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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The HD 7970 Super Overclock has allowed Gigabyte to try a number of new design features, none of which are particularly successful. However, when taken as a whole they make for a unique graphics card that strives for innovation above all else. The real question here is how the North American market would react to this card. We’re not sure gamers would greet it with open arms but there’s enough here to make the SOC tempting for some users.

The modus operandi of Gigabyte’s Super Overclock series is to deliver mind-bending performance and a significant amount of overclocking headroom. While the benchmark numbers posted by the HD 7970 SOC were certainly respectful, they didn’t come close to expectations normally associated with its storied brand name. Had the HD 7970 GHz Edition not been released, praise would have been heaped upon Gigabyte’s in-game performance. Instead, the Super Overclock’s combination of high core speeds and a disappointing lack of memory bandwidth increases resulted in framerates that were barely up to GHz Edition’s standards.

Make no mistake about it; this is one fast card with performance that matches –and in some cases exceeds- NVIDIA’s GTX 680 but the challenges it faces go beyond raw performance numbers. The Super Overclock’s current rating on the value scale is disappointingly low due to a proposed $515 sticker price. In its defense, pre-overclocked cards that carry a significant premium are rarely considered great buys and Gigabyte has included some enticing features to go with the high clock speeds. Nonetheless, if extreme overclocking is a secondary concern, there are far better options out there, many of which are priced lower than the Super Overclock. A great example of this is Gigbayte’s own HD 7970 OC ($419 before rebates) and even stock HD 7970 GHz Editions can be found for as little as $399 these days.

Overclocking is another matter altogether since the Super Overclock shined in this area. By using Gigabyte’s newly refurbished OC Guru software, we were able to hit core and memory frequencies that were above and beyond past achievements. Our sample’s final clock speeds may be an oddity, yet overclocking headroom is the SOC’s primary mission so its absolute dominance in this discipline was more than welcome.

The Windforce 5X heatsink will be the first thing anyone sees when looking at Gigabyte’s Super Overclock and we have truly mixed feelings about it. On paper the miniscule fans don’t seem all that loud but readings from a decibel meter only tell of part of the acoustics story. Unfortunately, it is the TYPE of sound produced by the Windforce 5X which will stand out. Instead of a low-range “whoosh”, it takes on a higher pitch whine that will have even the most jaded of enthusiasts running for noise cancelling headphones.

Gigabyte’s Windforce 5X heatsink exemplifies why certain ideas should remain on the drawing board. While the design tends to lower some component temperatures by minuscule amounts, it does nothing a reference heatsink can’t accomplish. It actually represents a step backwards from typical blower-style setups since the card’s heat is dumped directly into your enclosure’s confines and core temperatures aren’t vastly improved. With the limited overseas release, Gigabyte seems to be admitting their Super Overclock’s heatsink may not have been widely accepted in North America. We tend to agree.

If it wasn’t for the less expensive and more readily available GHz Edition breathing down its neck, the Gigabyte Super Overclock would be considered an extremely capable HD 7970. Indeed, should you be able to overlook the inefficient heatsink design and an extremely high price, it’s incredible overclocking abilities could make it one of the most rewarding cards out there. But for users that want a simple plug and play gaming solution, there are plenty of other options which are quieter, less expensive and offer better out of box performance.

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