Boost allowing the card to Turbo up to 1050MHz (not dissimilar to the Boost Clock found on Nvidia Kepler cards such as the MSI GTX 680 TWIN FROZR (OC Edition)).
The Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition features one of the highest factory overclocks for an AMD 7970 GHz Edition GPU available today. The card has a Core Clock of 1000MHz and a Boost Clock of 1100MHz with the 3GB of GDDR5 RAM running at 1500MHz (6GHz effective). This makes the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition the fastest 7970 that we have seen to date here at pcGameware.
The Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition came well packaged in a smart, predominately black box with various features of the card highlighted on the front. These include the fact that the card has been factory overclocked to 1100MHz and that the new Windforce cooler is 15% cooler than the AMD reference design.
The back of the box goes on to highlight more features of the card including the following:
- WINDFORCE 3X
- The new Generation WINDFORCE 3X: It’s equipped with the first unique “Triangle Cool” Technology (patent pending), three ultra quiet PWM fans, one huge RAM heat sink and three 8mm copper heat pipes to strengthen the speed of heat dissipation.
- PCI Express 3.0
- Get the maximum performance from your GPU when paired with the latest platforms. Delivers double the bandwidth per lane of PCIe Gen 2 for faster <--> CPU communication (up to 32GB/sec, bi-direction).
- 28 nm
- The new 28nm GCN Architecture: more efficient process technology puts more transistors in less space, enabling a dramatic increase in processing power. It helps provide better processor performance while using less power and better transistor efficiency than previous generation technology.
* Also on the box there is a suggested Power Supply requirement suggesting 500W or greater (slightly odd as Gigabyte’s website Specifications state 600W!).
Open the outer box and we find an inner plain white cardboard box, within here you can see the card packed within its soft foam. In the top of the box we also find a Driver CD and a Quick Guide. Although the guide is nothing more than a guide to help you install the Graphics Card itself into a PCIe slot, connect the power cables and install the driver from the CD!
In the base of the box there is also a CrossFireX adapter and two power cable extensions one 6-pin and one 8-pin.
At the time of this review the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition is retailing for approximately £380 and comes with a 2 year warranty.
courtesy of Gigabyte
|Chipset||Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition|
|Digital max resolution||2560 x 1600|
|Analog max resolution||2048 x 1536|
|Process Technology||28 nm|
|Core Clock||1100 MHz|
|Memory Clock||6000 MHz|
|Memory Size||3 GB|
|Memory Bus||384 bit|
|Card Bus||PCI-E 3.0|
|I/O||HDMI * 1
DVI-I * 1
Mini DisplayPort * 2
|Card size||H= 38mm, L=285 mm, W=126 mm|
|Power requirement||600 W|
First impressions are good, the card looks smart and purposeful with its three cooling fans, it’s also nice to see that it’s a regular size card, even with its trio of fans at approximately 285mm as opposed to the HIS cards (7970 X & 7970 IceQ X²) at around 297mm. This Gigabyte card may be a better option if you’re short on room inside your case, although we should see how it performs first perhaps…
The cooler itself features x3 80mm fans and a large heat-sink that specifically incorporates cooling for the on-board 3GBs of memory. The good news is that the card’s not too big (H= 38mm, L=285 mm, W=126 mm) as noted earlier. It’s a good looking cooler too and due to the mainly black colouring (apart from the default AMD blue PCB) the card should go well with any rig design that you have in mind.
There’s not much to see on the top of the card but you can see that the heat-sink pretty much covers the length of the card. On the left you can see the CrossFireX connection, then working left to right, we find a Gigabyte logo and at the far end we find the two power connections (x1 8-pin & x1 6-pin). I would have preferred x2 8-pin connections as this prevents the possibility of having a couple of cables flapping around inside the case!
As is common on all of the AMD 7970 based card’s (well all of the ones that I have seen so far!) the PCB is blue (better if it was black me thinks!), there’s not much else to talk about on this side of the card, although here you can see the x3 8mm heat-pipes quite clearly. There’s even less to talk about on the other side of the card, although from the image (below right) I think you can appreciate it’s simplistic (in a good way!) design.
The Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition features x2 Mini DisplayPorts, x1 DVI-I port and x1 HDMI port. Looking at the opposite end of the card gives you an idea of the thickness of those x3 8mm heat-pipes.
Installation into My Test Rig was extremely easy especially as I’m now using the rather cavernous CM Storm Stryker case. Cabling was also simple enough with the card requiring x1 8-pin and x1 6-pin power connections.
My Test Rig was treated to a fresh install of Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit (Service Pack 1) with all associated drivers also installed. The latest version of the AMD Catalyst Control Center was used (version 12.10).
The Gigabyte OC Guru II software was used to help with overclocking, version 1.31 was downloaded and installed, it can be found here.
The HIS iTurbo software consists of 5 main screens:
- Main Here you can see various aspects of the card including overclocking both the Core & Memory (note the voltages could not be increased!)
