Yesterday, AMD announced a new version of their Tahiti Pro Radeon HD 7950 – with Boost. Let’s call it HD 7950B for the purposes of expediency.
The way they got here was easy, especially with the already well known overclocking abilities of the HD 7950 GPU, a BIOS update. Yep, that’s it. With this update, they’ve introduced a higher base clock (dubbed “Engine Clock”) of 850 MHz, plus a boost up to 925 MHz assuming the load is light enough to keep the card happy at those clocks.
According to AMD’s testing, the performance…um, boost, actually isn’t too bad. With just a BIOS update they saw anywhere from 6% to 15% gain.
Partners are already working to bring models of HD 7950B to stores. Sapphire should be first to market, with expected availability as soon as August 17th. AMD says the pricing should be $349, right where current HD 7950’s are selling.
It’s good to see they aren’t charging a premium for this, because there is no way the market would let them get away with it. There are already cards on the market for $350 clocked as high as 950 MHz, no boost necessary. A HIS card that EarthDog just reviewed on August 1st had a 900 MHz base clock and went well north of there when overclocked.
AMD continues to tout its Gaming Evolved program, where they work closely with game developers to bring new technologies to light in the latest titles. There’s nothing wrong with that; both the green and the red team do it. Working to bring more advanced features to games is something any gamer can appreciate.
Speaking of games, Sleeping Dogs is a new title that AMD helped work on to include DirectCompute-accelerated SSAO. Here’s a good article by Tom’s Hardware explaining just what DirectCompute really means for gamers. They also worked to bring SSAA forth, which AMD claims is superior to FXAA.
As a side note, Sleeping Dogs (which is a GTA-style game set in Hong Kong) will be available as a bundle with some 7800-series cards soon. They’re also working with other game makers on other titles like the Tomb Raider reboot, Hitman, Bioshock Infinite, and the new Medal of Honor title, some of which you’ll also see in bundles as the year goes on.
Anyway, back to the HD 7950B, I think even AMD will forgive us if we’re not exactly jumping up and down with excitement (just like we weren’t for the HD 7970 GHz Edition). If all cards on the market currently were reference 800 MHz, sure, maybe this would be a nice boost in stock performance. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, there are already partner cards with clocks similar to and even in excess of this BIOS’ capability.
Of course, there is probably one important question our community will ask – did anything change with the GPU? Followed by, is there more binning involved? Will these clock higher? The answer is (drumroll please…) no. This is a BIOS update only; the chips are the same as we’ve seen since the HD 7950 was launched.
The good part about this is that, in theory, any reference card can be updated to this BIOS. If you already operate your card over these frequencies, there isn’t really a reason to flash to the new BIOS; but if you happen to live in an excessively warm climate and choose to operate your reference card at stock, this could give a nice little boost in performance for you.
AMD has given permission for us to host the BIOS for download, and you can download it right here: Tahiti Pro Boost BIOS. FAIR WARNING: While AMD believes this BIOS should work on all reference HD 7950 cards, they do not guarantee it. If you flash the BIOS, you do so at your own risk. The most important thing is that you ensure your HD 7950 is a reference card. If so, you have a very good chance of the flash working just fine. Further, if you have a true reference card, you will have the dual BIOS switch and if something goes wrong, you’ve got the backup BIOS.
AMD is sending us an HD 7950 with Boost to review shortly, so we’ll bring the performance numbers to you as soon as they can be run. You’ve seen how the HD 7950 performs a couple of times now, so there won’t be any surprises, but if there is a card sent to bench, rest assured we’ll bench it and show you how it performs!