ConclusionNot being able to proclaim victory for its Tahiti GPU opposite the GeForce GTX 680, which is based on a less complex GPU, was probably a source of frustration to AMD. In bringing out the Radeon HD 7970 at the end of 2011 and in inaugurating the 28nm TSMC fabrication process, its engineers stole a four-month march over the competition but weren’t able to make the most of Tahiti’s potential in terms of clocks.
This is what AMD has sorted out with the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, taking advantage of the production knowhow built up over the last six months and the refined PowerTune technology to up the clocks, improve performance by around 10% and reclaim the top performance spot for Tahiti. This version of the Radeon HD 7970 should be available at the beginning of July for between €470 and €500, which is a similar price/performance ratio to that of the original model and superior to that of the GeForce GTX 680, which is good news.
Not all is rosy however. To make this increase in clock possible, AMD has maximised the use of the available TDP and increased the GPU voltage, causing energy consumption to go up more than proportionally. Nevertheless this is only a problem indirectly. That a GPU in the very high-end segment uses 30 to 40W extra doesn’t worry us particularly… as long as noise levels don’t get too high. Unfortunately this is the main black spot of this Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, with AMD using the same cooling system as on the standard model. Noise levels were already rather high with this cooler so they were bound to increase further here …
We would have liked AMD to put a sturdier cooling system into place to accompany the increase in load and revisit the power stage components at the same time as they tend to make some noise on far too many samples. This is annoying even if the sound readings aren't really affected.
At the end of the day then, to enjoy the highest performance mono-GPU currently on the market in good conditions, we'll have to wait for the designs that are brought out by AMD's various partners. We don’t however know what they’ll do with this new variant of the Tahiti GPU as they will also have the option of simply renaming certain overclocked products they already have on the market.