Sapphire was the first to get us a 7790 to check out and again the first with the 2GB variation of the card. Some neat little features make this card a nice standout from the crowd, so let’s see what the card has to offer .[review_ad]
Introduction – Sapphire HD 7790 2GB
Sapphire is the premier partner for AMD and so to get things from this first is growing less and less surprising. With the recent launch of the 7790 cards, the 1GB model left some users wondering why there was not a 2GB model offered to serve those looking to expand to multi display or even CrossFire setups. Sapphire was not too far behind with the answer we have today which is a 2GB variant of the popular HD7790 model card.
The HD 7790 2GB edition comes to market at a price of $169.99 directly from Newegg at the time of writing. This places it right in the fold for some stiff competition so lets see what the card has to offer for the budget conscious gamer.
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 eligible to be bundled with a copy of Bioshock Infinite from participating retailers, so that could be a pretty nice added bonus for anyone 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 models which did not use Pitcairn GPU like other 7800′s and opted for a Tahiti LE model.
As you can see the Bonaire GPU die is a new design in between 7700 and 7800 series which is larger and as we have already seen carries some definite capabilities for a gaming system.
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 excellent compatibility with triple display Eyefinity 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 depending on the loading of the card. This could allow for a much higher clock for even better gaming performance .
Rear Backplate memory cooling
Sapphire Equipped the 2GB model with a custom backplate which has a special pass through on the PCB and a passive cooling array made to use the exhausted cooling airflow from the GPU cooler to assist with cooling the memory chips on the rear of the card.
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 2GB
The packaging for the HD7790 2GB is very similar to the 7790 we just recently viewed from Sapphire with the exception of the 2GB notation. The card is marked as overclocked and carries a 50MHz boost to the standard 1GHz clock. This is 25MHz below most other models so we will need to see how this affects performance vs previously tested models.
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 included is exactly like we saw from the previous 7790 from Sapphire. The eco-friendly packaging is cool as it shows environmentally consciousness of Sapphire as a company.
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Here we have the full card and you can see that unlike the original 7790 we saw from Sapphire this one has a much larger centralized fan which pushes air in both front and rear sides to cool the full heatsink array. Also do note the new backplate found on the 2GB models. We’ve always liked backplates as they cover sensitive components, stiffen the card and also make it look nice overall. This backplate happens to work as a heatsink as well and we will look more closely at this pretty soon.
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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.
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Pulling the 2GB 7790 apart you can see for the most part it has a standard layout although the heatsink grid jutting up through the PCB was of interest. Upon removing the backplate you can see that there are thermal strips between the memory ICs and the backplate which allows the backplate to work as the heatsink for the memory and the small array comes through the PCB and into the cooling airflow from the GPU cooler which allows a form of active cooling for the rear memory ICs which means cooler and more stable operation.
It is worth nothing that the card utilizes a single 6 pin PCIe connector for supplemental 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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Digging in deeper here you have the HD7790 “Bonaire” GPU ready to unleash some serious gaming horsepower.
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Here you can see the previously mentioned pass through on the PCB which allows the fin array from the backplate to reach the cooling airflow. This is a very cool design and we have to applaud Sapphire for this kind of innovation as it simply shows that they are very serious about making sure you have a great experience with their cards.
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 we have looked at, but remember this mainstream GPU does not pull huge loads of power which means you don’t 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|
|GPU||Sapphire HD7790 2GB|
|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 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.
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|
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 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 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.
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 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.
The HD7790 GPU has proven itself to be a very capable offering and now with 2GB available its even better.
The choice to lower the clock speed puzzles us when we have seen every tested HD7790 hit the 1200Hz mark without even trying. We wonder why Sapphire would choose to lower the clock speed in comparison to the 1GB model, which in some tests, makes the card look like a lower performing card due to how the program works with the GPU in coordination with its GPU speed.
The addition of the extra 1GB of framebuffer means that if you utilize multiple displays or even opt for a CrossFire configuration you will have much more memory to feed these hungry GPUs.
Overall the ability to overclock means these cards can see up to 6-11% performance increases depending upon the game/app, but out of the box it is a bit slower.
With the ability to CrossFire two cards together, 2GB framebuffer, and excellent overclockability, this is a very good option for any gamer looking to build a modest but powerful gaming rig. Add in the great design with the backplate and how it is built to help dissipate the thermal from the memory ICs, and this card is a winner.
|OUR VERDICT: Sapphire HD7790 2GB|
|Summary: The Sapphire HD7790 2GB is another step in the right direction for the midrange AMD GPU which opens up for better possible performance. For this it earns the Bjorn3D Silver Bear Award.|