Sapphire is pretty much the lead partner when it comes to AMD graphics cards. With that it was to no surprise that for this launch the first HD7790 I recieved was from Sapphire. This card is meant to fit into the gap between the 7700 series and the 7800 series much like the new model 7870 based off of the Tahiti LE GPU filled in the space between the 7800 and 7900 series. Now lets see exactly what this card has to offer for the mainstream audience.[review_ad]
Introduction – Sapphire HD 7790
Sapphire being the go to partner for AMD was the first to jump onboard with us on the HD7790 card, and when they first told me about it I was kind of puzzled but after some looking around it made some sense. AMD left a pretty sizeable gap in its mainstream performance segment between the top of the 7700 series 7770 at slightly under 100 dollars between 90-100 USD and the 7850 at around 170-180USD. This si where the HD7790 slips in at around $149.00 MSRP while the model i have here which is factory overclocked at a MSRP of $159.00.
The thing we have to remember is that while being an enthusiasts I would assume that the real money makers are the high end like the 7950/7970 cards, but when you step back and look at the raw numbers there are far more of the midrange and mainstream cards sold which means these cards are the manufacturers bread and butter. That being said I could see why AMD woudl want to make sure that gap between the 7700 and 7800 series is filled well to allow for a broad selection no matter the budget.
Here you can see that the new Bonaire GPU offers some serious muscle from the over 2 billion transistors and much higher texture units available. The much higher speed 6Gbps memory data rate definitely will help blast data along as well which all adds up to a very strong card for those gamers on a budget.
It is worth nothing that the HD7790 does fall into the AMD Newer Settle Campaign which means buyers are elligible to be bundled witha copy of Bioshock Infinite from participating retailers, so that could be a pretty nice added bonus for anyoen looking at picking up the newest Bioshock offering.
New “Bonaire” GPU
The new HD 7790 is powered by a 28nm GCN architecture GPU similar to all of the other 7000 series GPUs. Unlike other 7700 series card which were Cape Verde models. This once again is very similar to the recent 7870 card where it did nto use Pitcairn GPU like other 7800′s and opted for a Tahiti LE model.
Sapphire FleX Technology
TheHD7790 Supports Sapphire FleX technology which allows triple display connectivity without the need for displayport, and a 4th using the Displayport. This allows for excellenrt compatibility with triple diaply setups across the wides range of available displays.
AMD PowerTune with Boost
The HD7790 supports full dynamic clocking of the GPU speed according to limits of thermal and power envelopes depeding on teh loading of the card. This could allow for a much higher clock for even better gaming performance .
Sapphire Dual-X Cooler
Sapphire Equipped the OC model with the Sual-X cooler design which utilizes a large dual heatpipe fin array with a twin set of high performance cooling fans to ensure that the card runs even cooler than it looks. This is all shrouded with the customary Sapphire rugged designed plastic shroud which adds a taste of style to the card while also directing airflow through the cooling array.
PCI Express Gen 3 Capable
Like all 7 series AMD GPU’s the HD7790 fully supports PCIe 3.0 for higher speed throughput and better overall bandwidth.
Overview of the Sapphire HD7790
The packaging for teh HD7790 is what I have come to expect after many Sapphire cards. They all carry a soldier of sorts in various battel ready garb, which is actually quite tastefully done as it catches the eye and looks well rendered. If I saw it on the shelf taht alone as a consumer loans soem confidence of the type of graphics the card is capable of, I knwo that probably sounds odd but lets just go with it.
Here is a list of all items included in the accessory pack:
- Quick Start Guide/Manual
- DVI to VGA Adapter
- Crossfire Bridge
- PATA 4 Pin connector to PCIe 6 pin adapter
- HDMI Cable
The accessory package is nice and it is really cool to see a HDMI cable bundled in even with the lower cost cards as that tells me Sapphire cares about you having everything you need to have this card up and running right out of the box. Also speaking of the box it was nice to see primarily recycled materials used for packaging as that get a environmentally concious point from me.
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Here you can see the card in full dress. The cooler is very large especially when you lok at the card flipped over and see that the rear shows a large chunk of PCB is blank and from what I can tell is tyhere just to support the larger cooler size. This tells me taht sapphire really means business on keeping this card super cool, especially consider the low TDP nature of the GPU.
Click Images to Enlarge
The rear IO supports multiple connectivity options including:
- DVI (x2)
This is connector array allows for the FleX functionality which allows for Dual DVI and HDMI displays in a 3 display array, this is nice and convenient as many displays simply do not have displayport.
