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AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB Graphics Card Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

New GPU Testbed - Sandy Bridge-E, X79, New Games

For the Radeon HD 7970 3GB review (and all those going forward) we decided it was high time we replaced the somewhat dated Nehalem-based infrastructure (even though honestly, it was fast enough) with something a bit more current.  Obviously that meant going with the new Intel Sandy Bridge-E processor and X79 motherboard - by combining support for 40 PCI Express lanes and 3-4 full size GPU slots it makes for the perfect GPU base.

From this point on, our reviews will be based around the following system:

  • Intel Core i7-3960X CPU
  • ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard
  • Corsair DDR3-1600 4 x 4GB Vengeance memory
  • 600GB Western Digital VelociRaptor HDD
  • 1200 watt Corsair Professional Series power supply
  • Windows 7 SP1 x64

The ASUS P9X79 Pro

The Intel Core i7-3960X gives us the fastest consumer-level CPU on the market to help eliminate the possibility of any processor-based bottlenecks in our testing (whenever possible).  There are still going to be some games that could use more speed (Skyrim comes to mind) but for our purposes this is as good as you get without getting into any kind of overclocked settings.  The ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard has enough space for three dual-slot graphics cards when the time comes for testing 3-Way SLI and CrossFire and 8 DIMM slots should we want to go up from our current setup of 16GB of Corsair Vengeance memory.  

I chose to stick with the 600GB VelociRaptor hard drive rather than an SSD as our total installation size with Windows 7 SP1 x64 and 6+ games was already hitting the 115GB range.  Finally the 1200 watt power supply from Corsair offers up more than enough juice for three power hungry graphics cards while running quietly enough to not throw off our noise testing drastically.

Speaking of noise, we are re-introducing our sound level testing thanks to the Extech 407738 Sound Level Meter capable of monitor decibel ratings as low as 20db.  This allows me to accurately tell you the noise levels generated by the graphics cards that make in-house at PC Perspective.

Along with the new hardware configuration comes a host of new games.  For this review we will be using the following benchmarks and games for performance evaluation:

  • Battlefield 3
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  • DiRT 3
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Metro 2033
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • 3DMark11
  • Unigine Heaven v2.5

This collection of games is both current and takes into account several different genres as well - first person role playing, third person action, racing, first person shooting, etc.  3DMark11 and Unigine Heaven give us a way to see how the cards stack up in a more synthetic environment while the real-world gameplay testing provided by the six games completes the performance picture.

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For this review we are going to be comparing the new Radeon HD 7950 3GB against the previously released Radeon HD 7970 3GB reference card, the Radeon HD 6970 2GB offering and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB.  

The comparisons you should be paying particular attention to:

  • Radeon HD 7950 3GB vs HD 7970 3GB - How much performance drop is there from the $100 more expensive HD 7970 to the new HD 7950?  We realize there is going to be SOME with the shader count and clock speed drops but how does it relate to the price jump?
  • Radeon HD 7950 3GB vs HD 6970 2GB - Does the Cayman architecture have any legs in it?  Does the HD 6970 card fall in line with the $100 price steps that AMD has created?
  • Radeon HD 7950 3GB vs GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB - NVIDIA's GTX 580 has yet another competitor in the HD 7950 that AMD claims is both faster and less expensive.
  • Radeon HD 7950 3GB vs HD 7950 3GB Overclocked vs HD 7970 3GB - We have a couple pages on the overclocking capability of the HD 7950 and does running this card at 900 MHz or 1000 MHz bring it into the range of the HD 7970?

Of course we will also have some CrossFire testing in our review, comparing how a set of Radeon HD 7950 3GB cards compare to two GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB cards in SLI.  You can check out our video on the Radeon HD 7950 CrossFire here as well, and then move on to our full benchmark suite!

Now, with that out of the way, let's get on with the results and see how the new AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB Tahiti card performs!

January 30, 2012 | 09:14 PM - Posted by Mr. Tea (not verified)

Do want! Price. still. so. high. The paragraph in the conclusion about keeping the costs up due to production issues was good point to bring up. I guess AMD can't always be pushing the performance/dollar envolope, but hopefully pricing won't stay that high all year again.

January 30, 2012 | 09:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

performance is ok...price is no good

January 30, 2012 | 09:32 PM - Posted by SoneeOO7

What would be the min. power supply wattage to run in crossfire? I have:
i7 2600k not overclocked
Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD
Patriot Viper 8gigs @ 1600mhz
Two 1 terabyte hd
NO optical drive
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty Professional
Antec TRUEPOWER NEW 750-WATT

Think I caould run it?

January 30, 2012 | 10:14 PM - Posted by Tim (not verified)

I run 2x6970 with a 650W.

Buy them, if you can't, sell your PSU and buy a 900? PSU will be less than 20% of your upgrade cost anyway

January 30, 2012 | 11:31 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

Three questions:
1. Any rumor of being able to unlock the 7950 to 7970 like the 6950 to 6970?
2. We really should be looking at a comparison of 2x6950 1gb to 1x 7950, because of the price.

Word of advice to everyone out there...Don't upgrade to a 7950 or 7970 right now. Wait 2 months for NVIDIA's fire back at AMD. Right now AMD can say whatever price they want because they have no competition. As soon as NVIDIA releases their new cards the price war will rage again and AMD is going to need to bring the 7950 down to the $300 range I think. Also seems a 7950x2 6gb would be pretty awesome.

January 31, 2012 | 01:39 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You have in solid evidence that green will come out with competition to 79xx in 2 months?

Please share with the rest of us.

