HIS Radeon HD 7970 X Turbo Video Card Review

HIS has launched its custom version of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition complete with a massive factory overclock. Could this overclock, along with the IceQ X2 cooling system, make it the fastest single card on the market? We will compare it to the MSI GeForce GTX 680 Lightning and a reference AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition to find out!

Introduction

HIS (Hightech Information System) is a graphics card company that was founded in 1987 and is currently one of AMD’s 1st tier add-in-board partners. HIS is best known for introducing its IceQ cooled line of video cards in 2003, and carrying forward that legacy of custom cooling solutions on many of the AMD cards that it offers in the marketplace today. We haven't evaluated a HIS card before previously. HIS has provided us with the top-of-the-line overclocked 7970 GHz Edition video card, so we will see if it is up to the quality you guys expect. We had some interesting issues you will want to note on this page, and explained more in the conclusion.

On our test bench today is the HIS 7970 X Turbo 3GB video card.

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AMD Radeon 7970 GHz Edition

AMD released its first of the next generation GPU with the Radeon HD 7970 on December 22nd, 2011, codenamed "Tahiti." This released ruled the market in both performance and price until NVIDIA released the GeForce GTX 680 which had better performance and a lower price. AMD continued its release of the Radeon HD 7950 on January 30th, 2012 and later on with the Radeon HD 7870 and 7850 video cards on March 4th, 2012, codenamed "Pitcairn."

On June 21, 2012, AMD refreshed the Radeon HD 7970 with higher clock speeds and GHz Edition branding. The biggest difference between the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and a reference Radeon HD 7970 is the operating frequency. The reference design of the original 7970 has the GPU running at 925MHz and the memory running at 1375MHz or 5.5GHz GDDR5. The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition has the GPU running at 1000MHz base clock with a 1050MHz Boost Clock, while the memory is set to run at 1500MHz or 6GHz GDDR5. Both video cards still have 128 Texture Units, 32 ROP's, 128 Z/Stencils, and 3GB of GDDR5 memory on a 384-bit bus. The typical board power for each video card is 250 Watts.


HIS 7970 X Turbo 3GB

The HIS 7970 X Turbo utilizes a custom "deluxe silver" PCB solution sporting a 18+1+1 phase power design using solid state choke capacitors and HIS’s IceQ X2 cooling system. It is configured with 3GB of DDR5 memory running at a 6GHz effective rate, and the GPU is clocked at 1120MHz and is set to boost to 1180MHz. Compared to the reference AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition clocks, this represents a 130MHz factory overclock. In game, the 1180MHz boost clock was observed as the effective clock at all times. The IceQ X2 cooling system is comprised of five heat pipes that carry heat away from the GPU to aluminum fins that are cooled by a pair of 89mm fans.

The card features the ability to support up to 6 monitors at one time, which will limit the DVI connection to single-link (a maximum 1920x1200 resolution), however, there is a button that enables dual-link DVI but mode will only allow 5 monitors to be supported at one time.

There are also a pair of LEDs mounted on the card that supply visual information about the GPU’s voltage and the fan’s current fan speed. We observed that the GPU voltage LED would immediately jump to red any time the card was under load at factory clocks, which rendered it rather useless as it continued to be red as we increased the clocks and voltage. The fan speed LED was novel to observe during testing, however, it could also be manipulated by manually adjusting the fan speed of the video card. While these are rather unique features, these did not live up to the expectation of usefulness that we got from the card’s literature.

The HIS 7970 X Turbo comes with a 2 year factory warranty and is currently available on Newegg for $609.99 and a coupon for Sleeping Dogs.

HIS 7970 X Turbo Photos

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The HIS 7970 X Turbo is packaged in a black box that is accented by a pair of blue lines running across the front. The front of the box highlights some of the features of the card, the IceQ X2 cooling system and the included mini-DP to DVI adapter. On the back of the box, HIS goes into further detail about the unique elements on the card, including the voltage LED, fan speed LED, the Eyefinity 5/6 implementation and the custom cooling solution. Inside the box, HIS included a quick start guide, a driver CD, an active mini-DP to DVI adapter, a CrossFireX bridge and a DVI to VGA adapter. Unusually absent were PCI-e power adapters.

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The front of the HIS 7970 X Turbo features a matte black plastic cover that serves to house the two fans and cover the heatsink. It is accented by a mesh patterned X logo placed between the fans. You can see underneath the black cover that the heat sink extends beyond the back edge of the video card.

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On the I/O panel there are six ports. These include four mini-DP ports, one DVI-I connector, and one HDMI connector. The power connectors are on top of the video card and require two 8-pin PCIe connections. The button to change the card’s operating mode between Eyefinity 5 and 6 is also located on the I/O panel. The video card’s measurements are 12.25 inches in Length, 1.65 inches Wide, and 5.9 inches in Height.

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While the design of the IceQ X2 cooling solution appears to be solid, it presented a major challenge to install the card into our testbed motherboard. Our ASUS Z77 Sabertooth has a thermal armor ducting system that covers the entire motherboard, creating a level, deck like surface above the PCB. The IceQ X2’s bracing mechanism is contoured over the card’s PCB, resulting in it jutting out below the PCB behind the PCIe connector. The part of the heatsink that was not flush with the PCB prevented us from being able to lock the card into the PCIe slot due to it being in contact with the motherboard’s decking (we tried all three PCIe 16x slots with the same results). Because our test bed lays flat, and the card was sufficiently connected to perform our evaluation, it did not hinder our results, however, this card is not physically compatible with our motherboard if you intend on putting it in a tower case. We also observed that the pink thermal interface material used on the memory was exposed below the bottom edge of the cooling solution.

Additionally, heat generated is not exhausted out of the case, which makes it far more important to have a well-designed case with plenty of airflow. We observed a majority of the air being exhausted out the back of the video card when fans were dialed up to full speed.


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