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HIS HD 7970 X Turbo GPU Review

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Good day OCFers! Today we get to take a look at what I think can be a monster card from HIS. We don’t normally put HIS in a group with cards like the venerable ASUS  HD 7970 Matrix, or MSI HD 7970 Lighting for example, but we are going to have to with this new card. HIS has put out their HD 7970 X Turbo for all to see, and this card has a significantly beefed up power delivery area when compared to reference designs. HIS also included their new X2 cooler and some other goodies we’ll be checking out. Let’s dig in and see if what this bad boy offers on paper shows in real results!

Specifications and Features

Below is the list of specifications. As you can see with this Tahiti based card, we have a base clock of 1120MHz, which boosts all the way to 1180MHz. These clock speeds appear to be the fastest factory clocks I have seen. I was wondering when someone else would have the fortitude to have more aggressive clocks out of the box, and HIS has stepped up and done that.  This card is part of HIS’s “iPower”, line of cards that delivers more and stable power to the cards versus reference to allow for higher overclocking.

The ram on the card comes in at a blazing 1500Mhz (6000MHz GDDR5 effective), resting on a 384 bit bus. 32 ROPs and 2048 Shader units make up the back end, while all of these features sit on AMD’s GCN architecture used in the HD 7xxx series GPUs, The card also supports the PCIe 3.0 bus.

 

HIS HD 7970 X Turbo Specifications
Model Name HIS HD 7970 X Turbo 3GB GDDR5 PCI-E DVI/HDMI/4xMini DP
Chipset Radeon HD 7970 PCIe Series
ASIC RadeonTM HD 7970 GPU
Manu. Process (Micron) 28nm
Memory Size (MB) 3072
Memory Type GDDR5
Engine CLK (MHz) 1120MHz (Boost clock 1180)
Memory CLK (Gbps) 6Gbps
Memory Interface (bit) 384bit
Power Supply Requirement 500 Watt or greater power
Max. Resolution 4096×2160 per display (DisplayPort 1.2)
2560×1600 per display (Dual-link DVI)
2048×1536 per display (VGA)
Bus Interface PCI Express 3.0 x16
Mini Display Port 4x
HDMI Yes
DVI Dual-link DVI-I
VGA No

 

Below are some of the major marketing points for this card from the HIS website:

  HIS HD 7970 X Turbo HIS HD 7970 X
Boost Clock 1180 MHz 1050 MHz
Core Clock 1120 MHz 1000 MHz
Memory Clock 6000 MHz 6000 MHz
 Cooler
With IceQ X², the card is up to cooler than the reference cooler. (SIC)
Quieter
IceQ X² is one of the quietest coolers. The card is below 28dB when watching movies, surfing Facebook, working. The card remains quiet whether you are gaming, online socializing, entertaining or working
  • 3x 6mm and 2x 8mm wide heatpipes optimize cooling performance by removing heat from the core area.
  • The super large 2x 8.9 cm dual axial fans draws massive amount of cool air to cool the GPU directly.
  • The fan is extremely durable with a life span of up to 50,000 hours. The special fan blade design provides a wide cover to cool opponents in the shortest time!
  • The extra large 40×47.5mm copper heatsink provides a large area to dissipate heat efficiently.
  • The card also carries memory and mosfet heat sinks to provide extra heat dissipation from these areas.
  • The card also features fan control and monitoring, you are able to read fan speed & ASIC temperature from iTurbo or other softwares.

The IceQ X2 cooler, as you can tell from above, sports two 89 mm fans that move air through the dense aluminum fin setup that has a copper base and five heatpipes (three 6mm and two 8mm) that run through it. The fans blowing down through the cooler also help cool the secondary heatsink for the memory ICs and power bits. One thing to note is that one of the memory modules are partially covered with this cooler (pictured later). It shouldn’t be a big deal, but, that one IC not being cooled like the others could potentiallt limit memory overclocking. It would have been nice to see this covered, just in case it makes a difference in overclocking. After all, that is what this card is seemingly built for.

