AMD Radeon HD 7950 Review; Tahiti Pro Arrives

Author: SKYMTL
Date: January 30, 2012
Product Name: HD 7950 3GB
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More HD 7950 Launch Coverage:

- XFX HD 7950 Black Edition DD review HERE
- Sapphire HD 7950 Dual Fan OC review HERE

With the launch of their Southern Islands architecture, AMD proved they still have what it takes to engineer a class leading graphics core. The 28nm Tahiti XT core which graced the flagship HD 7970 packed 4.3 billion transistors into a compact, efficient design and easily wrested the “fastest single GPU” title away from NVIDIA’s GTX 580. Initial availability may not have been quite up to some people’s expectations and the cards did run a bit loud (an issue which has supposedly been corrected on the retail products) but otherwise, we felt it was a nearly perfect graphics card.

The HD 7970’s $549 price point may have been firmly targeted towards certain well heeled gamers but AMD’s encore presentation is aimed at much larger audience. By taking the same Southern Islands architecture and essentially cutting it down in a few key areas, we now have the Tahiti Pro and a new graphics card: the HD 7950 3GB. This unassuming product holds a key place in AMD’s current lineup since it is supposed to compete against the GTX 580 while offering lower power consumption, less heat production and a highly competitive price of $449. Now $449 may still put the HD 7950 far above most people’s modest budgets but it does make this new generation of GPUs accessible to a wider market.

A move away from a VLIW core layout has allowed the Southern Islands cores to grow beyond the limitations of past architectures and the HD 7950 is no different in that respect. Much like its bigger brother, it incorporates several key technological advances which are supposed to increase rendering throughput, optimize DX11 application performance and it should be able to vastly outstrip the previous generation in compute-related tasks. Naturally, scaling back on some parts of the architecture will lead to lower performance than its $550 sibling but we’re still expecting great things from this launch.

Before moving on in this review, let’s attack the million dollar question head on: what will availability be like? AMD actually surprised us by attaining reasonable stock levels of most key HD 7970 SKUs from its launch day onwards. While we may have some cautions optimism this time around, hopefully launching in the midst of a Chinese New Year won’t have an adverse effect upon long term availability.

The new HD 7950 3GB is looking to fill a key hole in a busy lineup and with a price of $449 it should offer an excellent mix of performance and efficiency for gamers who use higher end systems. If AMD has hit their performance just right, for the time being NVIDIA may not have a anything that can compete on a level footing against this new card.


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