Launch Details

This brings us to the deployment of the 7950B. As we mentioned before, these new specs are meant to be a drop-in upgrade for existing 7950 designs. Going forward, AMD is qualifying all 7950-class Tahiti GPUs for the new clockspeed/voltage combinations, and they have also qualified their reference PCB. So for partners building reference or semi-custom cards, they simply need to drop in the new BIOS, qualify their cooling solution for the slightly higher heat dissipation, and call it a day. Partners with fully-custom cards however will need to fully qualify their designs – the significance being that while any current 7950 design should be able to handle the higher clocks and power consumption, it’s not in any way guaranteed. If any partners did go with a custom design that only met the bare minimum standards for a 7950, then that design might have trouble with the higher specs of the 7950B.

In any case, all of this will end up being quite important to AMD’s partners and ultimately consumers because this isn’t just a new product; it’s a complete replacement for the 7950. Unlike the 7970GE, AMD won’t be introducing this supercharged 7950 as a product separate from the existing 7950, but rather the 7950B will become the new 7950. With the drop-in nature of the upgrade, once they’ve qualified their designs partners will simply continue producing their existing cards with the 7950B BIOS while the old 7950 will fades away. These upgraded cards in turn will be sold as the Radeon HD 7950, and with the exception of any clockspeeds listed on the box will otherwise be identical to their predecessors.

As for existing 7950 owners, because the 7950B hardware is identical to the original 7950 it’s technically possible to backport this upgrade to existing cards in a manner similar to how some users have loaded the 7970GE BIOS on 7970s. However at this time it doesn’t look like any of AMD’s partners will be releasing the new BIOS as an officially supported upgrade. This is not wholly surprising given the fact that existing 7950 cards haven’t been qualified for the new clockspeeds, so there’s no real guarantee that they’ll be able to handle it.

With no official support coming from partners, any upgrades will have to be done in an unofficial capacity. AMD is actually rather confident that most 7950s will be able to run at 7950B specs, so much so that rather than sampling new cards to the press they’re just giving us the 7950B BIOS to convert our 7950 samples into 7950B samples. Furthermore they’re also allowing us to post the 7950B BIOS, so that anyone else with a reference 7950 who wants to convert their card can go ahead and do so. It goes without saying that doing this will almost certainly void your warranty – and really most owners are going to be better off overclocking their 7950s the traditional way anyhow – but AMD is unofficially throwing this option out there for the owners that want to pursue it.

Thankfully 7950 reference cards come with a BIOS selection switch (the first time that has been of any real use on the 7900 series), so 7950 owners can always fall back to the locked BIOS if the BIOS flash fails or if they aren’t happy with the results. Users with custom cards on the other hand are effectively stuck for the moment; not only is the new reference BIOS unlikely to work on custom cards, but most custom cards do not include BIOS switch, so the entire process is far more risky.

With all of that out of the way, we have now reached the customary point of our review where we have to once again chastise AMD for their increasingly poor product naming. Admittedly we’re idealists here and we make no attempt to hide that, but this is unquestionably AMD’s most intentionally confusing product launch yet. If they want to replace the 7950 with a faster card we’re all for that… as long as they don’t call it the 7950.

As we’ve already stated, thanks to the choice of product name there’s going to be no easy way to tell apart old and new 7950 cards without looking at the specifications. And what of the fact that there is already 6 months' worth of 7950 cards in the wild with different specifications than the new 7950B? As always our worst fear here is that someone will buy a 7950 based on a 7950B review, meaning they won’t get the card they think they’re purchasing. More to the point, since when has it been a good idea or even reasonable to release two cards with the same product name?

Anyhow, to wrap things up let’s discuss pricing. Since the 7950B will be quietly replacing the existing 7950, it will be doing so at the same prices as the existing 7950. This means 7950B cards should hit the market at between $300 and $350, depending on the partner and whether it’s factory overclocked or not. As we’ll see the performance gains aren’t particularly great, so this is the best route for AMD to take regardless, but of course we’re always fans of more performance for free.

As for availability, AMD is telling us that cards will be available for sale by this Friday, coinciding with the importance of this week. Specifically, PowerColor, HIS, and Sapphire are all expected to have cards available.

With that said however, because of AMD’s past product launches we’re left in an unfortunate position where we have to seriously question AMD’s credibility when it comes to product availability. To be blunt, in the last couple of months AMD has had major execution problems. Specifically, despite being announced back in June, the 7750 900MHz still has not seen a proper launch, and to this day AMD is unable to give us a good explaination for why. Meanwhile the 7970GE was supposed to be available in late June only to miss that by over a month, with cards only becoming available in the last two weeks. Because of AMD’s poor handling of those previous launches AMD’s credibility is on the line here – if they’re to maintain their credibility they can’t afford to mess up a third product launch. We’re definitely hoping for the best here, but right now all we can do is to wait and see what happens.

Based on these recent product launches and specifically how AMD is handling the 7950B, AMD is clearly flying by the seat of their pants here. And while that can work for a time there’s always a great risk of what happens if those pants rip.

Update 08/17: It looks like the 7950B launch will come with a happy ending. As of today there are cards for sale on Newegg, just as AMD promissed. However of the 4 cards AMD initially told us would be shipping, only the basic PowerColor model is available - and unfortunately it's priced like a factory overclocked card ($349). Of all the possible outcomes where cards went up for sale on time, this is basically the bare minimum AMD could have done. But nevertheless it counts, so we're happy to see that AMD's credibility is upheld.

