Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC Review

ccokeman - 2013-03-19 16:13:39 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 21, 2013
Price: $159

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Introduction:

Over the past year plus, AMD has fleshed out the 7000 series product stack, hitting just about every single price performance point. With the introduction of the HD 7790, it fills the gap between the HD 7850 and HD 7770 GHz edition cards to drive a better performing card into that $149-159 gap. Not content to sit on its laurels as AMD's largest AIB partner, Sapphire has skipped the reference card and went straight to what it knows best with a non-stock PCB and non-factory cooling solution from the Dual-X catalog. This new addition offers Crossfire support and three monitor Eyefinity configurations for both productivity and gaming applications.

Built using a new GCN Core codenamed Bonaire, AMD is driving added efficiency and dynamic clock controls ever deeper into the product stack while equipping the price point with parts that can handle the latest games at 1080p without breaking the bank. Packed with 40% more streaming processors than the HD 7770, the HD 7790 should prove to be up to the 1080p challenge. To that end Sapphire has equipped its Dual-X HD 7790 OC with significantly higher clock speeds than the reference design at 1075MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory; all to deliver that gaming experience. So let's pose the question up front: Can it play Crysis 3 out of the box? Let's find out!

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Closer Look:

The packaging used on the Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X is similar to that used in past releases, keeping continuity with the Sapphire branding. The front of the package features Ruby decked out for battle as the main draw. Scattered around the edges are some of the specifics on this card including the mention that, in addition to the Dual-X cooling solution, this card is pre-overclocked right out of the box. Along the bottom are the bus standard, connectivity options, and processor size. The back side is full of information on the feature set including 28nm GCN architecture, AMD CrossfireX support, DirectX 11 support, 3D and audio support over HDMI, and more. To the left is the contents description and a short synopsis of why the HD 7790 is an excellent choice for the gamer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the shell is a standard recycled cardboard box that holds the Sapphire Dual-X HD 7790 OC. Inside the box is a formed cardboard shell that holds the card in place with the accessory bundle in a separate compartment. Sapphire moved to this design as a way of reducing its carbon footprint with recycled materials for the packaging a few years ago. So far the design has proven damage resistant.

 

 

The accessory bundle included with the HD 7790 Dual-X OC includes all of the parts and information needed to get the card installed. You get the installation guide, Sapphire Club registration, driver and utility disk, Crossfire bridge connector, 4-pin moler to 6-pin PCIe power adaptor, and a DVI to D-sub adapter. Slim but it's all you need for this card.

 

So far standard fare for the Sapphire HD 7790. Let's look a little deeper to see what the card has to offer.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Closer Look:

Sapphire's HD 7790 Dual-X OC is a dual slot video card designed for use in a 16x PCIe slot-equipped motherboard. PCIe 3.0 is supported with backwards compatibility to ensure the widest user base. This dual slot cooling solution-equipped video card measures 8.5 inches in length, providing fitment in a larger range of chassis. From the top view you can see the configuration of the dual 11-blade fan cooling solution called Dual-X. This is a two slot cooling solution that pushes air back into the chassis as well as outside it. In the past this design has proven successful. On the back side of the PCB there is not much of interest save for the left end of the card being barren of any surface mount components. The side views shows the cooling solution size and how much of the PCB it covers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Display connectivity includes a pair of DL-DVI ports, a full size DisplayPort, and a single HDMI 1.4a port that supports 3D and HD audio. Eyefinity is supported on up to three screens with the HD 7790, although three screen gaming is most likely going to require a second card in Crossfire. The back end of the card is open to allow the card to discharge some of the thermal load generated into the chassis. Most modern chassis have enough airflow to handle this additional thermal load.

 

 

Crossfire support on the Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X is available with up to a two card configuration. If you need more performance than this, AMD's 7XXX series product stack is full of cards that can get you there. A single 6-pin PCIe power connector is used to supply the additional 75 watts needed in addition to the power supplied by the PCIe slot. The minimum power supply size recommended for a system equipped with the HD 7790 is 500 watts. Typical board power falls in the 85 watt range, a figure proven out in the power consumption tests.

 

 

Sapphire's Dual-X cooling solution consists of an aluminum fin array with a pair of heat pipes pulling the thermal load from the GPU core out to the fin array for discharge through the shroud and out of the chassis. It extends almost the length of the PCB from end to end. The dual heat pipes run directly over a copper contact plate that sits right over the 28nm Bonaire core yet is not a direct heat pipe contact design. The memory is cooled by way of the auxiliary cooling plate/mounting bracket. Thermal material is used to bridge the gap between the GDDR5 ICs and the contact surface.

 

 

Airflow through the heatsink is what cools the GPU and memory on this card, much like just about every video card on the market. A pair of 70mm 11-blade fans provide this airflow. These fans are similar to the dust-proof fans found on the Vapor-X lineup and provide a long life. Surprisingly, this iteration of the fan is much quieter when running at over 4000 RPM than most. When controlled by the VBIOS the fans are inaudible.

 

AMD used a new revision of its Graphics Core Next architecture, codenamed Bonaire, on the HD 7790. This iteration 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 1GB of GDDR5 VRAM running through a 128-bit bus. A total of four memory ICs from Hynix are used that support speeds of up to 1500MHz. Baseline clock speeds from AMD are 1GHz on the GPU core and 1500MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Sapphire tweaked these quite a bit to get the end user a boost clock of up to 1075MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory. A significant boost over the base lines. Stripped down to the core there is not much to cover on the PCB. The VRM circuit is towards the front of the card and is cooled by way of an aluminum heat sink in the fan airstream.

 

 

Equipped with an excellent cooling solution and a serious boost in clock speeds over the reference design, Sapphire's Dual-X HD 7790 OC should have some added muscle when it comes time to flex it.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Specifications:

Process
28nm
Transistors
2.08 Billion
Engine Clock
1075Mhz
Primitive Rate
2 prim/clk
Stream Processors
896
Texture Units
56
ROPs
16
Memory Bit Interface
128
Memory Type
1GB GDDR5
Typical Board Power
~85
AMD Zero Core Power
<3W
Power Connection
6 Pin PCIe
Bus Standard
PCIe 3.0
Minimum System power
500w
Crossfire support
Yes
Display Connectors
DL- DVI-I/DL-DVI-D/HDMI/DP

 

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Features:


All information courtesy of Sapphire @ http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=1&gid=3&sgid=1159&pid=0&psn=000101&lid=1&leg=0

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Testing:

Testing of the Sapphire Dual-X HD 7790 OC 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 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 will be using the 314.21 beta drivers.The 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 press evaluation driver.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking the Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC was a little disappointing since I felt there was so much more in the Bonaire core. Voltage options are not an option with this card so you are left with the limits imposed by the VBIOS. The only option to improve the situation short of modding the card will be to increase the power control settings in whichever utility you choose to use. For this card from Sapphire we used its TriXX utility version 4.60. It proves to be as functional as some of the other utilities on the market.

As a factory overclocked card, the Dual-X HD 7790 already comes with clock speeds of 1075MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Pretty stout clock speeds right out of the gate. The TriXX utility had clock speed limits well in excess of the capabilities of the card, however it seems the VBIOS once again is the limiting factor here with the maximum possible clock speeds that can be attempted are 1200MHz on the Bonaire core and the as delivered 1600MHz on the memory. Setting the clock speeds above this level just returned the clock speeds back to the last level set below 1200/1600MHz. With those limits it took literally 30 seconds to find the maximum clock speeds possible with this card. Quick and easy but there has to be more there.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consisted of looping Unigine 3.0 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 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knocking on the door that leads to 30 FPS, the Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X starts out the testing in strong fashion for a $159 card. Massaging the settings a bit lower can get to that 30FPS threshold.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can it play Crysis has been the question ever since the original game came out. In this case, why yes, it can, even with some of the eye candy turned on. Delivering a playable 35 FPS, the HD 7790 is capable at 1920x1080 using the settings used in the benchmark testing. Overclocking does not help as much as it does with the GTX 650Ti.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A solid 48 to 50 FPS is delivered by the Sapphire HD 7790 in this game.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920x1080 with the in-game settings on Ultra, the HD 7790 Dual-X delivers higher frames per second than the competing GTX 650Ti at stock speeds. Overclocking makes it a dead heat. That being said a playable 41 FPS from a $159 card with those settings is a pretty solid performance.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiRT titles typically are AMD friendly. In this case we see the same result with the HD 7790 Dual-X delivering a 20%+ performance margin over the GTX 650Ti.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this game the HD 7790 Dual-X delivers a significant performance increase over the competing GTX 650Ti for your performance dollar.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As one of the latest titles to be released, Far Cry 3 is surprisingly fluid when testing the game using the HD 7790 Dual-X. At stock speeds it offers a few frames more performance than the GTX 650Ti yet is a few FPS slower when both cards are overclocked. Even in the lower FPS range it delivers; the game looks and plays through without a hitch. It seems the latest driver from AMD fixed some of the gremlins in the test sequence.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although no way playable at the settings tested with, the Heaven is more of a raw DX 11 performance test. The Dual-X HD 7790 is a higher performing piece than the GTX 650Ti.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Testing:

