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Sapphire HD 7970 6GB Toxic Edition Review

Rating: 9.5.

Last week we had some hands on time with the latest AMD GHZ HD7970. At the end of the day it left us feeling distinctly uninspired. There was no doubt the card was fast, but AMD sadly adopted their ill equipped, painfully loud cooling solution with tiny, single red fan.

We hoped that Sapphire would rectify the sorry state of affairs and today we have their latest HD7970 ‘Toxic Edition’ in our labs, featuring a proprietary dual fan cooler, a staggering 6GB of GDDR5 and a ground breaking ‘lethal boost’ overclock core speed of 1,200mhz.

There is no doubt that on paper the SAPPHIRE HD 7970 6GB Toxic Edition ticks all the right boxes. Sapphire have completely ditched the AMD cooling solution and have decided to crank the clock speeds as high as they can. The default setting of the Toxic Edition is 1,050mhz with a dynamic boost to 1,100mhz. At this setting the memory is clocked at 1,500mhz (6Gbps effective).

So far so good, but the best is yet to come. By pressing the new Sapphire ‘Lethal Boost Button’, the core speed increases to 1,100mhz with a dynamic boost of 1,200mhz and the memory speed is also enhanced to 1,600mhz (6.4Gbps effective). This card certainly has set a new overclock benchmark for AMD’s HD7970.

Is this the card to totally dethrone the GTX680? How about the stunning, class leading KFA2 GTX680 LTD OC? Can any single GPU card take on this beast?

All these questions and more will be answered today.

Product AMD HD7970 GHZ Ed
AMD HD7950 AMD HD7870 AMD HD7850
Core Clock speed 1050mhz
800mhz 1000mhz 860mhz
Transistors 4.31 billion 4.31 billion 2.8 billion 2.8 billion
Stream Processors 2,048 1,792 1,280 1,024
Compute Performance 3.79 TFLOPS 2.87 TFLOPS 2.56 TFLOPS 1.76 TFLOPS
Texture Units 128 112 80 64
Texture Fillrate 134.4 GT/s
153.6 GT/s
89.6 GT/s 80 GT/s 55.0 GT/s
ROPs 32 32 32 32
Pixel Fillrate 33.6 GP/s
38.4 GP/s
25.6 GP/s 32.0 GP/s 27.52 GP/s
Z/Stencil 128 128 128 128
Memory Type 3GB GDDR5
Memory Clock 1,500mhz
1,250mhz 1,200mhz 1,200mhz
Memory Data Rate 6 GBps
(6.4 Gbps)
5.0 Gbps 4.8 Gbps 4.8 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 288 GB/s (307.2GB/s) 240 GB/s 153.6 GB/s 153.6 GB/s

Sapphire have enhanced this card in many key areas, doubling the memory count to 6GB of GDDR5, running at a maximum of 1,600mhz (6.4Gbps effective). This delivers an effective memory bandwidth of 307.2Gb/s. The Tahiti core can boost to a maximum speed of 1,200mhz which should improve the overall performance significantly.

It wouldn’t be a Sapphire box without the appearance of a 3D rendered woman with perky breasts. This time it appears our femme fatale is preparing for an audition in the next Tron film.

The bundle is extensive, with many video and power converters included. There is also a Crossfire connector, case sticker and an information sheet detailing the use of the ‘Lethal Boost’ button.

This is one of the heaviest video cards we have ever tested. The cooler is physically intimidating, and Sapphire have utilized a custom cooling plate for the back of the HD 7970 6GB TOXIC Edition.

The Vapor X name is proudly engraved into this backplate, above the ‘Vapor Chamber Technology Cooling’ moniker. This is the latest implementation of Sapphire’s famous Vapor X cooling technology. More on this shortly.

This custom backplate is sculpted to allow for additional VRM heatsinks to be attached, as shown above. This will ensure that the card is kept well under control.

The SAPPHIRE HD 7970 6GB TOXIC Edition is Crossfire capable in 2, 3 and 4 way configurations. It demands power from two 8 pin PCI E power connections. In theory this card could demand up to 375W of power.

