Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 3GB OC Edition Video Card ReviewWed, Feb 29, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Final Thoughts & Conclusions
The SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition video card most certainly caught us by surprise. With so many AMD Radeon HD 7000 series graphics cards coming out it feels like the market is flooded by them. Most of these cards are based on the AMD Reference design PCB and differ only by the GPU cooler being used, clock speeds, accessory bundle, warranty and most importantly price. These minor differences normally make for boring reviews and if we are bored, we are fairly certain our readers would feel the same way. SAPPHIRE has based their card off the reference PCB design, but they have done a really good job with this card with respect to their customizations and have made it a complete package. SAPPHIRE appears to have spent more time than many with the Radeon HD 7950 and put together a nice sku that will most certainly meet or exceed anything on the market today by rival companies.
For starters the SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition video card is factory overclocked. Most of our readers blow factory overclocked cards off and we understand the reasoning. Why pay an extra $10-$30 for a mild overclock that most any reference clocked card should be able to reach with minor effort on the part of the consumer? SAPPHIRE appears to have recognized this dilemma and gets around it by including an improved GPU cooler in addition to the overclock and dual-BIOS versions that you can switch between on this card. Their standard Radeon HD 7950 runs $449.99 and comes with an 800MHz core clock speed and a single fan GPU cooler. The SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition is priced $30 higher at $479.99, but comes with an increased 900MHz core clock and the DUAL-X GPU cooler with two cooling fans. The SAPPHIRE DUAL-X GPU cooler absolutely destroyed the high-end solution used by XFX on their flagship R7950 Black Edition Double Dissipation with respect to both cooling performance and noise. At the end of the day, you are spending an extra $30 and getting improved cooling, lower noise levels, better performance (higher core clock speed), and the ability to switch between two BIOS profiles. Not a bad deal and well worth the $30 as all of those features should appeal to anyone looking to buy a Radeon HD 7950 video card.
When it comes to overclocking the SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition was a joy to overclock. The AMD ‘Tahiti’ core is built on the 28nm manufacturing process and we have found the new Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture very overclocking friendly. In case you forgot, the AMD Radeon HD 7950 reference design runs at 800MHz on the core clock and 1250MHz on the memory clock. Utilizing the SAPPHIRE TriXX overclocking utility we were able to hit 1185MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory. This is a 48% clock frequency increase on the core clock and the GDDR5 memory was blazing along at 6400MHz (effective)! You absolutely don’t get overclocks like that every day! We were able to get some benchmarks to run at 1200MHz (1.2GHz), which is 400MHz or 50% higher than stock. How can you complain about that when you don’t have to turn a screw or mod anything? Again, the DUAL-X GPU cooler that SAPPHIRE is using on this card was worth its weight in gold and was easily able to handle the overclock without the need to crank up the fan speed or anything.
Performance aside, the SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition also fared well when it comes to the accessory bundle. SAPPHIRE included all the cables and adapters that you could possibly need and you even get the PC game Dirt 3 with the purchase of the card (for a limited time). This is a great bundle as not too many cards come with all numerous accessories and a game title these days. The warranty on the SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition feels a little lackluster at just two-years. We would like to see SAPPHIRE increased the warranty period to 3-years on their overclocked edition cards as that would again help justify the price and give enthusiasts and gamers another reason to buy one. In reality though, a 2-year warranty is fine as research by analysts has shown that if a video card is going to have issues it is usually within the first year.
The only negative thing we have to point out about the SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition was the PCB warping that we noted on the first page. We reached out to Sapphire and showed them the picture used on the first page of this review before it was published and they were shocked and went on to say that no other review site has mentioned that to them. Maybe we got a unique situation on our hands or maybe not. Not too many review sites look at products as in-depth as us, so we will take SAPPHIRE’s response in stride. We did not encounter any issues with the warping during our use and when the card was installed into the PCI Express x16 slot it actually straightened up a bit.
SAPPHIRE has a winner on their hand here with the Radeon HD 7950 OC Edition and if any company has a better solution we’d be willing to take a look at it with open arms. This card is the real deal and should be at the top of any gamers shopping list. You will have a tough time finding one of these cards right now though as it appears that AMD is having a heck of a time time getting the 28nm ‘Tahiti’ GPU’s manufactured and shipped in large volumes over at TSMC. This is main reason most AMD Radeon HD 7970 and Radeon HD 7950 video cards are out of stock and have been for weeks. We’ve asked AMD and a number of board manufactures about the situation and all have said that cards are trickling in and selling out within hours of being made available. Once again we aren’t getting the straight truth, but we can read between the lines and figure it out.
If you like what you see with the SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition and can find one available at a retailer this is a video card worth getting.
Legit Bottom Line: The SAPPHIRE HD 7950 OC Edition is the real McCoy and is the card that other companies need to copy.