Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review Page: 1

Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Introduction

In our final part of our look at three different takes upon the HD7950, we look at the Sapphire offering.

Sapphire have long provided us with some of the best variants of the Radeon cards and the HD7950 Overclock Edition is no exception. A huge heat-sink bristling with heatpipes should ensure it remains cool no matter the loading, and an out of the box 900MHz GPU core speed will help it fit in with the plug and forget models.

So rather than repeat things you already know, let's get on and look at it.

Technical Specifications

A beast of a cooler, a big old overclock and a copy of the excellent TriXX software. There is a lot to like about the Sapphire HD7950.

ModelSapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition
Core Clock900MHz
Memory Size3GB
Memory TypeGDDR5
Memory Bus384 bit
Memory Speed1250 MHz
PCI BusPCI Express 3.0
Stream Processors1792
Outputs

2x Mini DisplayPort
DVI-I
HDMI

 

Enough preamble. Onwards to the photos...



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Up Close

Judging from the box art anyone would think that graphics cards are designed solely for the males in the audience. We all like a pretty lady but it's a bit much.

Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review     Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review  

Contrary to the all metal and sleek looking XFX, the Sapphire is all about mad cooling capabilities. A very slender shroud just barely covers the huge heatpipes and fans. Sapphire have also removed the dual-BIOS that we saw on the reference card.

Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review     Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review  

It might be able to be overclocked to incredible levels, but it still only requires the dual 6pin PCIe power inputs.

Just look at those heatpipes. It's like a piece of copper sculpture. Gorgeous.

Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review     Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review  

The outputs remain the same, two mini DisplayPort, an HDMI and a DVI.

Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Test Setup

Sapphire HD7950 Overclocked Edition
Catalyst HD7970 Drivers 11.12
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair AX1200W
Corsair GTX8
Corsair H100
Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Overclocking

Out of the box the Sapphire matches the XFX with a 900MHz core speed. Overclocking is pretty spectacular, managing a whopping 1150MHz, a 350MHz increase over a stock chip.

Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review     Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Temperatures

The cooler is certainly capable of keeping the card very quiet and cool even with our hefty overclock. Naturally it's a bit warmer when under load, but still cooler than the reference design despite the 350MHz increase.



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

3D Mark Vantage

With such a huge overclock available from the Sapphire it's clearly the best of the three HD7950s in 3D Mark Vantage.

3D Mark 11

Even with the shader intensive 3D Mark 11 the Sapphire HD7950 can run the overclocked HD7970 close.



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Alien vs Predator

Despite the big overclock the Sapphire card can't quite match up to the other overclocked HD7950s we've reviewed today. It's not disgraced, but not quite where we'd expect it to be.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Batman Arkham City

Surprisingly Arkham City again doesn't quite give the result that we'd expect from the extra 100MHz available to us from the Sapphire.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Battlefield 3

It's almost as if we've finally reached the point in which the clock speed actually becomes detrimental to the performance. For the third test in a row the XFX has outperformed the Sapphire despite giving up 100MHz in speed.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Dirt 3

Not only is the Sapphire behind the XFX, but it's behind even the HIS. The extra performance visible in 3D Mark clearly isn't translating into the gaming environment.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Far Cry 2

Absolutely inseparable. It's as if the extra 100MHz are twiddling their thumbs rather than giving us any performance benefits.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Mafia 2

Finally the extra overclock starts to make itself known once again. It's not up there with the reference HIS, but it is comfortable faster than the XFX.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Metro 2033

We see the same results in Metro 2033. The overclock of the Sapphire gives better performance than the XFX, as we'd expect, but it isn't up there with the reference card. Strange considering that it's cooler and potentially faster.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Resident Evil 5 DX9

Bigger overclock, identical results to the XFX. It's a bit of a head-scratcher.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Resident Evil 5 DX10

Average score, same as before. Nothing to see here, move along.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Unigine 0xAA

As we move back into the synthetic benchmark world, the Sapphire once again makes full use of its extra performance to give us the best results from our batch of HD7950s.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Unigine 8xAA

With Unigine Heaven on maximum settings the Sapphire HD7950 again stretches its legs to give the highest average frame-rate on test today.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

The Witcher 2

Finishing up with The Witcher 2, we once again find that in gaming scenarios the card isn't quite as good as our overclock should be.

 



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Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition Review

Conclusion

It would be easy to come away from the review of the Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition with the feeling that the card isn't quite living up to potential.

Of course this is far from the case as out of the box it's inseparable from the XFX, both being clocked at 900MHz. Although it's not as obviously aesthetically pleasing as the XFX, the performance of the cooler is magnificent. It's cool despite our humongous overclock, but most impressively it's so quiet. Of course it's a bit audible when under heavy load, but generally it's whisper quiet.

Equally we have to note that in our synthetic benchmarks, 3D Mark Vantage, 3D Mark 11 and Unigine Heaven, the fact that it's able to be overclocked a full 100MHz further than our other two cards pays dividends as it gives us the highest scores in those particular suites.

Gaming performance is less impressive relative to the synthetic tests and what we'd hope our overclock would give. That isn't to say that it's not still a beast of a card, but for some reason in every single one of our gaming tests it was bettered by either the XFX or HIS cards when they're overclocked. Thankfully it's only a couple of frames here and there, but it's consistent enough to be worth noting. 

So if you're in the mood for massive benchmark scores, or a card that will give you great gaming performance whilst not damaging your hearing, then the Sapphire is the card for you. To be honest all three of the cards are equally impressive, they just offer slightly different takes upon the same thing. The HIS is cheap, the XFX beautiful and rugged, and the Sapphire gives us the highest 3D Mark scores.

Such is the excellence of the HD7950 chip itself that the Sapphire is just as deserving of our OC3D Gold Award.

   

Thanks to Sapphire for providing the HD7950 Overclock Edition for review. Discuss in our forums.