SAPPHIRE HD 7750 ULTIMATE Review
Reviewed by: tacohunter52
Reviewed on: March 19, 2012
A passively cooled video card is something you usually don't see these days. However, in the past Sapphire has kept HTPC users happy with the "ULTIMATE" lineup of passively cooled video cards. This line features lower end cards, which are usually perfect for the HTPC. These cards, despite being on the lower end of the performance spectrum, are perfect for HTPCs. Because they operate without a fan, obviously, the card is completely quiet. There is nothing worse than hearing the whirl of a fan spinning over your movies! Sapphire has continued its "ULTIMATE" lineup, with a card from AMD's 77XX series, the HD 7750 ULTIMATE.
As with previous generations of the ULTIMATE series, the HD 7750 ULTIMATE is equipped with a completely passive cooler. This feature makes the card a great choice to be used in an HTPC, or any machine needing a quiet GPU solution. Unfortunately, the passive cooler will cost you an extra $20 on top of what a normal HD 7750 would cost. Other than that, you can expect the same from the Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate, as you would from any of the Cape Verde HD 7750 cards. Will this passively cooled card be perfect for light gaming machines and HTPCs, or will the $129 price tag prove to be $20 to much? Let's get it unboxed and find out!
As usual, the Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE's packaging comes equipped with a few images of Sapphire's sword wielding female mascot. The box uses a familiar blue and black color scheme and features the card's full name, as well as a few specifications, across the front. The rear end of the box features a more detailed debriefing of the card's specifications and features, as well as a list of some of the awards Sapphire video cards have won. The sides of the box feature the Sapphire logo, as well as more specifications for the HD 7750 ULTIMATE.
Opening up the card's packaging reveals an inner, biodegradable cardboard box. Opening this up reveals a few of the card's included accessories, sitting on top of the card itself. Removing these reveals the HD 7750 ULTIMATE wrapped in an antistatic bag and safely incased in foam. Included with the card was a users guide, an owner's manual, and a drivers CD. Sapphire was also awesome enough to include a DisplayPort cable, along with the usual DVI to VGA adapter!
Now that we've got the card unpacked, let's take a look at the card itself!
Once you've removed the card from its antistatic bag, the first thing you'll notice, it's actually hard not to, is the giant cooler. This massive cooler utilizes four heatpipes, each of which transfers heat through four different, but equally massive, finned sections of aluminum. The cooler is mounted to the card by the four standard tension screws. As far as PCB color goes, Sapphire decided to go with a nice light blue, a very familiar color scheme. The cooler makes it fairly hard to see the rest of the HD 7750 ULTIMATE, however, there is one more thing I'd like to mention. A warning sticker is located directly on top of the cooler. It states that you should not touch the cooler after the card is in, or has recently been in operation. The reason being that it will be extremely hot! I'd expect this to be common sense and hopefully this is not an indication of the temperatures we can expect to see!
Most people looking to purchase the Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate will probably not be running a three monitor Eyefinity setup. However, if they so wanted to, they would be able to do so by using the card's HDMI, DVI, and DisplayPort connectors. With that said, I did notice flickering through the card's DisplayPort and included cable. However, using a different cable did eliminate this problem. So, I'm hoping that this experience was limited to the cable I received, as there isn't much point in using a cable that will cause problems. As with other HD 7750s, the HD 7750 ULTIMATE will draw all of its power from the PCIe X 16 slot. This is also what it will use to transfer data if you wanted to crossfire it with another HD 7750. In other words, you won't find a crossfire connector on this card.
To more closely examine the card's passive cooler, we'll have to remove it from the HD 7750 ULTIMATE. This is easily done by removing the four screws that hold it in place. Once removed, we can see that the cooler has a copper base, which will make direct contact with the Cape Verde core. Four heatpipes make contact with the opposite side of the copper base, which should hopefully wick heat away to four different sections of aluminum fins. Each section of the fins appear to be the same size, with the top sections bent around the back of the cooler, in order to save space. As with all passive coolers, I'm a little concerned as to how well it will actually cool the card. However, if it does not do a good job, the spacing of the finned sections will allow you to easily mod a fan to the cooler.
