Today, I finally get a chance to bring you something new… Ok, that was a really bad joke as most all of us know we are really in the middle of nowhere here on “new” cards coming out from both camps. That said, I bring to you another 7970, from MSI, dubbed the HD 7970 TwinFrozr III OC Boost Edition. This card boasts MSI’s TwinFrozr III cooler, as well as having the new ‘boost clock’ from AMD. Let’s see how it stacked up against another 7970 and its peers on the NVIDIA side.
Specifications and Features
Below we have a list of the major specifications for the 7970 TFIII BE. You will notice the 384 bit 3 GB vRAM, the GHz stock clock which boosts to 1050 MHz as well as a memory clock speed that comes in at 1375 MHz (5500 MHz GDDR5). About the only other thing to note here is this is a fairly long card coming in a bit over 10.5 inches.
|MSI R7970 TFIII Specifications|
|Graphics Engine||AMD Radeon HD 7970|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express 3.0|
|Memory Size(MB)||3072 MB|
|Memory Interface||384 bits|
|Core Clock Speed(MHz)||1000 MHz Core (Boost Clock: 1050 MHz)|
|Memory Clock Speed(MHz)||5500|
|Outputs||DVI-I x1, HDMI(1.4a) x1, Mini-DisplayPort(1.2) x2|
|Display Output (Max Resolution)||2560×1600|
|DirectX Version Support||11|
|Dimensions||269 x 115 x 39 mm (10.6 ” x 4.5 ” x 1.5 “)|
As far as major features, this card doesn’t stray too terribly much from reference, so below are a couple of exclusive features on this card. The rest of the common features can be found at the MSI website where the information was originally sourced from. The fans can certainly move a lot of air when cranked and does a good job cooling at fairly low speeds.
The MSI solid capacitors are, well, I have to imagine most cards have solid capacitors at this point. But it’s good to know for sure that there are high quality components in this card too!
Photo Op – Meet the MSI HD 7970 TwinFrozr III Boost Edition
Ok, so what is this thing boxed in… below you get to see the retail packaging MSI has chosen to store and protect this card in. As one can see we have no sexy ninjas, and no Excaliber esque swords, but a simple picture of the card/cooler in the middle taking up the most space. Flanking and above that is the MSI name, while below the card shows the name and model (Boost Edition, OC).
Flipping the box over, we can see a typical setup. Features, System requirements among other things. I included a couple different angles of the box too if front and back just were not enough.
As one opens up the box we can see the card inside sitting in a relatively snug foam surround with a plastic cover protecting the card which sits inside its own ESD bag. You can also view a piece of the accessory stack in that photo as well.
Speaking of accessories, the last picture in this section shows what is included in this box. We can plainly see a Quick Start Guide, Instructions, driver disk, DVI to VGA adapter, molex to 6+2 pin, mHDMI to HDMI, a 6 to 8 pin adapter, and last but not least, a CrossFireX (CFX) bridge. Plenty to get you started.
Ok, ok, no pushing and shoving, you will all get a turn to see the card people! Well, what are you waiting for? Look below! Here we see our first glimpse of the MSI HD 7970 TFIII OC BE. The first thing you see are the dual ‘propeller’ blade configuration on the heatsink, and a nice grey shell that goes on top of the heatsink. You can’t tell from this angle but it is a dual slot cooling solution/card.
Once we flip over the card, we see that this is not a Lightning! I don’t see the MSI CAP back there! No worries though, that little unit didn’t do too terribly much for those on ambient cooling anyway. Not too much to see really back here, but we can notice the two CFx points at the upper right and a dark brown PCB.
As far as the outputs go, you have a typical assortment of DVI-I, HDMI, and 2 mini-Displayports. Plenty of different options there.
The last picture simply shows the power connectivity you will need, one PCIe 6 pin and one PCIe 8 pin.
