Our look at the reference Radeon HD 7950 and HD 7970 cards shows there to be a 15 per cent gap in performance in favour of the range-topping GPU. But raise the HD 7950's clocks to the higher speeds of the 7970 and the gap melts away to around five percent, often a little less, depending upon gaming title.
This type of analysis is sometimes moot because the second-rung GPU often has problems in running at the higher speeds of the very best card in the family, yet such is the frequency headroom of the HD 7950, ramping way, way past the 925MHz core and 5,500MHz clocks of the HD 7970, that overclocking it is wonderfully easy. Indeed, add a bit of voltage into the mix and it flies.
So what have we really learnt from this exercise? The Radeon HD 7970 is still the better card for performance junkies; it offers a smidge more performance and is guaranteed to run at 925MHz/5,500MHz clocks without any fiddling from the end-user. However, if it was our money on the table and the choice was between a £350 HD 7950 or £440 HD 7970, knowing what we do, we'd go for the cheaper offering and push up the speeds ourselves. Heck, we'd even be saving some power, too.
Sweetening the deal for prospective 7950 purchasers is the knowledge that factory-overclocked models are now cropping up with relatively small premiums over the reference card.
Want a feature-rich, fast, relatively cool and quiet card for high-resolution gaming thrills and spills? Take a look at the Radeon HD 7970, sure, but we recommend you sharpen focus on the HD 7950 instead.
A full list of partner Radeon HD 7950 3GB cards can be viewed here.