January 31, 2012 | 02:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have to agree with AParsh335i,

I'm holding off for now to see how Kepler performs, AMD won't be releasing anything better for a long time unless you're wanting a dual GPU card and we already know what that will do performance wise. If Kepler is as good as rumours say it is, AMD will have to significantly reduce the price.. Well that's if nVidia do the right thing and throw in the RRP at the $600 mark. Let's hope to god they don't go batshit crazy and put out a $1000 card.

I think nVidia will be shipping within 3 months that's somewhat speculation though.

January 31, 2012 | 06:05 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not sure somewhat speculation counts as solid evidence. I would say it's just speculation.

While you have the choice to wait all you like, AParsh335i was giving advice to others based on hand waiving.

For all we know, green could provide a dud. In which case, people who held off may get the short end of the stick. You'll have to have endured your current setup for however may months till green arrives, and with green being a possible dud, spend the same money for something of older technology.

Even if green isn't just "we're not impressed" poo being thrown in desperation, you'll be down half a franky for the 3+ months you get to use your shinny new 79xx. About the same cost as playing wow.

tldr; Still no evidence of green. I'd pay $50 to use red for 3+ months while waiting for green.

January 31, 2012 | 10:58 AM - Posted by Wolvenmoon (not verified)

Considering nVidia's focus on GPGPU/Tesselation it's likely we're going to see something from them that's absolutely monstrous.

January 31, 2012 | 04:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Anywhere I can find this fact?

February 6, 2012 | 11:01 AM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

I think its more than $50. I think its at least $100.
As far as evidence goes, i am not able to share any specific I know because I promised I wouldn't. But there is a lot of speculation that green's new stuff will be out very soon, and whether you think it's going to be a dud or not, the prices on AMD's 79XX is going to have to come down.

January 31, 2012 | 06:15 AM - Posted by HyperMinimalism (not verified)

$600 for the 600 series high end from Nvidia?! I hope they do the sensible thing at make it $499.99. With the current pricing schedule waiting to upgrade just seems like a good bet.

This reminds me of the 8800 GT days. With each new release the price goes up $50. I feel like it's a game of Texas hold 'em and once the bets get to $600 someone has to call or fold.

January 31, 2012 | 01:59 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Pretty sure AMD have locked down this architecture a lot better than the early 6950's.

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January 31, 2012 | 01:15 AM - Posted by Chaitanya Shukla (not verified)

just checked newegg most of the 7950's are already out of stock. AMD has been producing very good video cards of late.

January 31, 2012 | 01:34 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Just checked newegg (u.s.) and all 9 out of the 10 seem to be in stock, 800Mhz Asus excluded.

They might have just been updating the quantities for the first time.

January 31, 2012 | 02:09 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Fastest single chip video card.Runs cool and very quiet even at full load, gave me 40-45% extra performance than my 6970 HIS icecool,no crashes after hours of gaming!
Best ever, pricey but you pay for performance I am very happy with my purchase.I had before sapphire 6990 and while performance was better it was little too much heat and noise from that card so I sold it and got one 6970 from his and it was very good but I missed my 6990 performance...not anymore!!!!!Get it you will not regreat your decision.

www.amazon.com/Sapphire-Radeon-PCI-Express-Graphics-21197-00-40G/dp/B006...

January 31, 2012 | 10:54 AM - Posted by Wolvenmoon (not verified)

This doesn't get on my mindshare until we're looking at $350. I'm usually a walking encyclopedia of computer parts and what to use at what price, and I stop paying attention to GPUs after ~$350.

January 31, 2012 | 12:16 PM - Posted by JohnE (not verified)

arrrg, I caved and got a 7950 xfx black edition. I prefer the aftermarket cooling for looks and performance. I was trying to purchase a 7970 OC but I guess i'll enjoy the $100 I save (and free dirt3 game).

February 1, 2012 | 05:47 AM - Posted by RSharpe (not verified)

Why hasn't anyone on the Internet tested these in Crossfire against 3GB 580s in SLI at triple monitor resolutions? Everyone keeps testing these against 1.5GB 580s, which isn't really comparable at high resolutions.

February 21, 2012 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Russ (not verified)

If its too expensive for you, why even bother commenting.. This is a review of this card and what it can do. People search for reviews so they can see how good the card is to make a decision on if they are going to purchase one. comments like 'this isn't my price sweet spot' or whatever, trolling as far as im concerned. If that's all you have to say then no one gives a shit about your ability to purchase one or your opinion on the price. You cant afford it, deal with it. shut your boring face. Nobody cares if you don't have the cash or how much you think it should be priced at - it costs what it costs and that's it. Trolling losers :)

SO back to this card. I got a new 7970 and to be honest I don't see any real world difference between this and a 7950(forget benchmarks) and considering it costs a good 100 less than the 7970 plus you can easily overclock it to get the same performance as a stock 7970 this card is a no-brainer.

March 28, 2012 | 01:23 AM - Posted by chrissyy2007 (not verified)

its interesting to hear amd wont be releasing a reference card like they did for previous series.
what is even more interesting is that one of my hd 7950,s is a reference card. costme quite a bit for something that supposedly doesnt exist.

June 15, 2012 | 04:33 PM - Posted by Matt (not verified)

Hi,
I'm not very knowledgeable with video cards, so I'm hoping someone can help me!
I just ordered a new HP desktop with the AMD 3Gb 7950 video card, and I'm looking to have four monitors... Will this card support four monitors?
Thanks!!

November 17, 2012 | 07:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

what is the chipset on the xps 8500 motherboard?

December 18, 2012 | 05:04 PM - Posted by Leida Lepo (not verified)

I like this web blog very much so much excellent information.

December 29, 2012 | 10:17 PM - Posted by ezjohny

question could the AMD 3gb 9750 run the Samaritan demo anyone.

March 21, 2013 | 09:16 AM - Posted by Mike W (not verified)

I have one of these cards in my Alienware Aurora R4, what type of vga cooling, if any, would you recommend.

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