Radeon HD 7790 With 1GB or 2GB of Memory?
Last month AMD filled in the performance gap between the Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition ($95) and Radeon HD 7850 ($180) desktop graphics cards with the AMD Radeon HD 7790 at $149. When AMD launched the Radeon HD 7990 'Bonaire' cards they did so with cards having 1GB of memory and just in the past week the 2GB versions started shipping from various add-in board (AIB) manufactures. The very first company to release a 2GB version of the AMD Radeon HD 7790 just happens to be Sapphire and we managed to get our hands on this card. We reviewed the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC 1GB graphics card the day it came out, so we'll skip the basics and get right to the heard of the matter. If you'd like a technology refresh, be sure to visit the launch article here.
|Sapphire HD7790 GPUs||Entry Level
|GPU Core Clock||1000MHz||1075Hz||1050MHz|
|Memory Amount||1GB GDDR5||1GB GDDR5||2GB GDDR5|
|Price||$157.25||$149.99 ($139.99 AR)||$169.99|
Sapphire currently offers three versions of the AMD Radeon HD 7790. The 'base' card offered by Sapphire is a Radeon HD 7790 with model number 100356L. This card is clocked at 1000MHz on the Core, the 1GB of GDDR5 memory is clocked at 6000MHz (effective) and it has a custom GPU cooler with a single fan. This card is a solid entry level card, but it's not a good buy due to the next card.
You can get the same card, but with it factory overclocked for less money. Usually it's a few pennies, but right now it's over $15 less. So, for $15 less you can get the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC 1GB that is clocked at 1075MHz on the core, 6400MHz (effective) on the memory and a much better Sapphire Dual-X (dual fan) GPU cooler. This is a very solid card for the price and is the card that we reviewed last month. Due to the price and features of this card there is no reason anyone should pay more and get the entry level card. The newest and most expensive card is Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 OC 2GB and it is the card we are looking at today. It costs an extra $30 (before $4 shipping) and comes overclocked right out of the box, but the core clock speeds are lower than the Dual-X card and it has a single fan GPU cooler on the card. The best thing about the card is that it comes with 2GB of GDDR5 memory versus 1GB of GDDR5 memory. Does that really matter? Gamers long for a larger frame buffer, so we'll take a look at the Sapphire 7790 Dual-X OC 1GB versus the 7790 OC 2GB today (the two cards shown above.)
We asked Sapphire why they used two different core clocks on their overclocked cards and this is what they had to say.
"The Dual-X cooler on the 1GB part givea a little better cooling, so there is a little more headroom in production and the ability to ship production volumes consistently at the higher rated core clocks. Because of the innovative design on the cooler for the extra memory on the 'Back' side of the 2GB part, we do not need to change the rated memory OC - it is the same on both models." - Sapphire PR
The Sapphire HD 7790 2GB GDDR5 OC has a good overall appearance with a black PCB, black plastic fan shroud and a black fan. The triple black motif is broken up with some chrome accents across the fan shroud and the exhaust bracket itself. You can also see the two copper U-shaped heatpipes, which adds a third dimension when it comes to the color pallet.
Sapphire opted not to go with the Dual-X GPU cooler design on the HD 7790 2GB GDDR5 OC, but they did put a nice looking GPU cooler on the card. It features dual heatpipes and a single aluminum aerofoil to help keep the GPU cool on this dual-slot video card. The black PCB on the Sapphire HD7790 2GB OC measures 8.5" in length and features part number 109-C58247-00A_02. This is the same part number as the Dual-X 1GB version, but while the component layout is identical, the 2GB version has more holes in it for the custom metal backplate.
Most sub-$200 graphics cards don't feature a backplate, but the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC does! This metal backplate looks good, keeps the rear GDDR5 memory IC's cool and helps stiffen the PCB to keep it from warping. This backplate has one feature though that we've never seen before.
The last couple inches of the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 PCB is bare, so Sapphire opted to cut a rather large hole in the dead space in order to attach a finned heatsink to the backplate. The finned heatsink is attached to the backplate with two screws and extends into the airflow from the cooling fan on the front of the card. Sapphire says that this design really helps to carry heat away from the components on the rear of PCB and reduces memory temperatures to as low as 13C. Pretty innovative and it does get warm during use, so we assume it works.
