HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo Graphics Card Review

It’s an interesting time in the sub-$200 graphics card market these days. NVIDIA and AMD have recently released new offerings in this price range, and the battle for your graphics card dollars are in full swing. The latest competition between team red and team green revolves around the AMD Radeon HD 7790 and NVIDIA’s GTX 650 Ti. Today, we’ll be looking at the AMD side of this battle, coming in the form of a HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo. So, let’s find out how this latest HIS offering stacks up against the competition!

Specifications and Features

Here are the specifications as provided by the HIS global website.

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo Specifications
Model Name HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo 1GB GDDR5 PCI-E DP/2xDVI/HDMI
Chipset Radeon HD 7790 PCIe Series
ASIC Radeon HD 7790 GPU
Manu. Process (Micron) 28nm
Memory Size (MB) 1024
Memory Type GDDR5
Engine CLK (MHz) 1075MHz
Memory CLK (Gbps) 6.4Gbps
Memory Interface (bit) 128bit
Power Supply Requirement 500 Watt or greater power
Max. Resolution 4096×2160 per display (DisplayPort 1.2)
2560×1600 per display (Dual-link DVI)
Bus Interface PCI Express 3.0 x16
DisplayPort Yes
HDMI Yes
DVI Dual-link DVI-I + Dual-link DVI-D
VGA No

A quick glance at GPU-Z and AMD’s Catalyst Control Center confirm much of what we see above.

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For the features that apply to the HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo, we again shamelessly pilfer the HIS website for the highlights. The first thing to note is the factory overclocked core and memory speeds. The core speed is 1075 MHz versus the 1000 MHz reference design, and the memory speed has been bumped up to 6400 MHz (quad pumped GDDR5 style) from the reference design 6000 MHz.

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The iCooler has always been one of the better GPU coolers on the market, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this time around. We’ll get a closer look at the iCooler a little later, but for now here is what HIS has to say about it.

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The card also fully supports CrossFireX.

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Full support for PCI-e 3.0, directX 11.1, and all the goodies that come with AMD’s GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture are present and accounted for. For the complete run down on everything the GCN architecture offers, please visit the AMD website.

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HD3D is an up and coming feature many gamers are latching on to. You’ll need a monitor that can utilize the HD3D technology; but if you’re into 3D gaming, the option is there. For more information on HD3D, visit the AMD website.

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This HD 7790 can be used with large LCD monitors and huge TVs at resolutions up to 4096X2160. 1080p and HDCP are fully supported as well, providing a good HD experience.

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Multiple monitors at high resolutions and up to six independent audio streams can be obtained using the HDMI connection. These features could be put to good use in a business environment/workstation application, not to mention the gaming prowess it offers.

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And of course, let’s not forget all the features the GCN architecture brings us.

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Packaging/Accessories/First Look

Just about every specification and feature we listed above can be found on the box. The box front gives you high level specifications, while the back provides a more detailed list. HIS uses the box sides to let you know the card requires a PCIe slot and to give you a list of the box contents. At the top and bottom of the box, there is additional branding and a multilingual list of the major features.

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Box Front

Box Side

Box Side

Box SIde

Box SIde

Box Top

Box Top

Box Bottom

Box Bottom

Box Back

Box Back

Inside the box is another black box with the “HIS – Faster, Cooler, Quieter” slogan printed on the top. The front flap has their website address printed on it as well. With the top open, you’re immediately greeted with the accessories. There isn’t a whole lot to go over as far as the accessories are concerned, but you do get a DVI to VGA adapter and the software CD. The quick installation guide and a pamphlet explaining how to correctly install the card are also included. Once the accessories are out of the way, a thin foam pad covers the HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo. Removing that thin foam pad reveals the card extremely well protected by a very thick foam bed. The card is further protected by being wrapped by an anti-static bag. HIS has done a great job with the packaging in an effort to ensure it arrives to you undamaged.

