MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC Review

Today we are looking at the latest graphics card from MSI which uses the excellent 3rd generation Twin Frozr cooler. MSI are supplying their R7950 card with a core clock boost and it is said to run much quieter and cooler than the AMD reference card. We will test these claims today and see how the card slots into the marketplace.
We know MSI normally release their video cards long after product launch day, but as we know from previous endeavors, they can often be worth waiting for.
We have been interested in this particular model from MSI because we already know that the HD7950 offers fantastic gaming performance at a reasonable price point. How can MSI enhance the high end experience for a potential customer?
This MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC is currently available for £339.95 inc vat from Overclockers in the UK, which means there is hardly any price premium over a reference clocked card.
ProductMSI R7950 TFAMD HD7950AMD HD7870AMD HD7850
Core Clock speed880mhz800mhz1000mhz860mhz
Stream Processors1,7921,7921,2801,024
Compute Performance2.87 TFLOPS2.87 TFLOPS2.56 TFLOPS1.76 TFLOPS
Texture Units1121128064
Texture Fillrate89.6 GT/s89.6 GT/s80 GT/s55.0 GT/s
Pixel Fillrate25.6 GP/s25.6 GP/s32.0 GP/s27.52 GP/s
Memory Clock1,250mhz1,250mhz1,200mhz1,200mhz
Memory Data Rate5.0 Gbps5.0 Gbps4.8 Gbps4.8 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth240 GB/s240 GB/s153.6 GB/s153.6 GB/s
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III has received a 10 percent core clock increase from 800mhz to 880mhz. GDDR5 memory speeds are identical to the reference card @ 1,250mhz (5000mhz effective).
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC is shipped in a nicely designed box with a high resolution image taking center stage next to a list of specifications.
The gatefold style box highlights the ‘military’ technology which we have covered many times before. MSI use Hi-C Capacitors and Solid Capacitors for extra long life and reliability. They have adopted Solid State Choke with pure iron cores to eliminate any possibility of ‘buzzing’.
The bundle is strong. MSI include a software disc, several power and video adapters and literature on the product. There is also a Crossfire cable included for multi card configurations.
This is the third revision of the Twin Frozr cooler. It is a metal design with twin fans, PWM controlled. MSI use ‘Propeller Blades’ which are meant to enhance the angle of airflow, increasing it by 20 percent at the same speeds and blade diameter. This card is built around a dark PCB as shown in the images. It is quite heavy due to the metal construction.
The R7950 is Crossfire capable in 2,3 and 4 way configurations thanks to the dual connectors above.
The card takes power from two 6 pin PCI e power connectors.
It is a dual slot design with a full sized DVI and HDMI port, and two mini Display Port connectors. It is Eyefinity capable and can power up to 6 displays. This solution can simultaneously output multiple, independent audio streams from the HDMI and mini Displayport connectors at the rear of the card. The GPU can support 3GHz HDMI with frame packing support for Stereo 3D.
The cooler is about as good as you can get. It is a direct contact design formed around five thick heatpipes. These heatpipes split into two racks of high density aluminum heatsinks on either side of the base. This base is nickel plated copper to ensure that heat is transferred as quickly as possible. It is very heavy and feels very substantial. MSI are using high quality Hynix GDDR5 memory.
Above, a GPUz overview of the hardware. This highlights the core clock increase from 800mhz to 880mhz over the reference card design. The 3GB of memory is connected via a 384 bit memory interface. The card is equipped with 32 ROPS and 1792 unifed shaders, which is reduced from 2048 on the higher cost HD7970.
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 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.
Main Test System:
: Core i7 970 @ 4.6ghz
Graphics: MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC
Cooling: Coolit Vantage
Motherboard: MSI X58A-GD65
Chassis: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Memory: 6GB ADATA @ 2133mhz 9-10-9-32
Storage: Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB Gen 2 SSD (Storage) / Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB (OS boot)
Comparison Cards:
MSI R7970 Lightning Edition
Sapphire HD7870 Overclock Edition
HD6990 (880 core)
Sapphire HD7770 1GHZ OC Edition
XFX HD7770 Black Edition S CFx
HD7770 CFx
Sapphire HD7750 Ultimate Edition
GTX590 SLi
GTX580 SLi
Monitors: Dell U3011
Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
Alien V Predator
Dead Island
Tom Clancy HAWX 2
Resident Evil 5
Far Cry 2
F1 2011
Total War: Shogun 2
Battlefield 3
Mass Effect 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.
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III is faster than two AMD HD7770 graphics cards running in Crossfire. The more expensive reference clocked HD7970 is around 8 frames per second quicker.
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.
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III scores almost 29,000 points, slotting in between the reference clocked HD7970 and two XFX HD7770 Black Edition cards running in Crossfire. This is very strong performance indeed and a good indication that it will be very capable of handling a variety of game engines at high settings.
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 MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III is only trailing the HD7970 by around 400 points in this Direct X 11 based benchmark, much as we would expect with the enhanced clock speeds.