When it comes to video outputs you have DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4a, DVI-I and DVI-D. The mounting bracket also has hot air exhaust slots to help exhaust some air out of your computer case. This cards GPU cooler design really blows air in all directions, so not much is exhausted out due to the openness of the fan shroud.
The SAPPHIRE HD 7790 2GB OC Edition model supports the FleX feature, pioneered by SAPPHIRE, that allows three digital displays to be connected to the DVI and HDMI outputs and used in AMD Eyefinity mode without the need for an external active adapter. All four video outputs can be used in AMD Eyefinity mode, but the fourth display must be a DisplayPort monitor or connected with an active adapter.
Just like all AMD Radeon HD 7790 video cards, you'll find a 6-pin PCI Express power connector located along the top of the video card near the end of the PCB. Sapphire recommends a 450W or greater power supply with one 75W 6-pin power connector for this video card to operate properly. This card also has a single CrossFire connector on it, so you can join up to two of these cards together for up to double the gaming power on some titles.
Let's take a look at the retail box and the accessory bundle that comes with this card.
Retail Box & Bundle
The retail packaging for Sapphire HD 7790 2GB GDDR5 OC video card features a female soldier on the front with a little cleavage and some tattoos showing. It also highlights that the card is overclocked and has 2GB of GDDR5 memory.
On the back of the box you'll find more features listed and a sampling of all the awards that Sapphire has won over the years from various review sites.
Inside the inner box you'll find a quick install guide, the driver disc, case sticker, CrossFireX bridge interconnect, 6' HDMI cable and a PCI Express power adapter. For a limited time you also get Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon and BioShock Infinite. These are two fun game titles and run $59.99 if purchased separately, so it's nice to see a $60 game bundle with a $170 graphics card as it makes the pain of opening your wallet a little easier for some.
Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.
Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:
- AMD Catalyst 13.5 Beta 2
- NVIDIA GeForce 314.21
Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform
The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0305 that came out on 12/25/2012. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.25.
|The Intel X79 Test Platform|
Intel Core i7-3960X
ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
16GB Corsair 1866MHz
OCZ Vertex 3 240GB
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Sapphire HD7790 OC 2GB GPU-Z Information:
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.
Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.
Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.
Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.
Benchmark Results: Battlefield 3 is a popular shooter still and one of our favorite benchmarks to run. This game is fairly tough on video cards with Ultra settings, but at 1920x1080 the frame buffer requirements weren't high enough to need more than 1GB as you can see from the chart above.
Borderlands 2 is a space western first-person role-playing shooter video game that was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to 2009's Borderlands and was released for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Borderlands 2 was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games on September 18, 2012 in North America.
Borderlands 2 runs on a heavily modified version of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3. We tested Borderlands 2 with vSync and depth of field disabled. We increased the general image quality settings and turned on 16x AF. PhysX effects were set to low to keep things fair as possible between AMD and NVIDIA cards. FXAA was enabled.
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire HD 7790 1GB and 2GB cards again traded blows, but it's way too even to see any performance differences just yet.
Dirt: Showdown is a video game published and developed by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was released in May 2012 in Europe and in June in North America. It is part of the Colin McRae Rally game series.
Dirt: Showdown removes several of the gameplay modes featured Dirt 3, and introduces new ones. Gameplay modes can be classified as Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan or Party. We ran the built in Benchmark at Ultra settings to get a true feel of what this engine has to offer!
It is very important to note that Global Illumination and Advanced Lighting have massive performance penalties when enabled, something not seen in other titles in the Dirt series. We disabled this setting.
Benchmark Results: Here we see the 2GB Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 card performing slower than the 1GB version! It looks like the extra 25Mhz on the core clock are put to good use in Dirt Showdown.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is an open world first-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sequel to 2008's Far Cry 2. The game was released on December 4th, 2012 for North America. Far Cry 3 is set on a tropical island found somewhere at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. After a vacation goes awry, player character Jason Brody has to save his kidnapped friends and escape from the islands and their unhinged inhabitants.
Far Cry 3 uses the Dunia Engine 2 game engine with Havok physics. The graphics are excellent and the game really pushes the limits of what one can expect from mainstream graphics cards. We set game title to 8x MSAA Anti-Aliasing and ultra quality settings.
Benchmark Results: We run Far Cry 3 with the High image quality settings and we thought that at 1920x1080 we'd see some performance gaps open on the 1GB and 2GB Radeon HD 7790 cards and we were right. At 1920x1080 we noticed a 1.8 FPS improvement with the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC card, which is an 11% performance improvement. The bad news is that the game isn't really playable with these settings either way.
Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.
This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to 'Very High' quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX and DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.
Benchmark Results: Here we see the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 1GB and 2GB cards performing the same once again.
Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. The game was released on August 14, 2012, for Microsoft Windows. The game uses the Havok physics engine.
We used the Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark tool to benchmark this game title to make sure the benchmarking was consistent. We tested with 'High' quality setting at 1280x1024 and 1920x1024 resolutions.
Benchmark Results: The faster clocked Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC video card was a bit faster than the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC in Sleeping Dogs at both 1920x1080 and 1280x1024.
On March 5th, 2013 Square Enix released Tomb Raider, billed as a reboot of the franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. In contrast to the earlier games Croft is portrayed as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.
The game has been built on Crystal Dynamics's game engine called the "Crystal Engine" and the graphics look fantastic. AMD and Crystal Dyanmic's worked on a new technology called TressFX Hair, which AMD describes as “the world’s first in-game implementation of a real-time, per-strand hair physics system” for this game title. We set the image quality to ultimate for benchmarking, but we disabled TressFX Hair under the advanced tab to be fair to NVIDIA graphics cards that don't support the feature.
Benchmark Results: With 'Ultra' image quality settings and TressFX Hair disabled we found both the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 1GB and 2GB cards were close, but the 1GB card with the faster core clock speed was faster.
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.
3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC video card scored P6086 and the Sapphire Radeon HD7790 2GB OC scored P6059. Again, way too close to show any benefits from the frame buffer.
3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: 3DMark11 with the Extreme Preset uses more of the video cards memory and runs at a higher resolution, so we hoped to see the 2GB card doing better here. Hope be damned, the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC was in the lead again.
3DMark (2013 Version)
3Dmark Fire Strike Benchmark Results - For high performance gaming PCs
Use Fire Strike to test the performance of dedicated gaming PCs, or use the Fire Strike Extreme preset for high-end systems with multiple GPUs. Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine to test DirectX 11 hardware.
Fire Strike Benchmark Results:
Benchmark Results: 3DMark Fire Strike is the latest synthetic gaming benchmark by Futuremark and we hoped to see some performance differences between the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 1GB and 2GB cards, but it looks like 3DMark Firestrike didn't do the trick at 1920x1080. The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC was in the lead by a small margin, which is due to the slightly higher core clock speed.
For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while four game titles at 1920x1080 by averaging the peak results recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter for the gaming results.
Power Consumption Results: When it comes to power consumption the AMD Radeon HD 7790 cards with the new Bonaire GPU do pretty well. All of the current generation cards idle fairly close to the same as our system pulled between 96-101 Watts at the wall with any of the cards when at idle. The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC and the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC both had the same power draw at an idle, but when we started to use the cards we noticed some difference. For example in the games the 2GB version used 16 Watts more power and in Furmark it used 10 Watts more. This is likely due to the fact that it has to power up twice as much memory, so this is to be expected.
Temperature & Noise Testing
Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on the pair of Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 overclocked cards that we have.
Sapphire HD7790 OC 2GB GPU-Z Idle:
Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC 1GB GPU-Z Idle:
The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC 1GB card idle temperature of 28.0C and the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 OC 2GB has a temperature of 32C in a room that was 22.0C (72F). We expected to see this difference though due to the drastically different GPU coolers being used.
Sapphire HD7790 OC 2GB GPU-Z Idle:
Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC GPU-Z Furmark:
When it comes to load results things were certianly not identical! The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 OC 2GB card with its single fan and smaller GPU cooler hit 72. The and the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC 1GB peaked at just 60C thanks to the dual fans and larger GPU cooler. That means that the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC 1GB was nearly 20% cooler than the 2GB version even with the 25MHz higher core clock speed. Notice the fan speed difference though! The Dual-X 1GB card has two fans spinning at nearly 2500 RPM, while the 2GB cards larger single fan is spinning at just 1800RPM. The Dual-X 1GB was louder to our ears, but lets see what the sound level meter has to say.
For sound testing we use an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.
When it comes to noise levels the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC 1GB was the quietest of the bunch at idle, but once the core is under full load you see the pair of fans spin up to over 2000 RPM and the card starts to get audible. The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 OC 2GB runs hotter, but it's actually a 2-3dB quieter when gaming or in other GPU intensive tasks.
