Pardon a Forstallism in the headline (“blow-away”), it’s actually a fitting description of AMD’s just announced Radeon HD 7970 graphic card powered by the Tahiti GPU. Traces of support for Tahiti-driven AMD GPUs have recently been found in a beta of OS X Lion 10.7.3, indicating Mac Pro users will probably be able to pop in this beauty inside their system for a pretty significant boost in the oomph department. According to HotHardware, the 7970 is between 1.2x and 1.6x faster overall than the previous-generation 6970. It also blows Nvidia’s reference GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB card out of the water with between 1.16x and 1.31x faster performance.

Gamers will especially love this card due to its increased memory bandwidth, compute performance, fillrate and tesselation (up to 25 percent faster compared to the custom EVGA GeForce GTX 580 3GB card). “To put it simply, the AMD Radeon HD 7970 is the fastest, single-GPU powered graphics card we have ever tested thus far”, the publication wrote.

Plus, the 7970 is the best-in-class performer in terms of power consumption (“idle power was the best, bar none”). Summing up, HotHardware’s Marco Chiappetta concluded that the powerful Radeon HD 7970 is “the fastest single-GPU powered graphics card money can buy”. So, when can you get your hands on one of these?

This card won’t retail – AMD is shipping it to OEMs only beginning January 9, 2012 for MSRP $549. If history is an indication, Apple should adopt the Radeon HD 7970 in the flagship 2012 Mac Pro model or offer it as a build-to-order option. Some other caveats from HotHardware’s exhaustive review:

We do not think, however, that AMD is going to be able to meet or exceed the performance of today’s high-end dual-GPU powered cards, even with future driver updates. As it stands today, the Radeon HD 6990 remains the fastest graphic card money can buy, with the GeForce GTX 590 finishing just behind. It’s going to take two Tahiti GPUs to surpass the performance of those cards. Of course AMD is already working on a solution for that as well, codenamed “New Zealand.

AMD’s new Tahiti GPU powering this card is aimed at enthusiast gamers. It is part of their Southern Island series of GPUs, all code-named after southern islands (Cape Verde, Pitcairn, Tahiti and New Zealand) and fabbed on TSMC’s 28-nanometer process. The Tahiti GPU inside the 7970 is also AMD’s first GPU to feature their Graphics Core Next architecture, in addition to PCI Express 3.0 connectivity, DirectX 11.1 support, ZeroCore, PRT and multi-point audio.

If you’re interested to learn more, check out Engadget’s handy reviews round-up or visit the official web site.

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