- Main – more Pressing More shows various graphs regarding the card’s parameters (Clock Speed, Fan Speed, Voltage & Temps etc)
- Fan Pressing Settings allows you to control Fan Speed (Manual/Auto), selecting manual allows for a custom profile to be created
- OSD The OSD screen allows you to enable the OSD and select various associated Hot-keys, also some basic image adjustments can be made
- Support The Support tab allows you to check for updates for the BIOS, Driver and OC Guru itself
Overclocking the 7970 GHz Edition was a simple matter of playing with the sliders (GPU Clock & Memory Clock) within the Gigabyte OC Guru II software. First stop was to see how far I could push the GPU Clock (effectively the Boost Clock). The card was easily pushed to 1150MHz which is a good start, but after a little more testing is seemed that 1175MHz was the upper limit. Unfortunately later during the review I encountered a crash while bench-marking in 3DMark 11 even though all gaming during the week had been fine. Final Overclock for the core then was 1150MHz a 5% increase over the factory overclock, not as good as other 7970 GHz cards that have overclocked to 1200MHz.
The memory overclocked well though, finally reaching an overclock of 1625MHz (6100MHz effective). This is possibly helped by the ‘Unique RAM Heatsink (see back of box for more detail) fitted to the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition.
So with overclocking complete and stability proved we have ended up with a Core Boost Clock of 1150MHz and a Memory speed of 1625MHz (6100MHz effective). Let’s take a look at the benchmark results…
- Blacklight Retribution
|Benchmark||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temp||Delta Temp||Result|
|Metro 2033||20.50||62.00||41.50||40.00 FPS|
|Sleeping Dogs||20.50||65.00||44.50||50.10 FPS|
|Benchmark||Ambient Temperature||Max GPU Temp||Delta Temp||Result|
|Metro 2033||20.50||63.00||42.50||41.33 FPS|
|Sleeping Dogs||20.50||64.00||43.50||51.20 FPS|
* All of the data used here is with the cards at their highest stable overclocks…
|Graphics Card||3DMark 11||Unigine Heaven||Metro 2033||Sleeping Dogs|
|Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition||9821||1305||41.33 FPS||51.20 FPS|
|MSI GTX 680 TWIN FROZR (OC Edition)||10726||1335||34.67 FPS||N/A|
As you can see from the benchmark scores the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition beats the GTX 680 in only one of the tests (Metro 2033) and is relatively close in the Unigine test, but the 7970 GHz Edition is beaten fair and square in the 3DMark 11 test.
The Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition dominates in the Metro 2033 test, this is helped by the fact that the 7970 has 3GB of VRAM as opposed the the GTX 680 that only has 2GB. The Unigine test is close but it still can’t catch the GTX 680; this is mainly down to the overclock which isn’t quite as good as we have seen from some other 7970 GHz Edition cards, namely the HIS 7970 X GHz Edition and the HIS 7970 IceQ X² GHz Edition. For some reason the 7970 doesn’t fair well in the 3DMark 11 test, this is now common knowledge, as all of the new Nvidia Kepler based GPUs seem to have a significant advantage over AMD based GPUs in 3DMark 11!?
These results show that the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition comes close to the mighty GTX 680 but can’t really stand side by side, but to be fair it’s still close. The 3DMark 11 test seems to be the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition’s Achilles Heel, although this seems to be the same across all of the current line of AMD based GPUs. I wouldn’t worry too much about that score, unless you want to be a benchmark junkie…
From a thermals and noise point of view the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition has performed extremely well with the card staying below 65 degrees during my test period, even when heavily overclocked. The triple fan setup seems to be one of the best I have heard (or not heard in this case!) as the fans were effectively in-audible when tested with the CM Storm Stryker case. Only when passing around 63 degrees could the fans be heard and then you’d have to listen hard to hear them above the case fans. Good Cooler!
Throughout the time I have been testing this card (10+ days) the card has performed faultlessly in all the games that I have played, no artefacts or crashes were noted during normal game-play.
From a power consumption point of view the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition is quite a hungry card pulling 402 watts at the wall, when installed in My Test Rig. This is high when you compare it to the overclocked MSI GTX 680 TWIN FROZR (OC Edition) at only 326 watts.
The Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition is a really solid 7970 GHz Edition based card, the card came well packaged and sports a really cool (no pun intended!) custom designed cooler. In fact from a cooler point of view the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition has the lowest Delta temperatures that I have recorded for a 7970 GHz based card, that’s pretty impressive!
The card looks really good too as its all black design (albeit with a blue PCB, but that’s standard for 7970) will work with any kind of rig design/colour that you might have in mind. Also another positive feature of the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition is that it’s a regular sized card at around 285mm; so if room inside your case is tight then this is worth bearing in mind.
Performance of the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition is good, especially out of the box as it has one of the highest factory overclocks at 1100MHz. With further overclocking the card performed a little better, but it couldn’t quite match the HIS 7970 X GHz Edition or the GTX 680, although in the gaming related benchmarks (Unigine, Metro 2033 & Sleeping Dogs) it was close.
The icing on the cake for the Gigabyte 7970 GHz Edition is the price as it’s currently retailing for around £380, making it one of the lowest price GHz based cards out there. Add to this the fact that it also has one of the highest factory overclocks, it would appear that Gigabyte have a real winner on their hands here. In fact, this one’s staying in My Rig for now… 😉