Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC Review

ccokeman - 2013-04-20 15:32:33 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 21, 2013
Price: $159

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Introduction:

Over the past month OCC has looked at few of the HD 7790 offerings, including cards from Sapphire, PowerColor and most recently XFX's Black Edition. What each of these cards had in common, besides the custom cooling, factory overclocks, and custom PCBs, is the use of a 1GB frame buffer: a pretty common strategy on cards in the $150 price point. Sapphire is bucking that trend with the introduction of the HD 7790 2GB OC model by upping the frame buffer to 2GB while still staying competitive on price at $159.

When I looked at the launch card from Sapphire it included a big factory overclock on the 28nm Bonaire GCN core and the 1GB frame buffer. To top it off Sapphire used a Dual-X cooling solution to make sure that, with the impressive clock speeds, the silicon was kept cool. Aside from the change in frame buffer size, what sets the HD 7790 2GB OC apart from the Dual-X equipped version I looked at is the change in cooling solution design, the addition of a metal backplate that serves to add structural rigidity, as well as additional cooling fins that push through the PCB to help cool the additional GDDR5 memory ICs on the back of the PCB. A single aerofoil fan is used to help cool the HD 7790 2GB OC.

Another point of difference is the slightly lower clock speed of 1050MHz on the Bonaire core while the memory gets clocked similarly to the 1GB-based Dual-X at 1600MHz. Sapphire's FleX functionality feature allows the end user to connect to three displays without the use of an active adapter to reduce additional costs of using a single large surface display of three monitors. Just on feature set alone there are some differences, but how will the added frame buffer help the HD 7790 with in-game performance?


Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Closer Look:

The packaging used on this version of Sapphire's HD 7790 looks similar to that of the 1GB version but has "Ruby" locked and loaded for battle. Information on the front of the package shows you get a 28nm-equipped AMD GCN core that supports Eyefinity, AMD APP acceleration, and PCIe 3.0. The top right of the package shows that this HD 7790 sports a 2GB frame buffer, is factory overclocked, and comes with a 1.8 meter HDMI cable. The back side of the package expands on the capabilities illustrated on the front panel.









Internally the packaging is consistent with what Sapphire has been using for some time. Concerned with the environment, Sapphire uses packaging that is 100% recyclable papers. Inside, the accessory bundle and card are packed in a form fitting cardboard shell. Not a company to skimp on the accessories, Sapphire has included the documentation, driver disk, DVI to VGA adapter, 1.8 meter HDMI cable, Crossfire bridge connection, and a 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCIe power adapter.



Similarly equipped to the HD 7790 Dual-X, the 2GB OC should prove to be a good addition to Sapphire's lineup offering the gamer on a budget a higher level of performance.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Closer Look:

Visually different in more than one way than the HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB I looked at a month ago, the HD 7790 2GB OC features a large, single aerofoil dust free fan pushing the air into the shroud in lieu of a pair of fans. Measuring just 8.5 inches from end to end, the card should easily find a home in a small form factor chassis. You will need a motherboard that supports a 16x PCIe slot to use this card. It supports the PCIe 3.0 standard but is backwards compatible to earlier standards. The back side of the PCB is covered with a metal backplate that helps cool the memory ICs on the back side of the custom PCB. You can see the top of the dual heat pipe-equipped cooling solution through the shroud and see that it is configured differently than the Dual-X card.
















Display connectivity on the HD 7790 2GB OC includes a single Dual-Link DVI-D, single Dual-Link DVI-I, and one DisplayPort 1.2 that supports MST, stereoscopic 3D and lossless 7.1 channel audio. A single HDMI 1.4a port is included that offers 7.1 High Bitrate Audio and 3D stereoscopic support. Additionally Sapphire has employed its FleX technology playbook on this card so that three monitors can be used without the use of an active adapter. The back end of the card is open to allow airflow from the aerofoil fan to escape the shroud. An interesting addition to the backplate on this card is a fin array that sits in the airstream exiting the card and is used to cool the memory ICs on the back of the PCB.



A single Crossfire bridge connection is seen on the HD 7790 2GB OC showing that Crossfire is supported using up to a two card configuration in motherboards that support AMD's multi GPU solutions. Power supply requirements for the HD 7790 2GB remain the same with a recommendation of a 500 watt minimum needed when a single card is used. Crossfire will require an upgrade to a power supply that is rated at 600 watts. A single 6-pin PCIe power connection is needed to provide the power needs for the card. Sapphire supplies an adapter if the power supply is not equipped with a 6-pin PEG connection.



