XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked Review

ccokeman - 2013-04-01 17:19:41 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: April 18, 2013
Price: $159

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked Introduction:

Video cards for the sub $200 market have been coming out fast and furious over the past month with a full stack of HD 7790-based cards being released, as well as NVIDIA's reply with the GTX 650Ti Boost that upped the game a little further, pushing it back into AMD's court. Having seen that the HD 7790 offered playable performance at 1080p with high settings, it's interesting to see what each board partner has put together to set its product apart from the rest.

This time around XFX is a little late to the party with the R7790 Black Edition Overclocked but took that additional time to put together a product based upon its own PCB design loaded with XFX Black Edition exclusives. GPU Edging is a core selection process that looks for the highest clocking cores using the default voltage to keep power consumption in check. Double Dissipation cooling with Ghost Thermal Technology is employed to keep the card cool under fire. Duratec professional grade components, including solid capacitors and dust free fans, all continue the theme of improved performance, reliability, and longevity. Once you get past the Black Edition exclusives you get to the base clock speed of 1075MHz on AMD's GCN 28nm Bonaire core and 1600MHz on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory that drive performance to levels much better than the reference design.

All of the exclusives do come with a price as you might expect. At $159, the R7790 Black Edition Overclocked comes with a $10 price premium over the reference design. Let's see if the performance delivered is indicative of the price point.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked Closer Look:

The packaging for the R7790 Black Edition overclocked is is much more informative than I have seen in the past. The front makes sure you get the message that this is an XFX product from the bold logo to the not so subtle X in the background. Up front is the model number and series that shows this card to be the Black Edition Overclocked. The back side lists AMD specific as well as XFX specific features. The top right corner of the front panel highlights just a few of the awards earned by XFX with more on the top panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the well illustrated sleeve is the box that hold the R7790 Black Edition and the accessory bundle. Packed tightly in the form fitting cardboard shell, the card does not move around and was damage free. The accessory bundle includes a large amount of manuals and instruction sheets to guide you through the installation and trouble shooting if you run into issues. A driver disk is included, but the most current drivers are usually found at the AMD graphics download site. A Black Edition case badge is included to provide entry into the Black Edition family. In case the rest of the family does not know to leave you alone when you are deep in a game, XFX includes a door tag to remind them.

 

 

 

The packaging provides a point of difference to the consumer when searching at a brick and mortar outlet.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked Closer Look:

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked is based on AMD's GCN 28nm Bonaire core sporting clock speeds of 1000MHz on the core and 1225MHz on the GDDR5 memory. From the front the R7790 BE looks just like its full sized counterpart, the XFX HD 7970 Black Edition, just well smaller at a hair under eight nches front to back. This version of the R7790 Black Edition uses XFX's own Double Dissipation cooling system featuring a pair of dust free fans to push air through the heat sink. On the back side are four of the eight GDDR5 memory ICs. XFX is using an in-house designed and built PCB for the R7790 Black Edition Overclocked that helps improve the reliability and power distribution to the highly binned core. This card is built for use in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot with backwards compatibility. The top view of the card features a red stripe with the XFX logo, the series of the card (7700) and the technologies employed. A pair of heat pipes are visible looking through the shroud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Display connectivity for this card from XFX includes a single HDMI 1.4a port supporting output protected high bit rate 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI, a single full sized DisplayPort 1.2 port that supports resolutions up to 4K, a single DL-DVI port, and a single SL-DVI port. In this configuration the R7790 supports up to four independent displays up to a 16K x 16K resolution. The mounting bracket features the XFX logo that actually flows more air than the reference design for added cooling and visual appeal. The back end of the card is wide open as part of the Ghost Thermal design to allow airflow out of the shroud after cooling the PCB and onboard components.

 

 

Crossfire is supported on the R7790 BE by using a second HD 7790 video card in a motherboard that supports the use of the configuration. Only a two card configuration can be implemented due to the single Crossfire Bridge connection. Power needs for this card are by way of a single 6-pin PCIe connection on the back end of the R7790 BE. Situated here it makes cable routing a bit easier in the chassis.