The I/O backplate is also a custom version, with holes cut into the top section to allow for heat to be expelled outside the case. There are two DVI ports, a single full sized HDMI connector and two mini DisplayPorts. All outputs can be used simultaneously.

The new Vapor X cooler is based on a vapor chamber specifically designed for this card, it doesn’t feature on any other Sapphire graphics cards. Heat is carried away by four heatpipes into a huge rack of aluminum fins. These heatpipes are 2x8mm and 2x6mm. The two 90mm fans feature aerofoil blades and dust repelling bearings.

It is clear that Sapphire haven’t cut any corners in the design of this massive cooling solution.

The SAPPHIRE HD 7970 6GB TOXIC Edition features 6GB of high grade Hynix GDDR5 memory. The card also has a new 8 phase power design for the GPU VDDC, with an additional one phase each for VDDCI and MVDD.

The design uses a brand new double sided Black Diamond Choke for the first time, as well as DirectFET technology and all on a 12 layer PCB to ensure the board runs fast and stable. According to Sapphire the double sided Black Diamond Choke design reduces the temperature around the power design portion by 40 degree Celsius in lab tests, when compared to the reference PCB design.

Above, is the ‘Lethal Boost’ button, which when depressed increases the clock speeds to 1,200mhz core boost and 1,600mhz (6.4GBps effective) memory.

When Lethal Boost is active, the Sapphire logo on the button glows blue, as shown above. The main ‘Sapphire’ writing also glows, which is a nice touch.

An overview of the Sapphire HD7970 6GB TOXIC Edition, built around the 28nm Tahiti core. The image above left is the default setting – 1,100mhz core and 1,500mhz memory (6Gbps effective). The image above right is after pressing the Lethal Boost button – 1,200mhz core and 1,600mhz memory (6.4Gbps effective).

The card has dual geometry engines, eight render back ends, 2048 unified shaders, 32 color ROPs per clock and 128 Z/stencil ROPs per clock.

On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit Kitguru.net as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.

To test today we are using our long standing Core i7 970 system, which is overclocked. We have a variety of hardware benchmarked on this system this year which will make for an interesting market comparison.

We will also see how the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic compares against the incredible KFA2 GTX680 LTD OC, which we tested indepth, on June 29th.

Main Test System:

Processor: Core i7 970 @ 4.6ghz
: SAPPHIRE HD 7970 6GB TOXIC Edition
Cooling: Coolit Vantage
: MSI X58A-GD65
: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Power Supply
: Corsair AX1200
: 6GB ADATA @ 2133mhz 9-10-9-32
: Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB Gen 2 SSD (Storage) / Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB (OS boot)
Monitor: Dell U3011.

We also change the system later in the review to test Eyefinity across three 24 inch screens.

Ultra High End System (For 3 screen testing):

Processor: Core i7 3960 X Extreme Edition @ 4.6ghz
Cooler: Antec 920 H20
Memory: 16GB G.Skill 2,400mhz @ 10-11-10-30
Motherboard: Asus Rampage IV Extreme
Power Supply: Enermax Platimax 1200W
Optical Drive
: Asus BluRay Drive
: Lian Li PC-A77FR Aluminium Red Full Tower Case
Boot Drive: Patriot WildFire 120GB
Secondary Drive: 1TB Samsung
Monitors: Dell U2410 x 3.

Comparison Cards:
Asus GTX680
Asus GTX670 Direct CU II TOP
HD7970 GHZ Edition
MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC
Sapphire HD7870 Overclock Edition
HD6990 (880 core)
Sapphire HD7770 Vapor X Overclock Edition
XFX HD7770 Black Edition S CFx
HD7770 CFx
Sapphire HD7750 Ultimate Edition
GTX590 SLi
GTX580 SLi


Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Fraps Professional
Steam Client


Alien V Predator
Tom Clancy HAWX 2
Resident Evil 5
Far Cry 2
F1 2011
Total War: Shogun 2
Battlefield 3
Elder Scrolls V: SkyRim
Dirt Showdown
Max Payne 3

All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform generally under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests games across five closely matched runs and then average out the results to get an accurate median figure. If we use scripted benchmarks, they are mentioned on the relevant page.