Click Images to Enlarge
The card was simply begging to be stripped down and upon doing so you can see that being a mainstream model it really is quite simple. The small VRM cooler covers the relatively lightweight VRM which is more than adequate for powering this card. The cooler itself is simply beefy and looks as though it was built to handle much more heat than this card could ever dish out which means overclcoking shoudl be very good.
It is worth nothing that the card utilizes a suingle 6 pin PCIe connector for supplementyal power which means the total board power would peak at about 150W (75W 6 pin & 75W PCIe Slot) although I can bet this card never comes close to tapping that limit.
A closer Look at the HD7790
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The Hynix IC’s used here are rated for up to 6GHz which I have seen before and usually they have huge headroom above that. For example this card is set at 6400MHz right out of the box.
Click Images to Enlarge
Here we see some of the power control circuitry built onto the card which will ensure solid and reliable operation. This may seem small when you compare to other cards i have looked at but remember this mainstream GPU does not pull huge loads of power which means you dont need a huge VRM setup to run or even overclock the card.
Testing & Methodology
We’ve expanded our testing suite considerably since the X79 chipset release, and will continue to use the same methods for most of the motherboards and CPU’s we test. In the interests of thoroughness and accurate results, we run each test at least three times, and some tests more than that. We average the total of all the tests from each benchmark then report the average here.
The OS we use is Windows 7 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.
Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear Prefetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.
We are revamping our testing method in order to better represent motherboard performance and offering to the consumer. Also we want to make it an easier read for you without miles of endless charts. We ask that you provide feedback in an effort to help us deliver better reviews for you.
|Case||Open Air Test Bench|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-3770K|
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus V Formula
|Ram||16GB Patriot Viper Xtreme 2400MHz +|
|CPU Cooler||Swiftech H20-320 Edge|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Velociraptor 300GB|
|SSD||Intel 510 series SATA III 120GB|
|PSU||Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1475W|
|Mouse||Tt eSPORTS Theron gaming mouse|
|Keyboard||Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 mechanical gaming keyboard|
We will use the following applications to test the performance of the graphics card.
Synthetic Benchmarks & Games
|Batman Arkham City|
|Just Cause 2|
|Lost Planet 2|
The Sapphire Hd7790 Card comes out of the box overclocked and upon trying to overclock it via AMD Overdrive I quickly found taht the limit of Overdroive is reached much before the card. The Overdrive utility maxes out at 1600MHz (6400MHz) memory which means out of the box the cars memory is maxed, and the GPU maxes at 1200 but the GPU hits that without even a thought. I really hope some software with higher limits is available soon as the Overdrive limits really does not let this card stretch it legs properly and I think this card really leaves alot on the table due to the clock limit.
The HD7790 clocked to the Overdrive cieling will net you between 4-7% increases in performance which could be enough for a couple FPS, and since it gets there so easy I see no reason why anybody wouldnt crank it up as even the thermals were not really increased at all under the overclocked load. (60C Load stock and 63C Load Overclocked)
In order to ensure no system bottleneck we clocked the CPU to 4.6GHz to ensure there is no reason the system will slow down the card’s performance at all.
Some may ask why we chose the mainstream Z77 system, and we can explain. Up until recent the X79 enthusiasts platform did not really support PCI-E Gen 3 on the Nvidia 600 series GPU’s. Because of the inherent instability many have seen with the X79 platform with Gen 3 products, Nvidia has been hesitant to enable it, and now there is a workaround via registry to get it working. However, in order to ensure the most consistent testing possible, we have stuck to the natively supported Z77 platform.
Important note: Overclocking can cause component failure. Please exercise caution when attempting any level of overclock on system components.
The temperatures were recorded with full loaded Heaven benchmark looping for over 30 minutes or longer depending how long it took for the card to level out in temps and sat at a plateau for more than 10 minutes.
|GPU Temperatures||Temperature (Idle/Load)|
The cooler as I expected on this card was more than enough to keep the GPU nice and chilly as even at max clock it barely hit 63C which means shoudl a higher limit overclock program become available I am betting this card could have alot more headroom waiting to be exploited.
Real world/Gaming Benchmarks
3DMark 11 is the newest in Futuremark’s suite of benchmarking utilities. Its a fully capable DirectX11 benchmark which also stresses and analyzes the system performance as a whole to simulate a heavy rendering environment such as a high end game or other app the end user may run. This benchmark was run with Performance settings 5 times and all runs were averaged for the result below.
