AMD's Radeon HD 7970 gets reviewed

AMD Radeon HD 7970
Speedy graphics, crazy pricing

AMD has just pulled the tarp off its new AMD Radeon HD 7970 Southern Islands graphics card and we can finally unveil our thoughts on its brand new card and architecture.

It's the fastest single-GPU graphics card and also a graphics card of firsts.

The HD 7970 is the first GPU manufactured with 28nm transistors, is the first to support DirectX 11.1 (when that finally emerges) and the first to support PCI Express 3.0.

The first of these firsts is the biggy though and has allowed AMD to jam 4.3 billion of those 28nm transistors into the Tahiti XT graphics processor at its heart.

It also represents a new direction in graphics architecture for AMD, more in line with what Nvidia has been doing for years.

AMD radeon hd 7970 compute units

AMD is adamant it is no copycat though.

"From a purely technical point of view, the architecture that we've moved to is similar," says Mike Mantor, AMD Senior Fellow Architect. "On the GPU side though we've been investigating this scalar architecture for some time. We had good ideas how we'd go about it, what our gains would be and the cost of actually implementing it."

As well as being the fastest at stock clocks it's also one hell of a serious overclockers graphics card. We managed to push ours from 925MHz up to 1,125MHz.

The AMD Radeon HD 7970 is also rather expensive.

We don't have final UK prices yet but our best guess is around £450, with future overclocked versions coming in considerably more.

That's good news for Nvidia as it makes the impressive GTX 580 a far more reasonable proposition at just £365.

And talking of Nvidia, it's own new architecture, the Kepler-based graphics cards, will be available early Spring 2012. According to Nvidia insiders it's feeling quietly confident about its ability to compete with the Radeon HD 7970.

We've got a full, in-depth review of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 here.