Graphics Card Reviews

REVIEW / AMD Radeon HD 7950 3 GB

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Régis Jehl Published on February 22, 2012
Translated by Jack Sims

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Chip Tahiti XT
  • GPU frequency 800 MHz
  • Memory quantity 3 GB
  • Memory type GDDR5
  • Memory frequency 1250 MHz
  • Cooler Double-decker
Second arrival in the AMD Southern Islands range, the Radeon HD 7950 is quite simply the next card down from the Radeon HD 7970. The clocks and number of processing units have been reduced to give a product that is well worth a look.

Size, noise and heat generation

The model sent to the press is the same shape and size as the Radeon HD 7970. The cooling system is very effective and it runs silently when the card isn’t in load. In 3D video gaming, noise levels increase but remain tolerable.

Unfortunately, this cooling system seems to be reserved for test samples and in stores the different AMD partners (Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and Sapphire) are offering alternative designs with their own individual cooling systems that are are more or less efficient.

Energy consumption

ZeroCore Power technology, as detailed in our test of the Radeon HD 7970, is included. With the screen off, overall energy consumption dropped to 74 Watts, which is an excellent result! In ZeroCore Power mode, the card alone consumes less than 3 Watts and the fan cuts out completely. In less intense activity (Internet, office documents, films and so on), the level of energy consumption remains very respectable, with our reading measuring it at 86 Watts.

Consoidleamd
Energy consumption at idle has been radically reduced over the last three and a half years


With no less than 352 W measured at the socket during video games, the power draw in load has also increased radically. This may seem a lot but it's still a lot lower than the 431 Watts measured for the GeForce GTX 580 and 55 Watts less than the Radeon HD 7970.

Gaming performance

On average, the 7950 is 10% slower in 3D games than the larger 7970. In spite of this performance difference, the Radeon HD 7950 still does slightly better than the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580. Of course this is something AMD is all too aware of and it has therefore set its pricing to match that of the GTX 580.

Note, there’s a PCI Express 3.0 interface (PCIe 3.0) as well as DirectX 11.1 compatibility. Backwards compatibility means that the Radeon HD 7950 functions perfectly on PCIe 2.0 motherboards. What's more, we didn't note any difference between use in PCIe 3.0 and PCIe 2.0 modes.

Tt hd 7950
General performance average
Click on the image to see all our readings
and compare this model with others


DirectX 11.1 will only be available on release of Windows 8 (end 2012). Games using this instruction set will therefore also have to wait until then.

In absolute tems, AMD has produced a very good graphics card with the HD 7950: rapid in video games, with low energy consumption and a few interesting features (ZeroCore Power in particular). Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Nvidia still hasn’t brought out its new architecture (Kepler) and AMD is exploiting this lack of competition by marketing this model at a particularly high price: upwards of £350!

Consult the performance index table

The test card, extra features
AMD supplied us with a reference card such as you’ll find sold under different brands in stores. The connectivity at the back of the card covers most of the bases, with HDMI 1.4, DVI and two mini-Display Port 1.2 sockets. The card requires two power supply cables (one 8-pin and another 6-pin).

Eyefinity has been updated to version 2.0 and now allows you to pilot up to five screens with a single card. Bezel compensation is better handled and you can now use monitors of various sizes.

Eyefinity 2.0 also allows you to manage several audio outs (DDM) independently of each other (HDMI and Display Port sockets only). This means you can now watch a film on TV while playing on another screen. The film audio is then sent via the HDMI connection, while the game uses the screen speakers. The audio outs on the sound card (jack, optical) are also accessible.

Stereoscopic 3D is obviously still part of the set up with the introduction of HD3D technology. This now allows you to send the image at 120 Hz, or 60 Hz per eye when using a screen with active technology (60 frames / second per eye).

As always with AMD, you have to acquire a special driver to enjoy stereoscopic 3D in games. AMD recommends the TriDef DDD solution which currently supports 600 titles (all current games are included). Nevertheless, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that more and more games now offer stereoscopic 3D natively Battlefield 3, Deus Ex HR, Dirt 3) and you then don’t have to use the DDD application. Indeed, some screen manufacturers are starting to include the software in the bundle with their 3D screens (eg. ViewSonic V3D231).

The ‘compute’ part, namely processing assisted by the graphics card, has also been improved. You now get accelerated 3D Blu-ray decoding and DivX playback. Like Nvidia, AMD has also got together with various applications developers so that their software benefits from hardware acceleration. Unfortunately only paid applications (except for Internet browsers) are included here, AMD not judging it worthwhile to help free applications.

PROS

  • Jump in performance on old generation
  • Improved standby energy consumption with ZeroCore Power
  • Quiet in idle
  • DirectX 11.1 compatible

CONS

  • 3D energy consumption is relatively high

CONCLUSION 3/5

AMD is marketing a decent graphics card here, a product that is both rapid and with low energy consumption. Nevertheless, you're paying a high price for innovation here and it would no doubt be wise to wait for the competition to catch up and bring the price down.
3 AMD Radeon HD 7950 3 GB Digitalversus 2012-02-22 11:14:00
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