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OC: Power, Temperature, & Noise

Our final task is our look at the 7970GE’s overclocking capabilities. As the 7970GE is based on the existing 7970 we aren’t expecting any significant changes, however it’s reasonable to expect that general manufacturing process improvements over the last 6 months will have pushed yields and tolerances a little higher, giving us just a bit more headroom.

At the same time the presence of the boost clock and its associated voltage is going to change overclocking as well. The higher voltage should lend itself to higher overclocks, meanwhile validating overclocks is also going to be a bit harder as now we need to make sure neither the overclocked base clock/voltage combination or the overclocked boost clock/voltage combination is unstable, similar to the extra effort needed to overclock the GTX 680 series.

Radeon HD 7970 Series Overclocking
  Ref 7970GE Ref 7970 XFX 7970 BEDD
Shipping Core Clock 1000MHz 925MHz 1000MHz
Shipping Max Boost Clock 1050MHz N/A N/A
Shipping Memory Clock 6GHz 5.5GHz 5.7GHz
Shipping Max Voltage 1.218v 1.175v 1.175v
       
Overclock Core Clock 1150MHz 1100MHz 1125MHz
Overclock Max Boost Clock 1200MHz N/A N/A
Overclock Memory Clock 6.4GHz 6.3GHz 6.3GHz
Overclock Max Boost Voltage 1.218v 1.175v 1.175v

After going through the full validation process we were able to hit an overclock of +150MHz, which pushed our base clock from 1000MHz to 1150MHz, and our boost clock from 1050MHz to 1200MHz. Depending on how you want to count this overclock amidst the presence of the boost clock this is either 25MHz better than our best 7970 card, or 75MHz better. In either case our 7970GE definitely overclocks better than our earlier 7970 cards but not significantly so, which is in-line with our expectations.

As with any overclocking effort based on a single sample our overclocking results are not going to be representative of what every card can do, but they are reasonable. With AMD now binning chips for the 7970GE we’d expect to see some stratification among the 7970 family such that high overclocking chips that would previously show up in 7970 cards will now show up in 7970GE cards instead. For penny-pinching overclockers this is not good news, but for more hardcore overclockers this is nothing new as AMD’s partners have been doing something similar with their factory overclocked cards for some time now.

Meanwhile our memory overclock isn’t significantly different from what we could pull off with the reference 7970. The limitation is the memory bus or Tahiti’s memory controller, neither of which has changed. After around 6.4GHz errors start catching up and performance gains become performance losses.

Moving on to our performance charts, we’re going to once again start with power, temperature, and noise, before moving on to gaming performance. We’ll be testing our 7970 cards with the PowerTune limit set to +20% in order to avoid any real possibility of being performance limited by PowerTune.

With the 7970GE’s already high load power, overclocking and raising the PowerTune limits isn’t doing it any favors when it comes to overclocking. On the contrary to being a free overclock power consumption now exceeds even the GTX 690 in all situations and power consumption is almost certainly in excess of 300W at the card level. As we’ll see in our gaming performance section we’re definitely getting more performance out of the 7970GE, but we’re paying for it with power.

With a rise in power consumption comes a rise in temperatures to a varying degree. At 83C under Metro the 7970GE has gotten warmer, but not significantly so. The same cannot be said for OCCT. At 89C we’re approaching the reasonable limits for this card and cooler.

The 7970GE was already loud at stock and overclocking it doesn’t help. Under Metro noise is now at 63.8dBA, and under OCCT it’s tied with the 6990 for noise at 66dBA. Even if you’re forgiving of noise, this is reaching the point where it’s going to be difficult to ignore. Serious 7970GE overclockers will want to seek other cards and/or aftermarket coolers.

Power, Temperature, & Noise OC: Gaming Performance
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  • piroroadkill - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    There will be custom designs with nice quiet coolers flooding the market in no time.. Reply
  • raghu78 - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7970...

    "There’s a silver lining on this one, though. Ahead of this review, I let AMD know about our acoustic concerns and the company claims that most partner boards will employ third-party cooling, not its reference configuration."

    So noise is not an issue at all. Cards like sapphire with dual x , gigabyte with windforce, powercolor with PCS+ have good cooler designs. Power will be more. But the Radeon HD 7970 Ghz edition frankly more than makes up for that with its performance at 1600p and multi monitor setups.

    If you are on a 1080p monitor and want perf/watt , price perf and a cooler setup go for custom GTX 670. For the rest who have 1600p or multi monitor frankly there is only one option - a custom Radeon HD 7970 card or a custom Radeon HD 7970 Ghz edition.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Hogwash, the GTX 680's and GTX 670's are still SMOOTHER, and more enjoyable at high rez and multi monitor.

    Check the hundreds of reviews.
    Reply
  • Tuvok86 - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    AMD should have released a balanced 7970 in the first place, somewhere halfway in performance between the 7970 and GE. Now they have an overconservative card and an powerhungry monster Reply
  • Reikon - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    On page 3:
    "For AMD the 7970GE will be launching with the Catalyst 10.7 beta, while NVIDIA has released the 304.48 betas for the entire lineup."

    I think you mean 12.7
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Whoops. Thanks. Reply
  • fausto412 - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Will these new Power Tune and overclocking advancements trickle down 6900 series cards to unleash more performance safely?

    What would prevent AMD from affective the 6990 with these new advancements?
    Reply
  • kyuu - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    These features would require a new BIOS. As far as I'm aware, AMD does not support flashing their cards with new BIOS. Anyway, there's nothing there that you can't acheive via normal overclocking anyway (asides from the slightly better chip binning). Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    ...Another Mention (of) Deterministic, it seems. Reply
  • gonchuki - Friday, June 22, 2012 - link

    Did you try reaching AMD to comment on the rather low performance ceiling on Skyrim? looks as if their drivers are way more CPU hungry than Nvidia's and that's why they are getting capped at a lower rate.
    Maybe that's what usually hinders performance in other CPU limited titles like WoW?
    Reply

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