Traditionally the launch of a next-generation high-end video card has been a staggered process. In the name of getting cards out as soon as possible the first cards are almost always reference cards coming preassembled straight from AMD or NVIDIA, which are then touched up in the livery of their partners before being boxed and sold. Only later on – particularly when there’s a solid supply of GPUs – can partners acquire individual parts and put together their custom designs.

But as it’s turning out the Radeon HD 7970 isn’t going to be a traditional launch. In a rare move AMD has loosened the leash on their partners just a bit, and as a result we’re seeing semi-custom cards planned for launch earlier than usual. XFX looks to be the first partner to take advantage of this more liberal policy, as alongside the reference cards being launched today they’re launching their first semi-custom 7970s.

AMD GPU Specification Comparison
  XFX Radeon HD 7970 Black Edition AMD Radeon HD 7970 AMD Radeon HD 6970 AMD Radeon HD 6870
Stream Processors 2048 2048 1536 1120
Texture Units 128 128 96 56
ROPs 32 32 32 32
Core Clock 1000MHz 925MHz 880MHz 900MHz
Memory Clock 1.425GHz (5.7GHz effective) GDDR5 1.375GHz (5.5GHz effective) GDDR5 1.375GHz (5.5GHz effective) GDDR5 1.05GHz (4.2GHz effective) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 3GB 3GB 2GB 1GB
FP64 1/4 1/4 1/4 N/A
Architecture GCN GCN VLIW4 VLIW5
Transistor Count 4.31B 4.31B 2.64B 1.7B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Price Point $599 $549 $350 $160

XFX has 4 7970s planned; half of which are using AMD’s reference cooler, and the other half using XFX’s twin fan Double Dissipation cooler. As is traditional with the first wave of customized cards, all of these cards are semi-custom as XFX is using AMD’s reference PCB. Fully custom cards will come farther down the line. Of these 4 cards, 2 of them will be launching today: XFX’s Core Edition pure reference card, and their customized Black Edition Double Dissipation model, which features both a factory overclock and XFX’s custom cooler. It’s the Black Edition Double Dissipation we’ll be looking at today.

XFX Radeon HD 7970 Lineup
  XFX Radeon HD 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation XFX Radeon HD 7970 Black Edition XFX Radeon HD 7970 Double Dissipation XFX Radeon HD 7970 Core Edition
Product Number FX-797A-TDBC FX-797A-TNBC FX-797A-TDFC FX-797A-TNFC
Core Clock 1000MHz 1000MHz 925MHz 925MHz
Memory Clock 1.425GHz (5.7GHz effective) GDDR5 1.425GHz (5.7GHz effective) GDDR5 1.375GHz (5.5GHz effective) GDDR5 1.375GHz (5.5GHz effective) GDDR5
Cooler Double Dissipation Reference Double Dissipation Reference
Price Point $599 N/A N/A $559

The 7970 Black Edition Double Dissipation is XFX’s top 7970 card. XFX is binning the boards they receive from AMD to give their Black Edition lineup a moderately impressive launch day overclock. The 7970 BEDD ships at 1000MHz core (8% overclock) and 5.7GHz memory (4% overclock), on what’s proving to be a rather overclockable design for AMD. Notably they’re doing this without any extra voltage – both our reference and BEDD 7970s run at 1.17v – which means the BEDD’s power consumption is only marginally higher than the reference 7970.

Along with the factory overclock the BEDD features XFX’s Double Dissipation cooler. Like the 7970 reference cooler XFX is using a vapor chamber at the base of their heatsink to draw heat from the Tahiti GPU, which then leads to an aluminum heatsink that runs almost the entire length of the card. Airflow is provided by a pair of fans sitting on top of the heatsink, similar to a number of other double fan designs we’ve seen over the years. Meanwhile like the heatsink, the casing is also made out of aluminum, specifically brushed aluminum. Finally, XFX is using a custom bracket with their logo cut into it – they claim that this improves airflow, but compared to any other changes the difference would be minimal at best.

Compared to AMD’s reference blower design the biggest difference here is that like other twin fan designs the Double Dissipation cooler is fundamentally an open air internal exhaust design. This allows XFX to achieve a similar level of cooling as AMD’s design, but with less noise. The tradeoff of course is that with an internal exhaust case cooling becomes much more critical as the BEDD will be dissipating most of the 250W of heat a 7970 generates under load into the case rather than outside of it.

Because the card is based on an AMD PCB, the dimensions of the card are similar to the reference 7970. The PCB itself is 10.5” just like the reference card, but XFX’s cooler isn’t quite as long, shaving off roughly 0.3” compared to the reference card and making the entire package only 10.65” long. Meanwhile at the front of the card, since this is an AMD PCB the port layout is identical: 1 DL-DVI port, 1 HDMI port, and 2 miniDP ports, situated below XFX’s logo on their custom bracket.

Moving on to the packaging, XFX packages only a few additional items with the BEDD, and as a result the box not much bigger than the card. Inside you’ll find the usual driver CD and quick start guide, along with a metal XFX case badge, a mid-length CrossFire bridge, and a passive HDMI to SL-DVI adaptor. It’s interesting to note that XFX has not included the more expensive active miniDP to SL-DVI adaptor, contrary to AMD’s earlier claims that all 7970s would ship with one, so the BEDD is only good for driving 2 DVI monitors out of the box. Finally, XFX is offering a base 2 year warranty on the BEDD, which can be extended to a lifetime warranty (ed: not a double lifetime warranty) by registering the card within 30 days of purchasing it.

