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.
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.
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.
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.
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