Summer 2012 GPU Pricing Comparison
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition $469/$499 GeForce GTX 680
Radeon HD 7970 $419/$399 GeForce GTX 670
Radeon HD 7950 $329  
Radeon HD 7870 $279  
  $279 GeForce GTX 570
Radeon HD 7850 $239  


AMD's Radeon HD 7950 with Boost Performance, Power, Temperature, & Noise


View All Comments

  • bennyg - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    Agree that 7950 is better price/perf than 670. But;

    Reviewers can only review what they have in their rigs. If Nvidia came out with an auto-OC feature and AMD didn't... tough for AMD but hardly "unfair advantage", remember most buyers don't OC, and everyone who bought a 670 has enjoyed their boosted clocks and frames.

    And before you go alleging NV is defrauding reviewers... "surely" you need some kind of evidence that shows retail cards are measurably slower than review cards (which remember are tested in stupidly-beefy-everything-else so the GPU is as unlimited by the rest of the system as possible). Surely everyone reviewing an Intel CPU and getting higher numbers than AMD isn't in Intel's pockets too... maybe the Geforce just "wins" the last 5 months? After AMD sold heaps of well marked up cards for the first 3 months of this year, remember.

    Things like this happening make me glad Apple didn't "invent" and patent the turboboost algorithm </lolapplebashing>
  • prdola0 - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    Oh come on. Isn't it AMD who is trying desperately to hinder Nvidia's launch with an update which gives only 5% on average, yet it increases consumption by 20W and noise considerably too, and voids warranty if applied to older cards?

    Looking at Steam Survey, it is clear why AMD is so desperate. GTX680 has 0.90% share, while even the 7850 lineup has less, just 0.62%. If you look at the GTX670, it has 0.99%. The HD7970 has only 0.54%, about half of what GTX680 has, which is funny considering that the GTX680 is selling only half the time compared to HD7970. It means that GTX680 is selling 4 times faster.

    You can see that even with the absence of Nvidia's mainstream until tomorrow, Nvidia is outselling AMD massively. And that's why AMD is trying dirty tricks, like promoting 7970Ghz and then not really selling it afterwards, the same with 7750 and now this little bump to 7950, which we might not see in reality as well. Who's to guarantee, that the cards are really comming with AMD's current track record in mind? Noone is. And the poor fella deciding to buy a 7950 would have to be informed well enough not to buy an old 7950 with the old spect and actually be able to tell them apart in a store. Most won't be able to and they won't be getting what they see in the reviews, even though this cheat is just 5%.

  • jabber - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    AMD/Nvidia are never too worried about total sales of their top of the range cards.

    It's the models below that in the $250-$75 range that pays the wages.

    These cards are the equivalent of the S Class Mercedes. Basically what you find in a S Class today filters down into what we drive in ten years time.

    Tech testers basically. Stuff thats in these cards will be then added into my 8770/9770 in due course.

    Six years ago who would have thought $30 GPUS would have 1GB of ram on them.
  • prdola0 - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    Well then if Nvidia sells more S-class Mercedes than AMD sells mainstream cars, you could say that AMD is in trouble. No? Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    So you are saying that Nvidia is selling far more $350 cards than AMD is selling $50-$250 ones?

    Well that would be amazing. Tech news of the century.

    Fact is I've never seen one of these top of the range cards in a PC that I know of AMD or Nvidia while they are being sold.

    I sometimes see them a few years after when they have filtered down via Ebay.

    They sell in very small numbers compared to the rest of the ranges.
  • RussianSensation - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    That's non-sense. Only 4-5% of cards above $350 comprise the entire sales of a GPU maker. Already shown 100x. Using Steam Hardware survey to compare sales is not accurate. NV didn't even say that Kepler on the desktop gained market share in the latest earnings. They attributed most of their success to Tegra 3 and mobile Kepler contracts. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Still, the Steam Harware Survey shows your little stupid amd pet getting it's blankity kicked.
    Why so sad ?
  • RussianSensation - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    HD7970 was 1 month behind but plenty of versions are for sale on Newegg and actually even better than AMD promised:

    - Prices well under $499
    - You still get 3 free games included, which wasn't part of the GE cards

    So essentially that's a faster card than all 680s except for GTX680 Lightning and it costs $30-50 less than the cheapest 680. What's not to like?

    Just because people are buying 4x as many 680s doesn't mean anything. They could be stuck reading reviews from March and haven't seen 7970 GE recapture the performance crown overall and surpass 680 in Dirt 3, SKYRIM, Batman AC, especially with 8AA.
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    No one is listening - Steam Survey has proven it - nleat all you want, heck you're still bleating... amd sales SUCK for the card you are promoting....
    Here let me help you amd fanboy out of his mind on failing sales...
    The 660Ti is kicking because it STOMPS the 7870/7850 and barely costs more than 7870 and it matches and beats 7950 plenty of the time and as thejian has shown you in 660Ti thread 24/7/365 for 1920x1200 and ever more 1920x1080, and the 660Ti costs LESS than the 7950...
    nVidia hit the SWEET SPOT - jamming it right in and amd is going down in sales ever more - next Steam Survey.. you'll be WEEPING and cursing the fools for not taking your twisted advice...
    Happy gaming ! :-)
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    LOL - " and thats why they did it. Nvidia's cards are auto overclocking, so they were gaining an unfair advantage in "stock" reviews. No more.

    Nvidia started all this with their boost,... "
    Why so sourpuss bill4, amd fanboy much ?
    Look, amd blew it badly on this card - it's a hot core housefire mess.
    My advice for the amd fan - go buy the average/regular 7950 and cross your fingers.
    Of course my real advice is quit being such and idiot and buy the 660Ti at this point.
    I mean that's a no brainer.

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