Photo Op – Meet the HIS HD 7970 X Turbo

Retail Packaging

If anyone has read our HIS reviews at this site, you are normally treated to a vertically oriented white box with their IceQ line of cards. This 7970 X Turbo is a lot different. You can see a grey box with the HD 7970 X nomenclature gracing the front. Also mentioned here are a couple of features, such as the Turbo sign (factory overclocked), Eyefinity on a card, and the active Mini DisplayPort to DVI cable that is included.

Flipping around to the back side of the box shows a lot more of the features that separate this HIS HD 7970 from the rest of its line, and frankly, from a lot of competitors. It shows items such as the more robust power delivery area and more details of the possible Eyefinity setups. Sliding over to the middle of the box, we get a bit colorful here as HIS has placed LEDs on this card that show voltage ratings and fan speeds. The voltage LED indicators come in green, yellow and red depending on the voltage used. Next up in the LEDs are the fan speed colors which are green, cyan, blue, magenta, and red. Just as with the voltage, RED is the highest level and all colors ‘below’ it signify lower voltages or fan speeds. Last up, on the rear of the box HIS shows off some of the IceQ X2 details like the heatipes and size of the dual fans (89 mm).

On the sides of the box, you have system requirements, which are of course a PCIe slot (use PCIe 3.0 x16 for the best performance of course – though PCIe 2.0 x16 shows very little difference). And on the other side it shows what is included in the box. I have to say, even though I have gotten used to the ‘normal’ HIS packaging, I have to admit this one looks pretty cool.

HIS 7970 X Turbo - Retail Packaging

HIS 7970 X Turbo – Retail Packaging

Rear

Rear

Side 1

Side 1

Side 2

Side 2

Opening up the retail packaging you are faced with your typical box in a box setup. We see the mostly black box with the HIS website on the face, and the HIS motto of ‘Cooler, Quieter, Faster’ up top. Opening up the box, you see a custom fit foam that the GPU sits in. The card will not jostle inside this setup, and outside of Ace Ventura like treatment of your packages by your preferred package delivery vendor, will be safe in shipping. If you remove the card and the foam, you will find another piece of cardboard that separates the accessories from where the card is.

Last are the included accessories. HIS includes a typical fare of items, such as a driver disk (though of course we suggested you get the latest drivers from the AMD website), Crossfire bridge, DVI to VGA adapter, a free cop of Dirt Showdown, and the GPU jack as I like to call it, or a weight lifter as HIS calls it. There is one other item that is added in this package, and that is the active Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter. This is a really nice ‘value add’ because this part isn’t exactly cheap, and it will give you more multiple monitor flexibility out of the box.

Box in a box

Box in a Box

Card inside (non turbo version pictured)

Card Inside (Non Turbo Version Pictured)

Accessories under here

Accessories Under Here

Accessories

Accessories

A Closer Look

Ok… lets see what this heatsink is all about. The first thing that catches my eye is the large X in the middle of the cooler, made out of what feels like aluminum. Next you see the 89 mm fans with one situated over the core, while the other sits above the power delivery area. One doesn’t see the heatpipes arching out of its shell like you do with the IceQ coolers with the impeller, like on the HIS 7850 IceQ Turbo we recently reviewed.

Flipping the card over on its face doesn’t reveal too terribly much, outside of a slightly larger PCB than their other HD 7970s (more room for the additional power parts and LED’s!). Towards the top right of the card, we see the CrossfireX connections for using up to four of these cards on a single system.

Sliding down and over to the output area, things get a bit different than your typical card in that we see four Mini HDMI ports, one HDMI port, one DVI-D port, and an odd button. At first, I thought that button was a bios switch for alternate BIOS, but it turns out the button is used to enable/disable higher resolutions, Pressing the button takes the DVI port to Dual Link, and disables one of the Mini HDMI ports to do so. One thing to note is this button manages to achieve this change without a reboot, as is typical with other cards sporting that functionality.

The last thing to point out is the required use of two eight pin PCIe power connections.

