AMD Radeon HD 7950 Video Card Review
By Gabriel Torres on January 31, 2012


Introduction

The new Radeon HD 7950, which is being released today, is a more affordable version of the Radeon HD 7970. Let’s check its performance and see if it is a good choice for users looking for a high-end video card.

The Radeon HD 7950 is a Radeon HD 7970 with fewer processors and lower clock rates. It is based on the same new architecture as the more expensive model, dubbed “Graphics Core Next” or simply “GCN,” and supports the new PCI Express 3.0 connection and the latest DirectX version (11.1). For a detailed explanation of the new features present on this new architecture, please read our Radeon HD 7970 review.

At USD 450, the Radeon HD 7950 fills the void between the GeForce GTX 570 (USD 370-400, if you can still find a video card based on this chip) and the GeForce GTX 580 (USD 470-500 for models with the standard clocks and 1.5 GB of memory) in terms of pricing.

In the table below, we compare the main specifications of the video cards included in our review. The prices listed below do not include rebates and are for the models with the clock and memory configurations listed below. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review, except for the Radeon HD 7950, which is the price advertised by AMD.

Video Card

Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock (Effective)

Memory Interface

Memory Transfer Rate

Memory

Shaders

DirectX

Price

Radeon HD 7950

800 MHz

800 MHz

5 GHz

384-bit

240 GB/s

3 GB GDDR5

1,792

11.1

USD 450

Radeon HD 7970

925 MHz

925 MHz

5.5 GHz

384-bit

264 GB/s

3 GB GDDR5

2,048

11.1

USD 550-560

Radeon HD 6970

880 MHz

880 MHz

5.5 GHz

256-bit

176 GB/s

2 GB GDDR5

1,536

11

USD 330-370

GeForce GTX 580

772 MHz

1,544 MHz

4,008 MHz

384-bit

192.4 GB/s

1.5 GB GDDR5

512

11

USD 470-500

NVIDIA offers a 3 GB version of the GeForce GTX 580 for USD 550, which is the true competitor against the Radeon HD 7970. However, we didn’t have one to include in our comparison.

You can compare the specs of these video cards with other video cards by taking a look at our “AMD ATI Chips Comparison Table” and “NVIDIA Chips Comparison Table” tutorials.

Today, only the LGA2011 Core i7 processors (“Sandy Bridge-E”) have a PCI Express 3.0 controller. Therefore, we tested the video cards using a Core i7-3960X processor on a motherboard based on the Intel X79 chipset. In our Radeon HD 7970 review, we discovered that, at this time, there is no difference between using a PCI Express 2.0 or a PCI Express 3.0 connection. We also discovered that if you are using a high-end video card, the CPU doesn’t affect gaming performance.

Now let’s take a complete look at the AMD Radeon HD 7950 reference model.

The AMD Radeon HD 7950

Below we have an overall look at the AMD Radeon HD 7950 reference model. It requires one six-pin and one eight-pin auxiliary power connectors.

AMD Radeon HD 7950
click to enlarge
Figure 1: AMD Radeon HD 7950

AMD Radeon HD 7950
click to enlarge
Figure 2: AMD Radeon HD 7950

One of the highlights of this video card is the possibility of connecting up to six video monitors at the same time, which is achieved by using a DisplayPort hub or a DisplayPort monitor that provides daisy-chaining capability. The card provides one DVI-D, one HDMI, and two mini DisplayPort connectors. According to AMD, Radeon HD 7950 video cards will come with a single-link active DisplayPort-to-DVI adapter, so you will have two DVI-D connectors available.

AMD Radeon HD 7950
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Video connectors

The AMD Radeon HD 7950 (Contíd)

The Radeon HD 7950 uses a new cooler, based on vapor chamber technology, which is similar to the technology used by heatpipes. AMD says you can’t remove the GPU cooler, because the performance won’t be the same after you put the video card back together. That is why we didn’t disassemble this video card. Figure 4 was provided by AMD. According to the manufacturer, the fan is also new, providing higher air flow at a lower speed.

