It's been a while since we have reviewed a card from XFX, a company who have been producing Radeon based GPUs for many years now. They return to OC3D with a bang too, as the card we have up for review is their top line HD7950, the Black Edition, with the Double Dissipation fans.
We saw in our review of the reference design card how well it overclocked, but of course we're aware than not everyone is comfortable in pushing their latest expensive purchase to the limit.
If you number amongst those people then a pre-overclocked card might be just the chap for you.
The Black Edition comes out the box with 900MHz on the core, so we should see a good increase in the stock speeds compared to it's reference rival. We also have XFXs Double Dissipation cooling utilising their Ghost technology. This allows the airflow to reach the PCB, and vent from any available space, which should keep temperatures of all the components down without excessively spinning the fans up.
The packaging is certainly attractive, and also not overly large either. Internally the cardboard is stiff and there is a lot of foam to help protect your purchase.
Taking the card out we can't help notice how gorgeous it is. The design of the Ghost cooler really catches the eye with an aluminium construction and a nice colour scheme which draws the focus on to those two big fans. It's very attractive indeed.
Despite the Black Edition having a good overclock out the box it still on requires the two 6pin PCIe power connectors. Outputs are the same as the reference too, although we do like the inclusion of the XFX logo in the vents, and the red DVI port. Little touches make the difference.
The Ghost cooler has lovely minimalist lines and looks attractive from any angle.
We did spot that unlike the reference designs the XFX hasn't got the dual-BIOS switch. Not a deal breaker but an odd omission.
XFX R7950 Black Edition with Dual Dissipation Cooler
Catalyst HD7970 Drivers 11.12
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
As you can see the XFX comes out the box a lot faster than the reference card. Although it overclocks as easily as the HIS did it tops out at 25MHz less on both the GPU and Memory. So we should see much better stock performance and perhaps a tiny drop-off in the overclocks.
What a difference a cooler can make. At idle the XFX is comprehensively cooler than the reference design, and even the overclock doesn't overload the Ghost coolers capabilities.
3D Mark Vantage
Futuremark have always managed to make their benchmarks scale with clock speed and it shows with the XFX. The 100MHz increase in the stock speed gives an improvement over the reference HIS, but it hasn't quite got the legs at the top end of the overclock.
3D Mark 11
The newest version of 3D Mark repeats the trend, which the XFX showing its potential if you prefer to just put the card in and play.
Alien vs Predator
Given the consistency of the results we saw with the HIS card, we expect that you'll be reading these words often throughout this review. The XFX is much more accomplished out of the box that the reference card, and just a hair slower when overclocked.
Batman Arkham City
Arkham City is very testing at such extreme settings, but still the Black Edition manages to slot neatly into second and third of the HD7950s.
Excellent. Something slightly different. In Battlefield 3 the XFX is a long way ahead with the stock settings and just edges ahead when overclocked too. In fact it's as good as a HD7970.
Dirt 3 reverses the trend with the stock HIS card proving a better performer than even the overclocked XFX. Sure it's a tiny difference, but it at least breaks the monotony of the XFX endlessly placing second and third.
Far Cry 2
The Dunia Engine highlights the consistency of the Tahiti GPU. Despite its age the results remain so predictable that the bookies would stop taking bets. At stock the XFX is well ahead, but the HIS just noses in front when overclocked.
We hope you didn't bet the farm on the results from Mafia 2 though, as the XFX is a clear way behind regardless of stock or overclocked.
The post-apocalyptic horror of Metro 2033 gives us similar results to Mafia 2. After a lengthy run of second and third places, suddenly the XFX is lagging behind a bit.
Resident Evil 5 DX9
Capcom's Zombie killer returns the status quo with the Black Edition proving a stunner out of the box, and actually runs close when overclocked.
Resident Evil 5 DX10
Switching to the DirectX 10 mode doesn't affect the results, with the XFX right up there.
Back to a benchmark and back to the results that demonstrate how good the XFX Black Edition is out of the box, only 3 FPS on average behind a stock HD7970.
Despite ramping up the image quality settings the XFX Black maintains its position as a very good card at stock and surprisingly close to the stock HD7970, even passing it when overclocked.
The Witcher 2
CD Projekt Red's RPG epic provides a very stern test for anything you care to think of, and the XFX surprisingly doesn't quite keep up with the reference designed HIS.
It's always interesting to see how identical underpinnings can lead to a very different target audience. The HD7950 is clearly a very powerful card, but the XFX take upon it definitely ends up being aimed at people who more want a 'fire and forget' style card when compared to the HIS Digital reference card.
Clearly the Tahiti core responds well to overclocking. In fact we're struggling to think of another GPU that has such a clear improvement across all of our tests when it's overclocked compared to the stock settings.
However, we know that not everybody is comfortable in overclocking their card and so their eye is always drawn to the cards that are faster out of the box. Here is where the XFX Black Edition gets a clear advantage.
Barring a couple of tests the extra 100MHz really makes a difference, giving you those vital few extra frames to provide a smoother playing experience. Overclocking it is as easy as you could hope for, but it's a surprise that the XFX ended up being 25MHz shy of the HIS on both GPU Core and Memory speed. Generally, and further demonstration of how well the HD7950 scales with clock speed, those few extra MHz meant that the XFX offering placed in the second and third spots in our testing.
The cooler is excellent. It looks absolutely gorgeous and keeps the temperatures much lower than the reference design. With two fans you're always balancing temperatures with noise. The better heat-sink allows the fans to spin slower, but two fans will always be louder than one. In the end it's louder the reference design, but better at keeping the card cool.
If your interest was piqued by the excellent performance of the HD7950 but you prefer to just plug a card in and forget about it rather than tweak and tune it then the XFX HD7950 Black Edition with Double Dissipation, a lengthy name if ever there was one, should certainly be high on your list.
For its excellent stock performance and great cooler we're happy to award it our OC3D Gold Award.
*VIDEO COMING UPLOADING*
Thanks to XFX for supplying the HD7950 Black Edition for review. Discuss in our forums.