Some game descriptions are edited from Wikipedia.

Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.

Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.

Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:

  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures

We use the following settings: 1920×1080 resolution. Anti Aliasing off. Anisotrophy 4, Tessellation normal. Shaders High. Stereo 3D disabled. API: Direct X 11.

Off to a heck of a start, at the higher setting the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition not only relegates Nvidia’s reference GTX680, but it manages to comfortably beat the overclocked KFA2 GTX680 Limited Edition, averaging 100.2 fps compared to 97.8 fps.

Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.

At the standard setting, the SAPPHIRE HD 7970 6GB TOXIC scores 34,496 points placing it around 1,000 points behind the last generation dual GPU HD6990. With the Lethal Boost enabled, the Toxic Edition not only outperforms the KFA2 GTX680 Limited Edition, but also the dual GPU GTX590 from the last generation. A score of 36,667 is the highest score we have recorded to date for a single GPU discrete solution.

3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.

The KFA2 GTX680 Limited Edition manages to outscore the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition at both settings. With Lethal Boost enabled, the Toxic Edition scores 9,776 points, only 100 points less than the dual GPU HD6990 from the last generation.

HQV Benchmark 2.0 is an updated version of the original tool and it consists of various video clips and test patterns which are designed to evalute motion correction, de-interlacing, decoding, noise reduction, detail enhancement and film cadence detection.

There are two versions of the program, standard definition on DVD and high definition on Bluray. As our audience will be concentrating on HD content so will we.

This has a total of 39 video tests which is increased from 23 in the original and the scoring is also up from a total of 130 to 210. As hardware and software gets more complicated, the software has been tuned to make sure we can thoroughly maximise our analysis.

Read our initial analysis over here

Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition
Dial with static pattern 5
Gray Bars 5
Violin 5
Stadium 2:2 5
Stadium 3:2 5
Horizontal Text Scroll 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5
Transition to 3:2 Lock 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 0
2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCAM Video
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video
3:2:3:2:2 24 FOS Vari-Speed
5:5 FPS Animation
6:4 12 FPS Animation
8:7 8 FPS Animation
Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)
Random Noise: Sailboat
Random Noise: Flower
Random Noise: Sunrise
Random Noise: Harbour Night
Scrolling Text
Roller Coaster
Ferris Wheel
Bridge Traffic
Text Pattern/ Scrolling Text
Roller Coaster
Ferris Wheel
Bridge Traffic
Luminance Frequency Bands
Chrominance Frequency Bands
Vanishing Text 5
Resolution Enhancement
Theme Park
Driftwood 5
Ferris Wheel
Skin Tones
Total 196

A score of 196 points is class leading right now, the ideal solution for high definition media playback on a big screen.

F1 2011 is the newest Direct X 11 racing game from industry pioneers CodeMasters. The 2011 Formula One season is the 62nd FIA Formula One season. The original calendar consisted of twenty rounds, including the inaugural running of the Indian Grand Prix before the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Pirelli returns to the sport as tyre supplier for all teams, taking over from Bridgestone. Red Bull Racing are the reigning Constructor’s Champions. Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel is the defending Drivers’ Champion, one of five World Champions appearing on the grid.

Great scores, outperforming the reference clocked GTX680 by a considerable margin. That said, the highly overclocked KFA2 GTX680 Limited Edition is top of this grouping, averaging 96 frames per second compared to 94 frames per second with Sapphire’s Lethal Boost enabled.

Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today.

To test the cards we used a 1080p resolution with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occulsion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on. We use this with most of our graphics card testing so cards are comparable throughout reviews.

An engine which favours AMD hardware. Fantastic results from the Sapphire HD7970 Toxic Edition, outperforming not only the GTX680, but the dual GPU GTX590. With Sapphire’s Lethal Boost enabled, the HD7970 is only 5 frames per second slower than the dual GPU HD6990.

Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. After the events of the first game, the H.A.W.X squadron is sent to Middle East, where a high level of violence is being registered, and the appearance of various insurgents leaders in various hotspots. The team also has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Russian nuclear weapons. The player will be controlling three groups: one American (Hunter), one British (Munro) and one Russian (Sokov), each with its own pilots and supporting characters. There will also be references to other characters in the Tom Clancy universe.

We are testing in full DX11 mode with all settings to maximum.

An engine which favours Nvidia hardware. The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition is someway behind the overclocked KFA2 GTX680 Limited Edition, even with Lethal Boost enabled.

Resident Evil 5, known in Japan as Biohazard 5, is a survival horror third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on March 5, 2009 in Japan and on March 13, 2009 in North America and Europe for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A Windows version of the game was released on September 15, 2009 in North America, September 17 in Japan and September 18 in Europe. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

Within its first three weeks of release, the game sold over 2 million units worldwide and became the best-selling game of the franchise in the United Kingdom. As of December, 2009, Resident Evil 5 has sold 5.3 million copies worldwide since launch, becoming the best selling Resident Evil game ever made.

Great results, claiming the top spot in the chart when Lethal Boost is enabled.

Far Cry 2 (commonly abbreviated as “FC2 or “fc2″) is an open-ended first-person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released on October 21, 2008 in North America and on October 23, 2008 in Europe and Australia. It was made available on Steam on October 22, 2008. Crytek, the developers of the original game, were not involved in the development of Far Cry 2.

Ubisoft has marketed Far Cry 2 as the true sequel to Far Cry, though the sequel has very few noticeable similarities to the original game. Instead, it features completely new characters and setting, as well as a new style of gameplay that allows the player greater freedom to explore different African landscapes such as deserts, jungles, and savannas. The game takes place in a modern-day East African nation in a state of anarchy and civil war. The player takes control of a mercenary on a lengthy journey to locate and assassinate “The Jackal,” a notorious arms dealer.

Far Cry 2 is still a popular game and the open world environment can be taxing on even the latest hardware available today.

Settings: 1920×1200, D3D10, Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(8x), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Ultra High), Vegetation(Very High), Shading(Ultra High), Terrain(Ultra High), Geometry(Ultra High), Post FX(High), Texture(Ultra High), Shadow(Ultra High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High).

An engine that favours the Nvidia platform. Still, great results and no problems maintaining smooth frame rates.

Shogun 2 is set in 16th-century feudal Japan, in the aftermath of the Ōnin War. The country is fractured into rival clans led by local warlords, each fighting for control. The player takes on the role of one of these warlords, with the goal of dominating other factions and claiming his rule over Japan. The standard edition of the game will feature a total of eight factions (plus a ninth faction for the tutorial), each with a unique starting position and different political and military strengths.

A whopping 10 frames per second increase over the standard AMD HD7970 GHZ Edition, averaging 93 frames per second.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an action role-playing open world video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Skyrim‘s main story revolves around the player character’s efforts to defeat Alduin, a Dragon god who is prophesized to destroy the world. Set two hundred years after Oblivion, the game takes place in the fictional province of Skyrim, upon the continent of Tamriel, and the planet of Nirn. The open world gameplay of the Elder Scrolls series returns in Skyrim; the player can explore the land at will and ignore or postpone the main quest indefinitely. Skyrim has received universal acclaim from critics, selling more than 3.5 million copies within the first 48 hours of release.

Another huge increase over the standard HD7970 GHZ Edition, averaging 75 frames per second at 2560×1600.

According to EA, Battlefield 3 garnered 3 million pre-orders by the day of its release. It is unknown at present whether these figures are worldwide or just for the US. The pre-order total makes it “the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history”, according to the publisher. The engine is beautiful on the PC and very demanding of the partnering hardware.

Another class leading score for the Sapphire HD7970 Toxic Edition, averaging 103 frames per second at these settings.

Dirt Showdown is the latest title in the franchise from Codemasters, based around the famous Colin McRae racing game series, although it no longer uses his name, since he passed away in 2007.

We enabled the game across three 24 inch screens at 5760×1080 resolution, with the settings shown above.

A fun game to play and it runs well on all the high end hardware tested above. The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic with Lethal Boost enabled averages almost 90 frames per second, around 30 frames per second more than the reference clocked GTX680.