AMD Radeon HD 7950
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Video card cooler

The reviewed video card has two BIOS chips, selectable through a switch. This way you can select between the default configuration or an overclocked configuration, which you created and saved “permanently” to the second BIOS chip.

AMD Radeon HD 7950
click to enlarge
Figure 5: BIOS switch

Before seeing the performance results, let’s recap the main features of this video card.

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the AMD Radeon HD 7950 reference model include:

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions, the only variable was the video card being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Software Used

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin. Thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is a very popular DirectX 9 game that was released in 2010. Though this game uses an old version of DirectX, the number of textures that can be represented on one screen can push most of the top-end graphics cards to their limits. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty uses its own physics engine that is bound to the CPU and thus does not benefit from PhysX.

We tested this game at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600. The quality of the game was set to the “extreme” preset. We then used FRAPS to collect the frame rate of a replay on the “Unit Testing” custom map. We used a battle between very large armies to stress the video cards.

AMD Radeon HD 7950

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

218.7

6%

Radeon HD 7950

205.4

 

Radeon HD 6970

201.4

2%

GeForce GTX 580

182.9

12%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

176.7

6%

Radeon HD 7950

166.7

 

Radeon HD 6970

164.4

1%

GeForce GTX 580

161.9

3%

Far Cry 2

Released in 2008, Far Cry 2 is based on a game engine called Dunia, which is DirectX 10. We used the benchmarking utility that comes with this game at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600, setting overall quality to “ultra high,” maximizing all image quality settings, adjusting anti-aliasing to “8x,” and running the “Ranch Long” demo three times. The results below are expressed in frames per second and are an arithmetic average of the three results collected.

AMD Radeon HD 7950

FarCry 2

1920x1200

Difference

GeForce GTX 580

105.1

19%

Radeon HD 7970

96.4

9%

Radeon HD 7950

88.4

 

Radeon HD 6970

87.7

1%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

FarCry 2

2560x1600

Difference

GeForce GTX 580

70.8

14%

Radeon HD 7970

70.4

14%

Radeon HD 6970

62.1

0%

Radeon HD 7950

62.0

 

Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator is a DirectX 11 game that makes full use of tessellation and advanced shadow rendering. We used the Aliens vs. Predator Benchmark Tool developed by Rebellion. This program reads its configuration from a text file. (Our configuration files can be found here.) We ran this program at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600, with texture set at “very high,” shadows set at “medium,” anisotropic filtering set at “8x,” and anti-aliasing set at “2x.”

AMD Radeon HD 7950

Aliens vs. Predator

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

68.4

11%

Radeon HD 7950

61.5

 

Radeon HD 6970

60.1

2%

GeForce GTX 580

52.4

17%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

Aliens vs. Predator

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

42.6

10%

Radeon HD 7950

38.7

 

Radeon HD 6970

38.2

1%

GeForce GTX 580

32.5

19%

DiRT3

DiRT3 is a DirectX 11 game. We measured performance using this game by running a race and then playing it back using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with image quality set to “ultra,” with anti-aliasing set at “8xMSAA.”

AMD Radeon HD 7950

DiRT3

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

79.4

12%

Radeon HD 6970

71.4

0%

Radeon HD 7950

71.2

 

GeForce GTX 580

70.4

1%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

DiRT3

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

57.3

15%

Radeon HD 6970

50.1

1%

Radeon HD 7950

49.8

 

GeForce GTX 580

47.6

5%

 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is another DirectX 11 game. We used the in-game introduction to measure the number of frames per second, using FRAPS. We ran the introduction in two resolutions, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600, maximizing all image quality settings, configuring anti-aliasing as “MLAA Mode” and anisotropic filtering at “16x.”

AMD Radeon HD 7950

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

208.8

10%

GeForce GTX 580

201.8

6%

Radeon HD 7950

190.6

 

Radeon HD 6970

184.1

4%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

139.5

12%

GeForce GTX 580

131.5

5%

Radeon HD 7950

124.7

 

Radeon HD 6970

121.2

3%

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 is the latest installment in the Battlefield franchise released in 2011. It is based on the Frostbite 2 engine, which is DirectX 11. In order to measure performance using this game, we walked our way through the first half of the “Operation Swordbreaker” mission, measuring the number of frames per second using FRAPS. We ran this game at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600, maximizing all image quality settings, configuring anti-aliasing as “4xMSAA” and anisotropic filtering at “16x.”