Here are a couple more pictures from different angles:
So when we take off the TFIII cooler it exposes another good thing, a plate type cooler for the ram and VRM’s. Nice, it’s just not a fan blowing down on them, I like that. The TFIII cooler sports a pretty dense fin array and some robust heatpipes so it LOOKS like it should do well anyway. MSI utilizes propeller technology on this cooler allowing the blades to move more air.
and here are some other pictures of the cooler…
Next we will take a look at the RAM used. In this case, and as is on a lot of 7970’s, is Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR R0C which translates to 1.5 V at 1500 MHz actual / 6000 MHz DDR5. In the past, these usually had a significant amount of headroom to overclock, and not to let the cat out of the bag, but, this card can adjust voltage so the memory should be able to hit some solid clocks… we will see that a bit later on of course.
Sliding over to the next picture, one can see the dual BIOS switch/selector. In case you want to get saucy and flash or edit your BIOS, you have another one to switch back to in case it goes wrong. I like this feature, but I will say that, in my opinion, the vast majority of users shouldn’t be flashing BIOS in the first place as there just isn’t a need. Having this switch does mitigate the risk though.
Performance and Overclocking
As we all know by now, Overclockers.com utilizes multiple resources to review their hardware. In order to ensure the results are the same no matter who reviews the item, we have a specific test system set up and methods/settings as follows:
- Intel i7 3770K CPU @ 4 GHz, 1.2v
- Asrock Z77 OC Formula
- Kingston Hyper X Predator 2 x 4 GB 2666 MHz CL11 @ 1.65 V
- 60 GB OCZ Vertex 2 SSD
- Seasonic 1000 W PSU
- MSI HD 7970 TFIII Boost Edition
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- Catalyst 13.4 drivers
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to the reviews):
- MSI GTX 680 Lightning
- ASUS GTX 670 Direct CU II TOP
- HIS HD 7970 IceQ X2 GHz Edition
- HIS HD 7950 IceQ X2
- 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
Whats to show here? Well, exactly what was described in the specifications section really. I do want to mention, the core clocks are set to the boost clocks and it does not budge from there, 1050 MHz core. We see the memory set at 1375 MHz sporting bandwidth of 264 GB/s, and 2048 shaders with 32/128 ROPs/TMUs. Pretty much as described, ehh?
I’m not sure there is an enthusiast on the planet that doesn’t know about MSI’s GPU overclocking software, MSI Afterburner. To that end, I am not going to go into much detail outside of the screenshot and noting its functions (GPU/memory clockspeed and voltage control, fan control, profiles, and a graphing/monitoring portion that covers everything from core temp to GPU load and vRAM use and a lot in between.) All in all it is a very robust tool to use, on most cards, but especially MSI cards.
The thumbnail below shows what voltages you can change, note this card we can change the memory as well:
Ok, enough of the photo’s and dry stuff, its time to look at the benchmarks! In this comparison, I chose a 680, 670, another 7970, and a 7950 so you get an idea of how it performs with one of its peers and the competition (details above in the test system).
As usual, first up we will get the synthetics out of the way. In this graph, we have 3DMark 03 and 3DMark Vantage. While 03 is a bit old, it still shows great scaling with only GPU changes and reflects how well the card can perform in older titles under DX9. Here we see the MSI offering scoring 132,021 which beat everything in the test, including the other 7970 (likely due to driver improvements).
Moving on to 3DMark Vantage, we can see it scored 35,920 which also manages to beat everything in the test. This time against another 7970, it beats it out by around 4% (again, likely due to driver improvements). Things are shaping up a bit here. Moving forward to modern benchmarks, let’s see if it still holds the same pattern.
Stepping on up to something a bit more modern and testing out more DX11 features, such as tessellation to name one, we start with 3DMark 11. Here we see the MSI 7970 TFIII hitting a score of 10,385, again the highest in the test followed closely behind the highly overclocked (and on old drivers) GTX 680 Lightning and beats the other 7970 in this test by almost 7%.
Moving on to the almost all GPU test, Unigine Heaven, we can see the theme doesn’t change too terribly much here with the MSI TFIII 7970 leading the entire class scoring 2,154.7xx in this test at its stock speeds.