Pulling apart the HD 7790 2GB OC is pretty straight forward. The heat sink/shroud assembly is held on with four spring loaded screws while the backplate is held on by nine screws. Once apart you can see that much like on the Dual-X-equipped 1GB version, this card comes with a custom PCB. Whereas the 1GB card had a large unused portion of the PCB, the HD 7790 2GB OC uses it to effect with the heat sink attached to the backplate protruding through the PCB and into the air stream from the fan to provide the added cooling to the memory ICs on the back of the PCB. The backplate is metal and serves to not only cool the components under it but to also add structural rigidity with a larger cooling solution to keep the traces in the PCB from cracking.



Sapphire uses a cooling solution that uses a pair of 8mm copper heat pipes to carry the thermal load from the copper contact plate to the aluminum fin array for removal by the airflow provided by the 90mm dust free aerofoil fan. The memory ICs on the front of the PCB are covered by the base of the cooling solution keeping them cool in the process. The heat pipes are soldered to the fin array to promote improved thermal transfer and ultimately thermal efficiency of the cooling solution.



Sapphire has been using fans that feature a dust free design on its non-reference builds for some time now as a way to improve the long term reliability of the solution. A fan that slows down or stops running altogether will cook the GPU in no time and was a leading cause of card failures at one time. This fan is made by FirstD, part number FD9015U12S, and runs on 12V .55a. Nine aerofoil blades are used to push the air through the heat sink and shroud.



AMD and its partners are using a new revision of its popular Graphics Core Next architecture, codenamed Bonaire, on the HD 7790. The Bonaire core is built on a 28nm process with 2.08 billion transistors under the hood. Specifications include 896 stream processors that handle two primitives per clock, 56 texture units, 16 ROPs, and on this version from Sapphire we see 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM still running through a 128-bit bus. A total of eight memory ICs from Hynix, the ever popular H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C, are used that support speeds of up to 1500MHz. Baseline clock speeds from AMD for the HD 7790 are 1GHz on the GPU core and 1500MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Sapphire bumped these clocks up a bit for some added performance using a boost clock of up to 1050MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory.



Any way you look at it Sapphire came to the table with an excellent card in the HD 7790 Dual-X featuring a 1GB frame buffer. It listened to the market that wanted a full 2GB on board. Let's see where it makes a difference.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Specifications:

2.08 Billion
Engine Clock
Primitive Rate
2 prim/clk
Stream Processors
Texture Units
Memory Bit Interface
Memory Type
Typical Board Power
AMD Zero Core Power
Power Connection
6 Pin PCIe
Bus Standard
PCIe 3.0
Minimum System power
Crossfire support
Display Connectors


Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Features:




All information courtesy of Sapphire @

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Testing:

Testing of Sapphire's HD 7790 OC equipped with 2GB of GDDR5 memory  will consist of running it and comparison cards through the 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 adjustments will be made to the respective control panels during the testing to approximate the performance the end user can expect with a stock driver installation. 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 NVIDIA comparison cards, including the GTX 650Ti Boost, will be using the 314.21 beta drivers. AMD-based cards will be using the Catalyst 13.1 drivers and latest CAP profile with the exception of the HD 7790, which will use the release press evaluation driver.


Testing Setup:


Comparison Video Cards:




Overclocking on the Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC proved a bit more fruitful than on the HD 7790 Dual-X just because some of the popular overclocking utilities have been updated to get that last little bit of clock speed out of the card. I saw that with the last HD 7790 I looked at that reached 1251MHz on the core and 1700MHz on the memory. Sapphire's HD 7790 2GB OC did not go quite that high but still was able to pull a 190MHz bump over the factory 1050MHz and was a bit stingy on the memory that already was clocked pretty close to its limits with just a 40MHz boost over the as delivered 1600MHz.

Even with that being said the HD 7790 2GB OC is one of the higher clocking cards in the comparison charts. Reaching these clock speeds did not require a boost to the power tune settings to reach the final clock speeds. If anything it impacted stability when used. Running the fan at 100% during the overclock testing allowed the card and components to stay cool, maximizing the overclock with a maximum temperature of 49 °C recorded. I usually like to use the utilities each manufacturer builds for its cards, but Sapphire TriXX is running a little behind on getting full functionality for the HD 7790 cards. I still ran into clock limits when setting the clock speeds, although I could set them in another utility and have them display correctly in TriXX. This is something that when fixed will once again make it the go to for Sapphire cards.


Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consisted of looping Unigine Heaven 4.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds failed when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment failed, then the clock speeds and tests were rerun until they passed a full hour of testing.



  1. Metro 2033
  2. Crysis 3
  3. Batman: Arkham City
  4. Battlefield 3
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0
  6. Unigine Valley 1.0
  7. Sid Meier's Civilization V
  8. DiRT 3
  9. Far Cry 3
  10. 3DMark


  1. Temperatures
  2. Power Consumption

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC 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.












