The HD 7970 3GB GHz edition’s overclock, combined with the performance improvements of the Catalyst 12.7 beta driver changes the running order of our benchmarks quite a bit, with AMD’s offering looking a whole lot more competitive.
ARMA 2 remains an AMD stomping ground, but even more-so after Catalyst 12.7. At 1,920 x 1,080 with 4 x AA the GHz edition’s minimum frame rate of 76fps is just 4fps behind that of Nvidia’s £900 GTX 690 4GB, while even the HD 7870 2GB is able to pip the GTX 680 2GB thanks to the Nvidia card’s minimum frame rate of 58fps. At higher resolutions the GHz Edition cements its top spot, with a minimum frame rate of 36fps at 5,760 x 1,080 with 4 x AA compared to the 680’s 22fps. However, ARMA 2 has always been a game in which Nvidia has been uncompetitive, so it’s no surprise to find the GHz Edition on top.
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BF3, however, is very much Nvidia territory, so we were pleased and surprised to find AMD much more competitive following Catalyst 12.7b. At 1,920 x 1,080 the GTX 680 2GB remains slightly faster, with a minimum frame rate of 65fps to the GHz Edition‘s 61fps. At 2,560 x 1,600 with 4 x AA though, the GTX 680 2GB and GHz Edition are neck and neck with an identical minimum frame rate of 39fps, and at 5,760 x 1,080 with 4 x AA the GHz Edition sneaks into the lead thanks to a superior average frame rate.
Dirt 3 and Codemaster’s Essence 2.0 engine has also benefitted from AMD’s new Catalyst driver. Whereas Nvidia once enjoyed a huge advantage, performance from AMD is now far more competitive. At 1,920 x 1,080 with 4 x AA the GHz Edition and the GTX 680 2GB are locked together on performance, while at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4 x AA AMD has snatched the single-GPU lead thanks to the GHz Edition’s minimum frame rate of 84fps. At 5,760 x 1,080 the GHz Edition is again the fastest stock card, with a minimum frame rate of 64fps to the 680 2GB’s 55fps.
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While AMD’s Catalyst 12.7b driver has seriously improved performance in a number of games, the same can’t be said for [url=6[Skyrim[/url], where Nvidia still holds the advantage. At 1,920 x 1,080, 2,560 x 1,600 and 5,760 x 1,080 with 4 x AA, we found the GHz Edition to perform slower or the same as the GTX 670 2GB, with the GTX 680 2GB faster in ever test, by as much as 20 per cent at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4 x AA.
The HD 7970 3GB was already the most power thirsty of this generation’s cards and the GHz Edition is even hungrier. With a peak power consumption of 315W in Unigine’s Heaven benchmark, the GHz Edition chomps through 59W more than the GTX 680 2GB. While the GHz Edition’s thermal profile keeps its peak temperature to 54°C above ambient, the card’s fan spins up to keep the temperature below 77°C. With the extra power consumption, the result is a card that, under load, is far from acoustically conspicuous, or in other words, noisy. In comparison the more efficient GTX 680 2GB is far quieter.