Sapphire HD 7770 Vapor-X OC Edition Review

BluePanda - 2012-05-11 10:35:42 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: BluePanda   
Reviewed on: May 16, 2012
Price: $149.99

Introduction:

Sapphire has had a running line of cards with Vapor-X Technology since 2007 with the release of the 3870 ATOMIC Edition graphics cards. Vapor-X is a method derived from Aerospace applications and high-end server applications that has made it to the market for the "average Joes," you and me. The 4000, 5000, and 6000 AMD series cards have all benefited from the chambered expertise with several additions to the Vapor-X family. Today the 7000 series becomes a part of the family as well. The Sapphire HD 7770 with Vapor-X is now available.

On top of being the first 7000 series into the Vapor-X family, this card has something extra to offer as well; it is also an OC edition with factory clocks at 1100MHz/1300MHz. The core clocks are some of the highest released – it was a big deal just to get the GHz Edition of cards not too long ago. As the third generation of DirectX 11-compatible members, the card is ready for all the newest games, and with the hype of Eyefinity (even I joined the bandwagon) you'll have enough inputs to support your dream setup with two DVI ports, HDMI, and a single DisplayPort. With the costly new NVIDIA cards hitting the market, this just might be the diamond in the rough that fits your budget with enough left over for more.

 

Closer Look:

The box has your classic Ruby on the front decked out in a snow patrol attire, though I'm not so sure how warm it would really keep her in a true snow storm; but there also isn't much skin exposed for you male friends out there looking for a lingering peek. Surprisingly the box does not give a nice shout out to the ever amazing OC edition that it is. Nowhere on the box does it say anything about the factory overclocks – I'm really surprised by this and a bit disappointed to be honest. I feel like that, if nothing else, is a solid selling point; now why isn't it on the box?

The front of the box sports a few stickers: the OC Edition (not that it says anything about the clock speeds), the HDMI high speed sticker (it does come with an HDMI cable), and the 1GB of GDDR5, which is about standard these days anyway. The box also sports the Vapor-X logo, so this should provide a nice warm feeling for any of you who've owned such cards.

The back of the box goes into some specifications and feature details, but again no mention of the OC speeds anywhere. We’ve got an OCC award logo on the box there from Sapphire "winning" us over in the past. I hope this card is worthy of holding the same. Let's get this thing open – I wanna see the card!

 

 

So after cutting the Sapphire sticker tape away the usual brown box is revealed; recycled cardboard with a threefold flap holding things in. Opening it up and a form-fitted recycled shell holds the card and cables securely for shipping; it is great packing. The card is wrapped in a static bubble pack with a warning sticker reminding you to plug the card into your PSU. The included high speed HDMI cable is coiled up with the 6-pin/Molex adapter and the other goodies lie underneath. I'm happy with the packing and looking forward to getting a closer look.

 

 

Here is a shot of the cables and the driver disk from beneath the cardboard tray. A DVI to VGA adapter is included to allow your old monitors to keep chugging along. The foiled Sapphire sticker is included to either add to your case sticker collection or whatever you do with hardware stickers – I really like getting them for some reason; not to show off my hardware, but to stick it to something. The driver CD, a quick install guide, and a small ad flyer are included for whatever you'd like to do with them. The newest and up to date drivers, of course, can still be found on Sapphire's website if you have an Internet connection; but the CD really saves your butt when things go south.

Closer Look:

Okay, we finally get a look at the card itself without the bubble packing, after you drug yourself through the first page – I'm sure you are happy. A top down look shows the dual Vapor-X fans ready to provide extreme cooling. The centers of the fans have a huge V just to remind you what you’ve got. "SAPPHIRE HD 7770" is seen in the lower right corner as the blue PCB peeks in from the bottom edge. It looks to be a genuine Sapphire classic in design. The back of the card shows the blue/turquoise color of the PCB with all the traces and surface mount resistors and capacitors. It's a lot to think about when you think how these somewhat simple in appearance "things" really work – it's definitely not simple. However, it is simple enough to use – it's ready to go in your computer now. Let's get a full look at the card to see what else it has to offer before we test it out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a full profile lineup of the card you can see every side of it up close. The outer plastic shroud for the fans follows a nice line with the heat pipes on the first side of the card shown. You can see the P/N numbers and holographic Sapphire logo stickers on the side as well. A few capacitors and added mini heat sinks can be seen beneath from this angle as well. Around to the other side you can see with the fans up (which in most cases would be pointed down) the Sapphire logo is upside down. From this angle you can see the side of the 6-pin connector as well as a fan connector peeking out from above. There's not too much to show here, just another picture to get you familiar with the card. The two ends of the card show off the 6-pin connector and the display ports respectively. You can see the two DVI ports, as well as the HDMI and DisplayPort connections. It's nothing fancy to look at but is very important when you are considering what cables you might need to keep your system running when you upgrade to this card.

 

 

 

It is an elegant looking card with the heat pipes curving away from the center of the body. You can see the Crossfire finger on the side with the Sapphire logo right side up. It allows you to run it with another card of your liking – perhaps another 7770?

 

 

Overall in appearance it's a pretty standard Sapphire Vapor-X card. It has the same looks as the past Vapor-X cards in the last five years. This one happens to be a member of the dual fan setup, which I like a lot. I ran a 4850 Vapor-X from Sapphire for a long time (part of the single fan family) – just loved the look of the card. It's a consistent look, something that gives you a feeling that you just know you can count on supplying you with years of reliability and game play.

