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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A Closer Look at the Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock

With a triple slot heatsink, a length of just over 11.5” and a weight that tips the scales at a sumo-like 3 1/4 pounds, the Gigabyte HD 7970 Super Overclock is one of the largest, heaviest AMD cards on the market. The reasoning behind this massive footprint is quite simple: Gigabyte needed excess heatsink thermal mass to ensure the exhaust fans operate at peak efficiency. If a smaller design was used, there was no way to guarantee that the innovative cooling design would work as advertised.

The triple slot Windforce 5X fan assembly looks like something straight out of a medieval torture chamber and boasts five tiny fans. These fans are set up in an atypical pull configuration likely have some people worried about acoustics, which is no wonder considering they run up to a blistering 10,000 RPMs in this application. Luckily Gigabyte has equipped the Super Overclock with an advanced fan controller that rapidly samples ambient and ASIC temperatures in order to best control fan RPMs. With that being said, we still had a visceral cringing sensation when we saw this setup.

Unlike typically downdraft heatsinks, the WindForce 5x draws heat away from the card instead of pushing air towards an internal fin array. This is supposed to lower component temperatures while reducing ambient heat around the motherboard. If it works, we could be seeing a revolution in graphic card heatsink design.

According to Gigabyte, this controller actually reduces the fan’s rotational speed to a bare minimum when the card is at idle and temperatures stay below the 30 degree mark. Meanwhile, they ramp up speed as load temperature increases, hopefully keeping temperatures below the 60 degree mark since after that point, the Super Overclock could get uncomfortably loud.

In addition to nine huge 6mm heatpipes that run the heatsink’s length, Gigabyte has used a large copper encased vapor chamber that covers the GPU core, memory and PWM components. We’re guessing that the vast majority of the Super Overclock’s premium is taken up by the WindForce 5X since it is one of the most complex heatsink designs around.

In order to increase the value of their Super Overclock for overclockers, Gigabyte has added a number of features including substantially upgraded components and an LN2 BIOS which can be accessed with a button placed directly behind the backplate. Overclockers can either use the primary BIOS with the higher clock speeds or the secondary LN2 setting which is supposed to overcome potential old bugs. Unfortunately, in our testing this modified BIOS didn’t seem to increase voltage or clock speeds so it will likely be of limited use to anyone using air cooling.

The flip side of the SOC shows us a full coverage heatsink which is used to further dissipate any built up heat. There are also five Proadlizer chips which provide high capacity switching speeds and low ESR. These are supposed to help with graphics card stability as clock speeds are increased to extreme levels. While the Super Overclock’s topside may look like a mashup of different components, the underside is both sleek and understated.

As one may expect, the Super Overclock receives a power connector upgrade as well with a pair of high current 8-pin inputs. Meanwhile, the backplate retains AMD’s reference design with a pair of mini DisplayPort 1.2 outputs, a single HDMI and a DVI connector.

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