The Sapphire Vapor-X HD7950
The AMD Radeon HD 7950 is a very powerful gaming graphics card that has been out since February 2012. When the card was originally released it the reference design had an MSRP of $449.99, but that was eight months ago! You can now find an AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB card for $269.99 shipped after rebate! Prices have certainly dropped over the past year and the AMD Radeon HD 7950 has fallen into an entirely different price category now.
The AMD Radeon HD 7950 (Tahiti
Pro) reference card features a core clock speed of 800MHz with 1792 stream processors and 112 texture units. The card has 3GB of GDDR5 memory on a 384-bit bus that runs at 1250MHz (5000 MHZ effective). For gamers that want a DirectX 11 graphics card with cutting edge 28nm GPU built using the new Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture this should have you drooling right about now. If it does you are in luck as we are going to be looking at the Sapphire Vapor-X HD 7950 3GB GDDR5 OC with Boost today! This card is factory overclocked and features a custom PCB and GPU cooler!
The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X runs $309.99 shipped after a $20 mail-in rebate, which is $20 more than the basic Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Boost at $289.99 shipped after the same rebate. As you can see from the image above this card takes up two slots and looks very nice. The top of the black fan shroud has a Sapphire logo on it that lights up with white LED's when the card is running, so it would look sharp in a case with a window.
As you can see from the image above, Sapphire went with a blue PCB on this card. The PCB of the card measures ~10.5" in length and if you factor in the length of the fan shroud the entire length of the card is 11.0". The card PCB is stands at ~4.4" in height, but with the fan shroud it jumps up to 5.25". We used a pair of dial calipers and found the mounting holes around the GPU use a 55x55mm mounting hole pattern in case you are curious about mounting a water block or a third party GPU cooler.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X has Dual-link DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort connections available for monitors. You should be able to easily hook up a High Definition Stereoscopic 3D display or an AMD Eyefinity 2.0 setup with three or more displays (To support 3 displays, one of the monitors has to support DisplayPort).
The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X has two CrossFire interconnects, so you can
link up to four of these cards together for improved performance if you have the right motherboard and the money to do so. Just to the left of the CrossFireX interconnects you'll see a button for BIOS switching. One profile is for the default profile and the other is for an overclocked profile. Here are GPU-Z shots for each profile on our test sample.
BIOS 2 (EZ Boost): 950MHz Core & 1250MHz Memory
The Sapphire HD 7950 3GB OC with Boost Vapor-X Edition has 3GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 5000MHz (effective) despite what BIOS profile is being used. The base core clock speed on the card is officially 850 MHz, but with a click of a button something that Sapphire calls 'PowerTune Dynamic Boost' rises the core clock to 950 MHz. Most gamers will want to run the card at 950 MHz, so we will be testing this card with the 950 Mhz core clock setting!
The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X has two power connectors along the top edge of the card that need to be connected to the systems power supply. One is an 8-pin PCIe power connector and the other is a 6-pin PCIe power connector. To ensure proper operation, Sapphire suggests at least a 500W or greater power supply with one 75W 6-pin PCIe connector and one 150W 8-pin PCIe connector for proper operation.
The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X uses Vapor Chamber Technology to keep everything nice and cool. The Vapor-X cooler utilizes four heatpipes (two 8mm & two 6mm) to help transfer the heat from the GPU to the aluminum cooling fins. Above the cooling fins are a pair of 90mm fans that have aerofoil blades and dust repelling bearings. The Vapor-X cooler should easily handle the heat generated from the AMD Radeon HD 7950 GPU even under extreme load conditions.
This card features an 8-phase power design and uses a CHiL CHL8228G controller to keep the voltages in order. The 3GB of GDDR5 memory is made up of Hynix memory chips that are rated to run at 1250MHz or 5000MHz effective.
Let's take a look at the retail box & bundle next and then move on to testing this bad boy out in some games!
Retail Box & Bundle
The retail packaging for Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X
video card is what you'd expect for a video card and clearly lists the features of the card and it even mentions this clock speed!
The back of the box has more features listed and a sampling of all the awards that Sapphire has won over the years from various review sites.
Inside the inner box you'll find a quick install guide, the driver disc, case sticker, CrossFireX bridge interconnect, 6' HDMI cable and a pair of PCI Express power adapters. For a limited time you also get a game key for Sleeping Dogs, which is a pretty fun DX11 game title.
Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test
system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows
7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no
other software programs running.
