First, let’s check out the difference between the Radeon HD 7970 3GB (925/5500 MHz) and the Radeon HD 7950 3GB (800/5000 MHz):
AMD has managed to position its two top-end products very accurately: the Radeon HD 7970 is indeed worth the extra $100 compared to the Radeon HD 7950. The average difference across all the tests is 15-16% at 1920x1080 and 16-19% at 2560x1600. The difference is small in Metro 2033: The Last Refuge and large in Total War: Shogun 2, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Lost Planet 2.
Now let’s compare these cards when both are clocked at the same frequencies of 925/5500 MHz.
The gap is much smaller now: 3-4% on average at both resolutions. When clocked at the same frequencies as the HD 7970, the Radeon HD 7950 delivers almost the same performance in such games as Metro 2033: The Last Refuge, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2, DiRT 3, Hard Reset and Batman: Arkham City. The HD 7970 is still faster in Total War: Shogun 2, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Lost Planet 2, though.
The Radeon HD 7950 can perform even faster, however. Here’s how it does at 1100/7360 MHz:
Of course, the HD 7970 can be overclocked as well, and perhaps even better than the HD 7950, but the latter card should still be given credit for high overclockability at a cheaper price.
The last pair of diagrams compares the Radeon HD 7950 3GB (800/5000 MHz) and the GeForce GTX 580 3GB (772/1544/4008 MHz):
The GeForce GTX 580 comes out the winner in StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty and Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 and enjoys some advantage in Lost Planet 2 and DiRT 3. The Radeon HD 7950, on its part, is faster in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat, Just Cause 2, Aliens vs. Predator (2010), Sid Meier's Civilization V, Total War: Shogun 2, Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3. The rest of the tests do not reveal a clear winner. We guess considering the same price of the two cards and the incomparably higher overclocking potential of the Radeon HD 7950, the choice between the two products is obvious.
Here is a table with the detailed test results:
The Radeon HD 7950 3GB seems to be an even more attractive product than the recently released Radeon HD 7970 3GB. Being more affordable, it can be overclocked to deliver higher performance while the $100 difference in price can be spent for a better cooler. This is good news for overclockers, of course, but even at its default clock rates the Radeon HD 7950 is competitive against Nvidia's previous-generation flagship GeForce GTX 580 3GB across a number of tests and benchmarks. Still, we want to stress it once again that the Radeon HD 7950 is meant for overclocking. Its Tahiti Pro processor and fast graphics memory feature tremendous overclocking potential that can be put to use easily.
Sapphire has come up with an excellent version of Radeon HD 7950 3GB that combines the abovementioned advantages with an efficient and quiet cooler (perhaps the quietest among all original GPU coolers we’ve tested so far). The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 OC 3GB is factory overclocked but can be overclocked even more. And it comes with sufficient accessories at a close-to-recommended price. Therefore, we are proud to award Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 OC 3 GB graphics cards with our Editor’s Choice title:
While we are fully satisfied with our today’s hero, we are still looking forward to testing more Tahiti-based products from Gigabyte, PowerColor, MSI, ASUS and VTX3D. Stay tuned!