HIS 7970 X Turbo

HIS 7970 X Turbo

Rear

Rear

Outputs

Outputs

2 8 pin PCIe power connections required

2 8 pin PCIe power connections required

Stripping the card of its heatsink, we see the copper base with the five total heatpipes weaving their way through the base and in to the fin array. The memory and power bits are covered by another heatsink covering the memory ICs (Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C rated at 1.5v and 1500MHz/6000 MHz GDDR5 effective) and power bits controlled by a CHiL CHL 8228 controller, which is typical for the HD 7970 series reference cards.  This offers control and monitoring over both the GPU core voltage as well as the memory. No PLL here though, but I’m not sure that really matters in ambient situations anyway (it didn’t help the two times I could change it on other cards).  If we take away that secondary cooler on the PCB, it does make good contact with the ICs and power goodies it comes in contact with, so all is well there.

Next is a picture of the card down to its birthday suit, nothing but PCB, ICs, a core, chokes, caps, and MOSFETs here (more or less!). I will quickly move you over to the bottom two pictures below, just to show the huge difference between the souped up power area of the HD 7970 X Turbo compared to the lesser HD 7970 IceQ X2 design. Here you see more clearly than ever the 18+1+1 setup HIS has brought to you. While the PLL and ram isn’t beefed up, the core certainly should have plenty of clean power getting to it. In theory this should allow for higher overclocks and reduced temperatures. Speaking of reduced temperatures, I do want to note that the back of the PCB, and especially under the MOSFETs, gets pretty darn warm to the touch when highly overclocked. This holds true even with the fan speed set to 100% and trying to cool them from the front side.

Heatsink Removed

Heatsink Removed

Heatsink on the PCB

Heatsink on the PCB

Notice the 18+1+1 phases?

Notice the 18+1+1 Phases?

Notice the default 8+1+1?

Notice the 8+1+1?

Next up are two pictures of the LED lighting for the fan and power, and two more pictures that show you the voltage read points. The voltage read points are labeled under the ‘spine’ on the front of the card, forcing you to remember the location if you still have the spine on. I think it would have been better to just label both sides, or at least the back. The back is always visible; even with a pot on.

Fan speed LED

Fan Speed LED

Voltage LED - (flash off)

Voltage LED – (Flash Off)

Voltage read point...labled side under the (removed) rib

Voltage Read Point…Labeled Side Under the (Removed) Rib

Voltage read point - Rear, unlabeled?

Voltage Read Point – Rear, Unlabeled?

 

Last are some other shots of the fortified power delivery area. For comparison, there are two pictures of the front and back of the HD 7970 X turbo and the HD 7970 IceQ X2.

Performance and Overclocking

Test System

  • Intel i7 3770K CPU @ 4 GHz (Overclockers.com Approved!)
  • EVGA Z77 FTW (Overclockers.com Approved!)
  • G.Skill RipjawsX 2 x 4 GB 2133 MHz CL7 @ 1.65 V
  • 60GB OCZ Vertex 2 SSD (Overclockers.com Approved!)
  • Seasonic 1000 W
  • HIS HD 7970 X Turbo (Stock – 1120(1180 boost) and 1260/1700 overclocked @ 1.30v/1.50)
  • Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
  • AMD Catalyst 12.11 Drivers

Benchmarking Method/Settings

  • All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
  • Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run with the “extreme” setting
  • Alien vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
  • Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation HIGH, Detail Level: Extreme
  • Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
  • Dirt 3  – 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
  • Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
  • Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, Vysnc OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
  • More detail is in our article: Overclockers’ Updated Video Card Testing Procedure

GPU-Z

Below is a screenshot of GPU-Z 6.6 and what it shows about the card. As you can see, it agrees with the basic specifications listed from HIS (though it reads the boost clock constantly), so all is well here.

