Last month, we had a go at Asus’s flagship HD 7950, the Direct CU II TOP edition and while we loved its performance, the thing was a monstrosity and required three slots in your chassis. Well, today we have another gigantic card from them, the top of the line HD 7970, which is also AMD’s flagship offering for now. But this edition from Asus is more than merely just the fancy cooler and high price, it’s designed specifically to be used with their ROG motherboards, as we’ll take a look at in a bit. First, let’s see the card itself and what you get in the box.
Quite a looker
The card is all set for a 6 monitor Eyefinity setup. We have two dual-link DVI-I ports, followed by a row of four display ports. We came across a similar problem we had with the earlier card here, due to the three slot design. The external metal frame tends to block the SATA ports on the motherboard, if you have them facing upwards rather than outwards. To power this card, you’ll need two 8-pin power connecters, and of course a good quality 650W PSU or higher. The card supports quad-CrossFireX as well. Being an enthusiast level GPU, Asus have added two tiny LEDs just behind the power connectors that light up green when the power plugs are connected or red, if they’re loose or the card is not getting enough power.
Before we dive into the features of the Asus HD 7970, here’s a little background on the chip itself. This is AMD’s flagship single-core GPU right now, based on the ‘Tahiti’ core. It’s identical to the HD 7950 in transistor count, memory bandwidth, etc., except for the shader count, which is 2048, compared to 1792 on the HD 7950. The core speed has also been bumped up slightly to 925MHz, by default. The extra shader count does make it a little faster, but given how everything else is the same, don’t expect a massive jump in performance.
A beast of a card
Asus have given their own treatment to this card and have pushed the core clock to 1GHz, which can be tweaked further through their very nice GPU Tweak software. The card packs in 3GB of GDDR5 memory, so there’s no shortage of frame buffer. The two special feature exclusive to Asus is VGA Hotwire and DIGI+ VRM onboard. VGA Hotwire works in conjunction with their RAMPAGE IV Extreme motherboard, which has provision for VGA Hotwire. This allows you to directly control the voltages and clock speeds by simply shorting the leads on the GPU. All this can be monitored in real time either through the BIOS, OC Key or their TurboV EVO utility. Read more about it in our Asus X79 preview we covered back in October.
The second exclusive feature is the DIGI+ VRM, which is the same digital power regulation system used on their Sandy Bridge motherboards. It features 12-phase power and ‘Super Alloy’ components like capacitors, chokes, etc that are designed to withstand high voltages and temperatures for a more stability and longer lifespan, even at extreme overclocks. Next, let’s have a look at how this bad boy performs.
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K CPU @ 3.40 GHz
Motherboard: GIGABYTE P67A-UD3R
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB (4GB x 2) @1600MHz
Hard drive: Intel SSD 520 240GB (Boot Drive), WD Velociraptor 300GB (Secondary Drive)
GPU: Asus HD7970-DC2T-3GD5
PSU: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
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