HIS HD 7970 IceQ X≤ & HD 7950 IceQ X≤ Review
As todayís GPU architectures age gracefully, board partners have gone through the process of releasing many overclocked, custom cooled cards with upgraded components which enhance their appeal for overclockers and gamers alike. Amongst all of these new and improved versions of current graphics technology, a few stood out to us. Among them was HISís new IceQ X≤ series which updates the original IceQ heatsink design with additional thermal capacity and a completely revised fan design.
For this review, we will be looking at HISís HD 7970 GHz Edition IceQ X≤ and HD 7950 Boost Clock IceQ X≤. They remain at AMDís reference clock speeds and instead rely upon offering excellent overclocking headroom and some advanced cooling features to justify a slight premium. Now, HIS does sell an overclocked version of the HD 7970 GHz Edition which uses the ďTurboĒ moniker but we decided to focus upon two more affordable alternatives.
The price for these cards isnít all that bad with the HD 7970 GHz version going for about $460 while the HD 7950 Boost Clock hits the $320 mark. Considered the reference editions retail for $440 and $300 respectively, itís good to see HIS offering significant technological improvements for a $20 premium. However, since AMDís major game promo ended last month some luster has been taken off the higher end Radeon GPUs as they no longer have a value added bundle.
Both of HISís cards are based off of the same PCB and use identical IceQ X≤ heatsink designs. The only real difference is the GPU core installed onto each card and the power connector requirements. Gone is the original push / pull configuration of HISís original IceQ heatsink and in its place is a downdraft style affair thatís similar to most other custom heatsinks these days.
The IceQ X≤ doesnít necessarily chart a new course in cooling design but it is supposed to achieve excellent temperature results without having to resort to a larger triple slot design or a higher acoustical profile. In order to achieve this, HIS has used a pair of 90mm fans which push fresh air down onto a large aluminum heatsink. These fans are equipped with specialized corrugated blades that are designed to dramatically increase airspeed velocity.
HISís heatsink design may be par for the course these days but that doesnít mean it is overly generic. There are five heatpipes (two 8mm and three 6mm) which are hooked up to a huge fin array thatís over 10Ē long and 4Ē wide and provides more than enough thermal capacity for some incredible overclocking feats.
The cooling assembly extends down to the PWM and memory as well with dedicated anodized aluminum heatsinks for each. Meanwhile, a ďmetal ribĒ carries down the edge of the PCB in order to provide additional rigidity and prevent warping.
Both cards included an almost reference PCB (more on the changes a bit later) so a Dual BIOS option has been included. As with most other board partners, HIS has decided to populate both BIOSes with identical files, ensuring the second one can be used as a fail-safe.
One of the differentiating factors between HISís HD 7970 and HD 7950 is their respective power connectors. While the HD 7970 IceQ X≤ receives a pair of 8-pin connectors (which seems to be the standard number among custom versions nowadays), the 7950 IceQ X≤ is equipped with a single 8-pin and lone 6-pin. According to HIS, these expanded layouts should allow for increased stability at higher clock speeds.
Flipping the cards over, we see that HIS has indeed equipped both with the same PCB and 5+2 all-digital PWM. Unfortunately, the components used for this card are geared towards efficiency and performance rather than silence. As such, IceQ X≤ís PWM noise is significantly higher than some other cards.
Length is another factor to take into account before taking the plunge into HISí territory. With the heatsink pushing its way past the PCB by a good 1 ľĒ, both IceQ X≤ cards are about 12Ē long, making them a tight fit in certain enclosures.
The cardsí backplate connectors remain in their reference layout with a pair of mini DisplayPorts, one HDMI and a single DVI output.
Since this review would pit two stock-clocked graphics cards against reference designs, resulting in identical performance from one card to the next, we decided to do things a bit differently this time around. We have used HISís included iTurbo software to overclock both GPUs to a level that ensures 24/7 stability without voltage increases.
The benchmark charts on the following pages will show the HD 7970 GHz Edition IceQ X≤ running at 1203MHz / 6648MHz (graphics / memory) and HD 7950 Boost Clock IceQ X≤ clocked at 1124MHz / 5384MHz. These are decent clock speed increases all things considered and additional voltage will be applied within the overclocking section.
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