Here you can see tthe HD7790 climbs over the GTX 650 Ti 2GB card in both the Performance and Extreme tests which tells me taht the GPU simply is powerful enough to push it to a nice spot and the 1GB framebuffer is not as much of a limit as we may think at this level.
Batman Arkham City
Batman Arkham city is one of those games that is just downright fun, and also it is nice as it gives very repeatable results for a game test. PhysX is disabled to level the playing field due to the fact that it would load the GPU on Nvidia based cards more to add the pretty effects which could hinder framerates giving AMD an advantage.
Here I was a bit surprised to see the 7790 fall below the 7770, but being this is a launch driver it is possible that it simply is not completely optimized especially for a game such as this which is actually an Nvidia “Way its meant to be played” title. So with taht it does stand to reason that NV will get a nice bump here.
Just Cause 2
Just Cause 2 has been in my stable of games for awhile, and is quite graphics intensive so I try to bring it out as it is a fun all around game and allows a nice test of a cards capabilities.
Here again i find the 7790 below the HD7770, and I found this odd enough that I re ran the tests another 3 passes just to confirm. The numbers dont lie so I must assume that it is possible there may be more time needed to get these drivers for the new GPU tweaked to optimum performance.
Lost Planet 2
Lost planet 2 even for being a bit older tends to offer a very good load even keeping top end GPU’s capped at a little over 60 FPS so it is definitely a good tool to put the hurt on a more mainstream value card.
Here with Lost Planet 2 I amd seeing a more favorable result as it jumps above the HD7770 by a decent margin but still the Nvidia cards eek by with less than half a FPS separating it.
Metro 2033 likely one of the most demanding games that we have tested with, as it brings virtually every GPU to its knees. Here to my surprise I see the HD 7790 jump quite ahead of the 650 Ti models even the ones with 2GB Framebuffer and for such a stressful game, it definitely got my attention.
Unigine Heaven is a very popular benchmark, but due to the fact I am still working on validating the repeatability of scores on the new 4.0 version I decided to stick with the 3.0 version for this test.
Here the HD7790 definitely once again pulls a nice result well ahead of the other mainstrweam models but still a decent step behind the GTX 660.
Battlefield 3 is probably one of the most popular FPS titles, and with its range of graphics capabilities definitely a fitting test as it also is played by a alrge part of the PC Gaming crowd.
The HD7790 does quite well here as well with Ultra settings which is no joke for this game, and it pulls a eather respectable 30 FPS average. This would be quite choppy at it lwoer points so a medium/high combo of settings would likely put you in a good playable framerate at 1080p HD resolution but the 1GB framebuffer could also be botlling up the performance as well. This is one of those moments where I wish I had this same card with 2GB Framebuffer just to test.
The HD7790 GPU is a powerful beast for the name it carries as it well exceeds what we have seen from a 7700 series card. I believe with some driver optimizations this card could really wake up to be a greta bang for the buck.
The limit to 1GB framebudffer I feel can be an issue on some modern titles but at this level the effect would be neglidgable as your not going to be pushing memory that hard before you run out of GPU.
This card is one of those products you need to look at for what it is, It is not a GTX680, or HD7970… It is a mainstream level card built for those who just like to game at medium or high settings and dont need every last bit of eye candy enabled.
If I were to build a budget rig for my family and they wanted to do some gaming I could imagine this card could be a good performance budget option, you just have to remember when you get to this level of card you have to know what you plan to play and know its limits out of the gate or you could end up disappointed.
I hope that AMD will loosen the strings a little on the overclocking headroom as even at out of the box clocks you are almost maxed on GPU and are maxed on memory.
All in all I think Sapphire did a really good job on this card maxing the memory out and a healthy clock on the GPU all while making it look as mean as its big brothers. The overclock limitations I found on the card were due to AMD limiting the cieling on the Overdrive utility and not by Sapphire so they simply made what they could out of it.
**Reviewers Note: I would like to revisit this card as drivers mature to see how performance matures and capabilities increase, and also lets not forget possible higher limit to overclocks. (Pending time available)
|OUR VERDICT: Sapphire HD7790|
|Summary: The Sapphire HD7790 is a nice and powerful card at a very value price point. for this it earns the Bjorn3D Seal of Approval|