AMD Radeon HD 7950 review
Superb speed at a slightly more palatable price than the HD 7970, but it’s still on the expensive side for most gamers
AMD introduced its new “Southern Islands” architecture with the £430 Radeon HD 7970 before Christmas, but powerful though it may be, that kind of price remains too high for most people. Its next chip in the range, the HD 7950, is thankfully a bit more palatable at £340.
That’s still more than you’ll pay for any other single-GPU card aside from Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580, but you get a lot of innovation for your cash. This is the first range of cards to use a 28nm manufacturing process, and AMD has refined its architecture to make it more efficient when handling parallel and complex tasks.
The HD 7950 has the same 4.3 billion transistors as its big brother, but four of the 64-core MIMD clusters have been deactivated, with 1,792 of the original 2,048 stream processors left standing. The core clock has been reduced from 925MHz to 800MHz, and the HD 7950 is available with either 1.5GB or 3GB of RAM running at a slightly slower 1,250MHz.
It’s still an extremely potent card. An average of 61fps in our 1,920 x 1,080 Very High quality Crysis benchmark is 7fps behind the HD 7970 but 15fps ahead of the older HD 6950. It even managed playable frame rates in the same test run at 2,560 x 1,600 – a 30in TFT resolution, and 5,760 x 1,080 – three Full HD monitors connected via AMD’s Eyefinity technology.
An average of 30fps in Crysis 2 at Ultra quality and 1,920 x 1,080 tucks in nicely under the HD 7970’s 36fps; and in Battlefield 3 at 2,560 x 1,600 and its highest quality settings it scored 46fps, again only beaten by the HD 7970 and Nvidia’s dual-GPU GTX 590.
Theoretical tests also illustrated the advantage the HD 7000 Series has over older cards. In 3DMark 11 the HD 7950 recorded an overall score of X2273, with the HD 6950 scoring X1638. This came along with improved power figures too: our test rig’s respectable idle draw of 71W increased to a 252W peak. That’s lower than every Nvidia card from the much slower GTX 550 Ti upwards.
The card itself is marginally shorter than the HD 7970, at 270mm, and it requires two six-pin power connectors. It didn’t prove too hot or too loud in our tests, either, peaking at 69°C while making an understated whine – although these figures will depend on the heatsink on the particular card you buy.
It’s a definite step forward, then, and the excellent performance and lower price mean we’d recommend this over the even dearer HD 7970 if you want next-gen graphics right now, or if you want to play across high resolutions and multiple screens.
If you’re happy to wait, though, it may pay off. AMD will begin to fill out the rest of its range with cheaper cards, and Nvidia will soon unleash its 28nm “Kepler” cards, too. Like the HD 7970, this excellent but expensive card is as much a glimpse of the future as it is a viable option now.
|Price ex VAT||£283|
|Price inc VAT||£340|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||3|
|Graphics card interface||PCI Express|
|Graphics chipset||AMD Radeon HD 7970|
|Core GPU frequency||800MHz|
Standards and compatibility
|DirectX version support||11.0|
|Shader model support||5.0|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|7-pin TV outputs||0|
|Graphics card power connectors||2 x 6-pin|