 

 

The shroud is held in place by five screws and is easily removable to illustrate the Double Dissipation cooling solution. The dual heat pipe-equipped heat sink is held on by four spring loaded screws. XFX is using a custom PCB on this card in lieu of the reference design and is equipped with its Duratec professional grade components. The black color of the PCB is a deep black that stays that way even under a bright light; a much better look than on some video cards I have looked at.

 

 

XFX's Double Dissipation cooling solution consists of a pair of copper heat pipes that are soldered to a copper contact plate that carries the thermal load up to a large (for this card) aluminum fin array topped with a pair of 80mm dust free fans. The fans feature multiple seals to prevent dust intrusion into the fan's motor windings slowing it down and ultimately leading to failure; one possible cause for overheating and damaging the core. On this solution the fans are actually hard mounted to the heat sink rather than the fan shroud.

 

 

The heart of this card from XFX is the 28nm GCN Bonaire core from AMD. It is equipped with 2.08 billion transistors, 896 stream processors, 56 texture units, 16 ROPs, and 1GB of GDDR5 VRAM running through a 128-bit bus. Baseline clock speeds from AMD are 1GHz on the GPU core and 1500MHz on the GDDR5 memory. XFX bumps these up to 1075MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the 1GB frame buffer. Hynix memory ICs part number H5GQ1H24AFR-ROC rated for operation at 1500MHz are used. A binned core and high rated memory should provide some spirited overclocking.

 

 

So how does a custom PCB, a binned core, excellent memory ICs, and custom cooling impact performance? Long term solutions are the key here but let's see how it handles in the short term.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of XFX @ http://products.xfxforce.com/de/Graphics_Cards/AMD_Radeon%E2%84%A2_HD_7790/FX-779A-ZNJ4

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked Testing:

Testing of XFX's R7790 Black Edition Overclocked  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 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:

After looking at Sapphires HD 7790 Dual-X OC I felt that as overclocking tools matured for the release of the HD 7790 the headroom available from the silicon would indeed prove out my thoughts that there was more left in the cards. XFX's offering arrived a little late for the initial look at the HD 7790 but I have to say the wait was worth it as this card delivered impressive overclocking headroom on the core and pushed the memory to a higher level than I have been able to reach on other cards using the same VRAM. The increase on the core over the 1075MHz baseline was 176MHz or just over 16%. The memory increase was 100MHz over the already overclocked 1600MHz at 1700MHz or a boost of between 6 and 7%.

To reach these levels I used MSI Afterburner version 3.0.0 Beta 9 that bypassed the clock speed limits seen on earlier cards at 1200MHz core and 1600MHz memory. The Double Dissipation cooling system fans were pushed to 100% in order to keep the GPU core and memory as cool as possible during the benchmark and stability testing. The dual fans are audible when manually controlled and set above 75%, yet when the vBIOS controls the fans they are inaudible outside the chassis of my test system. Excellent cooling and overclocking potential give the XFX R7790 some added performance when running game settings on high.

 