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
MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III
Dial with static pattern5
Gray Bars5
Stadium 2:25
Stadium 3:25
Horizontal Text Scroll5
Vertical Text Scroll5
Transition to 3:2 Lock5
Transition to 2:2 Lock0
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 Text5
Resolution Enhancement
Theme Park
Ferris Wheel
Skin Tones
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.
No problems powering this excellent racing engine from Codemasters. The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III averages 73 frames per second, very close against the HD7970.
Homefront’s PC version was developed by Digital Extremes, a Canadian developer responsible for numerous Unreal Tournament games and Bioshock ports. It received mixed reports, although Kitguru really likes the single player aspect of this title. The engine isn’t the most demanding on the market, but it requires decent partnering hardware for solid frame rates at 1080p.
The overclocked MSI R7950 is a couple of frames per second quicker than the reference clocked HD7950. It is around 6 frames per second slower than the HD7970.
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.
A taxing Direct X 11 engine, but no problems for the MSI R7950, averaging 84 frames per second, around 4 more than the reference clocked card.
Dead Island is a first person horror action-adventure video game developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows. It is centered on the challenge of survival on a zombie-infested open world island with a major emphasis on melee combat. It is rather good fun, for a short while, but it becomes repetitive.
Not a demanding test for this high end hardware, but still very impressive results.
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.
Around a 5 frames per second increase over the reference clocked HD7950, averaging 111 frames per second. A strong showing from the MSI R7950.
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.
The overclocked MSI R7950 is around 5 frames per second slower than the HD7970 and a couple of frames per second faster than the reference HD7950.
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).
Another good looking game which runs well on the MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III, averaging 92 frames per second.
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.
We are using the built in benchmark which is available via the STEAM client for this game.
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III averages around 150 frames per second at 720p. and 67 frames per second at 1080p, slightly improved on the reference clocked solution.
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.
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III is able to power the Skyrim engine at our chosen settings, without any problems at 2560×1600. The game is smooth at all times and the image quality is excellent.
Mass Effect 3 is an action role-playing game developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The game’s endings have been controversial with many fans. Criticisms include the lack of variation in the endings in view of the player’s choices over the previous two games, as well as a general lack of closure and perceived plot holes.
Again, no problems powering Mass Effect 3 with high image quality settings at 1080p.
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.
A great game to play and it runs exceptionally well on all the high end AMD hardware. The overclocked card helps push another 3-4 frames in our test environment.
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 Twin Frozr III improves on the reference cooling solution by around 11c under gaming load, which is very impressive.
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. We are using a heatpipe based passive power supply and an Intel SSD to keep noise levels to a minimum. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with 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
The twin fans spin between 1,250 rpm when idle and 2,600 rpm (Furmark) generating a maximum of 33.4 dBa. This is significantly improved on the reference solution which is clearly audible when gaming and even more so when running Furmark. When gaming, the fans spin between 1,800 rpm and 2,100 rpm.
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 MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III is slightly more efficient than the reference HD7950, if only by a few watts.
We normally use Sapphire TriXX to overclock, however MSI have their own specialised overclocking tool, based on Rivatuner, called MSI Afterburner.
We managed to push the core to 1,100mhz with this tool, although the slider was limited to this point. This translates to a very healthy 25% increase on the core clock.
The memory could be increased to 1382mhz, translating to an almost 11% increase.
At the manually overclocked speeds, the MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III managed to outperform the R7970 Lightning at the ‘out of the box’ settings. 8,702 points is only around 600 points less than the GTX590!
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC certainly hasn’t disappointed during the last week of testing. MSI are well known for releasing formidable video cards, and this is without question one of the finest HD7950′s on the market.
The Twin Frozr III cooler is a work of art and quite possibly the finest cooler in its class. The nickel plated copper base helps to transfer heat along the thick heatpipes and outwards across the aluminium fins. The dual ‘propeller’ fan system generates a high level of air flow while maintaining very reasonable noise emissions, even under extended load. It is thankfully much quieter than the reference AMD solution.
We have already reviewed many HD7950′s in the last couple of months and we know to expect great performance with many Direct X 10 and Direct X 11 games. MSI have pushed the core clock higher, to 880mhz, which translates to a couple of extra frames per second with many of the leading game engines.
If you have the inclination, then the core can be pushed from 880mhz to 1100mhz and potentially more with other software tools. At 1,100mhz, the R7950 Twin Frozr III outperforms the much more expensive MSI R7970 Lighting at ‘out of the box’ clocks. This in itself is quite an achievement.
The MSI R7950 faces some stiff competition in the market from cards such as the XFX HD7950 Black Edition and the Sapphire HD7950 Overclock Edition. Choosing a winner from this trio would be very difficult and would have to be based on pricing.
The MSI R7950 Twin Frozr III 3GD5/OC can be bought from Overclockers in the UK for £339.95 inc vat. At this price it is only £10 more than a reference card at default clocks with a standard cooler. It is hard to fault at this price.
  • Twin Frozr III cooler is class leading.
  • Quiet.
  • Cooling running.
  • well built.
  • overclocks great.
  • Stiff competition from XFX and Sapphire.
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