Overclocking The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB
To take a quick look at overclocking we fired up AMD Catalyst Control Center and used AMD Overdrive to overclock both the Gigabyte and Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 video cards.
We were shocked to see that AMD set what we considered rather low overclocking limits for Radeon HD 7790 cards. You can go up to just 1200MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory. The Sapphire HD7790 OC 2GB comes at 1050MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the GDDR5. memory. This means you can't overclock the memory any further, but we can overclock the core.
We were easily able to overclock both cards to 1200MHz on the core, so the end result here is 1200MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory. We asked AMD why they were so conservative with overclocking ranges on this card and they said they gave 20% overhead from the cards default clock speeds.
Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance.
Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 OC 2GB at 1050MHz core and 1500MHz memory:
Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB at 1200MHz core and 1600MHz memory:
We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P6066 to P6579, which is a nice 8.5% improvements from the cards factory overclocked settings. This overclock is enough to give gamers a little boost for gaming, which is what you want when overclocking.
How does the overclock do in real games? We fired up Battlefield 3 and found performance went from 38.3 FPS to 40.6 FPS at 1920 x 1080. This is a 6 percent performance gain at 1920x1080. At 1280x1024 it went up by 8 percent, which is even better! A free 6-8 percent performance gain for free is hard to beat!
The Final Call - 1GB or 2GB on HD 7790
We couldn't wait to get our hands on the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB GDDR5 OC video card as we really wanted to see what doubling the frame buffer would do when it comes to performance. Lately we've been testing sub $250 graphics cards at screen resolutions of 1920x1080 and under. Not too many people are buying multiple panels or a 30-inch display for hardcore gaming and slapping in a sub $250 graphics card. Sadly, at 1920x1080 we really didn't notice a significant difference between the AMD Radeon HD 7790 with 1GB and 2GB of memory. Sapphire also didn't make it easy on us as all of their AMD Radeon HD 7790 graphics cards come with different clock speeds and GPU coolers, so some of that was masking the performance differences. Before we could call this review complete we took the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC and the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC and ran them at the same clock speed. We cranked them up to 1200MHz on the core, 6400MHz on the memory and put the power control settings to +20% on both cards. We also ran them on a Dell 30-inch monitor at 2560x1600 to see how they performed.
This chart basically sums up everything you need to know about the AMD Radeon HD 7790 and should you have 1GB or 2GB of GDDR5 memory. If you're running 1920x1080 or lower then you'll not see any significant difference on the vast majority of the game titles out today. If you are gaming at higher resolutions then you'll see the benefits from the larger 2GB frame buffer. That said even with the extra memory and higher performance at 2560x1600 we still found Battlefield 3 and other games to still have some stutters and weren't that playable. The AMD Radeon HD 7790 'Bonaire' GPU is powerful, but doesn't have what it takes to power cutting edge games at massive resolutions with the image quality cranked up.
We also measured the memory usage and GPU temperature when playing a bit of BF3 at 2560x1600. The 1GB card has 993MB of memory being used while the 2GB card had 1523MB being used, so the larger frame buffer also help. Notice that the Sapphire Radeon HD Dual-X 1GB OC card was 12C cooler, but it was louder as the two fans were running at 2000+ RPM.
So, if we had to pick one card which would it be and why?
|Sapphire HD7790 GPUs||Entry Level
|GPU Core Clock||1000MHz||1075Hz||1050MHz|
|Memory Amount||1GB GDDR5||1GB GDDR5||2GB GDDR5|
|Price||$157.25||$149.99 ($139.99 AR)||$169.99|
Of the three three versions of the AMD Radeon HD 7790 offered by AMD the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC is our preferred card. The sweet spot of the AMD Radeon HD 7790 'Bonaire' video card is 1920x1080 and lower resolutions. The extra frame buffer helps above 1920x1080, but the 7790 GPU just doesn't have the muscle to play it smoothly. The thing that seals the deal is that the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB OC retails for $169.99 plus $3.99 shipping. That makes it $173.98 out the door right now. The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X 1GB OC is $34 less and had better overall performance at 1920x1080 along with lower power consumption and temperatures. To spend an extra 20% or $34 for more memory just doesn't appear to be worth the reward. We suggest saving that money for your next PC upgrade!
Legit Bottom Line: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 2GB GDDR5 OC is a solid performing card, but you don't see much benefit from having the additional memory until you go higher than 1920x1080.