Drivers used for testing:
- Catalyst 12.9 Beta - All AMD Radeon HD Cards
- GeForce 306.23 - All NVIDIA GeForce Cards
Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform
The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0906 that came out on 12/22/2011. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.22.
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
Intel Core i7-3960X
ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
16GB Corsair 1866MHz
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Video Cards Tested:
- SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB - 950MHz Core / 1250MHz Memory
- AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB - 1000MHz Core / 1200MHz Memory
- XFX Radeon HD 7850 Core Edition 1GB - 860MHz Core / 1200MHz Memory
- Zotac GeForce GT 640 Zone Edition 2GB - 902MHz Core / 1782MHz Memory
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 2GB - 1046MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
- MSI GeForce GTX 660 2GB - 1033MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
- EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Ti SC 2GB - 980MHz Core / 1502MHz Memory
Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB GPU-Z Information:
Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB GPU-Z Idle Temp:
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.
Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.
Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.
Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.
This game looks great and we tested with the highest settings possible. This means we used 'ultra' settings and really punished the cards being tested. We ran FRAPS for two minutes on the single player map called 'Rock and a Hard Place' for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X was just shy of averaging 60 FPS at 1920x1080 on Ultra settings with 4x MSAA and 16x AF. BF3 ran great on this card as we played a few levels during on of our FRAPS benchmark runs was done as this game is addictive!
Borderlands 2 is a space western first-person role-playing shooter video game that was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to 2009's Borderlands and was released for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Borderlands 2 was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games on September 18, 2012 in North America.
Borderlands 2 runs on a heavily modified version of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3. We tested Borderlands 2 with vSync and depth of field disabled. We increased the general image quality settings and turned on 16x AF. PhysX effects were set to low to keep things fair as possible between AMD and NVIDIA cards.
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X performed great in Borderlands 2 with over 120FPS at 1920x1080. The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked card performed within 1FPS in this game title at 1080p. The EVGA GeForce GTX 660 Superclocked is a $229 video card, so it's impressive seeing it hang with a $310 card!
Dirt: Showdown is a video game published and developed by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was released in May 2012 in Europe and in June in North America. It is part of the Colin McRae Rally game series.
Dirt: Showdown removes several of the gameplay modes featured Dirt 3, and introduces new ones. Gameplay modes can be classified as Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan or Party. We ran the built in Benchmark at Ultra settings to get a true feel of what this engine has to offer!
It is very important to note that Global Illumination and Advanced Lighting have massive performance penalties when enabled, something not seen in other titles in the Dirt series. It seems to affect NVIDIA hardware more so than AMD. We ran with and without the settings enabled.
Benchmark Results: In Dirt Showdown we found the Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X was again at the top of the chart along with nearly 100FPS at 1920x1080 with the image quality settings set fairly high. We didn't test with advanced lighting or global illumination enabled, but to be honest it makes the game look way too fake and we like it better disabled anyway.
Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.
This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to Very High quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX and DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X ran Metro 2033 really well and averaged 43.33 FPS at 1920x1080!
Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. The game was released on August 14, 2012, for Microsoft Windows. The game uses the Havok physics engine.
We used the Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark tool to benchmark this game title to make sure the benchmarking was consistent. We tested with 'High' quality setting at 1280x1024 and 1920x1024 resolutions.
Benchmark Results: The XFX Radeon HD 7850 1GB Core Edition did pretty good on Sleeping Dogs and was just a few frames per second slower than the overclocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 video cards.
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.
3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X scored 7556 3DMarks in 3DMark11 with the performance preset.
3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X scored 2515 3DMarks in 3DMark11 with the extreme preset.
For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it
into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system
to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load
numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running
the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.10.1 at 1024x768 resolution. We also ran four game titles at 1920x1080 and averaged the peak results recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter for the gaming results.
Power Consumption Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X is a high-end gaming graphics card, so we expected to see fairly high power numbers. The results put the Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X at the top of the charts, but the power usage wasn't that bad. At idle the entire system consumed 108 Watts of power and at full load we averaged 320 Watts in game titles. The power consumption is more than some of the other cards that we have recently tested, but not by much.
Temperature & Noise Testing
Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on the Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X video card.
Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB Idle:
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X had an idle temperature of 34.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F). The dual fans were spinning at ~1200 RPM and was the card was fairly silent.
Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB in Furmark:
With Furmark fired up and running at 1024x768 we saw the temperature reach 57C and level off there due to the card throttling a bit to keep from overheating. Notice that the fan RPMs jumped up to nearly ~2,150 RPM, but it was still rather quiet!
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X runs really very cool under load and had the lowest load temps of seven cards tested. This is very impressive considering it is one of the fastest as well! We observed idle temperatures around 34C and with the GPU under 100% load we were seeing 56C in games and just 57C in Furmark!
We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 38dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.
The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X graphics card was observed at 44.7 dBA at idle, which is pretty quiet considering this is a Radeon HD 7900 series card. Once you get the GPU at 100% we were seeing 56.4 dBA in games and 58.2 dBA in furmark. Not bad performance numbers from a very powerful graphics card!
Sapphire 7950 Vapor-X Overclocking
To take a quick look at overclocking we fired up AMD Catalyst Control Center and used AMD Overdrive to overclock the Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB video card.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 Vapor-X comes clocked at 950MHz on the core and 1250MHz on the memory if you are using the OC BIOS profile. By using OverDrive in CATALYST Control Center (CCC) you can raise or lower the clock frequencies within the parameters set by AMD. For this card AMD set limits for this particular BIOS to 1100MHz on the core and 1250MHz on the memory.
We used CCC and found that with the power control settings maxed out at 20 we could
hit 1100MHz on the core and 1575MHz on the memory. The core clock speed can likely go higher and can if you install a 3rd party overclocking utility that allows higher clock speed adjustments.
We downloaded the Sapphire TriXX Tweak Utility and pushed the card as far as we could without any voltage adjustments. The results were rather impressive as we were able to get the core clock up to 1150MHz and the Hynix GDDR5 memory to 1600MHz (6400MHz effective). We are happy with this overclock as we are 300MHz over the already overclocked cards base core speed and 350MHz higher on the 3GB of GDDR5 memory.
Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance.
Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB at 950MHz core and 1250MHz memory:
Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB at 1100MHz core and 1575MHz memory:
Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB at 1150MHz core and 1600MHz memory:
We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P7556 to P9693, which is a 28.3% improvements from the cards factory settings. Not a bad overclock and a major performance increase for free!
It should be noted that when we overclocked the Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB that we left the fan on auto and it was running at 1.1 GHz on the core just fine! After running some games we noticed the core temperature was hitting 60C, which is just 4C higher than what we saw at stock speeds. The fan was spinning at 2255RPM, which is 200 RPM higher than at default speeds, so it does increase the noise by 1.2 dB. The Vapor-X GPU cooling technology used by Sapphire on the Radeon HD 7950 is impressive and easily able to cool this card even with fairly extreme overclocks!
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X 3GB video card is a custom card that was designed to appeal to gamers. The performance on this card is stellar and we found it to be more than enough to run game titles at 1920x1080 with all the image quality settings cranked up. This is the most common resolution for gamers today and this card will easily handle all those pixels and keep you gaming smoothly.
Having the EZ Boost button was nice as it gives you an easy way to raise the cards base clock from 850MHz to 950MHz as we did in our review today. If you want to bump up performance even more you can always overclock the card manually. We used AMD OverDrive in CCC and maxed out the utility at 1100MHz core and 1575MHz memory. This is a very impressive overclock for no voltage increase and thanks to the custom cooler we only saw the temperatures and noise rise a little bit! Performance in both games and synthetic benchmarks shot up ~25% with this overclock, so overclocking is certainly worth trying out if you want more performance! For those that want to push the boundaries even further we used the Sapphire TriXX overclocking utility and were able to max this card out at 1150MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory (6400MHz effective). That is pretty darn impressive for not having to increase the voltage of the card and we can only hope that all Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X retail cards do this well.
Speaking of the GPU cooler, we loved the Vapor-X GPU cooler as it kept the card nice and cool. We were impressed that during gaming we never hit more than 56C on the GPU. Even with the card overclocked to 1.1GHz on the core we were only running at 60C on the GPU! This cooler was so good that we were able to leave the fans on auto! Usually when you overclock you have to manually increase the fan speeds, but that actually wasn't needed on this video card.
The Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X comes backed by a two year hardware warranty and was found to be a very well balanced video card. There really isn't anything to change on the card as it did well across the board in all of our testing. If you are in the market for a $310 video card be sure to give the Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X a look!
Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon HD 7950 was a solid card when it was released, but the Sapphire HD 7950 Vapor-X shows the full potential of this GPU!