Review Index:

AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB Graphics Card Review

Manufacturer: AMD

Tahiti Gets Clipped

It has been just over a month since we first got our hands on the AMD Southern Islands architecture in the form of the Radeon HD 7970 3GB graphics card.  It was then a couple of long weeks as we waited for the consumer to get the chance to buy that same hardware though we had to admit that the $550+ price tags were scaring many away. Originally we were going to have both the Radeon HD 7970 and the Radeon HD 7950 in our hands before January 9th, but that didn't pan out and instead the little brother was held in waiting a bit longer.

Today we are reviewing that sibling, the Radeon HD 7950 3GB GPU that offers basically the same technology and feature set with a slightly diminished core and a matching, slightly diminished price.  In truth I don't think that the estimated MSRP of $449 is going to really capture that many more hearts than the $549 price of the HD 7970 did, but AMD is hoping that they can ride their performance advantage to as many profits as they can while they wait for NVIDIA to properly react.  

Check out our video review right here and then continue on to our complete benchmarking analysis!!

Southern Islands Gets Scaled Back a Bit

As I said above, the Radeon HD 7950 3GB is pretty similar to the HD 7970.  It is based on the same 28nm, DirectX 11.1, PCI Express 3.0, 4.31 billion transistor GPU and includes the same massive 3GB frame buffer as its older brother.  The Tahiti GPU is the first of its kind of all of those facets but it has a few of the computational portions disabled.

If you haven't read up on the Southern Islands architecture, or Tahiti GPU based around it, you are missing quite a bit of important information on the current lineup of parts from AMD.  I would very much encourage you to head over to our Radeon HD 7970 3GB Tahiti review and look over the first three pages as it provides a detailed breakdown of the new features and the pretty dramatic shift in design that Southern Islands introduced to the AMD GPU team.  

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Continue reading our full review of the Radeon HD 7950 3GB graphics card!!

The block diagram here gives you an idea of how little actually changes on the HD 7950 - there are four fewer CUs (compute units) bringing the total stream processor count from 2,048 to 1,792.  This does lower the theoretical maximum compute performance from 3.79 TFLOPS down to 2.87 TFLOPS but that is still a very impressive number for a discrete GPU.  The only other hardware change that I can see is the drop from 128 to 112 texture units that puts the HD 7950 to a texture fill rate of just under 90 GT/s.  

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AMD provided a table that shows the direct head to head comparison between the HD 7950 and the HD 7970 including clock speeds.  With a drop from 925 MHz to 800 MHz along with the 256 fewer stream processors there is definitely going to be a performance hit for the reference designs.  AMD did keep the 3GB frame buffer, 384-bit memory bus and 32 ROP units of the HD 7970 on this new card and this should make sure that the HD 7950 isn't taking a noticeable perf hit when it comes to Eyefinity.

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One of the interesting parts about the Radeon HD 7950 is that it will not be released in a pure reference form as we are used to seeing from initial high-end GPU releases.  Instead, AMD gave its partners the directive to build their own PCBs, design and purchase their own coolers and sell more unique SKUs on day of release.  After talking with quite a few of these partners we found that while they all were setup for 800 MHz models, almost everyone was going to release a part running at 900 MHz or above.  The graph here shows what AMD thinks AICs will do with its Tahiti GPU, scaling to as high as 1000 MHz, a 25% increase of the reference speed, out the gate.

In my own overclocking testing we actually were able to run the HD 7950 at 1050 MHz without any voltage changes or even adjusting the PowerTune settings.

Video News

January 31, 2012 | 12:14 AM - 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 31, 2012 | 12:26 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

performance is ok...price is no good

January 31, 2012 | 12:32 AM - 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

Think I caould run it?

January 31, 2012 | 01:14 AM - 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 31, 2012 | 02:31 AM - 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 | 04:39 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 | 05:06 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 | 09:05 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 | 01:58 PM - 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 | 07:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Anywhere I can find this fact?

February 6, 2012 | 02:01 PM - 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 | 09:15 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 | 04:59 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 | 04:15 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 | 04:34 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 | 05:09 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.

January 31, 2012 | 01:54 PM - 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 | 03:16 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).

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February 1, 2012 | 08:47 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 | 04:48 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.

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March 28, 2012 | 04:23 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 | 07:33 PM - Posted by Matt (not verified)

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?

November 17, 2012 | 10:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

what is the chipset on the xps 8500 motherboard?

December 18, 2012 | 08:04 PM - Posted by Leida Lepo (not verified)

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

December 30, 2012 | 01:17 AM - Posted by ezjohny

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

March 21, 2013 | 12:16 PM - 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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