Celebrating Tahiti's "half birthday" last month, AMD launched its Radeon HD 7970 with a factory-overclocked "GHz Edition" that increased the reference design's core clock rate from 925 MHz to 1 GHz to claim the company now offers the fastest GPU in the world. Unfortunately, the celebrations were short-lived for several reasons.
Not only was it already possible to buy an HD 7970 that would run at these speeds and beyond, but AMD wasn't really able to regain Nvidia's performance crown, as the HD 7970 GHz Edition and the GTX 680 are roughly the same are. In addition, such a slight increase in performance was difficult to enjoy when coupled with a $ 50 increase in price.
No official HD 7970 GHz Edition cards are available yet, and in hindsight, AMD could have worked with a board partner to deliver something more impressive. On the positive side, Gigabyte has taken matters into its own hands with the new HD 7970 SOC (Super OverClock) card, which seems far more interesting than the AMD solution.
It's been about a year since we tested the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 SOC, which pushed a hot GF110 GPU 10% harder and still has impressive overclocking headroom with Gigabyte's OC Guru software. The Gigabyte Radeon HD 7970 SOC is a whole different beast that sets a new standard for extremely air-cooled graphics cards.
Equipped with five fans, nine heat pipes and a king-size steam chamber, the HD 7970 SOC could be considered an exaggeration, and we say "Hell yes!"
Our inner enthusiast has a penchant for anything impractical – even if it is difficult to recommend from a value point of view. Let's go ahead and see what Gigabyte's premium offering brings to the table.
Super OverClock Radeon HD 7970
The Herculean HD 7970 SOC is 29 cm long, which is the actual length of the printed circuit board as the cooler does not protrude beyond the board. In comparison, the standard HD 7970's printed circuit board is 26.5 cm long and approximately 11.0 cm long "(28 cm) with the cooler.
As expected, Gigabyte completely redesigned the HD 7970 board and updated several key components. The company is marketing these upgrades under the Ultra Durable VGA + banner, which includes NEC / TOKIN Proadlizer 5 (film capacitors) which are said to offer amazing current capacity and extremely low ESL / ESR for better overclocking. By using a bank of five Proadlicers, you transmit more stable performance even under heavy loads.
The HD 7970 SOC uses only Japanese solid capacitors that contain a solid organic polymer, while electrolytic capacitors use a common liquid electrolyte. This should make them more durable and at the same time offer better electronic conductivity.
Gigabyte also uses ferrite core chokes, which are made from an iron oxide compound that holds energy for much longer than traditional iron core chokes at high frequencies. Also used are Low RDS (on) MOSFETs, which were specially developed to generate a lower switching resistance for faster charging and discharging of electrical current.
All of this is found on a 2-ounce copper circuit board, which is twice the amount of inner copper layer found on conventional circuit boards. In the past, Gigabyte has said that doubling the amount of copper will improve heat dissipation efficiency in critical areas of the component like the GPU power zone.
More details and photos on the next page. Benchmarks follow immediately afterwards.