Last but not least it's time to take a look at the naked Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE. The card's 1GB of GDDR5 memory is made up of four memory modules. Each pair of these modules are cooled by a black heat spreader. The heat spreaders were stuck on very securely, for this reason, I did not remove them. Located directly in the center of the memory modules is the 28nm Cape Verde core. It comes stock clocked at 800MHz, whereas the memory is pushing a clock of 1125MHz. However, we will be bumping up the clock speeds a bit in order to run our overclocked tests. I for one am fairly interested to see what a passively cooled card can do!
Now that we've got that out of the way, let's run some benchmarks!
1 x Dual-Link DVI
1 x HDMI (with 3D)
1 x DisplayPort
800 MHz Core Clock
28 nm Chip
512 x Stream Processors
1024 MB Size
128 -bit GDDR5
4500 MHz Effective
170(L)x105(W)x43(H) mm Size
DVI to VGA adapter
- Dual-Link DVI: Equipped with the most popular Dual Link DVI (Digital Visual Interface), this card is able to display ultra high resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600 at 60Hz.
- HDMI (with 3D): Support for Deep Color, 7.1 High Bitrate Audio, and 3D Stereoscopic, ensuring the highest quality Blu-ray and video experience possible from your PC.
- DisplayPort: Enjoy the benefits of the latest generation display interface, DisplayPort. With the ultra high HD resolution, the graphics card ensures that you are able to support the latest generation of LCD monitors.
- Advanced GDDR5 Memory Technology: GDDR5 memory provides twice the bandwidth per pin of GDDR3 memory, delivering more speed and higher bandwidth.
- AMD HD3D Technology: Enjoy the most immersive experience possible with full support for High Definition Stereoscopic 3D, a technique that presents 2D images (movies, games, photos) in a format that creates the illusion of three-dimensional depth when using compatible 3D displays / glasses / software.
- 28 nm GCN (Graphic Core Next) Architecture: The new and 28nm GCN Architecture with more efficient process technology puts more transistors in less space, enabling a dramatic increase in Processing Power. Crank the settings, devastate your enemies and bear witness to absurdly high frame rates with AMD Radeon HD7000 series graphics card-DirectX 11 has never looked this good. Maximum setting and crazy performance shouldn’t be a compromise. The AMD Radeon HD7900 Series with the new 28 nm GCN Architecture assures that it’s not.
- PCI Express 3.0: PCI-Express 3.0 delivers double the bandwidth per lane of PCIe Gen 2 for faster GPU (GPU communication-up to 16GB/sec in each direction), maximizing the performance from your GPU when paired with the latest platforms.
- AMD Eyefinity 2.0: The next generation of AMD Eyefinity technology is here, featuring all-new support for stereo 3D, universal bezel compensation and brand new display configurations. Face it: the best just got better: The enhancements for AMD Radeon HD7000 series include: Stereo 3D-multi-display stereoscopic 3D support via DisplayPort 16K X 16K maximum display group resolution-output up to 268 megapixels per GPU.
- Discrete Digital Multi-Point Audio: The AMD Redeon HD 7900 Series is the first GPU that can simultaneously output multiple and discrete audio streams via HDMI and DisplayPort Output.
- Shader Model 5.0: Supports the latest Shader Model 5.0 feature set including VTF (Vertex Texture Fetch) which is a key feature used extensively in many of the games that ship today. Without support for this feature the game will fall back to a lesser shader path resulting in the loss of cool, lifelike effects made possible by Shader Model 5.0
- OpenGL 4.2: OpenGL 4.2 improves the GPU efficiency by improving the shader process operation and capturing GPU tessellated geometry. The process of modifying an arbitrary subset of compress texture is also simplified. The memory management in handling shaders is more efficient as well.
- Best Microsoft DirectX11 Support: The tessellation performance on AMD Radeon HD7000 is up to 2X faster than the previous generation, and DirectCompute performance is also faster to accelerate advanced post-processing, filtering, and anti-aliasing techniques. Direct X11 games has never looked this good.
- AMD Catalyst Control Center™: The AMD Catalyst Control Center™ software application gives you complete control over the performance and visual quality of your SAPPHIRE AMD Radeon™ based graphics card allowing for the best experience on your PC.
- Dolby® TrueHD and DTSHD Master Audio™ Support: Support for copy protected, high bandwidth, 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI. Get a fully immersive, high definition audio experience with the latest Blu-ray movies. (Requires a DVI to HDMI dongle on some models, an HD capable monitor and a Blu-ray drive)
- AMD PowerTune™ Technology: AMD PowerTune is a breakthrough technology that sets an entirely new direction for maximum performance at TDP. It allows the GPU to be designed with higher engine clock speeds which can be applied on the broad set of applications that have thermal headroom.