AMD Radeon HD 7950

Battlefield 3

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

58.3

13%

Radeon HD 7950

51.5

 

Radeon HD 6970

50.8

1%

GeForce GTX 580

50.4

2%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

Battlefield 3

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

44.4

12%

Radeon HD 7950

39.8

 

GeForce GTX 580

38.9

2%

Radeon HD 6970

37.4

6%

3DMark 11 Professional

3DMark 11 Professional measures Shader 5.0 (i.e., DirectX 11) performance. We ran this program at 1920x1200 and 2560x1600, selecting the four graphics tests available and deselecting the other tests available. We used two image quality settings, “performance” and “extreme,” both at their default settings. The results being compared are the “GPU Score” achieved by each video card.

AMD Radeon HD 7950

3DMark 11 - Performance

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

4033

20%

Radeon HD 6970

3724

11%

Radeon HD 7950

3362

 

GeForce GTX 580

3152

7%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

3DMark 11 - Performance

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

2387

20%

Radeon HD 6970

2175

9%

Radeon HD 7950

1994

 

GeForce GTX 580

1846

8%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

3DMark 11 - Extreme

1920x1200

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

2487

16%

Radeon HD 6970

2144

4%

Radeon HD 7950

2053

 

GeForce GTX 580

1892

9%

AMD Radeon HD 7950

3DMark 11 - Extreme

2560x1600

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

1539

20%

Radeon HD 6970

1302

2%

Radeon HD 7950

1282

 

GeForce GTX 580

1153

11%

Media Espresso 6.5

Media Espresso is a video conversion program that uses the graphics processing unit of the video card to speed up the conversion process. We converted a 449 MB, 1920x1080i, 18,884 kbps, MPEG2 video file to a smaller 640x360, H.264, .MPG4 file for viewing on a portable device such as an iPhone or iPod Touch. We also ran this test on our two CPUs (Core i7-980X and Core i7-3960X) in order to compare the difference in performance of using a high-end CPU and a high-end GPU to transcode video.

AMD Radeon HD 7950

Media Espresso 6.5

Seconds

Difference

Radeon HD 7970

29

3%

Radeon HD 7950

30

 

GeForce GTX 580

44

32%

Core i7-3960X

46

35%

Radeon HD 6970

48

38%

Core i7-980X

65

54%

Conclusions

Before our analysis, we have to explain that we re-tested the Radeon HD 7970 using the latest drivers provided by AMD, and that is the reason that the numbers for this video card presented in this review are different from the Radeon HD 7970’s original review.

The new Radeon HD 7950 proved to be a good contender to the GeForce GTX 580, with the advantage of being cheaper. The only game where the GeForce GTX 580 was significantly faster than the Radeon HD 7950 was FarCry 2, with the video card from NVIDIA being between14% and 19% faster. The GeForce GTX 580 was also between 5% and 6% faster on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. On Battlefield 3, both video cards achieved the same performance level. They also achieved the same performance level on DiRT3 at 1920x1200, but at 2560x1600 the Radeon HD 7950 was 5% faster. On StarCraft II, the Radeon HD 7950 was 12% faster at 1920x1200, but at 2560x1600 both achieved the same performance level.

In all other games and simulations we ran, the Radeon HD 7950 was faster than the GeForce GTX 580: between 17% and 19% on Aliens vs. Predator, between 7% and 11% on 3DMark 11, and 47% on Media Espresso.

As you can see, although the battle between the GeForce GTX 580 and the Radeon HD 7950 will depend on the game and resolution you run, the Radeon HD 7950 has a better price/performance ratio than its big sister, the Radeon HD 7970. To prove this point, consider that the Radeon HD 7970 was between 6% and 20% faster than the Radeon HD 7950 on the games we ran, but it is 22% more expensive.

Therefore, the Radeon HD 7950 is a good option if you are looking for a high-end video card and have USD 450 to spend on one.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/AMD-Radeon-HD-7950-Video-Card-Review/1479


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