The Black Box Within

The Black Box Within

Box Opened

Box Opened

Card in Protective Bed

Card in Protective Bed

Box Contents

Box Contents

Photo Op

We’ll be exploring the PCB and iCooler in more detail later, but for now here are a few pictures of the HD 7790 iCooler Turbo before the dissection begins!

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

Up Close/Under the Hood

Beginning at the output area, we have HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I, and DVI-D connections. By daisy chaining off of the DisplayPort, you could install up to five monitors to work with AMD Eyefinity. In an office environment, it might be worth hooking up that many monitors, but it’s doubtful this card has enough horsepower to game with that many hooked up. There is also a large exhaust area built into the output cover for heat to escape out the back of your case. Given the design of the iCooler, you’ll get some hot air to exhaust out of the rear, and some will spill into the case.

Output and Exhaust

Output and Exhaust

Let’s get the iCooler off this thing and have a closer look. Be advised that HIS frowns on removing the iCooler, and doing so will void any warranty. There are only four screws that hold the entire assembly on the card, which are accessed from the back. Once those are removed, four more screws hold the heatsink/fan assembly to the plastic shroud.

iCooler Mounting Screws

iCooler Mounting Screws

Screws and Washers

Screws and Washers

iCooler Removed

iCooler Removed

With the other four screws removed to release the heatsink/fan from the shroud, we can see that a solid copper plate has been used at the base of the heatsink. We like copper! I found the thermal paste to be perfectly applied and making good contact with its intended target. I can’t be certain what thermal paste was used, but it’s certainly not the hard/dry stuff some of our other reviewers have found on competitor cards. The fins that comprise the circular design of the heatsink are all aluminum and very thick as well. You’d have to try pretty hard to bend one! The opening in the shroud for the fan measures 80 mm, and the fan itself is a tad bit smaller. So, it’s probably classified as 75 mm in size.

Shroud and Heatsink Separated

Shroud and Heatsink Separated

Copper Base

Copper Base

Fan and Heatsink Assembly

Fan and Heatsink Assembly

Overhead View

Overhead View

With the card fully exposed, we can have a look around the PCB. For power delivery, we have a five-phase design (4 GPU and 1 Memory). There is a tall aluminum heatsink sitting on top of the MOSFETs to provide additional cooling. Feeding power to the card requires only a single 6-pin lead from your PSU.

A Naked HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

A Naked HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo

The Power Delivery

The Power Delivery

Tail End of the Card

Tail End of the Card

VRM Bits

VRM Bits

6-pin Power Socket

6-pin Power Socket

The four memory ICs are Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR, which you find used on many video cards. As mentioned earlier, these memory chips are factory overclocked to 6400 MHz (1600 MHz quad pumped GDDR5) with signal delivery handled by a 128-bit memory interface. The four memory ICs are 256 MB each, which equate to the advertised 1 GB of onboard memory.

Hynix GDDR5 vRAM

Hynix GDDR5 vRAM

The Bonaire XT HD 7790 GPU is the star of today’s show, so here is a close up look at this latest AMD GPU offering.

Meet the Bonaire XT GPU

Meet the Bonaire XT GPU

The HD 7790 falls right between the HD 7770 and HD 7850 in both price and performance. It does offer distinct advantages over the HD 7770 with its 896 SPUs and 56 TAUs, which equate to roughly a 40% increase. Both cards share the same 16 ROPs rating. While the HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo isn’t the most powerful video card on the market, it will certainly fill that gap between the HD 7770 and HD 7850. Let’s get this card on the test bench and see what it can do!

Performance and Overclocking

Test System

Card Installed in Test Bench

Card Installed in Test Bench

Ready for Benching!

Ready for Benching!

Benchmarking Methods

If you’re not familiar with the way we test video cards, then head on over to our  “Video Card Testing Procedure“ page. Below is the down and dirty version of the procedure.

  • All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
  • Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run using the “extreme” setting
  • Aliens vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
  • Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
  • Dirt 3  - 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
  • Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
  • Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, VSync OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
  • Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, VSync off,  8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation set to high, Extreme Detail Level, PhysX Off

Comparison samples include:

Bundled Software

iTurbo is the name of the game when it comes to HIS video card software. You’ll need version 1.4.3 or higher to work with this card. I used the latest 1.4.4 version which allows for voltage adjustment on the GPU core, but not for the memory.

iTurbo gives you control of overclocking and fan speed control, along with informational and settings screens to further fine tune how iTurbo works. I grabbed some images from the HIS website dedicated to iTurbo to better explain the functions.

iTurbo Intro Screen

iTurbo Intro Screen

iTurbo Info Screen

iTurbo Info Screen

iTurbo Overclocking Screen

iTurbo Overclocking Screen

iTurbo Fan Control Screen

iTurbo Fan Control Screen

iTurbo Settings Screen

iTurbo Settings Screen

Overclocking

Armed with iTurbo, I set off on a 24/7 stable overclocking  journey. By stable, I mean the maximum GPU core and memory speed that is able to complete all of our benchmarks. I finally settled on a GPU core speed of 1325 MHz and was able to get the memory up to 1750 MHz (7000 Mhz effective). This equates into an 18% GPU core speed increase and an 8% memory speed increase. When you consider that both the GPU and memory are overclocked from the factory, these overclocking numbers are quite good.

Stable Overclock Under Load

Stable Overclock Under Load

Synthetic Benchmarks

Beginning with 3DMark03, we find the HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo performing quite well here. It came out on top of all the other competitors in this test, except for the HD 7850, which is to be expected. We also see some nice scaling when this card is overclocked.

3DMark03 Results

3DMark03 Results

In 3dMark11, the results were a bit surprising as the HIS card actually beat out the HD 7850. More than likely, this is due to older drivers being used when that card was tested. Again, this card beat all the competition and scaled nicely when overclocked.

3DMark11 Results

3DMark11 Results

In 3DMark Vantage, we see this HIS offering beating the ASUS HD 7790 and the EVGA GTX 650 Ti, both of which are direct competitors. The EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost managed to rule in this test.

3DMark Vantage Results

3DMark Vantage Results

Rounding out the synthetic benchmarks is HWBot Heaven DX11 Extreme. Again, we see this HIS card besting the GTX 650 Ti and ASUS HD 7790 competitors. But, the EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost again stole the day in this test.

HWBot Heaven Results

HWBot Heaven Results

Game Benchmarks

Now, let’s dive into some “real world” testing with our suite of gaming benchmarks. Our run of Aliens Vs. Predator showed just about an identical score to the ASUS HD 7790, while beating out the EVGA GTX 650 Ti. The good scores continued for the competing EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost, and the HD 7850 had the best score of all here, even with the older drivers.

AvP Results

AvP Results

In Batman: Arkham City, the EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost stole the show yet again. The HIS HD 7790 managed a win over everything else, except for the HD 7850. When overclocked, the HIS card managed to top the HD 7850.

Batman: Arkham City Results

Batman: Arkham City Results

The Battlefield 3 testing showed much the same as we’ve seen above with the HIS card squeaking out a win over the ASUS HD 7790 and beating the EVGA GTX 650 Ti handily. When this HIS card was overclocked, it held pretty close to the HD 7850. That pesky EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost had the best score of all though.

his_hd7790 (56)

Civilization V has the HIS card putting a pretty good whooping on the ASUS HD 7790 and EVGA GTX 650 Ti. Low and behold, we have a win over the EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost too!

Civilization V Results

Civilization V Results

The HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo put up some good numbers in Dirt3 and again topped the ASUS HD 7790 and EVGA GTX 650 Ti. The performance was also better than the HD 7850 card, but again driver enhancements are the most likely cause of that. We also see another victory over the EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost and some nice scaling when overclocked.

Dirt3 Results

Dirt3 Results

Our most demanding game benchmark can be found in Metro2033. It’ll take a card much higher up the graphics food chain to reach the “playable” 30 FPS we like to see. In fact, none of the cards in our comparison chart hit that magical number. The HIS card managed to beat out the ASUS HD 7790 and EVGA GTX 650 Ti, but again fell short of the EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost. The HD 7850 had the best score, as expected.

Metro2033 Results

Metro2033 Results

There isn’t much to argue about in our benchmark results, the HIS HD 7790 performed quite admirably. All and all, a great showing by the HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo!

Cooling and Power Consumption

Our temperature testing is performed at stock and overclocked settings. We use HWBot Heaven to put a load on the GPU core and then normalize the temperature readings to 25 °C Ambient. The results in the graph below clearly show the iCooler is up to the task of keeping the card quite cool. Even when overclocked and under full load, the fan never ramped up beyond 30% of its available speed. So, obviously these temperatures can easily be improved upon. As far as fan noise goes, you don’t even really hear it until you get over 50% speed. Even when set to 100%, the noise isn’t what I would consider out of control. You do hear it when it’s running full bore, but not obnoxiously so.

 

Temperatures

Temperatures

Our power consumption testing is done using a Kill-a-Watt meter with wattage usage recorded at idle and load. We run both HWBot Heaven and 3DMark 11 (Combined Physics Test) to obtain the maximum power draw the video card can produce. I take this testing one step further and also provide results while the video card is overclocked. The results indicate the highest wattage reading observed during each test run.

Power consumption is impressively low, which seems to be the trend now days for lower-end video cards. The highest power draw witnessed was 202 watts during the 3DMark11 Combined test. When the system was idle, it never threatened reaching 100 watts – yea, it sips power!

Power Draw in Watts

Power Draw in Watts

Pushing the Limits

I wasn’t able to get this card much further than what I have so far, or at least not enough for any meaningful difference. I tend to spend a lot of time finding the max stable overclock for running the above benchmarks, which in turn only leaves the option of ramping up the CPU and system memory. So, let’s take the CPU to 5.0 GHz and bump the system memory up to its rated speed of 2400 MHz to see what impact that has on a few benchmark scores. Obviously any increases in performance will be due to the CPU and system memory overclocking, but it’s always fun to see what happens when you throw these overclocks into the mix. Below are the “Pushing the Limits” results for 3DMark03, 3Dmark11, and 3DMark Vantage. I also threw in a run of the new 3DMark FireStrike benchmark. As you can see by the pictures below, we recorded some pretty nice gains when CPU and system memory overclocking are thrown into the equation.

3DMark03 Pushing the Limits

3DMark03 Pushing the Limits

3DMark11 Pushing the Limits

3DMark11 Pushing the Limits

3DMark Vantage Pushing the Limits

3DMark Vantage Pushing the Limits

3DMark FireStrike Pushing the Limits

3DMark FireStrike Pushing the Limits

Conclusion

The HIS HD 7790 iCooler Turbo performed quite well during all our tests. When compared to the 1000 MHz GPU core clock found on the reference design cards, the easily obtainable bump to 1325 MHz equates to a 325 MHz increase over the reference design cards. And, let’s not forget the memory overclocked to 1750 MHz as well. This card certainly held its own against the direct competing GTX 650 Ti and the ASUS HD 7790 equivalent, but had trouble keeping up the the EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost in some tests. The iCooler solution worked extremely well and only needed slight increases in fan speed to keep the card cool. There is a lot of cooling headroom available if you manually control the fan speeds.

Currently, the HIS iCooler Turbo sells for $159.99 at Newegg, which is a very competitive price for a HD 7790 with a factory GPU overclock of 1075 MHz. Especially with the current $10.00 rebate being offered. Other competitors are charging as much as $20 more than this card for the factory overclocked versions. To top it off, you currently get two games when you purchase this card – Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon and Bioshock. Not a bad deal at all!

The iTurbo overclocking software it works very well and gives you the means for getting the most performance possible from this card.

In the end, we have a card that indeed fills the gap between the HD 7850 and HD 7770 in both price and performance. Couple that with two free games and a sub-$160 price tag and we have a budget gamer’s delight with the Overclockers Approved stamp!

Overclockers_clear_approvedClick the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

-Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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