According to EA, Battlefield 3 garnered 3 million pre-orders by the day of its release. It is unknown at present whether these figures are worldwide or just for the US. The pre-order total makes it “the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history”, according to the publisher. The engine is beautiful on the PC and very demanding of the partnering hardware.

We configured the game to run on three 24 inch monitors at 5760×1080. We also dropped the Texture quality from ultra to high.

A demanding game at these settings, although none of the hardware on test has a problem maintaining smooth frame rates. The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition claims the top spot, averaging 4 frames per second more than the KFA2 GTX680 LTD OC.

Max Payne 3 is a third-person shooter in which the player assumes the role of its titular character, Max Payne. Max Payne 3 features a similar over-the-shoulder camera as its predecessors, with the addition of a cover mechanic, while also retaining much of the same run-and-gun style of gameplay. Max Payne 3 also marks the return of bullet-time in action sequences, for which the franchise is notable.

In bullet-time it is possible to see every bullet strike an enemy in detail. New to the series is a “Last Stand” mechanic, which gives the player a grace period after losing all health during which time the player may kill the enemy that wounded them in order to continue playing, however this mechanic is only usable if the player has one or more bottles of painkillers in their possession.

Max Payne 3 is a very intensive engine when running in Direct X 11, so for this page and comparison purposes we set to Direct X 10.1 and disabled Anti Aliasing. Our settings detailed above demanded 1344MB of graphics memory.

The HD7970 6TB Toxic Edition screams through this benchmark, averaging 86 frames per second with the ‘Lethal Boost’ mode enabled.

On the last page we tested Max Payne 3 while running in Direct X 10.1. We have been unable to get this game playable across three screens in Direct X 11 with high image quality settings enabled.

With 6GB of GDDR5 memory onboard we maxed the settings out to the limit, including enabling 8 times anti Aliasing. At these settings, the game demanded 4624MB of memory.

The results show that even for the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic, the demands are too high.

For the last test, we lowered the anti aliasing to 2x and Tessellation to High, from Very high. At these settings, the game demanded 1813MB of memory.

We found the sweet spot when running in Direct X 11. Max Payne ran smooth at both board speed settings, although with Lethal Boost enabled, the frame rate was smoother, with a higher minimum frame rate score.

The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.

Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test. All fan settings were left on automatic.

The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition runs hotter than our reference card, by 2-4c when gaming. This rises to a 3-5c difference under Furmark load. The card is clearly generating a lot more heat at these significantly enhanced clock speeds. We will look at acoustic performance now.

We have changed our method of measuring noise levels. We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with almost completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests.

Ambient noise in the room is around 20-25dBa. We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the closed chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation.

Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.

KitGuru noise guide
10dBA – Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA – High Quality Computer fan
40dBA – A Bubbling Brook, or a Refridgerator
50dBA – Normal Conversation
60dBA – Laughter
70dBA – Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA – City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA – Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA – MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA – Orchestra
120dBA – Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA – Threshold of Pain
140dBA – Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA – Instant Perforation of eardrum

When idle, the fans spin around 1,110rpm generating very little noise at all.

At the reference speed setting, the fans spin at around 2,300 rpm when gaming, peaking at 2,600rpm under Furmark load (57%). The noise levels are noticeable although never intrusive.

When ‘lethal boost’ is enabled, the fans spin higher to compensate for rising temperatures. When gaming the fans spin at 2,900 rpm and they rise to 3,300 rpm (78%) when under the synthetic Furmark load. The noise levels increase noticeably and can be heard above several quality case fans. We didn’t find the pitch of the fans to be uncomfortable long term.

Both settings are significantly quieter than the reference HD7970 GHZ Edition we have here. Two fans are certainly better than one, especially when attached to a monster cooling solution.

To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. We measure results while gaming in Crysis Warhead and record the results.

In such an energy aware climate, AMD are making a big deal out of their new ‘ZeroCore Power’ technology. Many solutions today use power gating, clock gating and memory compression to reduce idle power requirements, but ZeroCore power technology can completely power down the core GPU while the rest of the system remains active.

