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HIS has added another member to its HD 7950 family of video cards; this time around we have another Boost Clock edition. The core clock is not quite as high as other HIS 7950s, but it’s not at the bottom of the pecking order either. One thing that is not at the lower end is the IceQ X2 cooler that has been applied to this card. So, let’s have a closer look and see if the HIS HD 7950 IceQ X2 Boost Clock is a worthy contender in the competitive HD 7950 market.
Specifications and Features
Where this card differs from the higher end HIS HD 7950 offerings can be seen in the Boost Clock and memory speeds. This particular card has a 850 MHz base core speed and 950 MHz Boost Clock speed with its memory rated for 5000 MHz. Just for reference, other HIS HD 7950 Boost Clock edition cards go as high as 1180 MHz Boost Clock and 6000 MHz memory speed. The actual AMD reference card has a 925 MHz Boost Clock speed and 5000 MHz memory. That lands today’s review sample at the same memory speed as the reference card, but at a slightly higher Boost Clock core speed. Here is the list of specifications as provided by HIS.
|Model Name||HIS 7950 IceQ X² Boost Clock 3GB GDDR5 PCI-E DVI/HDMI/2xMini DP|
|Chipset||Radeon HD 7950 PCIe Series|
|ASIC||RadeonTM HD 7950 GPU|
|MFG Process (Micron)||28nm|
|Memory Size (MB)||3072|
|Engine CLK (MHz)||850MHz (Boost Clock 950MHz)|
|Memory CLK (Gbps)||5Gbps|
|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||Yes|
We can further verify much of the specifications with a look at GPU-Z. The two GPU-Z screen shots below display the information at idle and under load.
The list of features includes the latest AMD technologies associated with the Southern Islands family of graphics cards. AMD’s Graphics Core Next (GCN) technology is one of the main AMD features found in 7000 series video cards. It provides increased performance, image quality, and power efficiency (click the provided link for a more detailed description of GCN). In addition to the GCN technology, we have full support for DirectX 11, Open GL 4.2, Open CL 1.2, Shader Model 5 (SM 5), and Eyefinity, just to name a few.
In addition to the features above, we have several more HIS unique additions to the feature set. The most obvious and highly touted HIS feature would be their ICeQ X2 cooler. We’ll have a much closer look at the IceQ X2 cooler later in the review, but here is what HIS would like you to know about it.
More power is a good thing, and the HIS iPower feature increases both the PWM power phase and power input connections when compared to the reference design.
|HIS 7950 IceQ X² Boost Clock||AMD 7950 Ref Board|
iPower: More Voltage, More Overclocking!
Increased Power supply input for more voltage for overclocking!
As I previously mentioned, the Boost Clock feature provides an increase in GPU core speed from both the reference design cards and an earlier HIS HD 7950 IceQ release.
Boost Clock is Faster!
The card has the latest Boost Clock technology, providing extra performance for the most demanding games and applications!
|HIS 7950 IceQ X²|
|HIS 7950 IceQ|
|Core Clock||850 MHz||850 MHz||800 MHz|
|Boost Clock||950 MHz||925 MHz||N.A.|
|Memory Clock||5000 MHz||5000 MHz||5000 MHz|
The last HIS feature worth mentioning is the “High Quality Components”, which includes the use of solid state capacitors, solid state chokes, and a 6 dynamic phase control PWM IC.
The cool-blue box coloring theme HIS applies to its IceQ series of cards is again present here. Most of the features and specifications noted above are printed on the box front, back, and sides.
Inside, we find the black box that houses the HD 7950 IceQ X2 Boost Clock graphics card. When opened, you are greeted with a pamphlet that explains how to install the card in a PCI-e slot and position a chassis properly during transport (think video card in a vertical direction).
The card itself sits securely encased in a foam bed, which protects it from all sides. Under the video card is a cardboard separator with the accessories sitting beneath. The accessories include a flexible Crossfire bridge and a DVI to VGA adapter. You also get a CD with the iTubo software, which by the way is outdated. There is a newer version available at the HIS website, so you’ll want to make sure you grab the latest version. Unfolding the enclosed cardboard portfolio exposes the quick installation guide, a case badge, and another CD that has the drivers and some cool desktop wallpapers. Some of the wallpapers are outfitted with monthly calendars, but they are outdated and only include through the year 2011.
In my opinion, this is an exceptionally good looking offering by HIS. Aesthetically speaking, I much prefer the looks of the IceQ X2 over the IceQ cooler. So, here are several photographs taken from various angles; see if you agree!
