Sapphire Radeon HD 7750 Low Profile Review
Reviewed by: Waco
Reviewed on: August 30, 2012
AMD's 7000 series video cards have proven themselves to be quite capable performers at almost every price point imaginable. The HD 7970 reigns supreme at the top of the hill in terms of performance, but it has a price tag and form factor that go right along with it. However, what if you want to spend less money, still get good performance, and fit it into an extremely small case? Fear not, Sapphire has a card for you. Today I will be looking at a custom HD 7750 low-profile GPU that sits firmly on the low end of the price range at $104.99, but should offer up great performance in a small package. The HD 7750 GPU is built on the same 28nm process that the HD 7970 is built upon but is a much smaller cut-down version of the Graphics Core Next architecture. With a smaller TDP (55 watts) the cooler is also much smaller than most are used to seeing on a card actually capable of real gaming. Most small cards with tiny fans tend to be whiny and annoying and since Sapphire is well-known for its quiet and cool-running video cards, this low-profile card has a big name to live up to.
Now that you know a little bit about this midget-sized GPU keep reading to find out if it packs more punch than it appears to be capable of delivering!
As is usual for Sapphire branded cards the box for the Sapphire HD 7750 features AMD's Ruby. This particular version of Ruby has her suited up in jungle camouflage and decked out in a bandolier of bullets. If the model of the card didn't imply that this card was built for gaming, the front of the package certainly does! The front also includes the basic features of the card including the 1GB of GDDR5 memory, HDMI/DisplayPort/DVI outputs, Crossfire, and the low profile nature of the card itself. Spinning around to the back side of the box there's a quick blurb about the basic features of the card and a listing of the features common to all HD 7000 series cards from AMD. Sapphire isn't afraid to flaunt the huge list of awards it has gained over the years either as you can see on the bottom left of the box. The bottom of the box has a basic list of specifications and requirements for the card. Overall the box looks good, so keep moving to see the card in play!
Opening up one end of the box reveals another box inside that contains the card and accessories. It's hard to see in the picture but the HD 7750 itself is dwarfed by the static-free bubble wrap it is shipped in. The card is extremely light but is well-packed to avoid damage in shipment. Along the bottom of the box are the accessories: a manual, product registration, driver disc, full-height VGA bracket, mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter, micro-HDMI to HDMI adapter, and the usual DVI to VGA adapter. Move on to the next page to see just how diminutive this card really is!
Sliding the Sapphire HD 7750 out of its cushy static-free bubble wrap reveals its true nature. This card is extremely small. I've seen and used low-profile cards in the past but I really wasn't prepared for just how compact Sapphire has made this card. It ships with the low-profile VGA bracket installed by default; swapping this out is an easy affair that I will cover in a bit. The card itself is decked out in the traditional Sapphire blue PCB and the heatsink is almost entirely black. While some low-profile cards tend to have coolers that either stick over the edge of the PCB (making them not really low-profile at all) or that take up dual slots, this card sticks to its name well. A small 51 mm fan sits offset on the heat sink and approximately above the GDDR5 RAM. As you can see from the side profile shots this card isn't a case-hogging beast like some cards have become. This card requires a PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot and is also backwards compatible with PCIe 2.1/2.0 x16 slots.
Connectivity on this diminutive card is a bit less robust than you may see on a larger card. With three outputs capable of being used at the same time this card is Eyefinity-ready out of the box! The micro-HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs are dwarfed by the full size Dual Link DVI port. Thankfully Sapphire included all the necessary adapters in the box to run all three monitors (assuming you have the right cables for your monitors) so you won’t have to go hunting last-minute to get your game on. The other end of the card is mostly bare with the exception of the fan power plug and open end of the heatsink.
Swapping the low-profile VGA bracket for the full-height VGA bracket is a very simple matter. A single screw through the PCB and the two DVI connector lugs are the only things that hold the bracket to the card. The rear end of the card lacks even a single PCIe power connector as the card pulls all of its power straight from your motherboard through the PCIe x16 slot. With a rated TDP of 55 watts and with PCIe x16 slots capable of delivering 150 watts this card really doesn’t need the extra connections anyway. While it doesn’t need all of the power capable of being delivered by the PCIe slot perhaps we can tap into that when overclocking…
The small cooler is held on via four spring-loaded screws to ensure proper cooling. Removing them and unplugging the cooling fan allows the cooler to fall away from the card. There are two cutouts in the bottom of the heatsink to allow airflow over the four Hynix RAM modules (256MB each). The GPU core mates to the heat sink with pretty standard TIM (though it is nearly misaligned on the heatsink) and shows even coverage. The backside of the card is crammed full of surface-mount components but is otherwise featureless. Zooming in a little closer on the left side of the card you can see the voltage regulator modules as well as the associated chokes and capacitors. These components are purely air-cooled, which would be quite scary on a larger card, but with a card of such low power draw it shouldn’t hamper anything.