GPUz 6.6

GPU-Z 6.6

Overclocking Software

We have been through many HIS cards since iTurbo was released, so I wont go in to much detail here. You can see like other software, it has your typical information type screen, overclocking adjustments, as well as fan control settings. iTurbo is a comprehensive utility to overclock your HIS branded card, as well as many others. As I mentioned before, I just wish the ‘maximized’ screen would be a bit smaller, otherwise it’s a great, fully functional utility.

iTurbo - Info screen

iTurbo – Info Screen

iTurbo - Overclocking screen

iTurbo – Overclocking Screen

Synthetic Benchmarks

Starting off our benchmark-a-thon, we will go with an oldie but goody in 3DMark 03. Here we see the HIS card beating  out the ASUS’ top of the line offering by a couple percentage points. This isn’t a huge gap, and as will be a recurring theme, mostly due to the drivers used (12.11 performance driver for the HIS, and 12.8 for the ASUS) and the difference in clock speeds (1180/1600 vs 1100/1650). We also see here that the AMD cards spank the NVIDIA GTX 680 by quite a large margin..

Moving on to a more modern benchmark in 3DMark Vantage, we again see the HIS HD 7970 X Turbo besting its brother from another mother, the ASUS HD 7970 Matrix Platinum, by nearly five percent. The same goes with the GTX 680, which makes a much better showing in more modern benchmarks.

3DMark 03 and 3DMark Vantage

3DMark 03 and 3DMark Vantage

Next up is 3DMark 11. Here we see a significant difference between the ASUS monster and the HIS monster, to the tune of around thirteen percent. A lot of these gains had to do with the driver more so than the meager clock differences. It should still best its peer even when retested, but not by nearly as much. With the driver improvements in 12.11, the HD 7970 now beats the GTX 680 in this benchmark; impressive gains.

Unigine Heaven results show the HD 7970 X Turbo besting both the the ASUS offering by around seven percent at stock and wiping the floor with the 680 at around 15%. Again, between the AMD cards, this gap is mostly because of drivers used.

3DMark 11 and Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

3DMark 11 and Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

Game Benchmarks

Getting in to what most members want to see, our gaming suite, we will start today with Aliens vs Predator. Here we see the HD 7970 X Turbo beating the ASUS HD 7970 by almost four FPS (82.8 vs 79.1) and wiping the floor with the GTX 680.

In Batman: Arkham City, our review card hits 102 FPS with the settings used (see above).

Last in this graph is Battlefield 3. Here again we see the difference is mostly in driver optimizations between the two AMD cards, with the HIS card beating the ASUS by around 20%. It is almost unbelievable isn’t it? I thought this was an “NVIDIA” game? Cheers to AMD for stepping things up in this game (really its the only one I play so I’m admittedly a bit biased here!).

Aliens vs Predator, Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3

Aliens vs Predator, Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3

Last up for the gaming benchmarks are Civilization V, Dirt 3, and Metro 2033. Starting with Civilization V, we see results of 81.6 FPS, while in Dirt 3 we achieved 127.6 FPS, and last Metro 2033 posting a playable 40.7 FPS.

Civilization V, Dirt 3, Metro 2033

Civilization V, Dirt 3, Metro 2033

 

Crossfire X results

For CrossfireX testing, I took our review sample and paired it with the HIS HD 7970 IceQ X2. The IceQ X2 card was overclocked to match the stock speeds of the X Turbo for more accurate results. The CrossfireX results and scaling seemed right on par with the rest of the cards tested in this configuration. Scaling reached a magical 201% somehow (repeatable results) in Alien vs. Predator, and a whopping 190% in Unigine Heaven. Games dropped a bit, but still showed respectable results. I wouldn’t use this setup on a single monitor unless perhaps it was 2560×1600.

Crossfire X

Crossfire X

This testing wouldn’t be complete without showing the results with our new game test suite as well. There are some massive FPS increases to be had here. Even the GPU killer Metro 2033 is sitting pretty at 77+ FPS, with Dirt3 coming in at 186.7. Simply amazing power at 1920×1080 resolution. Cards like these need 2560×1440/1600, or multiple monitors to even break a sweat.

