Review Index:

XFX Radeon HD 7970 3GB Black Edition and CrossFire Results

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: XFX

Analysis and Conclusions

XFX Performance

Let's you and I be completely honest with each other, we can almost predict exactly what performance benefits you can get from a higher clocked GPU on games where the GPU is indeed the bottleneck.  For the XFX Radeon HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation and its 1000 MHz clock speed, performance falls in line with those expectations.  Our benchmarks show that in all cases, including 1680x1050 resolution tests, the move from the 925 MHz reference clock to the settings XFX ships with results in 4-7% improvements.  There are a couple of exceptions like Skyrim, where the nature of the title lends itself more towards software / architectural changes but in general this is the case.

While that isn't incredibly impressive, it is something and there are going to be users that want to get the most performance for their dollar if it isn't prohibitive. 

One thing I was kind of let down with on this card was the non-reference cooler.  While XFX stated in the press materials that it would run quieter and cooler than the one that AMD sent with the initial wave of samples, in my testing that wasn't the case.  The dual-fan cooler wasn't quieter when running a full load of Battlefield 3 at 2560x1600 and in fact the temperatures ran noticeably higher.  This might not be a real problem with XFX's cooler selection but rather the traits of the Tahiti GPU and might indicate the reason for AMD somewhat reserved reference clock speeds.

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Our overclocking results turned out to be pretty solid with this cooler though as we were able to max out the AMD driver-based overclocking capability to 1125 MHz with ease!

CrossFire Issues

We have to comment on our CrossFire issues in this article and of course point out that these are NOT XFX's fault.  Instead, we seem to have found a fault with the AMD drivers and its QA program.  The problem of not seeing any scaling at 2560x1600 in Battlefield 3 (and ONLY 2560x1600) while seeing no scaling in Batman: Arkham City, crashes at 2560x1600 in Skyrim and the large dips in frame rate in Deus Ex: Human Revolution are pretty dramatic and damning for the brand new architecture.

Please keep in mind that we tried more than our fair share of fixes to try and get these errors corrected even to the point of using a completely different motherboard and system.  It was all consistent, and it was all repeatable.  When we asked AMD about the issues they basically told that since not many people had a pair of these cards to do CrossFire testing yet, these things weren't out of the ordinary.  And while that error might seem reasonable during the pre-release time frame, the cards are available TODAY and as such we expect real gamers spending real money will have their hands on them very soon.  What is the response going to be then?

The story isn't completely hopeless though and I think it can all be corrected in drivers but the question will be WHEN and how consistently AMD will be able to keep up.

Pricing and Availability

We already knew that the Radeon HD 7970 3GB was going to be expensive - $549 for the reference specifications according to AMD.  The XFX Radeon HD 7970 3GB Black Edition is set for an MSRP of $599 - $50 more than the reference models.

  • XFX Radeon HD 7970 3GB Black Edition - $599
  • AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB - $549
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB - $499
  • AMD Radeon HD 6970 2GB - $349

I think things are getting out of hand here.  We are talking about a $600 single-GPU graphics card for a market that many believe is shrinking and at best is stable.  In my view, the GTX 580 started the trend of not lowering the prices of top-end GPUs and AMD is only following suit, but in the end we are on the side of the consumer here.  If you want the fastest GPU on the market then the Radeon HD 7970 3GB cards are going to be there but I would maybe wait a bit to see if prices might settle.

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Also, you might have noticed we are NOT reviewing the Radeon HD 7950 today as we originally expected.  That has been pushed back until next month some time so if you are on a tighter budget you might still want to wait on that.

Final Thoughts

The XFX Radeon HD 7970 3GB Black Edition Double Dissipation is the fastest single-GPU graphics cards we have ever tested at PC Perspective thanks to the new AMD Tahiti GPU and the overclocked speeds that XFX has enabled out of the box.  I think we will find higher clocked cards from other vendors (and possibly XFX as well) if you want to spend that extra wad of cash on them, but I think most of our readers will be comfortable with getting something more reasonable and overclocking it themselves.

While I am not going to give out any awards to XFX for its Black Edition HD 7970 simply because I want to see more retail options in house before committing.  For now though, XFX has built a solid graphics card that looks good and performs better.

January 12, 2012 | 03:43 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yup, once CES is done and settled we have a lot more things to try out, including Eyefinity.

