Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition Video Card Review

The Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition video card has arrived and brings promise of low temperatures with Sapphires Dual-X Cooling System. It also features a Dual BIOS with both a passive and more aggressive profile. Will Sapphires highest end HD 7970 be able to keep up and compete with NVIDIA's flagship GeForce GTX 680?

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Battlefield 3

We are using the downloaded version of Battlefield 3 via Origin. This game supports two different antialiasing methods, traditional MSAA via the "Deferred AA" option and shader based FXAA via the "Post AA" option. We evaluate the highest playable gameplay settings and take into account performance and image quality, striving for the best. In that regard, we will use whatever the appropriate AA setting, or combination of AA settings, are best for the video cards being used. Our testing procedure and evaluation of graphics features in BF3 are explained in our Battlefield 3 Gameplay Performance and IQ evaluation. We are using the latest patch for this game.


Highest Playable Settings

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The Out-of-Box Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition averaged 47.3 FPS at 2560x1600 with 2X MSAA and FXAA High enabled with all other graphics options selected on the highest setting. The reference Radeon HD 7970 averaged 47 FPS at these settings, while the GeForce GTX 680 averaged 49.4 FPS. We were unable to increase AA on these three video cards to 4X MSAA because framerates dropped too low during combat creating a noticeable lag.

The Overclock on the Sapphire HD 7970 OC provided enough performance to increase Antialiasing to 4X MSAA and FXAA High. At these settings it averaged 50.7 FPS and provided the best overall gameplay experience. Important to note is that these settings are the highest possible settings there are in BF3. The in-game quality settings are at their highest values, and the AA settings are at their highest values, there is going no higher, this is the maximum possible image quality in BF3 at 2560x1600! The game looked incredible.


Apples-to-Apples High Settings

In this Apples-to-Apples test we ran all four video cards at 2560x1600 with 4X MSAA and FXAA High, 16X AF, and all in-game Ultra graphics options selected.

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These are the most demanding settings that Battlefield 3 has to offer. As we mentioned above in the Highest Playable Settings the Overclocked Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition was the only video card that could handle 4X MSAA and averaged 50.7 FPS. The Out-of-Box Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition and the reference Radeon HD 7970 averaged right at 40 FPS which is our ideal framerate, but during combat they each dropped between 30-35 FPS which hindered our ability to fight effectively and took away from the overall gameplay experience.

The GeForce GTX 680 averaged 42.9 FPS with these settings and experienced the same problem with framerates dropping too low during combat. The Overclocked Sapphire HD 7970 OC Edition averaged 7.8 FPS higher and 18.2% faster that the GeForce GTX 680 at these settings.