So now we're finally to pulling the brand new card apart. This part always makes me shudder a bit, but you all want to see what makes this card tick don't you? The cooler is attached to the card with four spring-loaded screws. A quick spin of the screwdriver and the heat sink assembly nearly falls right off the card. The 28nm GPU, after being cleaned off, is quite tiny! No wonder these cards sell for such a handsome price. To be honest I was expecting a bit more to be seen when looking at the bottom of the heat sink but perhaps the simplicity of this cooler is what makes it so good? You can see the Vapor-X phase chamber near the center of the heat sink and the fingers that extend off of the edge of the chamber to cool the four Elpida RAM chips. Two large heat pipes jut out the side of the cooler to distribute the heat to the aluminum heat sink cooled by dual fans. This card certainly looks like it means business!

 

 

Specifications:

 

Output
2 x Dual-Link DVI
1 x HDMI 1.4a
1 x DisplayPort
GPU
1100 MHz Core Clock
28 nm Chip
640 x Stream Processors
Memory
1300 MHz Memory Clock
1024 MB Size
128-bit GDDR5
Software
Driver CD
SAPPHIRE TriXX Utility
Accessory
6-pin to Molex Power Cable
High Speed HDMI 1.8m Cable
DVI to VGA Adapter

 

 

Features:

 

 

All information can be found at: http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/?lid=1

 

 

 

Testing:

Testing of the Sapphire HD 7770 Vapor-X OC Edition 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 Vantage 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. The latest press release driver will be used in testing of the GTX 690 and GTX 680. Other NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 296.10 drivers; AMD will be using Catalyst 12.4 drivers.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking an AMD GPU is about as simple as it can get. I simply used Catalyst Control Center to raise up the GPU and memory clock speeds using the sliders. As with any overclocking using CCC, the PowerTune slider was slammed all the way to the maximum of +50%. With such high stock clocks it wasn't easy to push the card much further, maxing out the sliders was definately not an option like you might do with lower factory clocked cards. It was pretty easy to push the card up to 1225/1450 and run marginally stable -- but any part of not stable means it isn't worth running. I bumped it down to the 1215/1430 to run the benchmarks, which seemed to be a pretty solid overclock of this already pre-clocked beast. 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

  1. Metro 2033
  2. Batman: Arkham City
  3. Battlefield 3
  4. Sid Meier's Civilization V
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
  6. DiRT 3
  7. Mafia II
  8. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Testing:

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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The performance of the HD 7770 OC starts out a bit rough with Metro 2033. It's the lowest it performs in the line up of benches. Don't let this turn you away early on, as it has a lot to offer yet. 

Testing:

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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Batman: Arkham City, the HD 7770 OC perfoms well and looks pretty nice considering the frame rates. 

Testing:

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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running through BF3 on high settings the card did manage to keep up. It wasn't perfectly fluid but the card wasn't really designed to be run at these high settings. A step down and this card will handle anything that can be thrown its way.

Testing:

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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nice performance boost is seen from the added overclock from the high factory settings, but the little bit can only help so much.

Testing:

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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this game the performance is playable with no issues. Considering the game, it wouldn't be hard to keep up -- the cut scenes are the only areas of questionable quality. 

Testing:

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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiRT 3 performance has the HD 7770 OC at just playable framerates for the high settings. It would most definately be a lost cause for Eyefinity at such settings, but could easily handle it at about anything less than Ultra settings.

Testing:

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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfomance in the Mafia II benchmark is a bit better than half of the HD 7970 from XFX, a much higher up card in both cost and what should be performance. For the cost, the HD 7770 sure is giving a show.

Testing:

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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 3DMark 11 the HD 7770 OC is again the lowest on the score chart, but I needn't remind you why. However, it does quite the job compared to the next card in comparison, the GTX 570 - a much more expensive card. 

Testing:

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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Vapor-X in the game, the rules have changed and cooling isn't an issue. At idle it is going to be a bit warmer, but it is by no means too hot. At idle it is also a silent card -- I think anyone can trade these slightly warmer temps for a quiet addtion to the case. Under load is where it really shows off, keeping it cool under the heaviest loads, and still remaining a bit quiet; at least compared to some cards. You can easily overclock without messing with the fan profile at all. It does the job, and it does it well. 

Testing:

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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the HD 7770 Vapor-X didn't already have cooling in the bag, it sure took it on the power usage challenge. Though the high end cards it is compared to are expected to have higher usage, the fact that the 7770 showed at least half the use shows good measure. 

Conclusion:

Of course in the end it didn't compare all that well with the cards it was compared to. Take a moment and again remember what cards it was compared to: the new GTX 690 and 680, and the only things really close to compare are the 7970 and 7950 (both members of the top-end 7000 series). The numbers really are about what one should expect though. The card is about half of a 7950 when it comes down to it and does perform about that… half. It's a heck of a lot cheaper and runs cool as heck too. To be compared to these higher end cards on the market is a bit unfair but it is what it is. The fact that it does as well as it did against them shows it is worthy of your machine after all.

If you are looking for something to run most games at moderate to high graphics levels, this is the card for you. It saves you coin upfront as the cost of the card is pretty low. You'll feed off savings in the long run as the card is rather efficient even under full load, something you don't really realize is important until you are the one paying that bill (either way, a definite win). With the Vapor-X cooling finally being released to the 7000 series, we will hopefully see it move upwards to the 7900 series as well in the future; Vapor-X is definitely something Sapphire has that it should never let go of.

In the end, I'm impressed with the card for what it is. It's a perfect card for a mid-range/mid-budget gaming build. The price point really sells it; the graphics are there to play what you want; just not at the highest "Ultra" settings. The factory overclocks don't leave a ton of room to play the overclocking game, but you are guaranteed 1100/1300 delivered to your door. Whatever you get after that is just an added bonus and you won't hear it when you crank the clocks either thanks to the Vapor-X cooler. It also being a member of the 7000 series and with not much competition in the same price range from NVIDIA makes this card a winner for any builder or gamer on a tight budget. This card sells itself.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: