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Sapphire HD7790 2GB: Beefing up the Midrange Monster

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.

Test Rig

Test Rig
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
Optical ASUS BD-ROM
GPU Sapphire HD7790 2GB
Additional Cards
N/A
PSU Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1475W
Mouse Tt eSPORTS Theron gaming mouse
Keyboard Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 mechanical gaming keyboard

 

Test Suite

We will use the following applications to test the performance of the graphics card.

Synthetic Benchmarks & Games

Benchmarks
3DMark11
Batman Arkham City
Just Cause 2
Lost Planet 2
Metro 2033
Heaven Benchmark
Battlefield 3

 

Overclocking

The Sapphire HD7790 2GB Card comes out of the box overclocked and upon trying to overclock it via AMD Overdrive, we found that just like the other 7790 models, the limit of the program is reached before the limit of the card. The Overdrive utility maxes out at 1600MHz (6400MHz) memory which means the card’s memory is maxed out-of-box; Overdrive also maxes at 1200MHz GPU, but the card’s actual chip hits that without even a thought. We really hope some software with higher limits is available soon as limits built into the AMD Overdrive program prohibit this card from stretching its legs properly.

The HD7790 clocked to the Overdrive ceiling will net you between 4-7% increases in performance which could be enough for a couple FPS. However, the card reaches these conditions so easily, we can’t imagine anyone stopping there, especially as the temperatures reached (60C Load–Stock and 63C Load–Overclocked) are under the thermal limits of the card.

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.

Temperatures

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)
HD7790 2GB OC 31C/64C
HD7790 2GB 31C/62C

The cooler was more than enough to keep the GPU nice and chilly as even at max clock it barely hit 64C. Should a higher limit overclock program become available we are certain this card could have a lot more headroom waiting to be exploited.

 

Real world/Gaming Benchmarks

 

3DMARK 11

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 the HD7790 2GB climbs over the GTX 650 Ti 2GB card in both the Performance and Extreme tests. This tells us that the GPU assumption we made earlier is correct as the drop in frequency to 1050MHz nets a lesser performance score than the 1GB model.  However given a program which has enough texture loading or a larger display array, we could see this being a very good card for this segment.

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 we found the 7790 once again falling below the 7770 but this could simply be due to driver immaturity–we still have not seen a driver update for the HD7790 so we hope soon they will have a newer driver with better performance optimizations.

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 we are still finding that the lower clock speed it puts the 2GB model slightly below what we saw from the previous 7790 card. However, considering that these cards can clock to 1200 easily we know it can make up that ground with a quick clock setting, but we do wonder why they set it so conservative from the factory.

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 once again the 2GB variant is slightly lower and slightly being beat out by the 650 Ti.

Metro 2033

 

Metro 2033 likely one of the most demanding games that we have tested with, as it brings virtually every GPU to its knees. Here the 2GB card did rather well as the VRAM was seen and utilized to open up a little extra performance due to the amount of memory usage.

Heaven Benchmark

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 2GB card is ahead of the 7770 and even the previous 1GB 7790 and shows a rather good showing at filling in the gap between the two chipset segments.

Battlefield 3

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 extremely stressful for any GPU. The 2GB 7790 renders quite playable average framerates although i think you would be much better served to turn details down a little to ensure constant playable framerates and avoid the occasional stutter you may see otherwise.

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