The heat sink itself is machined from a single block of aluminum. Four rubberized pads prevent damage to the core during installation. The fins themselves are fairly short and each side of the heat sink is garnished with a Sapphire logo in white and red. There's really not much more to the heat sink for this card – it looks well-built and capable of shedding the heat that this low-power GPU gives off at stock speeds.
Removing the fan from the heat sink requires the removal of three tiny screws. Once released you can see the through-heat sink cooling vents that direct air over the GDDR5 RAM modules. The fan itself has a black and white Sapphire sticker on the center hub. I could not find any specifications for the fan but at 12 volts it can pull a maximum of .25 Amps and is a ball bearing design for extended life. The fan only has a 2-pin connector so the card controls the fan by varying the voltage (as opposed to 4 pin PWM control). When using the card with automatic fan speeds I never heard this little fan spin up, which was quite a surprise. Enthusiasts of quiet computing, fear not! That same silence did, however, disappear rapidly when cranking the fan to 100% for overclocking. It puts out a surprisingly loud whine but is still relatively quiet compared to most blower-style fans on reference cards.
Cleaning off the stock TIM reveals the extremely small 28nm Cape Verde GPU from the AMD Southern Islands family. This particular version of the core is the Cape Verde Pro featuring 512 stream processors, 32 ROPs, and 16 TMUs. Its maximum TDP is 55 watts when running at 800MHz. The four Hynix GDDR5 RAM modules are model H5GQ2H24MFR rated at 1250MHz (5000MHz effective). With a bit of headroom on the RAM specifications it should be trivial to get some extra performance out of this card. Move on to the next page to find out more!
1 x Dual-Link DVI
1 x Micro-HDMI (with 3D)
1 x Mini-DisplayPort
800 MHz Core Clock
28 nm Process Chip
512 Stream Processors
1125 MHz (4500 MHz Effective)
170mm (L) x 67mm (W) x 18mm (H)
DVI to VGA Adapter
Mini-DP to DP Cable
Micro HDMI to Std. HDMI
- AMD Eyefinity 2.0
- AMD Stream Technology
- AMD HD3D Technology
- AMD PowerTune Technology
- AMD PowerPlay with ZeroCore Power Technology
- AMD HD Media Accelerator and APP Acceleration
- AMD CrossfireX Support (2 GPUs)
All information provided courtesy of Sapphire @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=1&gid=3&sgid=1159&pid=1658&psn=&lid=1&leg=0
Testing of the Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.
The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark 11 testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA Control Panel, if applicable. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. All NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 305.37 drivers; AMD will be using Catalyst 12.6 drivers.
- Processor: Core i7 2600K @ 4.4 GHz 100 x 44
- CPU Cooling: Corsair H100
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z68AP-D3
- Memory: Mushkin 991996 Redline PC3-17000 9-11-10-28 16 GB
- Video Card: Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile
- PSU: Antec TruePower New TP-750
- Hard Drives: Corsair Force GT 240 GB SSD
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 650D
- Optical Drive: N/A
- OS: Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit SP1
Comparison Video Cards:
- Sapphire HD 7770 Vapor-X
- Sapphire HD 7870 Flex
- Sapphire HD 7950 OC
- ASUS GTX 560Ti DirectCU II TOP
- ASUS GTX 660Ti DirectCU II TOP
- MSI N660Ti Power Edition
- Galaxy GTX 660Ti
- Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile Core 1240 MHz, Memory 1440 MHz
Although not included with the card, I used the freely available Sapphire TriXX overclocking utility to crank up the clocks on this diminutive little beast. After cranking the fan speed to 100% I proceeded through a series of tests to determine the maximum stable clock rates. The limits for the board within TriXX are +50% on the power limit (which is quite high) and 1225 mV for the core voltage (which is well within reason). I cranked both sliders to the maximum values before starting my hunt for the highest core and memory frequencies. Because this card starts out with "low" frequencies I immediately started bumping up the clocks in quite large increments. After a few iterations of testing and tuning I ended up with an overclock of 440MHz on the core (+55%) and 315MHz on the memory (+28%). This is an absolutely massive overclock! The temperatures, as you'll see later, leave a bit to be desired but aren't terribly unreasonable for such a tiny card (though you'd likely want a larger cooler if you ran these clocks 24/7).
Maximum Clock Speeds:
Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 3.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds are adjusted and the test is rerun until each card passes the testing.
- Gaming Tests:
- Metro 2033
- Batman: Arkham City
- Battlefield 3
- Sid Meier’s Civilization V
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
- DiRT 3
- Mafia II
- 3DMark 11
- Power Consumption
Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX, and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied – in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses, chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.
- DirectX 11
- 16x AF
- Global settings = Very High
- PhysX = Off
- DOF+ Off
The Sapphire 7750 Low Profile is the slowest card in this roundup but it's also the cheapest. Overclocking nets significant gains and it nearly matches the more expensive 7770!
Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.
- DirectX 11
- 4x MSAA
- 16x AF
- Global settings = Very High
- PhysX = off
The Sapphire 7750 again trails the pack at these settings but the game is fairly smooth overall. Overclocking again nets quite a large gain and nearly matches the 7770 again.
Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.
- 4x AA in CP
- 16x AF in CP
- Game settings = Ultra
At these settings the 7750 just doesn't have enough horsepower for fluid framerates. Overclocking helps a lot, but you'd definitely want to lower your settings a bit for smooth gameplay.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.
- 8x AA
- 16x AF
- Shaders = High
- Tesselation = Extreme
- Measurement = FPS
The Sapphire 7750 Low Profile again trails the pack of more expensive cards but catches up quite a bit when overclocked.
Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 150 turns into the game.
- 8x MSAA
- Global Settings = High
- DirectX 11
In Civilization V the 7750 doesn't perform too badly at all. The framerates are playable, if a bit less smooth than the other cards in the review. Overclocking didn't help the framerates on this game quite as much as the others.
DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.
- 8x AA
- 16x AF in CP
- Ultra Settings
The Sapphire HD 7750 again trails the pack in DiRT 3 but is still fairly smooth. Overclocking nets a huge gain jumping from 43 FPS all the way to 60 FPS!
Mafia II is a third-person shooter that puts you into the shoes of a poor, Sicilian immigrant, Vito Scarletta. Vito has just returned home from serving overseas in the liberation of fascist Italy, to avoiding his jail sentence, to finding his family in debt. The debt must be repaid by the end of the week, and his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, conveniently happens to have questionable connections that he assures will help Vito clear the debt by that time. As such, Vito is sucked into a world of quick cash. Released in North America for PC in August of 2010, the game was developed by 2K Czech, published by 2K, and uses the Illusion 1.3 game engine.
- 4x AA
- 16x AF
- In-game settings = High
- Ambient Occlusion = On
In Mafia II the little card that could just can't cut it. These framerates aren't very smooth at all and overclocking didn't help matters much. Settings would definitely need to be lowered for smooth gameplay.
3DMark 11 is the next installment in Futuremark’s 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the year proceeding its release (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage is only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark, while the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing; one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulation and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.
With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests. Unlike the tests, however, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and presents a location similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story – they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides – the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.
- Default test settings
- Entry test: 1024 x 600
- Performance test: 1280 x 720
- Extreme test: 1920 x 1080
In 3DMark 11 the Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile performs about as expected at stock speeds in each test. When overclocked it eclipses the stock 7770 quite easily in every test although it can't keep up when the 7770 is also overclocked. Still, quite a respectable showing.
Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with EVGA's Precision overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1080 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.
- Monitoring with Sapphire TriXX
- Unigine Heaven 3.0 1920x1080 8x AA
- 5-run sequence
- 20-minute idle duration
- Temperature measured in degrees Celsius
At stock speeds the little cooler on the Sapphire HD 7750 is more than adequate and keeps temperatures (and noise) in check. The tables turn when overclocked; even with the fan cranked to 100% the temperatures climb into the realm of uncomfortable. The massive boost in performance from overclocking comes at the price of high temperatures.
Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak wattage of the entire system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 3.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to simulate maximum load with the highest measured wattage value recorded as the result. The idle results will measured as the lowest wattage value recorded with no activity on the system.
- Unigine 3.0 Heaven Benchmark
- 1920x1080 Resolution
- 8x AA
- 15-minute load test
- 15-minute idle test
- Measurement is in watts
At stock speeds this little 7750 really sips the juice delivering the lowest load wattage of any card in testing. Things change when cranking up the power, though as the overclocked wattage jumps by 75 watts or so! No wonder that little heat sink got so hot; the 7750 is pulling over double its stock TDP at these settings! It even surpasses the overclocked Sapphire HD 7770 by almost 40 watts.
So how to describe this little card? The Sapphire HD 7750 Low Profile is certainly worthy of your consideration. It is an extremely tiny card with an efficient cooler that keeps temperatures well in check when running stock speeds without a lot of noise. No, it won't run everything at maximum settings with perfect fluidity, but it also only sets you back a measly $104.99. It doesn't suck up much juice under load and it doesn't clutter your case with a bunch of wires either. True, the temperatures when overclocking rose to nearly insane levels, but you can only expect so much from a cooler smaller than your average smartphone. That said, if you manage to keep the card cool, it overclocks like a monster and there's a lot of potential performance on the table if you're willing to push it to its limits. It's not often that you see any card overclock by over 50%.
If you're building a micro-sized gaming system (or even if you aren't) you should definitely keep this little trooper in mind. For the price it's very competitive with other 7750 cards, though if you aren't limited by size a larger card with a better cooler would probably be a better option. If you're size-limited though, this card is for you. It is perfect for a home theater PC and is more than fast enough for 3D video display, GPU video transcoding, and moderate gaming. Your HTPC and your eyes will thank you!
- Low profile
- Quiet cooler (stock speeds)
- Good performance
- Great overclocking
- HOT when overclocked to the max
- Power consumption rather high when overclocked