The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic is consuming more power than the reference HD7970, around 275w with the ‘Lethal Boost’ enabled when gaming. Sapphire have optimised this card for overclocking and performance so power consumption has suffered. We would have expected this anyway.

For our overclocking tests today we are using the latest version of Sapphire’s TriXX software. We have always had good experiences with this program.

We weren’t expecting to achieve a huge increase on the HD7970 6GB Toxic clock speeds – not with such high pre-configured, overclocked settings. We managed to push the core by another 61mhz to 1,261mhz, translating to a 5% increase. The memory maxed out at 1,708mhz (6832mhz effective).

Increasing board power didn’t make a difference … this card is sold close to the limit, with just a little headroom to ensure stability.

The additional increase helps boost the 3dMark 11 score past the 10,000 threshold, scoring 10,226 points. This is the second single GPU card we have tested to score over 10,000 points.

The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition has been designed from the ground up for the demanding enthusiast gamer with a high level of disposal budget. In this regard Sapphire can consider their latest flagship product a complete success.

Furthermore, if you want to play the latest Direct X 11 titles across three screens at 5760×1080, then this is the card I would buy, without hesitation.

Until today, the incredible KFA2 GTX680 Limited OC Edition claimed the ultimate single GPU performance spot, however in the majority of the real world game testing, the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition managed to outperform the overclocked GTX680. The reference clocked GTX680 doesn’t even factor into making a viable challenge.

When I reviewed AMD’s latest HD7970 GHZ Edition a short while ago, I concluded my disappointment with the AMD reference cooling solution. Due to the complete omission of cooling heatpipes, and inadequate heatsink, the single small fan had to spin extremely high to maintain a tolerable thermal curve. In this regard Nvidia’s GTX680 had the edge.

Sapphire have addressed our concerns by utilising their latest Vapor X cooler which is based around a vapor chamber specifically designed for this card. The heat is moved away by four 6mm and 8mm heatpipes into a huge rack of aluminum fins. Above this are two 90mm aerofoil blades which feature dust repelling bearings.

Under the hood the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition has a new 8 Phase power design for the GPU VDDC, with an additional single phase each for VDDCI and MVDD. Also, Sapphire use a brand new double sided Black Diamond Choke for the first time, as well as DirectFET technology and all on a 12 layer PCB to ensure the board runs fast and stable.

The performance results are unquestionably impressive. In 7 out of 11 tests, The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition outperformed the KFA2 GTX680 Limited OC Edition.

To get such incredible performance Sapphire have adopted two 8 pin PCI power connectors which in theory can handle up to 375W of power. Our synthetic testing with Furmark highlighted that the card can actually demand all this power, although when gaming the demands dropped to between 245 watts and 275 watts. The KFA2 GTX680 LTD OC by comparison consumes around 185 watts of power when gaming.

To deal with all this power and heat, the Sapphire Vapor Chamber cooler has to work hard, and the twin fan solution is audible at the default setting. When the ‘Lethal Boost’ is enabled, the noise emissions increase further, although we never found the card that intrusive. It is certainly far from silent, but it is actually significantly quieter than the reference HD7970 GHZ Edition we have in our labs (38.4 dBa v 43.4 dBa).

Right now we have no pricing information and we wouldn’t like to take a guess, even an educated one. With such a crazy, no compromises board design and a doubled 6GB GDDR5 memory count we can only surmise that this will be priced over £500 inc vat when it reaches UK shores.

Due to the strict engineering tolerances this card will be released in very limited quantities, so getting hold of one might be difficult. As a engineering showcase Sapphire have managed to release the fastest single GPU card on the market. We don’t think this will be beaten for quite some time.


  • Unparalleled performance.
  • mega cooling solution.
  • two speed modes.
  • the ultimate performance card for Eyefinity gaming.


  • demands a lot of power.
  • not the quietest card we have tested.
  • It is sure to cost a packet.

Kitguru says: Every so often a card is released that ignites the performance market. We didn’t think it was possible, but AMD finally have a class leading HD7970 solution, courtesy of their most famous partner, Sapphire.

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