Unigine Valley 1.0 is a new non synthetic benchmark built upon the Unigine engine that showcases a very detailed wide open environment. This DX 11-ready GPU stress test uses a wide range of graphics technologies to put the GPU through its paces much like Unigine's acclaimed Heaven Benchmark. Instead of a series of floating islands we get a picturesque view of the Siberian wilderness through a flythough with both up close and distant views.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stock speeds the HD 7790 Dual-X delivers around 10% more performance than the GTX 650Ti. The margin slims to 0% when both cards are overclocked.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through all six tests the Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X delivers a higher level of performance in the 3DMark tests. In the Fire Strike Extreme test the performance margin Sapphire's HD 7790 has over the GTX 650Ti is in the 100% range; a more than significant up tick in performance.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At idle, the HD 7790 Dual-X from Sapphire is not particularly impressive from a temperature standpoint. However the Dual-X fan configuration is dead silent in an idle state. That being said the temperatures are in line with the lower fan speeds. Where the Dual-X cooling solution shines is when a load is imparted on it. In both of the load tests the Sapphire Dual-X-equipped HD 7790 is the coolest running card in the comparison stack; fully 11 degrees better than the GTX 650Ti when both are overclocked.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X 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.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When comparing the results to the Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X, it's clear AMD has done its work on the power consumption curves. The second generation of AMD's Power Tune technology is able to more efficiently manage the power states to allow higher clock speeds overall. Compared to the GTX 650Ti, the HD 7790 Dual-X delivers roughly the same power draw at stock speeds but is almost 20 watts lower when overclocked.

Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC Conclusion:

A high performance FPS beast the Sapphire HD 7790 is not, nor is it meant to be. That being the case the FPS performance it delivered while using upper end settings is pretty impressive, all things considered. In every test run it was faster than the target competitor's card, the GTX 650Ti, at the target price point of $149/159. While running the gaming tests I found the HD 7790 delivered smooth game play with the settings used for my tests. A tangible result when you compare apples to apples.

Sapphire equipped the HD 7790 Dual-X with a cooling solution that has so far delivered the lowest temperatures of any card I have recently tested under load where it counts. The idle characteristics provide for a noise free environment but the cost is slightly higher idle temperatures; a fair trade off for the cooling performance delivered. Ramping the fans up to the 4400RPM limit does make them audible but no where near what you would expect from fans running that fast. Even so the noise was more a pleasant drone than a higher pitched wail. During testing the fans never ramp up this high without manual intervention, providing that noise free gaming solution.

My one beef with this card is the overclocking abilities. Sure I was able to max out the card as it sits today at 1200MHz (core) and 1600MHz (memory), but nothing higher was capable due to some hard limits in the VBIOS. Sapphire's own utility featured clock speeds higher than the limits, but when applied the clock speed would drop to the last setting under the clock speed limits. Even so free performance is nothing to scoff at but it feels like there is so much more left on the table.

For $159, Sapphire delivered with the Dual-X OC. It delivers smooth game play and is cool and quiet. If you need more performance, another Dual-X OC for some Crossfire fun is the prescription for your performance fix. Now get yer frag on!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: