Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 OC Video Card Review

The AMD Radeon HD 7950 challenges the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 closer to its price point than the impressive Radeon HD 7970 does. We've got Sapphire's best Radeon HD 7950 here, and we've run it through our gauntlet to see if its a worthy upgrade not only for legions of Radeon HD 6000 series owners, but NVIDIA's customers as well.

Introduction

Sapphire Technology is one of AMD/ATI's oldest board partners. The company was formed in Hong Kong in order to manufacture video cards based on ATI's graphics processors. Since then, they have grown to a monthly manufacturing capacity of about 1.8 million video cards. Their product lineup has also grown to include motherboards , barebones PCs, and computing accessories.

Today, we're looking at one of their latest video cards: the Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 OC. Based on AMD's recently released Radeon HD 7950 GPU, it features an overclocked GPU paired with 3GB of GDDR5 memory.

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AMD Radeon HD 7950 GPU

AMD launched the Radeon HD 7950 GPU on January 30th, 2012. Built on a 28nm manufacturing process, the GPU is composed 4.31 billion transistors comprising 1,792 stream processors, 112 texture units, 32 ROPs, and 128 Z/Stencil units. AMD has set the core clock for the Radeon HD 7950 GPU at 800MHz for a computational throughput of 2.87 TFLOPS, a texture fill rate of 118.4 billion texels per second, and a pixel fill rate of 25.6 billion pixels per second. The standard 3GB of GDDR5 memory has its default clock set to 1,250MHz, for 5.0 Gbps of throughput and a maximum memory bandwidth of 240 GB per second. The board's maximum power rating is 200 Watts. A standard complement of one DVI port, one HDMI port, and two mini-DisplayPorts completes the reference package.

Compared to the Radeon HD 7970, that is 256 fewer streaming processors and 16 fewer texture units. The reference standard core clock is also 125MHz lower, while the memory clock is 125MHz lower. This results in 0.92 lower computational bandwidth, 28.8 billion fewer texels per second, 4 billion fewer pixels per second, and a memory bandwidth 24 GB/s lower. The Radeon HD 7950 is also supposed to consume about 50 fewer watts at maximum load than the Radeon HD 7970.


Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 OC

Sapphire's overclocked Radeon HD 7950 OC retails for $479.99 USD and comes with the GPU clocked at 900MHz, which is a 100MHz overclock. The memory is set to AMD's recommended specification of 1250MHz, or 5.0Gbps, so it is not overclocked. It also features a custom cooling device featuring five copper heat-pipes and two 9cm fans.

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The outer box this video card comes packed in features a lot of miscellaneous branding and a female character in military garb. It seems to be a generic box for all of Sapphire's Radeon HD 7950 products, as the "Overclock Edition", "TriXX", and "HDMI High Speed" badges are decals. Along the bottom edge of the font of the box, there is a row of icons indicating that this video card comes with two fans to keep the card cool and quiet, two BIOSes, a PCI Express bus, DisplayPort ports, an HDMI port, and various other features. The back of the box features text describing the gaming experiences awaiting purchasers of this video card. It also has a longer list of features and descriptions of those features.

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The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 OC features a large black plastic cooling shroud mounted to an aluminum heat-sink. The shroud features two 9cm fans and the heat-sink has give copper heat pipes. The PCB to which these components are mounted is blue, and appears to be of an AMD reference design. The shroud is mostly a smooth high-gloss plastic finish, but also has a few pieces with a grainy, matte finish. The cooling shroud does not completely enclose the PCB, or even cover the front face of it. There are large gaps on all sides through which air can enter and escape. The video card is 11" long, 4.5" tall, and just over 1.5" thick.

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The copper heat-pipes carry heat-bearing vapor away from the GPU's heat-collector plate into the relatively cool outer fins of the connected heat-sink. The vapor then condenses and returns to the hot plate to repeat the process. There are two 6-pin auxiliary power supply connectors, both of which must be connected in order for this video card to operate. It may be worth noting that the position of these power connectors in relation to the cooling shroud can make it difficult to get one's fingers in to disconnect power cables when required. Externally, there is are two mini-DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI port, and one DVI port. The back of this video card looks like the back of most video card. It's covered with small surface mount components and a few stickers.


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