Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: October 18, 2012
Product Name: HD 7970 Super Overclock
Part Number: GV-R797SO-3GD
Warranty: 3 Years
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Temperature Analysis

For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped. For this test we use the 3DMark Batch Size test at its highest triangle count with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled and looped it for one hour to determine the peak load temperature as measured by GPU-Z.

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.

Considering the mass of Gigabyte’s Windforce 5X heatsink, we’re sure many of you were hoping for much better results here.

Component Temperature Analysis

This is a new section for us and being featured for the first time in this review. Gigabyte claims their WindForce 5X heatsink is designed in such a way that it ensures cooler component temperatures since the fans draw heat away from the motherboard. In theory, this should work as advertised so we packed our main test platform into a Corsair Carbide 500R (with its stock fans installed) and hoped for the best. The CPU is cooled by Corsair’s H80 liquid cooler.

Below, you will see three different measurements which were taken at full load (Battlefield 3) after approximately 30 minutes of gaming. The ambient temperature is taken from a location approximately 6” above the GPU and directly above the CPU fan and is measured with a Type-K temperature probe attached to an Extech data logger. The Motherboard temperature is taken from the PCB between the CPU and the GPU itself with a Fluke infrared surface thermometer. The CPU temperature was taken with RealTemp. Ambient temperatures began at 24 degrees Celsius for each test.

We used a reference HD 7970, Gigabyte’s Windforce 3X-equipped HD 7970 OC and of course the HD 7970 Super Overclock.

These results are certainly interesting since they validate Gigabyte’s claims while also showing some glaring flaws with the WindForce 5X design. On one hand it does lower motherboard versus Gigabyte’s own WindForce 3X downdraft-style cooler. That’s the good part.

Unfortunately, the reference card uses a heatsink that not only protects the motherboard from excess temperature increases but it also exhausts heat outside of the case. As indicated by the Ambient measurement above, the Super Overclock’s oddball fan direction causes a massive temperature spike within our case. This negatively (to a minor extent) impacts CPU temperatures as well. We’re guessing that a single 120mm or 140mm exhaust fan mounted on the 500R’s side panel would have helped things immeasurably but as it stands, we believe the Super Overclock’s claims are slightly exaggerated in this respect.

Acoustical Testing

What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Heave 2.5 is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 20 minutes.

The chart above only tells half the story unfortunately. While the Windforce 5X heatsink may look like a relatively mild mannered heatsink in our results, its fans tend to produce most of their noise within higher octaves, a characteristic that becomes quite annoying. Instead of the standard fan noise, be expected for a relatively distracting high pitched whine. So while the Super Overclock isn’t necessarily loud, its fans do produce a unique acoustical signature which isn’t normally associated with high end gaming products from this century.

System Power Consumption

For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.

The Super Overclock is a high performance GPU and has power consumption that matches or exceeds a GHz Edition due to the fact that it doesn’t modulate clock frequencies when under load.

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