Up Close/Under the Hood
As we focus in for a closer look at the HIS HD 7950 IceQ X2 Boost Clock graphics card, we’ll begin with a look at the available outputs. Here we have four connections built into the card: a Dual-Link DVI-I, two Mini DisplayPorts, and one HDMI port at your disposal. This card can support up to six monitors, but you will need to daisy chain the DisplayPorts to get anything over four. The below picture shows the available display connections and the dual slot ventilated mounting bracket that covers them. Pretty standard fare for cards of this genre.
Because of the sheer length of the IceQ X2 cooler, it was necessary to put the 8-pin and 6-pin power connections on the top side of the card. The first picture below shows just how much the large heatsink stretches past the end of the PCB. Had the power connections been located at the back of the card, they would have been almost impossible to work with, or difficult at best.
As we hone in on the IceQ X2 cooler, we find that it’s actually a three-piece design that encompasses a heatsink, heatsink plate, and the outer shroud. The removal procedure begins by relieving the tension bar from the back of the card. I call it a tension bar because it’s actually concave in design. As you tighten it down, it flattens out and provides the needed pressure between the heatsink and GPU. Once removed, we can see the thermal interface material was well applied and making excellent contact with the GPU and heatsink.
There are four small screws, two on each side, that attach the shroud to the heatsink. Once the shroud is removed, we have an unobstructed look at the massive heatsink. There are five heatpipes that travel through the heatsink base plate. The three heatpipes at the top are 6 mm in diameter, and the two at the bottom are 8 mm. All five heatpipes bend around to enter the heatsink fin stack, at which point the heat is dissipated and whisked away by the dual 8.9 cm axial fans. You might notice in the below pictures that the fans are actually attached to the heatsink and not built into the shroud like a lot of other cards out there. The fans also have blades that HIS refers to as their Q&C design. This wavy fan blade design is said to increase air velocity and reduce noise levels.
The final stage of disassembly is to remove the heatsink plate from the PCB. This is accomplished by removing a series of screws from the back of the PCB. In an attempt to keep the memory and PWM chips cool, HIS uses this heatsink plate in combination with thermal pads to accomplish the job. If you look closely at the top of the heatsink plate, you will notice a large finned area. This is to add additional heat transfer capabilities to the critical power delivery section of the card, most notably the PWM chips. Looking at the PCB contact side of the heatsink plate, we can see the thermal pads that cover the memory and PWM chips. All but one of the thermal pads came off with the plate, and the one that did not decided to stay on the memory chip. I think I’ll leave it alone!
Now that the video card has been stripped of the IceQ X2 cooler, we can have a look around the bare card. Beginning at the GPU core and memory area, we can see that Elpida GDDR5 W2032BBBG-50-F is the memory module of choice. There are twelve 256 Mb chips onboard that make up the available 3 Gb of total memory. The memory is rated for 5000 MHz at a 1.5 V (see image below). This same memory can be found on other HIS video cards, both lower and higher end.
For the GPU, we have the Southern Islands Tahiti Pro, which has no markings on it, just a highly polished top. The Tahiti Pro offers 1792 unified shader cores (Vertex shader/Geometry shader/Pixel shader), and a 384 bit memory bus.
Moving over to the power deliver section, we find a pretty stout seven-phase power section (5 GPU/2 memory). The voltage regulation is provided by a Chil CHL 8228G, which is highly regarded among the overclocking crowd. We’ll be checking this out in the overclocking section later on. The chokes used in the power delivery are Cooper Bussmann FP1007R3-R15.
We’ll conclude this section with additional images of the naked card. Peruse and enjoy!
Performance and Overclocking
- ASUS Maximus V Formula Motherboard (Oveclockers Approved!)
- G.SKILL Trident X (2 x 8 GB) DDR3 2400 F3-2400C10D-16GTX @ 18666 MHz 9-9-9-24
- Kingston 3K SSD 240 GB (Overclockers Approved!)
- Intel i7 3770K Processor @ 4.0 GHz (Overclockers Approved!)
- Water Cooled/Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Block
- Corsair HX1050 PSU
- HIS HD 7950 IceQ X2 Boost Clock – Catalyst 12.10 Drivers
Since June of this year, we have been using our new “Updated Video Card Testing Procedure“. If you are not yet familiar with it, click the provided link to learn more. Below is the down and dirty version of the new procedure.
