It's rare to find a company that come out with a whole range of products that leave us rather slack-jawed in appreciation. One such manufacturer is Club 3D who, with their range of AMD Radeon GPUs, have stunned us with the combination of outstanding overclocking performance, looks and competitive pricing.
Now we've seen their mid-range cards it's time for us to look at their range topping monster to see if it continues their incredible run of awards. Enter the HD7970 Royal Ace. As part of the Club 3D poker range it will surprise nobody to discover that the Ace is the top of the line, which married to the fast Tahiti XT GPU should give us something spectacular.
We're also going to be looking at Crossfire today, to see how the latest Catalyst drivers are performing.
With a boost clock at 1100MHz the Royal Ace lives up to its name, and should provide exactly what the 'plug and play' buyer demands. Otherwise it's all fairly standard HD7970 stuff.
Bus Interface: PCI Express 3.0
GPU Chipset: Tahiti XT2
GPU Clock: 1050 MHz
Boost clock: 1100 MHz
Stream Processors: 2048
Multi-GPU: Quad CrossFire Ready
Memory Size: 3072MB
Memory Interface: 384BIT
Memory Type: GDDR5
Memory Clock: 6000 MHz (4x1500MHz)
Cooling Type: Active
Idle ZCP mode enabled: 3W
Maximum load: 250W
DirectX version: 11.1
OpenGL version: 4.2
OpenCL version: 1.2
Slot Width: 2 Slots
Profile: Standard profile
Card Size: 268 x 122 x 36 mm
Card Weight: 698 grams
DVI: 1x Dual-Link DVI-I
HDMI: 1x version 1.4a
Mini DisplayPort: 2x version 1.2
HDCP ready: YES
Maximum Resolution analog: 2048x1536 (via Dual-Link DVI to VGA adapter)
Maximum Resolution Single-Link DVI: 1920x1200
Maximum Resolution Dual-Link DVI: 2560x1600
Maximum Resolution HDMI 1.4a: 4096x3112
Maximum Resolution Mini DP 1.2: 4096x2160
Maximum Outputs Simultaneously: 4
Regular readers of OC3D, and if you aren't a regular then you should be, will recognise the Club 3D packaging and card style immediately. The box is very classy and we like the combination of matte black with the simple A logo. For a top end GPU the accessories are bland and identical to any other graphics card. Although most free games are ones everyone already has, it doesn't hurt to include one.
The Coolsteam cooler is one of the best looking coolers around, with the black casing housing two PWM fans and the always pretty copper heatpipes. Because of the way that graphics cards fit into motherboards we see far more of the PCB than the cooler, so it's also nice to see that Club 3D have given the Royal Ace a black PCB.
Inputs and outputs are standard for a HD7970, with a 8+6 pin power input, and DVI, HDMI and two mini-DisplayPort outputs.
Everyone likes the look of two cards, and we're no different. No matter how good the performance of twin-GPU cards is, there is no replacement for having two cards filling your case up.
2x Club 3D HD7970 Royal Ace
AMD Catalyst 13.1 Drivers
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
Supposedly the Club 3D runs at 1100MHz, but our model came out of the box at a whopping 1180MHz. No overclocking, pure plug and play power. Obviously this doesn't leave us any room to overclock ourselves, but when the card is this fast why would you bother?
It's not the quietest cooler the world has ever seen, but there is no denying the performance of the Coolstream. Excellent temperatures.
3D Mark Vantage
As we've come to expect from Club 3D, the Royal Ace is the highest scoring HD7970 we've tested in 3D Mark Vantage. Remember this is out of the box scores. Exceptional.
3D Mark 11
The results of Vantage are replicated in 3D Mark 11. Whether it's in the single card or Crossfire configuration the Ace proves the highest scoring Tahiti XT card we've looked at.
Batman Arkham City
Every time we test Arkham City we're left wondering what the point of frame limits are. 64FPS, as always. Next.
Far Cry 2
The early excellent results are continued in Far Cry 2. We're reaching the end of this games lifespan as part of our test suite, and it's still capable of looking good and performing well.
Far Cry 3
Probably the 2012 game of the year, and certainly one we enjoy playing even when we're not testing it. A 3FPS improvement of the Royal Ace when compared to our reference HD7970 is a good improvement in this title. Naturally the Crossfire setup blows it to bits.
47 might be bald, but the HD7970 certainly does polish Hitman up to a shine so good you can see your face in it. If you're a fan of the fibre wire then the Ace is the card for you.
Metro is nothing if not brutal and unoptimised. Miraculously the Club 3D card matches perfectly the Gigabyte HD7970, even down to a tenth of a frame. This is definitely a game that comes to life when you have two GPUs pushing it along.
Although the HD7970 isn't capable of pushing out the high scores we've seen from the nVidia offerings, as we've seen so far the Club 3D is blisteringly quick when compared to other Radeons.
Ramping up the image quality doesn't slow the Royal Ace down, and it continues to put up some very impressive numbers.
There is a new test in the Unigine stable, and it's one that is even more graphically impressive than its Heaven sibling. It has a huge array of testing options, including the brutal 2560x1440 Ultra test, which will stress even the most beefy rigs. As this is the first card we've run on this, it's impossible to make any comparisons, but we can see that an extra GPU is really used to its potential here.
The Witcher 2
The combination of the Club 3D HD7970 Royal Ace, and the 13.1 Catalyst drivers really rocks The Witcher 2 hard. 3FPS ahead of the vastly pricier ASUS Matrix. We have to confess we're surprised to see the Crossfire setup being massively better than anything else we've tested.
Similarly to Unigine Valley, we haven't really got a comparison yet. Such is the downside to being as up-to-date as we are here at OC3D.
The latest version of 3D Mark has a bit of a problem in that it doesn't seem to be taking advantage of our extra card. So we're putting the results here just because we have them, and without anything to compare to we might as well include them until the problem is fixed.
HiRes - Batman Arkham City
Moving onto our 2560x1440 tests, the Royal Ace continues its good showing, losing fewer frames with the resolution jump than the reference HD7970.
HiRes - Far Cry 2
The situation is reversed with Far Cry 2, as there is a big performance drop-off. Not as bad as the nVidia, but still showing how much extra grunt is required to run at this resolution.
HiRes - Far Cry 3
Moving to the more modern Far Cry 3 and the Royal Ace returns to form performing better relative to a stock card than it did at 1080P.
HiRes - Hitman Absolution
Different game, same result. The Club 3D obliterates the reference car, and in Crossfire runs better than the Ares II Crossfire setup. Spectacular.
HiRes - Metro 2033
Metro 2033 has the same drop across the board, and definitely at this level of resolution and image quality you require more than a single card has to offer.
HiRes - The Witcher 2
In our final game test we continue to see fantastic performance from the Club 3D. It's a gaming behemoth.
HiRes - Unigine
Finishing up with Unigine Heaven, and it's no surprise to anyone to see that the HD7970 Royal Ace performs well.
So far when we've been reviewing graphics cards from the Club 3D range we've found them to be solid performers out of the box, but absolutely blazing when overclocked. There have been plenty of comments that we 'won the silicon lottery' which is why ours overclocked so readily, except we've tested many models and they've all been fabulous. The matte black with the crimson logo is really eye-catching.
The Royal Ace changes that, but only because it's blistering at stock. According to Club 3D the HD7970 Royal Ace should run at 1100MHz, but our model worked at 1180MHz without any adjustment at all on our part. The performance backs up this whopping GPU clockspeed, being the fastest HD7970 we've tested.
Whilst we love overclocking, and who doesn't enjoy free performance, we understand that the majority of people want hardware they can plug in and go play, without all the faffing about of overclocking and tweaking. When it comes to the simplicity of sticking a card in and obtaining frankly incredible levels of performance from it, then the Club 3D HD7970 Royal Ace is definitely the GPU for you.
The Crossfire performance is stunning. The combination of these speedy cards and the latest Catalyst 13.1 drivers really emphasises the available horsepower and leads to a smooth experience in every game, no matter what the resolution or image quality settings.
It's not without a couple of caveats though, both of which depend upon how loud you game. The Coolstream cooler certainly keeps the temperatures in check but it's not the quietest cooler we've ever come across. It's not loud in the same way that a reference GTX480 was, but you're aware it's there. Secondly, and more annoying to us, is that the card chirps. Both of them. Now we know that we're attuned to finding fault with everything, it's our job after all, and that if you're running with headphones on or loud speakers you're unlikely to notice it. But it's there, so we have to point it out.
Because the Club 3D HD7970 Royal Ace has such outstanding 'stock' performance, and because with the noise you're definitely going to want to run with headphones most of the time, then it's definitely a card for the gamer on the go who just wants to fit and forget. For that reason we're happy to award it our OC3D Gamers Choice.
Thanks to Club 3D for supplying the HD7970 Royal Ace for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.