Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 3GB OC Review
AMD’s 28nm graphics cores in the HD 7970 and HD 7950 are without a doubt impressive and have the ability to either meet or surpass the competition’s high end offerings without requiring huge amounts of power. While availability of the HD 7950 seems to be quite good, finding a HD 7970 can be a bit tough, particularly if you are looking for a non reference version. This situation may speak volumes about the Tahiti XT’s popularity or it could signify a lack of regular stock replenishment but for the time being, Gigabyte’s HD 7970 OC is one of the hardest to find.
Gigabyte may call this an “OC” edition but the clock speeds aren’t all that impressive. The core clock has been increased to 900MHz –an increase of less than 10% over AMD’s original specs- and the memory sticks to default frequencies. Unfortunately, such a limited overclock won’t make any difference in the playability of games but it does allow for the possibility of Gigabyte releasing an even higher clocked Super Overclock edition sometime in the future.
Unlike some other mildly overclocked HD 7970s, Gigabyte has decided to deck their card out in a custom heatsink which is meant to lower temperatures, thus increasing the likelihood of users successfully increasing clock speeds even further. Otherwise, the HD 7970 OC sticks to a mostly reference layout with a length of 11.5” and a pair of Crossfire connectors.
Some may be in for a bit of sticker shock when they realize this particular graphics card goes for a hair over $600USD at many retailers, bringing it in line with XFX’s Black Edition DD and ASUS’ DirectCu II. Unfortunately, this is the price you’ll need to pay for a custom cooled, mildly overclocked HD 7970 these days, provided you can actually find it in stock.
The popularity of Gigabyte’s card isn’t due to its high clock speeds but rather the Tri Cool heatsink that has been installed onto this HD 7970. The Tri Cool design is essentially a rebranded Windforce 3X and has all of its predecessor’s defining features like a trio of intake fans, an extensive internal aluminum fin array and several large copper heatpipes. It has a ton of thermal mass and in previous reviews, the temperatures it produced were impressive to say the least.
Alongside the HD 7970 OC’s outer edge is a long piece of metal which is used to stop the PCB from bowing under the heatsink’s weight. We can also see that Gigabyte has kept AMD’s Dual BIOS switch but unlike some Sapphire designs, only one BIOS is populated while the other can be loaded with a user-defined profile.
Since Gigabyte has used the underpinnings of a reference PCB for our early release card, output connectors and power inputs have remained the same as we have seen with all other HD 7970 cards to date. For whatever reason though, Gigabyte won’t be including ANY adaptors other than a DVI to VGA dongle which means you will have to purchase additional components if an Eyefinity setup is ever used. This really doesn’t sit well with us since this is of course a $600 graphics card and AMD stated that all HD 7970s would come equipped with the connectors necessary to run Eyefinity.
It may look like Gigabyte has moved away from their typical blue PCB and decided to go with the reference black design. However, this is an early sample and uses AMD’s reference design since the actual retail PCB wasn’t ready in time for the pre-launch date. Mass market products use a custom Gigabyte design with their typical blue colour and Ultra Durable VGA features like a 2oz PCB and a slightly different component layout.
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