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

  • Ryun - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    I would rather AMD just lower the price of the 7950 as a consumer, but coming from their perspective it probably makes more sense to increase performance but keep the price the same. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Previous MSRP was $449.99, then $349.99 and now it's falling to $329.99.

    The thing is you don't have to get a reference 7950B with an overvolted BIOS. There are plenty of after market 7950 cards that can hit 1.1-1.15ghz with 1.15V for example. MSI TwinFrozr III and Gigabyte Windforce 3x 7950 cards come to mind and both can be purchased on Newegg, Amazon, Superbiiz for $320-330 or sometimes even $310. This way the consumer gets the best of all worlds:

    1) Upgraded cooling to reduce noise and better handle overclocking above 925mhz;

    2) Better binned Tahiti chips (esp. in the case of the TF3) that can overclock well on much lower voltage;

    3) The power consumption increase is a lot less dramatic with cream of the crop 7950 cards that can hit 1.1ghz+ with voltages way under 1.2V. It would make sense that the reference 7950B cards would get the worst possible Tahiti chips since reference design isn't really made for much overclocking headroom.

    It will be interesting to see how GTX660Ti compares since at 925mhz, HD7950 is roughly 5-6% behind the 7970 which is just 3-4% behind the 670.
  • just4U - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    Ryan sort of leads readers to believe 7950 is well behind the 670. I'd always thought it was within a 5-10% margin and with these new incarnations would lessen the gap even more. Not that it matters. It's still (imo) 680 670/7970 then the 7950... and current prices reflect that. Reply
  • RussianSensation - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    Ya, that's because if you saw how the GPU Boost reacts, it doesn't stay pegged at 925mhz as would be the case with a manually overclocked 925mhz 7950. This is why the average increase in speed is only 5-6% on the 7950B as opposed to 10-12% you'd see on the regular 7950 manually overclocked to 925mhz. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    This card is a stupid amd brain fart, right ? I mean all you freaks claim all the amd fans OVERCLOCK or they wouldn't be buying these high end cards....
    So were you lying or is amd stupid as dirt ?
  • raghu78 - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    well said. Factory overclocked cards like Sapphire HD 7950 950 Mhz edition have very good cooler design, enthusiast friendly features like Dual BIOS for aggressive overclocking and excellent binning. These cards overclock to 1150 Mhz or higher speeds with a bit of voltage tweaking. And here we are talking about completely moot points. clock for clock HD 7950 is 3 - 5% slower than HD 7970. As for performance GTX 670 and HD 7950 are competitive when overclocked. the Sapphire HD 7950 950 Mhz edition can be had for USD 350 at newegg. so generally HD 7950 has better price perf and similar overclocked performance. Reply
  • skgiven - Sunday, August 19, 2012 - link

    Good points.
    I don't see any place for this card in the existing market. It's basically competing with itself, or bespoke/non-reference manufacture versions of the card, and I don't think it compares well against those. Why annoy your partners by trying to elbow in an unwanted reference design?

    The extra speed really does come at a price, not cash but a 1.125 base Voltage. This is very high (we are talking about the same territory as the first HOT Firmi's), and an extra 25W is a lot. We have come to expect improved efficiency with refreshes, not a 12.5% increased power requirement for a mere 6% performance improvement. Just a bad card that looks even worse against the 660Ti's load power requirements. I would consider a manufacturer's bespoke implementation of a HD7950 but not this B grade effort.

    "It will be interesting to see how GTX660Ti compares since at 925mhz, HD7950 is roughly 5-6% behind the 7970 which is just 3-4% behind the 670".

    But which GTX660Ti? Although there is a sort of basic spec/reference model there is a huge range of GTX660Ti cards from 925MHz to 1033MHz (so far). That's a performance range of over 11% (or 13% if you go by boost clocks). Some even have higher clocked GDDR5 and some have 3GB instead of 2GB. So there is plenty of diversity/competition. Some performances of the 'superclocked' cards even pass a reference GTX670 (Portal 2).

    AMD need a proper refresh, to regain the lead, not a supped up reference card...
  • Jamahl - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    I agree that the power difference makes this somewhat a double-edged sword.

    I disagree with one part of your conclusion however - having compared both in your bench - the 7950 is starting to look a bit closer to the gtx 670, don't you agree?

    it's only 12% behind at 1920x1200, and really that outlying battlefield result (34% faster on the 670) seems to be making a lot of the difference. Remove that one and it's 9% - then what will happen if you switch out Dirt 3 for Dirt Showdown? Not much in it all of a sudden.
  • RussianSensation - Wednesday, August 15, 2012 - link

    Exactly. Also a lot of 7950s scale well past 1.1ghz and there are certain games not in the test bench that run well on AMD cards: Sniper Elite V2, Anno 2070, Bulletstorm, Serious Sam 3, SKYRIM with mods, Risen Dark Waters. Reply
  • bill4 - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - link

    "Until such a time where the competitive landscape changes, the 7950 will continue to be well behind its next-closest competitor, GTX 670"

    Umm, yeah, and it's also well behind it in price too. Like, $80-$100. Comparing them is stupid, so why did you do it? Compare it to a 560 Ti or something if you just have to compare it to something from Nvidia. This thing will fight the 660 Ti, and guess what, it'll compete well!

    Reviewers really seem to have it out for AMD lately. I dont think Ryan does, I think it was just a clumsy review.

    This seems a little pointless, but by the same token so is Nvidia's boost and reviewers love that. The bottom line is 6% more on some bar graphs makes the 7950 look better to some buyers, 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, I applaud AMD competing.

    BTW, zero mainstream reviewers have yet addressed the obvious and fundamental issue that Nvidia is (surely) cherry picking their review samples, which with boost means it is actually performing better than the cards the public will buy (the Way AMD's boost works it isn't the case for them). This amazes me, as it was literally the first thing that came to my mind when reading first reviews of Nvidia's new cards. Nvidia has the media in it's pocket.

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