Running lower clock speeds than the other HD 7790s in this comparison it still delivered comparable performance. Overclocking did provide a 2FPS margin over the Sapphire Dual-X and was on par with the higher overclocked XFX card.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Testing:

This third installment of the Crysis franchise, developed by Crytek and distributed by Electronic Arts, uses the CryEngine 3 game engine, and requires a DirectX 11 ready video card and operating system due to its demanding graphics engine.















While the margins are small it looks like the added memory helps in this game.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC 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.


















In BF3 the additional memory keeps the card competitive with a lower clock speed in the stock testing.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC 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.















In this game we are seeing the same results repeated at stock speeds.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC 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.
















At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the results again allow the lower clocked 2GB model to stay with the higher clocked 1GB versions.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC 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.
















In Civilization V the 2GB card shows an increase in performance at stock speeds over the higher clocked cards. The additional frame buffer cannot overcome the higher clock speeds on the XFX card when both are overclocked.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Testing:

Far Cry 3 is the latest iteration in the Far Cry series. Released in the US in early December 2012 the it uses the Dunia 2 game engine and is published and developed by Ubisoft. This Action Adventure First Person Shooter offers both single player and multi-player modes.















Far Cry 3 can be played with high in-game settings on the HD 7790 2GB OC. The additional memory on board is not showing a benefit in this game with the settings used at 1920x1080.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 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.















Comparing the three HD 7790 cards in this test shows very little gain one way or the other with a 1FPS margin at most.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Testing:

3DMark: The just released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base the ability to make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and Extreme Gaming PCs.













In this test the benefit of the additional onboard memory finally show a definitive increase in performance. Most specifically in the Fire Strike Extreme testing where the HD 7790 2GB OC from Sapphire delivers a benchmark score almost on par with the GTX 650Ti Boost.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 4.0, 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.














Looking at the cooling results shows that the HD 7790 2GB OC slips behind the dual fan-equipped cards from Sapphire and XFX at stock speeds. All three cards use a dual heat pipe design yet the HD 7790 2GB OC has a single fan and smaller fin array. However when the fan speed is pushed up to 100% the larger fan becomes the great equalizer, dropping the temperatures right on down to the level of the XFX card and within two degrees of Sapphire's Dual-X solution. Fan noise at stock speeds is negligible and can't be heard from outside the chassis. At 100% the fan is audible but not to the point of being loud.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Testing:

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 4.0 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.













You would expect that powering an additional 1GB of memory would show up in the increased power consumption results. Here we see the 2GB Sapphire card using more power than the Dual-X 1GB version.

Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC Conclusion:

After all the testing is done, the Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC will offer up additional FPS performance when the settings are increased to take advantage of the larger frame buffer. Instances where running with a quartet of 4K monitors or when attempting to game at Eyefinity resolutions can provide some benefit over the 1GB-equipped cards. The most graphic example I saw in my testing of where the 2GB on this HD 7790 paid dividends was in the 3DMark Fire Extreme testing where this card proved without a doubt when the game settings are indeed high enough you do see a point of difference.

Just looking at the Sapphire HD 7790 2GB gives you the impression that it is a mini-me version of the HD 7970 Vapor-X. From the shroud to the functional backplate it just has that aggressive look. By using a backplate that is there for more than just looks, Sapphire has provided added functionality in the form of an innovative way to improve the cooling effectiveness of the backplate. By attaching a heat sink to the backplate and sending it up through a knock out in the PCB, it uses the airflow generated by the aerofoil fan to keep the memory ICs on the back of the PCB cool for improved long term stability.

Using a smaller cooling solution rarely pays off with improved or comparable cooling performance. At stock speeds the cooling is not as efficient as the Dual-X design used on Sapphire's 1GB model. However when the fan is ramped up to 100% it is right back in the game and falls only two degrees shy of the Dual-X results. This cooling performance helps the card stand out when overclocking with a final clock speed of 1240MHz over the baseline clock speed of 1050MHz; a 190MHz jump that provides additional FPS in game.

Connecting three displays to AMD cards usually requires the use of an active adapter that only adds to the costs associated with running three monitors. Sapphire has a select group of its product stack equipped with FleX technology that eliminates that added cost when running a three monitor Eyefinity setup for gaming or use as a single large surface workstation desktop. Sapphire's equipped the HD 7790 2GB OC with this technology as an added bonus for the end user. Up to four displays are supported in a 16K by 16K configuration.

Another added value proposition is that this card qualifies for a free game key for BioShock Infinte as part of AMD's Never Settle Reloaded game bundle. An added $60 value on top of the $25 to $30 you save not having to pick up an active adapter if using three displays.

Overall Sapphire continues to put out products that sets it apart from the pack with innovative cooling solutions and cards that meet the needs of the gaming community. When you look at the total package you get a card that looks good, performs and cools well, and has an added feature set for the same low point of entry. If you are gaming at 1920x1080 and want to run at high settings you can do so all for that for the same $159 price point as the 1GB versions with Sapphire's HD 7790 2GB OC.