The graphics card landscape is constantly changing as AMD and Nvidia battle for increased market share. While the hot, steamy action always happens in the high end, the majority of sales for both companies are in the less exciting budget sector.
With this in mind, AMD released the 1GB HD7790 a month ago, a solution designed to slot in between the budget HD7770 and the more capable HD7850. Our biggest concern at HD7790 launch time was that many partners were dropping the prices of their HD7850 models. It was difficult to wholeheartedly recommend the HD7790 under such stiff competition from the faster AMD part. Today we look at the latest 2GB Sapphire HD7790 OC model – is it worth buying?
A month has passed and it is worth taking a fresh look at pricing online today. Sapphire are selling their customised, overclocked 1GB HD7790 for £129.95 inc vat. This was the card we reviewed on launch day and as an overall solution it is worth recommending. It has a custom dual fan cooler, runs quiet, demands only a modicum of power and has bags of headroom for overclocking.
The situation isn’t that straightforward however. For only £10 more, Sapphire are selling a HD7850 which also has a custom dual fan cooler and emits very little noise under load. We have had hands on experience with this HD7850 and it is no slouch in regards to overclocking, with both samples hitting 1ghz easily enough. There is no question the HD7850 is a significantly more powerful solution. Is it worth the extra £10? Absolutely, without hesitation.
The overclocked 2GB version of the HD7790 is quite different from the 1GB version we reviewed back in March. The more observant out there will already have noticed that the 1GB version adopted a dual fan cooling solution, this 2GB version has only one fan.
Normally we would already be raising a red flag because two quality fans are always going to cool better than one across the same physical surface. Additionally, they can also spin slower, subsequently reducing noise emissions. Its not rocket science and it is why many AMD and NVIDIA partners release their overclocked cards with dual fan cooling solutions.
This 2GB board features a new cooler design, which uses a dual heat pipe system with a single aerofoil section fan assembly with dust repelling bearings for maximum efficiency and reliability. Sapphire add “A unique and SAPPHIRE original feature is the integration into the cooling system of the metal backplate which cools the memory chips on the reverse side of the pcb and helps with pcb rigidity. A finned heatsink attached to the backplate passes through the pcb and extends into the airflow from the fan on the front side of the card, enabling the airflow to carry away the heat from the components on the back of the pcb and reducing memory temperatures to as low as 13 C.”
This HD7790 OC Edition also supports the Sapphire FleX feature which means you can use three digital displays to the DVI and HDMI outputs in Eyefinity without the need for an external active adapter. All four outputs can be used in AMD Eyefinity mode, but the fourth display must be a DisplayPort monitor or connected with an active adapter.
The graph above from an AMD presentation highlights how the HD7790 sits at the top of the AMD ‘budget’ gamers card pile. For comparison purposes today we will be testing the Sapphire 2GB HD7790 OC against the Sapphire 1GB HD7790 OC, XFX HD7770, XFX HD7850 and Sparkle GTX650 Ti Dragon Series. I don’t know any gamer who is interested in the HD7750 and I would rather focus on the HD7850, especially as the deals on this solution are extremely competitive today.
We updated the tests today with the latest AMD and NVIDIA drivers (Catalyst 13.5 and Forceware 314.22). As we mentioned before the HD7850 is the only card on test utilising a 256 bit memory interface. That said, thankfully AMD have equipped the new HD7790 with 896 shaders, up from a measly 640 on the HD7770.Sapphire’s 2GB HD7790 OC is clocked at 1050mhz, up 50mhz from the reference card, but 25mhz slower than the Sapphire 1GB HD7790 OC model.
This seems a rather bizarre move, Sapphire should have kept both cards at the same 1,075mhz clock speeds, unless the 2GB version is running close to the core limit. We find this highly unlikely however as the 1GB model had huge overclocking potential in our last review. We will look at this in more detail when we get to the overclocking section, later in the review.