The MSRP on the BEDD is $599, $50 over the $549 MSRP for the reference cards. Even with the higher price it looks to either be popular or in short supply – we saw the card sell out at Newegg before our NDA even expired.

Winter 2011 GPU Pricing Comparison
AMD Price NVIDIA
  $750 GeForce GTX 590
Radeon HD 6990 $700  
XFX Black Edition Double Diss. $599  
Radeon HD 7970 $549  
  $500 GeForce GTX 580
Radeon HD 6970 $350 GeForce GTX 570
Radeon HD 6950 2GB $250  
  $240 GeForce GTX 560 Ti
Radeon HD 6870 $160  

 

The Test, Power, Temp, & Noise
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  • FaaR - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    It's a lot more than 6% faster, don't be such a ridiculous fanboy.

    It also draws a lot less power than a 580, saving back (some) of the price difference in the long run as a lower electricity bill.
    Reply
  • wonderpookie - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    What's a "pre-binned" card?

    Thanks! :)
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    A card which has been tested to have tighter tolerances (in this case) than others and has been selected with this in mind.

    Technically "pre-binned" is not a very sensible word creation, as the "pre" refers to the fact that it is done by the manufacturer and not the end-user-over-clocker -- but these days more people by manufacturer over-clocked cards than there are people that actually buy a dozen cards, test them all for the highest achievable OC, and then resell/send back the less stable cards.
    Reply
  • Morg. - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    binning : the process of separating *PU's according to their maximum operating frequency.

    Called like that because you would test all your GPU's and put all those between 1200-1300 mhz stable @ xyz volts in bin 1, all those between 1100-1200 in bin 2, etc. in order to present differentiated offerings.

    In the past, many CPU part numbers were just different binnings of the same part (like C2D 2.33 or 2.4 ghz etc.), same goes for GPU's, and AMD even introduced a different kind of binning with their x2,x3,x4 variants based on how many cores were stable at the target speed, and locking those that weren't (x2s were quickly made from x2 parts, and then x1 (sempron) selected from failed x2s).

    So in this case, it would mean XFX tested the cards and selected the better performers to sell as DDBE, leaving the others for non-overclocked cards.

    This works that way because no CPU or GPU is perfect and all dies are more or less failed prints of the actual design.

    The most flawed cannot be used at all and go to the trash.
    The slightly flawed get some parts of the die disconnected (faulty cache, broken core, ...).
    The slightly less flawed just get overvolted / underclocked in order to run.

    The best parts come closer to the intended result and will thus operate at lower voltages or higher frequencies in comparison.

    Usually, binning isn't perfect and some better dies can fall in lower bins, hence the unlockable cores on older phenom/sempron x2,x3, etc. -

    It is also not as fine-grained as some pro OCers would like it to be, and because of that, they tend to buy a bunch of CPU's and bin them themselves in order to break WR's (look at kingpincooling.com).
    Reply
  • Iketh - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    "However it’s interesting to note that temperatures under load end up being identical to the reference 7970. The BEDD is no cooler than the reference 7970 even with its radically different cooling apparatus. This is ultimately a result of the fact that the BEDD is a semi-custom card; not only is XFX using AMD’s PCB, but they’re using AMD’s aggressive fan profile. At any given temperature the BEDD’s fans ramp up to the same speed (as a percentage) as AMD’s fans, meaning that the BEDD’s fans won’t ramp up until the card hits the same temperatures that trigger a ramp-up on the reference design. As a result the BEDD is no cooler than the reference 7970, though with AMD’s aggressive cooling policy the reference 7970 would be tough to beat."

    You do realize overclocking increases temps, right? Even if voltages aren't touched.
    Reply
  • NJoy - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    have you tried to understand what is written in the bit you copypasted? Reply
  • Iketh - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    Sorry, but it's you that isn't understanding. My point is that I believe the cooler to be 2-4C cooler than the reference considering it's holding the same temps with an overclock. That's all. Reply
  • Morg. - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    Very true ...

    But this is Anandtech ;)

    -- mainstream tech news for the masses

    It's like their new config advice .. every config they advise is at least 10% pure waste of cash .. but it's still better than no advice for those who don't know better.

    And furthermore, the temperature points are simply a result of what XFX wanted for this card. nothing else.

    AMD's fan profile is part of that but you can rewrite it in the BIOS iirc so they just didn't bother / their fans don't run reliably below voltage xyz.

    I could mod that card to make it silent, so could XFX, they just didn't want to go into such detail when they could simply slap their cooler on it, change clocks and ship it - all there is to it.
    Reply
  • B3an - Monday, January 09, 2012 - link

    WTF are you on about you stupid little kid. Many of Anand's articles on here are unrivalled for technical details and insight. Reply
  • Morg. - Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - link

    lol .

    And you would know ... with a fake 1337speak nick ... if you think they're so good it only goes to show your ignorance makes anandtech a perfect fit for you, a fact I was pointing to in the post you replied to.

    At your level of understanding, Anandtech is a perfect fit.

    Good for Anand and for you tbh . enjoy it.
    Reply

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