Moving on to the games, let’s start with Aliens vs Predator. Here we see the MSI 7970 TFIII putting up 76.6 FPS at our settings (highest it will go). That is a few FPS short of the other 7970 used in this comparison and a FPS or so behind the GTX680 Lightning.
Next up is Batman: Arkham City. Here the card slams out 98 FPS at stock again losing to the other 7970 in this test by 4 FPS. Still, 98 FPS is PLENTY playable of course.
The last game in this graph is my favorite, Battlefield 3. Here we manage 113.9 FPS which this time beats the 680, but is still a bit over 1 FPS behind the other 7970.
With all the titles and settings we use, as expected, this (and all for that matter) 7970 chews em up and spits em out showing FPS WELL over the 30-40 FPS most people find ‘acceptable’.
Next up are some slightly older titles and different genres of games than the FPS and TPS (Third Person Shooter) above. Since Civilization V is on the left, we will start there. Here we can see a FPS of 89.9 in Civ V, which actually wipes the floor with everything. Guessing drivers played some role in that of course.
Dirt 3 is one of my favorite rally racing games. It uses DX11 and tessellation among other features. With the settings cranked at 1080p, we hit 118.6 FPS. This mark was behind the GTX 680 and other 7970.
Last up is the GPU killer, Metro 2033. In this game the MSI HD 7970 TFIII OC BE pulled 37.3 FPS just a partial frame behind the 680 a couple behind another 7970.
Just like with the previous set of games, all are playable at the settings we run at.
Last up, and back to synthetics is the new 3DMark, the Firestrike benchmark. At stock speeds we managed to put up 7,144, while overclocked we hit 8,000 right on the nose!
Pushing the Limits
One of my favorite sections, pushing on the card to its limits. While it’s not an absolute limit, we cranked on the CPU to 5 GHz and pushed the clocks even more from the overclocked settings and reached the below results. For this particular sample, I was able to raise the memory to 1800 MHz and the core stopped, and fairly hard I should admit, at 1200 MHz. Not too shabby for the memory, but most other 7970’s I had tested would bench over 1200 MHz, not this one though. As we all (should) know however, every sample is different.
Cooling and Power Consumption
So how did the Twin Frozr III cooler do? To be brief about it, just fine. With the fan control set to auto, the highest temperatures we saw was 71 °C. The fan hit around 45% to do it and was pretty silent. So there is a lot of headroom left to ramp up the fan speed. But in doing so, these things will make a fair amount of noise. A bit mechanical and high pitched and some wind noise with their propeller like fans. But don’t fear, the fans do not need to be set high to keep temperatures under control. So the only time they would be heard loudly is if you crank it up to 100% and are benchmarking… but who doesn’t expect that?
Power consumption is right on par with the other 7970’s really, a few W difference here and there is about it (which can be partially attributed to the 1.21 V stock voltage. That said in 3DMark11 at stock it hit 300 W peak at the wall and 305 W overclocked. Heaven used a bit more juice hitting a peak of 369 W when overclocked. These values never cease to amaze me considering the sheer gaming power today’s cards have versus previous generations.
So let’s figure this out… overall do we like the card? A short answer is we sure do, and here is why. The price of this card at Newegg.com around the time of publishing comes in at $399.99 with four games (limited offer on those games, note). That price puts it easily towards the lower end (highest price is $459.99) and a great deal on its own. Throw the games on top of it, and it sweetens the pot, no doubt. As far as the cooling goes, so long as you don’t push the fan speed past 55% or so, which you don’t have to, it is quite silent and effective. The MSI HD 7970 TFIII OC Boost Edition overclocked ok on the core, but quite well on the memory. The last feature I want to mention is the BIOS switch. For those that have the fortitude and want/need, you can rest easy knowing there is another BIOS to fall back on.
So its time to stop beating around the bush… this card is Overclockers.com Approved!
~Joe Shields (Earthdog)