CrossfireX Game Test Results
Batman: Arkham City 127
Battlefield 3 175.9
Civilization V 110.3
Metro 2033 77.3
Dirt 3 186.7

Cooling and Power Consumption

Moving on to the old power meter, we see at stock speeds the power came in at at an idle of 91W. The peak loads were 311W in 3DMark 11, and 335W in Unigine Heaven. Overclocking to the 1260/1700 (1.3v/1.5v), resulted in a jump to 330W in 3DMark 11, and a whopping 383W for Heaven. I think the power meter caught a peak there in Heaven. Normal use in BF3 was right around the 315W area stock, and 330W overclocked.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, its just amazing the horsepower we have in GPUs and CPUs these days versus the power consumption from just a couple of years ago. For most people and setups, a QUALITY 550W PSU will be plenty of power for overclocking a single GPU/CPU setup (assuming of course you will not go dual card). Also, keep in mind the power usage numbers were with a water cooling loop (MCP655 vario on speed  ‘3’, 5 Yate Loon Highs @ 1K RPM, 2 HDD’s, and 2 SSD’s).

Power Consumption

Power Consumption

The temperatures of the IceQ X2 cooler showed some pretty solid results with the fan set to auto. The fan did not go above 48% at a temperature of 71 °C with that configuration. Overall the noise level at that speed was audible, but certainly not heard with any soft music or headphones on. After ramping up the fans to 100%, they undoubtedly made themselves known. The 100% fan speed configuration is best suited for benchmarking.

Pushing the Limits

Saddle up to see where the card could take us with a lot more CPU, and bu pushing the card even harder. The HIS HD 7970 X Turbo turned in solid clocks at 1283/1800. Even though I had 1.38v to pour in to this card, I found that adding more voltage didn’t help the cause after 1.35v, so I stuck with that to reach the clocks above. I would have loved to see 1300Mhz out of this card, but the results are still very respectable. Side note: the temperatures through the ‘Pushing The Limits’ testing was 61 °C with 100% fan speed.

3DMark Vantage - 42,847

3DMark Vantage – 42,847

3DMark 11 - 14,110

3DMark 11 – 14,110

Unigine Heaven (Hwbot) - 3,245.867

Unigine Heaven (HWBot) – 3,245.867

Conclusion

ASUS and MSI really had a lock on the market (highest of high end aftermarket GPU’s) in my opinion with their Matrix series and Lightning respectively. HIS has stepped up to the plate and tried to hit one out of the park with their new monster, the HD 7970 X Turbo. By the looks of this review, at least performance wise, it has. It really has everything an overclocker needs to get the most out of their GPU; a more robust power delivery area, a better than reference cooler, and the most flexibility for multi-screen options (similar to the “Flex” line from Sapphire). HIS has accomplished that in their 18+1+1 setup, their IceQ x2 cooler (which when ramped up can really move some air and keep things cool), and the button to switch display modes (unique feature not requiring a reboot to enable).

The overclock percentage wasn’t really that great, coming in around 6% over its boost clocks. Remember though, this is the fastest factory clock speeds out of the box at 1180MHz with boost, so it was already the fastest card available. She should should really shine compared to most other cards if you get it under better than air cooling.

The real problem with this specific card comes with its price tag. This card comes in at an eye popping $609.99 at newegg.com at the time of publishing. That is $10 more than the 6 GB Vapor X, $110 more than the ASUS Matrix Platinum, and $120 more than the MSI Lightning. Killer. Just a killer there. Now to be fair, this card does come with an active display port cable which is not cheap ($30), the highest factory overclocks, and also comes with three games. Another item that may make this choice attractive over the ASUS is its dual slot cooling solution (which the Lightning also has).

So where does this leave the card? Sadly, ONLY due to the price, we are going to have to place a “MEH” on this card. Even though it easily hangs with the other big boys on the hardware, features, and performance front, the $610 price tag is just too much to get over if you don’t need that adapter and the six monitor capability it offers over similar solutions. If you do require that type of multi-monitor flexibility in a high end card however, then this should be your choice. Otherwise, for over $100 less, you can have similar performing high end aftermarket cards but without that capability. HIS has to come in a lot closer to $500 for this card to be more competitive I’m afraid.

Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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Discussion
  1. yup they had it all there just got too greedy on the price.

    hopefully they drop that asap so they can compete in that market.

    if they dropped that price for like 475 it would sell like hot cakes.