Radeon HD 7950 review


May 4, 2013

As Nvidia continues to roll out its stack of second-generation Kepler graphics cards, we couldn't help but adjust our focus towards AMD and wonder what's going on in the red corner. To the best of our knowledge, we won't be seeing any new desktop GPU products from the firm until the latter end of the year, and in the meantime we're left with just the recently released £100/$140 effort, the rather decent Radeon HD 7790, and new editions of last year's offerings - the price/performance king being the HD 7950.

Available these days for around £230/$299, this card may not have the out-and-out performance of the top-end HD 7970 but it is very easily overclockable, with the card voltage locked to ensure that any tinkering is unlikely to have adverse effects on the card. Up against the green corner, the stock version can't quite match Nvidia's GeForce GTX 670 in performance terms, but it's priced more cheaply as a consequence and, provided you get a decent chip, overclocking should take you to a comfortable mid-point between GTX 670 and GTX 770 performance - effectively GTX 680 level then, not bad at all for the price.

But what intrigues us most about it is its 3GB of onboard GDDR5. Right now, that additional gigabyte of RAM sits there virtually unused by the vast majority of games, offering absolutely no performance advantage over the more common 2GB cards. It's mostly there in order to facilitate a 384-bit memory bus - necessary to compete with the more efficient Nvidia offerings that perform the same or better with a 256-bit interface and less RAM. But the usefulness of that additional memory could change significantly as we move into the next-gen era, with the 8GB of unified RAM present in both consoles offering an architectural advantage over the split-pool set-up seen on PC. Already we've seen hints of developers pushing the envelope - the Killzone: Shadow Fall demo from the February PlayStation 4 reveal uses 3GB RAM for graphics in its pre-production state, and when we approached developers to discuss how to future-proof your PC, all of them stressed the need to buy a graphics card which as much onboard video RAM as possible.

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