If you've been missing out on the graphics card wars of late, then here's a quick rundown. AMD launched its high-end $549 Radeon HD 7970 at the end of last year, and it reigned comfortably for a few months until NVIDIA came out with the masterful GeForce GTX 680. That would have been the end of the matter, at least for this product cycle, except for one crucial factor: time. Having reached the market so much earlier, AMD has now had six months to not only tweak its drivers but also its 28nm silicon. That process has already culminated in 1GHz cards at the low- and mid-ranges, and today it leads to the (slightly predictable) announcement of a Radeon HD 7970 'GHz Edition' -- priced at $499 and expected to be available from a range of board makers from next week. To keep you amused in the meantime, there's plenty of detail in the gallery below and after the break.
Update: review roundup added .%Gallery-158843%
It almost goes without saying that the new version has a clock speed bump from 925MHz to 1GHz, but there are other fundamental changes too. For a start, AMD's PowerTune feature has been given the ability to boost voltage as well as clock speed, and it can also now push the clock up to 1050MHz when there's available headroom -- which should help it go up against NVIDIA's own GPU Boost feature. Interestingly, AMD is also promoting the card's compute prowess, which is increasingly relevant for non-gaming applications as well as rendering and lighting, declaring the 7970 GHz Edition to be the "world's first 1TFLOP DPFP [double-precision floating point] GPU" with a 2.6x lead over its rival in compute workloads.
The original 3GB of GDDR5 memory remains the same on this new edition, but it too has been clocked up to offer 10-percent more bandwidth -- a 6GB/s data rate instead of the previous 5.5GB/s per pin. What's more, all of this is being accomplished without changing the 250W typical power draw, which bodes well not only for operating noise and temperature, but also for keeping the price in check, since vendors can simply put the new silicon on their old boards. Given all this, AMD is already declaring that it has "taken back the crown," with its official benchmarks giving the GHz Edition a significant fps lead in all current games at 2560 x 1600 resolution -- but it may be safer to reserve judgement until we've rounded-up independent reviews from the specialist sites.