AMD Radeon HD 7970 3GB GHz Edition Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: June 21, 2012
Product Name: HD 7970 GHz Edition
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AMD’s Boost Feature Explained

Something you may not have been expecting in the specification chart was the addition of a Boost category. Taking a page out of NVIDIA’s playbook, AMD is now allowing the core to go above and beyond its rated “base clock” if built-in monitoring algorithms detect there is TDP overhead to be spared. This all occurs above standard P-States but the traditional PowerTune limits have also been increased in order to take advantage of dynamic voltage adjustments. As a result, the card should strive to hit the predetermined limit (in this case 50MHz higher than the reference spec) more often without the throttling that sometimes occurred when PowerTune clamped down on power draw.

While this technology is surely a welcome addition, it isn’t quite as dynamic as NVIDIA’s GPU Boost feature, nor does it give the wide dynamic clock range of Kepler-based products. Let’s explain this a bit further. Kepler cards use a hardware-based solution which samples the relative distance to maximum TDP at sub-second intervals. This allows for quick situational changes that ultimately lead to varying clock speeds and maximum performance. Granted, GPU Boost does cause some interesting overclocking adventures and is adversely affected by temperature increases but in our experience, it works very well.

AMD’s Boost on the other hand is quite lethargic and heavy handed in its approach since there seems to be very little clock adjustment granularity. It sets a clock speed (usually 1050MHz in the HD 7970 GHz Edition’s case) and for the most part stays there throughout a game. During our testing, there were a few instances where a step-down to 1GHz occurred but they were few and far between and we never saw an instance where the HD 7970 GHz Edition took advantage of lower temperatures. Even increasing the fan speed to 100% resulted in identical clock speeds, proving that AMD either strictly curtails their Boost frequency or the technology still has a long way to go. Nonetheless, we expect it to mature rapidly and become an integral part of AMD's future strategy.

Unfortunately, AMD hasn’t been forthcoming with any additional information and didn’t answer any of our Boost-related questions but hopefully they’ll be less tight lipped about it as time goes on.

Much like with Kepler-based cards, users will now be increasing the Boost Clock rather than the base frequency. However, overclocking still isn’t a “you see what you get” scenario since we experienced some instances where our set Boost overclock would default to a lower level. This happened in Wargame: European Conflict, Metro 2033 and Battlefield 3.

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