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

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XFX's R7790 Black Edition is clocked identically to the Sapphire HD 7790 and delivers identical performance as expected in Metro 2033. However the XFX card does run with higher clock speeds when overclocked due to the maturation of overclocking utilities. This higher clock speed translated into a a higher average frame rate.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again compared to a similarly clocked card the XFX R7790 delivers comparable performance until overclocked.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XFX's Black Edition R7790 delivers comparable results to the Sapphire card and well above the GTX 650Ti.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even improved overclocking does not get the R7790 to the levels delivered by the GTX 650Ti Boost, but easily outperforms the standard GTX 650Ti.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this game the improved overclocking gets the XFX R7790 performance up to the level of a stock GTX 650Ti Boost Edition while improving the performance margin over the comparison HD 7790.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civilization V presents no challenges as far as game play goes running the maximum in-game settings at a resolution of 1920x1080.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Cry 3 can be played with high in-game settings on the R7790 Black Edition with minimal amounts of anti-aliasing applied at close to 40 FPS when overclocked.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this tessellation-heavy test XFX's R7790 Black Edition delivers an improved performance margin over the GTX 650Ti.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this test we see results similar to that of the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In four of the six tests the XFX R7790 is able to deliver results close to that of the GTX 650Ti Boost. The Fire Extreme tests show the R7790 and comparison HD 7790 deliver comparable results.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comparing the cooling results from the Sapphire Dual-X and XFX Double Dissipation we see that at stock speeds Sapphire has a better control of the cooling performance curves. Cranking up the clock speeds and fan speeds on both cards shows just a two degree margin between the two solutions under load. Pushing the fan speed up to its maximum level helps cooling performance tremendously but usually comes with a consequence for those actions. Non-stock cooling solutions are not immune to this but XFX has put together a solution that, while audible, it is not overpoweringly loud when buttoned up inside the chassis.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this test we can see how the power curves for comparable HD 7790 cards are optimized with one delivering lower power consumption than the other. In each test the XFX card uses more power than the comparison card.

XFX R7790 Black Edition Overclocked Conclusion:

Over the past few years XFX's Black Edition cards have been proven to deliver excellent performance and longevity based on the design characteristics built into the brand. To start with XFX uses GPU Edging to bin the cores so that they go over not only the factory overclock but have some additional headroom built in for the enthusiast or gamer looking for a bit more FPS from the card. This ensures that the end user that chooses the Black Edition card gets that extra bit of performance. To that end I was able to squeeze another 175MHz out of the core and another 100MHz out of the 1GB of GDDR5 memory for final as tested clock speeds of 1251MHz on the Bonaire core and 1700MHz from the Hynix GDDR5. The increased clock speed offered measurable improvements in performance throughout the entire test suite.

XFX uses its Duratec suite on the Black Edition cards that include solid capacitors and dust free fans on the Double Dissipation cooling solution. The Double Dissipation cooling solution with Ghost thermal technology is part of the package. The dust proof fans improve longevity by using multiple seal points to hinder dust intrusion into the motor windings. The shroud is open to promote additional cooling to the memory and board components. A dual heat pipe-equipped heat sink is used to channel the thermal load from the Bonaire core to the aluminum fin array. When compared to the solution used on the comparison card I feel the smaller heat pipes are the difference in the cooling performance when clocked similarly. Even so the margin while overclocked is a scant two degrees. Fan noise is non existent with the card managing the fan profile when sealed up in the chassis. It does become audible when manually ramping up the fan speed but is far from being obnoxiously loud. Comparing power consumption results shows that XFX has a little more work to do to get the power consumption down in line with comparable HD 7790 models.

The R7790 is not built to be a high resolution gaming power house but a good solid performer at the $150 price point. At 1920x1080 resolutions you get playable frame rates in almost all of the games tested with Metro 2033 the lone game under 30 FPS. The idea here is to offer enough performance to get the job done while keeping the price point attractive. As a competitor for the GTX 650Ti, the XFX R7790 Black Edition leads the GTX 650Ti in every test save one where the margin of performance is within a single FPS.

As far as game performance goes the R7790 will deliver fluid gaming performance at high settings. By loosening up the settings you can improve the FPS delivered at the cost of visual quality. If you need more FPS performance a second R7790 can be added to the mix in a Crossfire configuration, but you get to the point of diminishing returns and scaling concerns at a $300 price point where a higher rated card would be the better solution.

XFX has included this card in AMD's Never Settle Bundle promotion offering up a full game key code for BioShock Infinite as an added value at the suggested ~$150 price point. When you get down to it XFX is offering a video card in the R7790 Black Edition that can play the latest games at high settings at 1080p resolutions. This card runs cool thanks to the Double Dissipation cooling and lives up to the Black Edition moniker with some serious overclocking potential.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: