Meet the Sapphire HD 7950 Overclock Edition

Since our reference 7950s are built on the 7970 PCB and cooler, we’re going to jump right into our vendor cards starting with the Sapphire HD 7950 Overclock Edition.

As with all of the 7950 cards launching today, Sapphire’s HD 7950 Overclock Edition uses the AMD 7950 PCB. This is a slightly shorter PCB measuring 10.25” long, saving .25” over the 7970 PCB by eliminating a few components that the lower board power of the 7950 makes unnecessary. The PCB is otherwise very similar to the 7970 PCB, utilizing 12 GDDR5 memory chips organized around the Tahiti GPU, while at the top you’ll find the 2 CrossFire connectors, a pair of 6pin PCIe power sockets, and the BIOS selection switch. The latter will be of particular interest to unlockers, as the switch should make it possible to safely attempt to unlock the 7950 into a 7970.

Moving on, as this is a semi-custom card the real differentiation is in the factory overclock and the cooler. On the performance side of things Sapphire will be shipping the 7950 Overclock Edition at 900MHz core and 5GHz memory, representing a 100MHz (12.5%) core overclock and no change on the memory clock.

Meanwhile for the cooler Sapphire is using what they’re calling the Dual-X cooler. The Dual-X is yet another double-wide dual-fan open air cooler, with 2 fans providing copious airflow over an aluminum heatsink running virtually the entire length of the card. Sapphire’s fan cutouts are just a bit bigger than most other dual-fan coolers and placed a bit higher, and as a result the Dual-X cooler is a bit taller than the PCB by about 15mm at its highest point. Meanwhile the cooler is also a fair bit longer than the PCB, putting the total card length at 11”.

Moving below the fans and the heatsink we’ll find the heatpipe assembly, which is responsible for carrying heat from the GPU to the heatsink. The Dual-X uses 5 copper heatpipes of varying radius that run from one end of the heatsink to the other. The 5 heatpipes converge at the base of the assembly, where a copper baseplate provides contact with the GPU. Meanwhile cooling for the VRM MOSFETs and RAM is provided by a black aluminum plate, which is placed over those components with heat transfer provided by the use of thermal pads. There is no connection between the plate and the heatsink, so the only heat dissipation from the plate is provided by whatever airflow from the fans reaches the plate.

At the front of the card we’ll find the display ports, which as this is an AMD PCB the card utilizes the standard AMD 7000 series port configuration of 1 DL-DVI port, 1 HDMI port, and 2 mini-DisplayPorts. Filling out the second slot is the grating for ventilation, though even with the ventilation slot the usual precautions for an open-air cooler apply: you’ll need a case with enough airflow to handle the roughly 200W of heat the card is capable of dumping inside of your case.

Rounding out the package is the usual collection of dongles and materials. Sapphire includes 2 molex-to-6pin PCIe adaptors, an HDMI to DVI dongle, a miniDP to DisplayPort dongle, a DVI to VGA dongle, and a 1.8m HDMI cable. Along with the dongles Sapphire packs a quick start guide and a driver installation CD.

The only thing you won’t find packed in the box is TriXX, Sapphire’s in-house overclocking utility. TriXX has been around since the 6900 series, but as this is the first high-end Sapphire card we’ve reviewed since it was released, this is the first time we’ve had it available for a review.

Fundamentally TriXX is a fairly well designed, albeit barebones overclocking utility. Along with an info readout similar to GPU-Z, TriXX provides overclocking and fan control support for Sapphire’s cards, including support for custom fan profiles and more importantly voltage control. With TriXX it’s possible to overvolt most of Sapphire’s performance and high-end cards, and as Sapphire uses AMD reference PCBs it also works with any other cards using AMD’s PCBs.

Beyond these features there’s little more to TriXX. It’s not an all-encompassing video card utility like MSI’s Afterburner, which means it comes up short if you need more functionality but it's exactly what you need if you just want to overclock. To that end it’s a clear step up compared to most other manufacturer’s poorly designed utilities, and from a design perspective its only real sin is the hard to read blue-on-black text. Otherwise it’s a competent overclocking utility that does exactly what it’s supposed to and provides voltage control for those who need it.

Finally, Sapphire will be selling the 7950 OE for $479, $30 over the baseline 7950 MSRP. Meanwhile the warranty on their card is their standard 2 year warranty.

Getting the Most Out of GCN: Driver Improvements Meet the XFX R7950 Black Edition Double Dissipation
POST A COMMENT

259 Comments

View All Comments

  • chizow - Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - link

    Perhaps, but judging by Newegg's current stock of 7950, supply is exceptionally good or demand is exceptionally soft for this product at its current price. Maybe somewhere in the middle?