January 9, 2012 | 07:52 PM - Posted by BlindZenDriver (not verified)

I think making such a big deal about the Crossfire issues is wrong and smells a bit like trying to desperately to find a issue to complain about.

AMD(ATI) has shown more than once that issues discovered are fixed and usually pretty quick plus they are right about how only a few will actually see this issue - even those that will go for crossfire will have to wait till the cards are delivered.

Also I find it funny to on the one hand see a complaint about that the crossfire issue will hit users and then on the other hand complain about prices and how it will mean few buyers. So which is it - huge amount of people going 7970 crossfire or only a few buying just a single card?

I think it would have been more interesting if the review had looked more into why the XFX card is not so silent. I suspect that it releasing the hot air inside the case let to more noise from case cooling. Also interesting would be to see more comparison of overclocking between the XFX and the reference design - it seems to me one does not really get much for the extra $50.

January 12, 2012 | 03:45 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I think noting and pointing out these errors is important for people that might want to invest a LOT of money in the product and it also sends the message to the vendor that reviewers and media are actually PAYING ATTENTION and holding them to certain standards.

I think we showed you the advantages of the overclocked model pretty reasonably and you can decide if you think the $50 cost is really a value or not.

January 10, 2012 | 11:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ryan- having same problem as you, awful crossfire scaling on a LGA1155 idk if it's cpu bound or not as i have an i5 2500k. Hopefully a driver will fix this for me ^_^

January 11, 2012 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Swoosh (not verified)

Time favors us PC gamers, since this new Big Bad Rad 7970 just got out, AMD is waiting for nVidia's "Kepler" 600 series video cards and when they get it out, AMD will hit nVidia where it hurts the most, by lowering the 7900 series video card prices to the point where nVidia could not keep up with the sales PLUS, the upcoming 7990 dual GPU video and
the 7950 model.

Since nVidia's hypocrisy and bad publicity towards AMD, by lowering the 7900 series Rad price its AMD's way of saying to nVidia "What now?.. you cried two times already first in our our 5900 series release, then on our 6900 series release, now with our 7900 series are you gonna cry even more and complain ITS UNFAIR like you always do using your sponsored bloggers and tech sites to promote your video card products".

January 12, 2012 | 12:20 PM - Posted by Amy Thompson (not verified)

This is a great card. I was a little hesitant to fire sale my 2 MSI 6970 Lightnings (which are amazing) and buying a single 7970, but it was unwarranted. The performance, once easily overclocked (by ATI/AMD's stock overdrive), is on par with my previous setup on games that supported crossfire. The games that didn't support it, well this card just blows my previous setup out of the water in that scenario.

Another point that ALMOST made me sit on my hands for a while and wait was going from top of the line custom cards (msi lightnings)to launch day OEM cards. I've only purchased cards with after market coolers for the past 3 generations but I just couldn't wait to try out the 7970. I'm happy to say that while gaming, I don't notice a difference in fan noise. If anything, it runs cooler than my previous setup (obviously crossfire had a lot to do with it) and it may be actually quieter. While the Lightnings had an excellent HSF along with all sorts of other custom parts, the 7970's 28nm process just really nullifies the need for a monster HSF setup.

Plenty of great reviews out there on the interwebz, go read those. Just wanted to 5 star this because of the fool with the 3 star review spreading FUD.

January 15, 2012 | 02:09 PM - Posted by anthony.watters

I see the 'mini display ports' on the back of the card. Does this mean that the HD 7970's will be able to or have out of the box support for a Mac Pro running Lion? If not, any word as to when (or if ) Macs will be supported ? And if supported, any idea as to what price will be?

January 16, 2012 | 06:43 PM - Posted by amythompson172

The hd7970 is the fastest single gpu solution out there. It performs like a champ and is much more quiet runs much cooler than the hd6990 while offering close to beating the hd6990.Buy this card you will not be disappointed. Plus XFX offers this card at $100 less than most if not all its competitors. Don't let the 1 star and 2 star reviews here discourage you. Just read them and see the b.s they contain.

January 19, 2012 | 01:09 AM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

Truth be told you only need one of those 7970 cards up to one 30 inch monitor. its a waste to use 2 unless you got 3 24 or 30 inch monitors. i love the fact that the 7970 has got 3GB of RAm which will be great for huge texures in furute games and giant game worlds like GTA V

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