After nearly two years, the HD 7970 is still AMD’s flagship video card. Even though a new line-up from AMD is expected shortly, we want to test its performance now to see how well this card is holding up in terms of value compared to several GTX 770s, and when overclocked, even to the much more expensive GTX 780.
When the HD 7970 first launched at $550 in December 2011, it was about 25% faster than the GTX 580 but subsequent driver revisions have moved it much further ahead. The slightly-faster-at-the-time GTX 680, was able to undercut the pricing of the HD 7970 by fifty dollars when it launched in March. As a result, there were a series of AMD pricing cuts that have brought the HD 7970′s pricing down, as well as introducing an overclocked version, the HD 7970 GHz Edition that was released at a higher price than the reference versions. In the United States, the reference HD 7970 is currently priced from just below $300 to about $359 for a VisionTek HD 7970 with a flexible 3-game bundle.
Well, the GTX 680 has been discontinued by Nvidia for the newer and slightly faster GTX 770 which is priced at about $399 which competes directly with the HD 7970 GHz Editions editions and highly overclocked HD 7970s.
The HD 7970 versus the GTX 770 – and the GTX 780?
There are many varieties of the HD 7970 with their price starting at around $300. The reference versions of the HD 7970, like our VisionTek sample, are clocked at 925/1375MHz, and the more expensive GHz Edition is clocked at 1000/1500MHz with a boost of an extra 50MHz available to the core.
The reference GTX 770 can be found for as little as $385 and it is bundled with the upcoming Batman: Arkham Origins key. We will benchmark using the reference version of the GTX 770 and two factory-overclocked versions. We will also bench our VisionTek HD 7970, clocked as high as we can go stably, versus the mildly-overclocked EVGA GTX 770 SC, as well the highly-overclocked Galaxy GTX 770 HOF, and even the reference GTX 780 which is priced well above these cards at $650.
Currently the EVGA GTX 770 SC 2GB version is $409.99 after ten dollar mail-in rebate at Newegg and at Amazon. The 4GB version that we are using today is $459.00 but its performance is for all practical gaming purposes, identical to the 2GB version at the settings we test at. We need to ask, is a reference GTX 770 2GB worth about 40 dollars more than the VisionTek HD 7970 3GB?
The reference HD 7970 versus the reference GTX 770, and overclocked versus the EVGA GTX 770 SC, the Galaxy GTX 770 HOF, and the reference GTX 780
For this evaluation, you will see us pit the reference HD 7970 against the reference GTX 770 at stock clocks. Then we will use our EVGA SC GTX 770 4GB at factory clocks (1111/7010MHz) and a very highly factory-overclocked Galaxy GTX 770 HOF (1200/7010MHz) versus our HD 7970 at above GHz Edition Boost speeds of 1050MHz/1500MHz. We are also going to compare with the reference GTX 780 3GB to see how well the overclocked VisionTek Radeon does. For this evaluation, we are benching 30 modern games and 4 synthetic benchmarks at 1920×1080, 2560×1600, and 5760×1080 resolutions.
Since we do not want any chance of our CPU “bottlenecking” our graphics, we are testing all of our graphics cards by using our Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7-3770K at 4.50GHz, 16 GB Kingston “Beast” HyperX DDR3 at 2133MHz, and an EVGA Z77 FTW motherboard. The EVGA FTW motherboard features the 16x+16x PCIe 3.0 specification for CrossFire/SLI which we will test in the next article covering GTX 770 SLI versus HD 7970 CrossFire. The Core i7-3770K at 4.5GHz is fast enough to differentiate even high-end video cards at high resolution and at high detail settings.
Before we look at our test bed and run benchmarks, let’s unbox our VisionTek HD 7970 reference version and look at its specifications.