    But as you said, if you don't like it, don't buy it and it seems in this case, capitalism works just fine. ;)
    Reply
  • Gamer23 - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    I was drooling when I first read about the Sapphire 7950 and the XFX 7950 DD, but now until AMD developes better drivers, I am still on the fence, and holding on to my 5850 Toxic. I believe most people are like me, $500? I'll sit back and wait, till I see better driver support, and a $300 dollar price tag! I believe you are right also about demand being soft, as I believe most purchases are fresh builds not upgrades. Reply
  • Gamer23 - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 - link

    I totally agree with you, I am running a i7 940 with a 5850 Toxic, and even with all of the latest games that have recently come out, I am not even pushing this rig yet. Since games are now being locked at 60 fps, what's the sense of spending $500 for the latest and greatest and only getting 60 fps? Until game developers pull off the 60 fps govenor, (catering to console ported games) it will be a while yet before I am ready to let go of this Video card. Reply
  • xeridea - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    I totally agree. I have a 6850 I got at a very good price. It runs any game on the market reasonably well. I run Crysis 2 with DX11 patch and texture patch @ 2048x1152 with reasonable framerates (I think my dual core is my bottleneck, usually I only get ~70% GPU utilization). I used to get cards slightly higher in generation performance, but these days it doesn't really matter with mostly crappy console ports. Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    I agree for the most part, but there are at least 3 major influences pushing game technology:

    1) Increases in VRAM usage in current games. Whether its due to MSAA, higher-res textures and texture mods, games like Skyrim, BF3, Metro 2033, Crysis 2 are really chewing up VRAM budgets on cards. These games will use 1.5GB no problem at 1080p, so just imagine higher resolutions or muti-display set-ups.

    2) As mentioned, multi-display set-ups like EyeFinity or Nvidia Surround. They'll use up ~3x the VRAM as a single monitor and with increased AA requirements, that quickly adds up. In these instances, a 7950/7970 would shine over last-gen parts with less VRAM and bandwidth.

    3) 3D. 1080p isn't that demanding anymore, but 1080p in 3D is roughly double the rendering requirements but puts an even greater emphasis on maintaining 60FPS minimums. Its really quite demanding and an area more GPU horsepower is always welcome, even with SLI/CF configs.

    But yes, other than these niche areas there's probably not too much reason to upgrade at this point, especially when these offerings don't really shift the price/performance/value bar at all.
    Reply
  • kashifme21 - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Well from personal experience i have GTX 580 in SLI. Both the cards have 1.5gb memory.

    I game at a resolution of 5760*1080. Unless i shift the AA to some crazy setting like 8x AA, my VRAM generally isnt a bottleneck.

    I am currently playing a game like Skyrim at 5760*1080. Maxed out settings with 4X AA, FXAA & 4xTRAA

    My game is mostly running locked at 60fps, sometimes in towns it does drop down to 45fps, however otherwise the experience is quite smooth.

    Hence i would disagree that VRAM really is a limitation even at insanely high resolutions, 1.5GB Vram is pretty dam good.

    Now with the next consoles only expected to be sporting GPUS like 6670, i wonder how Nvidia and AMD intend to keep both markets alive.

    At one hand they support console gaming which doesnt really bring them too many chips a year and it will eventually cause PC gamers to stop upgrading. The business model looks like its going to axe their own feet.
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    You must not run any texture mods at all, because Skyrim will use 1.5GB at only 1080p with only 2xMSAA+2xTSAA.

    Same for BF3, Crysis 2, Metro 2033 and quite a few other games with just highest-res official textures and 4xMSAA+2-4xTSAA.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    I have a single 1.5GB GTX 580, and at 2560x1600 I definitely feel the lack of VRAM. If he doesn't notice lack of RAM at 5760x1080, I don't trust his judgement. (Hint: it's the minimum frame rates and stutters that come from the lack of memory; averages can be fine, but minimums often tank.) Reply
  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - link

    Thanks Jarred for talking about performance where it counts, minimum frame rates and stutters.

    ;)
    Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, February 01, 2012 - link

    Yeah I completely agree about "feeling" the lack of VRAM, because it literally feels like I've submerged my mouse/monitor in oil or molasses. Idk the input lag and stutters from deferred AA just gets really unbearable once you start exceeding VRAM.

    But yeah I dropped a note in Ryan's 7970 closer look about PCIe bandwidth, VRAM and memory bandwidth. It'd be interesting to see how much of an impact PCIe bandwidth plays a role on cards with less VRAM, since that's when you'd expect more paging to system RAM over the PCIe bus. Also for memory bandwidth, although that's more between the GPU and RAM modules.

    Anyways would be interesting to see something like that done using 1.5/3GB variants maybe a 580 and the 7950 when the 1.5GB arrives?
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now