- Display Flexibility: Offers an incredible choice of the latest display connectivity options natively on the board, including dual-link DVI-I, DisplayPort and HDMIalong with adapters to ensure compatibility with your legacy analogue VGA monitor.
- Windows® 7 support: WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) Certified drivers and logos are available for all SAPPHIRE HD2000, HD3000, HD4000 and HD5000 series cards ensuring compatibility and reliability with Microsoft Windows 7.
- AMD App Acceleration: AMD App Acceleration is a set of technologies designed to improve video quality and enhance application performance. Full enablement of some features requires support for OpenCL, DirectCompute or DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA).
- AMD PowerPlay with ZeroCore Power Technology: AMD PowerPlay is a power management technology in response to the GPU loading, AMD PowerPlay automatically manages the power consumption. AMD RADEON HD7000 Series with AMD ZeroCore Power Technology, the power consumption can be as low as less than 3 Watt when idle, making the best use of power.
- Accelerated Internet Applications Rendering: The new AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series accelerates the rendering performance with the latest web browsers (IE10, Firefox 6) and programming interfaces (Direct2D, HTML5, WebGL, Flash 11 / Molehill).
- AMD HD Media Accelerator: AMD HD Media Accelerator has been designed to help optimize and dramatically improve video playback on your computer by taking advantage of hardware video acceleration from your AMD Radeon GPU. With full 3D stereoscopic decode you can enjoy it all in 3D. AMD HD Media Accelerator speeds up the decode of one 1080p and one 1080i HD video streams simultaneously by hardware, and the new hardware encodes/transcoder processes your media content faster than ever!
- Cutting-edge Quad HD display support (4K Support): The display resolution on AMD Radeon HD7000 series is quadrupled to the resolution of 4KX2K( 4096X2160 ) from the outputs of DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI.
All information on this page courtesy of Sapphire @: http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=1&gid=3&sgid=1159&pid=1471&psn=&leg=0#
Testing the Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE will consist of running it and the comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance of the video card against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where they each fall on the performance ladder, using games that are some of today's newest and most popular titles which will provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.
The system specifications 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 Vantage testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel, if applicable. The card will first be tested at stock speeds and then overclocked to see the following effects. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performing in the graphs to show where they fall by comparison. The drivers used are the 11.12 Catalyst drivers for AMD-based cards, with the exception being the new HD 7700 series that have been tested with the latest AMD press release performance driver driver. The 290.53 drivers for NVIDIA-based cards are used for the testing.
- Processors: Core i7 2600K @ 4.4 GHz 100 x 44
- CPU Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H100
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68AP-D3
- Memory: Mushkin 991996 Redline PC3-17000 9-11-10-28 8 GB
- Video Card: Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE
- Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: Lite-On DVD-RW
- Case: Corsair Graphite Series 600T
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Comparison Video Cards:
- Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE Core 879MHz Memory 1250MHz
To be honest with you, I was a little weary of overclocking the Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE all that much, simply because I wasn't sure of what the passive cooler could actually handle. As it turned out, I wasn't able to use the voltage controls for the HD 7750 ULTIMATE, so the overclock didn't end up affecting temperatures at all. After seeing how well the HD 7770s overclocked, I was hoping that this card would be able to hit a core clock of somewhere in the 900MHz range. So I did what you're absolutely not supposed to do, started there, and was greeted with an instant crash! After rebooting the machine I decided that I would achieve the best overclock, by actually doing it properly. After many increases to both the Core and memory clocks I was able to achieve a fair 879MHz and 1258Mhz clock speeds, respectively. While this isn't the most impressive overclock in the world, it's not to shabby for a card that uses a passive cooler.
Maximum Clock Speeds:
Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 2.5 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fails when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds and tests are rerun until they pass a full hour of testing.
- Gaming Tests:
- Metro 2033
- Batman: Arkham City
- Battlefield 3
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5
- 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 = High
- PhysX = Off
As expected the HD 7750 ULTIMATE came in at the bottom of our charts. This doesn't necessarily mean the Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE is a bad card, most of the people purchasing it will not be using it as a gaming card! Overclocking the card gave a decent little performance increase, which is always a nice thing to see.
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
Once again the Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE came in at the bottom of the spectrum. However, the framerates are considered by many to be very playable, which makes this card a great upgrade for HTPCs!
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 = High
I definitely wouldn't consider the framerates, at either resolution, provided by the Sapphire HD 7750 to be playable. However, if you were to turn down the graphics a bit, you will be able to enjoy playing Battlefield 3 on your HTPC, which is hypothetically utilizing the HD 7750 ULTIMATE!
Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5 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.
- 4x AA
- 16x AF
- Shaders = High
- Tesselation = Normal
- Measurement = FPS
The Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE performed, you guessed it, behind every other card in our benchmark suite. However, our benchmark suite is full of higher end videocards, so this performance is to be expected!
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.
- 4x AA
- 16x AF in CP
- Ultra Settings
In a racing game, it is very important to have smooth framerates, something you will not get with our benchmark settings. However, the HD 7750 ULTIMATE did perform fairly well, considering its price.
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
The Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE offered subpar performance, but again, this is to be expected. Overclocking the card gave the same slight performance boost that we've been seeing in all of the benchmarks!
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 ULTIMATE performed, once again, at the bottom of the pack. There was a nice performance boost with the overclock, however, nothing to fancy. As I've said before, if you're looking for a gaming GPU, this isn't for you.
Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 2.5, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1200 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 MSI Afterburner
- Unigine Heaven 2.5 1920x1200 8x AA
- 5-run sequence
- 20 minute idle duration
- Temperature measured in degrees Celsius
When it comes to a passively cooled card, the thing that should interest us the most is the temperatures. After all, every HD 7750 should perform almost exactly the same, give or take a few FPS for factory overclocks. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the cooler Sapphire provided for the HD 7750 ULTIMATE. While it didn't give us extraordinarily cool temps, it was able to perform almost exactly as a stock cooler would, but silently! The only downside I can see to using the passive cooler, is that the heat is not being exhausted from your case as it would with a stock cooler. However, this can be easily remedied by attaching a silent fan to the cooler via zip ties.
Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 2.5 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to heat up the GPU, with the highest measured temperature recorded as the result. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. With dual-GPU setups, the two core temperatures will be averaged.
- Unigine 2.5 Heaven Benchmark
- 1920x1200 Resolution
- 8x AA
- 15-minute load test
- 15-minute idle test
- Measurement is in watts
The Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE kept a nice low power draw, which is great for an HTPC. This is also something I was expecting considering the card draws all of its power through the PCIe slot!
If you're going to be building an all out gaming beast, you probably will not and by all means should not, be using a passively cooled video card! In fact, you probably won't care about how much noise the card makes in the first place. However, if your machine's sole purpose is to be used in an HTPC, silence is key! Nobody wants to hear fans spinning while they're enjoying a movie, so for this purpose the Sapphire HD 7750 ULTIMATE is perfect! At $129, it does come in slightly more pricey than other HD 7750 video cards, but this is one of the few times when the price difference isn't such a big deal. Sure you could buy a cheaper card and replace that pesky stock cooler. But, that would probably just cost the same, if not more, than you would have spent on the HD 7750 ULTIMATE to begin with. This passively cooled card from Sapphire is ideal for any machine, where keeping everything as quiet as possible is more important than having the most powerful GPU available!
Performance wise...well, you're getting what you pay for. You can't expect to pay $129 and get a top notch, current gen, GPU. However, the HD 7750 is perfectly capable of playing most any game currently out with fairly decent settings. Not only that, but I did run a few eyefinity benchmarks and, if you turn the settings down a bit, the card delivers borderline playable framerates, spread across three 1920x1080 screens. So in reality, this card is capable of turning your HTPC into a light and silent gaming machine!
The passive cooler Sapphire equipped the HD 7750 ULTIMATE with is a thing of beauty. While the temperatures weren't anything exceptional, they were perfectly capable of competing with the reference cooler. Not only that, but when it comes to noise, the passive cooler blows the reference design out of the water! Although the passive cooler will certainly do its job alone, I would probably mod a silent fan to it. Why not have even lower temperatures if you can! In fact, this card's passive cooler design, along with how well the cooler performed, earned it an OCC silver award!
When all is said and done, I would definitely recommend the Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate for someone looking to build, or upgrade, an HTPC. The card is perfectly silent and will give a fair amount of performance for its cost. However, if you want to purchase the most powerful card you can for $130, your money could probably be better spent elsewhere!
- 28nm GCN core
- Passive and Silent cooler
- Cooler performs as well as the reference cooler
- Draws power from the PCIe slot