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run using the “extreme” setting
- Aliens vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- 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, VSync OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, VSync off, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation set to high, Extreme Detail Level, PhysX Off
For comparison purposes, we have the following cards, which should provide a good mixture of results:
- HIS HD 7950 IceQ Turbo (Overclockers Meh)
- MSI GTX 680 Lightning (Overclockers Approved)
- ASUS GTX 670 DCUII Top (Overclockers Approved!)
- Sapphire HD 7870 Flex (Overclockers Approved!)
- ASUS GTX 660 Ti DCUII Top (Overclockers Approved!)
iTurbo is the name of the game when it comes to HIS graphics card software. It wasn’t until just recently I had my first opportunity to explore this utility, and I find myself liking it a bit more each time I use it. It has just the right amount of options and a quick learning curve. Sometimes less is more.
When you first start iTurbo, you are greeted with a simplistic round interface. From here you have five options: iTurbo, i (meaning info), Quieter, Cooler, and Advanced. If you click the center iTurbo area, you get a very mild automatic overclcock applied to the GPU and memory. The term “mild” is actually giving it too much credit; the GPU overclock is 9 MHz and the memory is 2 MHz. Clicking on the i gives you all the pertinent information related to the video card you have installed. The Quieter and Cooler options will set the fan speed according to a profile you set up once inside the advanced section of the utility.
Clicking on Advanced gets you inside iTurbo where you are greeted by the Home screen. The Home screen is dedicated to HIS advertising, news, and links to their social media pages.
Clicking on the Info tab will display the same information you see when you click the i from the start up screen.
The Overclock tab is where you will find the ability to adjust GPU voltage, GPU clock speed, memory speed, and memory voltage. With NVIDIA’s recent decision to stop GPU voltage adjustments on their video cards, this option becomes that much more appealing to the enthusiast crowd. iTurbo also allows you to save up to four different profiles.
The last two iTurbo tabs are Fan Control and Settings. In the Fan Control tab, you can set the fan speed to Automatic, Fixed, or Custom. The Custom setting allows you to set the fan speed based on the GPU temperatures. You can assign any of the fan speed choices you make to either the Quieter or Cooler profile. Once you have assigned the profiles, you can load either of them from the first start up screen by clicking on the corresponding name.
The Settings tab lets you customize the behavior of iTurbo and how it applies changes you make.
Overclocking for Stability
I was able to get an additional 250 MHz from the GPU, which landed it at a pretty descent 1200 MHz core speed. Interestingly enough, once I got the GPU core speed to 1200 MHz, raising the GPU voltage didn’t help when trying to up the ante any further. Overclocking the memory turned out to be quite fruitful as well, landing at 1500 MHz (6000 MHz effective). The ability to raise the memory voltage sure helped when you compare the results to a card using the same memory, but with no memory voltage adjustment available. I’m speaking of the HIS HD 7750, which uses the exact same memory with no memory voltage adjustment in the iTurbo utility.
Beginning with 3DMark03, we find the HIS HD 7950 IceQ X2 Boost Clock coming out on top at both its stock and overclocked speed. The HIS HD 7950 Turbo came in a close second, but its 50 MHz slower GPU core speed kept it behind. The NVIDIA GTX 670 and GTX 680 cards fell behind here as well. This is a pretty old benchmark, but it’s still worth using to see how well a video card scales when overclocked.
We find a different story in the more modern 3DMark11 benchmark. The NVIDIA cards pretty much dominated this DX11 based test. The IceQ X2 Boost Clock card did scale nicely when overclocked here and managed a very competitive score under that condition.
Moving along to the DX10 3DMark Vantage benchmark, the IceQ X2 Boost Clock led the pack at its overclocked setting, but fell slightly behind the GTX 670 and GTX 680 at stock. When compared to the HIS HD 7950 IceQ Turbo, we can see a significant performance increase when both cards are at their stock speeds.
Perhaps our most demanding synthetic benchmark is HWBot Heaven. This DX11 benchmark is relentless as it runs through its 26 passes. It’s not only a worthwhile benchmark, but it doubles as a good stability test as well. The testing shows the NVIDIA GTX 670 and GTX 680 cards on top during stock testing, but our review sample really shined when it was overclocked. I’m seeing a pattern of excellent scaling going on here!
Our game benchmarks will give you a better feel for the “real world” performance of the HIS IceQ X2 Boost Clock. So, let’s dive in beginning with the Aliens vs. Predator DX11 benchmark. Here we see the IceQ X2 Boost Clock coming out on top of all the competition at both stock and overclocked speeds. The NVIDIA GTX 670 and GTX 680 fell behind by almost 5 FPS at stock and substantially more when the overclocked results are compared.
