Back in February, we took a look at the first AMD 28nm GPU, the 'Tahiti'-based Radeon HD 7970. As the first card utilizing AMD’s next generation GPU architecture, GCN (Graphics Core Next), as well as the first card based on a GPU with a 28nm process technology, there was much anticipation for how it would perform.
While we were impressed with the Radeon HD 7970’s overall performance, which was a clear winner when pitted against NVIDIA’s at-the-time flagship model, the GTX 580, since then, NVIDIA has retaliated with the release of their own 28nm GPU, the ‘Kepler'-based GeForce GTX 680.
With a bit of extra time to develop their own 28nm chip, NVIDIA’s Kepler architecture has so far proved more successful than AMD’s, with our benchmarks showing the GeForce GTX 680 pulling ahead of the Radeon HD 7970 in quite a few tests. Compounded with NVIDIA’s lower SRP for the GTX 680, which retails for US$499, compared to the HD 7970’s US$549 (locally, the price difference isn't as pronounced, with the HD 7970 retailing for S$849, and the GTX 680 going for S$829), NVIDIA has put AMD on the ropes and under pressure.
AMD has since announced a price cut on all HD 7900 series graphics cards, reducing the suggested retail price of the HD 7970 to US$479, and even throwing in three games: Dirt Showdown, Nexuiz and one of 2011’s top titles, Deus Ex: Human Revolution with The Missing Link DLC with every Radeon HD 7900 series card at selected retailers. For now, we haven't seen the price cuts trickle down to the local market, but expect reductions in the coming months.
Of course, AMD still holds some advantages. While NVIDIA has improved its multi-display support, with the GTX 680 now supporting up to three 3D displays, plus a fourth non-3D display, on a single card, AMD’s Eyefinity technology remains the king, with the HD 7900 series capable of driving up to six 3D displays on a single card.
And, while NVIDIA’s GTX 680 is the best reference card we’ve tested, it didn’t completely obliterate the HD 7970, which was close enough, especially on more taxing benchmarks that we could theoretically see it making up lost ground in an overclocked scenario. That is, of course, if the Radoen HD 7970 overclocks better than the GTX 680.
With that in mind, today we take a loook at two high-end, factory-overclocked Radeon HD 7970s, one from ASUS and one from Sapphire. With higher GPU core and memory clock speeds and each manufacturer's own tweaks, we’ll be able to get an idea of the real potential of the Radeon HD 7970.
As a side note, MSI’s Lightning Edition Radeon HD 7970 was originally scheduled to appear as the third entrant in this duel (Mexican Standoff?), but our review unit was faulty, so we’ll be revisiting that one when we have a proper working replacement unit.