Talk about good scaling, have a look at the Batman: Arkham City results. A 17 FPS increase from stock to overclocked is pretty sweet! This card had no problem wiping out the competition here.
Our Battlefield 3 results show the IceQ X2 Boost Clock coming out on top when overclocked, but falling a bit behind the NVIDIA GTX 670 and GTX 680 at stock. Again, we see a pretty decent performance increase from the earlier released HIS IceQ Turbo.
We almost reached 100 FPS during the Civilization V benchmark when overclocked; color me impressed. At stock, the IceQ X2 Boost clock fell just a tad behind the GTX 670, but beat out all the other competing cards.
Looking at the Dirt3 results, you can clearly see how much better the AMD cards scale versus the NVIDIA cards in the graph. In fact, the GTX 670 results dropped when it was overclocked. At its stock speed, the IceQ X2 Boost Clock only fell behind the GTX 680, but that was less than a single FPS. When overclocked, it had no problem topping the competition.
Our final game benchmark is the GPU killing Metro 2033. As you can see by the results, it takes a high-end video card to reach the magical 30 FPS considered to be a playable frame rate. Our review sample had no problem getting above and beyond the 30 FPS mark at both stock and overclocked settings. The 42.14 FPS when overclocked is quite impressive actually. Another win top to bottom here for the HIS IceQ X2 Boost Clock.
Cooling and Power Consumption
Our temperature testing is performed at stock and overclocked settings. We use HWBot Heaven to put a load on the GPU core and then normalize the temperature readings to 25 °C Ambient. The results in the graph below clearly show the IceQ X2 cooler is up to the job, even under the most demanding scenarios. There’s nothing to complain about here.
Our power consumption testing is done using a Kill-a-Watt meter with wattage usage recorded at idle and load. We run both HWBot Heaven and 3DMark 11 (Combined Physics Test) to obtain the maximum power draw the video card can produce. I take this testing one step further and also provide results while the video card is overclocked. The results indicate the highest wattage reading observed during each test run.
When in an idle state, the system draws barely over 100 watts. The maximum power draw observed was 335 watts. This reading was recorded while running HWBot heaven in the cards overclocked state. It’s hard to complain about the power consumption results; these modern components are super efficient when compared to just a couple of years ago.
Pushing the Limits
Somewhere along the line, I have developed a bad habit of finding the max GPU and memory speed a video card will run at during the “Overclocking for Stability” section of reviews. Well, I did it again this time around too! Suffice to say I couldn’t get the card overclocked anywhere past what you have already seen. What I can do is toss in a CPU overclock of 5.0 GHz and then crank the system memory up to 2400 MHz. Let’s see where that got us on a few benchmarks.
In HWBot Heaven we added an additional 25 points to the score. That’s not a huge increase, but remember HWBot Heaven is almost completely dependent on GPU for its scoring. 3DMark Vantage is a little more receptive to higher CPU and system memory speeds, and the final results gave us an increase of a little over 4000 points. That increase resulted in the score breaking the 40,000 mark, which is nothing to sneeze at. The final “Pushing the Limits” benchmark I ran was 3DMark11; and it showed a nice increase as well, coming in at just over 10,000. All and all, mixing a good CPU and system memory overclock with a well overclocked video card will indeed reap some rewards.
As I look back on the time spent with the HIS HD 7950 IceQ x2 Boot Clock, I’m struggling to find something that didn’t meet expectations. The card overclocks pretty well and rewards the user with excellent scaling when doing so. The IceQ X2 cooler does a fantastic job of keeping things cooled off, even under demanding overclocked conditions. The iTurbo utility proved to be a well-rounded tool, stable and easy to use – it has everything you need to get the most out of the card.
The benchmark results speak for themselves with consistently high performance marks. It managed to hold its own against the GTX 680 and GTX 670, especially in the game benchmarks where it came out on top quite often..
As far as price goes, this particular card has not hit the market quite yet. Based on similar offerings from HIS, I’m guessing it should be priced anywhere from $329 to $349 USD. That price range would put it right in the thick of things as far as the competition goes. If that price range holds true, I think HIS has a card worth considering. This is especially true if you’re looking for a higher-end video card, or more specifically, a HD 7950 series.
Good performance, good cooling, and good software all add up to an Overclockers approved rating this time around.
-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)