Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate Review (with CrossFireX Results)

Shhh…what’s that? I can’t hear anything? In this case, you are actually not supposed to! Sapphire has brought to you the HD 7750 Ultimate video card. What makes this card a bit different from all other 7750′s available on the market, is that it is passively cooled, which brings with it the promise of true silence. Perfect for an HTPC. That’s right folks, no fans, just some heatpipes on a large heatsink to get the job done. Let’s see how she fares in our testing.

Specifications and Features

Let’s take a look at some high level features of the card. Before we get into that however, we will remind you of the setup and clock speeds of the Sapphire 7750. The features listed below are available across all brands of 7750′s (outside of the cooling configuration of course).

 

Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate Specifications
Process 28 nm
Transistors 1.5 billion
Engine Clock 800 MHz
Stream Processors 512
Compute Performance 819 GFlops
Texture Units 32
Texture Fillrate 25.6 GT/s
ROPs 16
Pixel Fillrate 12.8
Z/Stencil 64
Memory Type 1 GB GDDR5
Memory Clock 1,125 MHz (4500 MHz)
Memory Data Rate 4.5 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 72 GB/s
Cooling 2 Slot Passive
Typical Board Power 55 W
AMD ZeroCore Power <3 W
Dimensions 170(L)x105(W)x43(H)mm
Crossfire Support Yes (Software)

Here is a look at the specifications from GPUz 0.5.9. Some things to note here are the clocks speeds dropping to 300/150 MHz and voltage to 0.825 V. When under load it ramps up to the 800/1125 MHz speeds and 1.1 Vcore.

Sapphire states that the 7750 Ultimate is the “first card in this generation to use a passive heatpipe and heatsink cooler” and “is the first totally silent card to embody all the features of this new generation of products…”. Though these are not high resolution gaming cards, they do pack a fair amount more punch than their previous namesake generation (67xx series), which aside from one card I found on NewEgg, all had active cooling on them. This goes to show the efficiency of the GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture and the 28 nm platform it’s on.

Main Features

(Courtesy of Sapphire website – go to Sapphire.com for a complete feature set of this card)

28 nm GCN (Graphic Core Next) Architecture

The new and 28nm GCN Architecture with more efficient process technology puts more transistors in less space, enabling a dramatic increase in Processing Power. Crank the settings, devastate your enemies and bear witness to absurdly high frame rates with AMD Radeon HD7000 series graphics card-DirectX 11 has never looked this good. Maximum setting and crazy performance shouldn’t be a compromise. The AMD Radeon HD7900 Series with the new 28 nm GCN Architecture assures that it’s not.

 

PCI Express 3.0

PCI-Express 3.0 delivers double the bandwidth per lane of PCIe Gen 2 for faster GPU (GPU communication-up to 16GB/sec in each direction), maximizing the performance from your GPU when paired with the latest platforms.

 

AMD Eyefinity 2.0

The next generation of AMD Eyefinity technology is here, featuring all-new support for stereo 3D, universal bezel compensation and brand new display configurations. Face it: the best just got better: The enhancements for AMD Radeon HD7000 series include: Stereo 3D-multi-display stereoscopic 3D support via DisplayPort 16K X 16K maximum display group resolution-output up to 268 megapixels per GPU.

 

AMD PowerPlay with ZeroCore Power Technology

AMD PowerPlay is a power management technology in response to the GPU loading, AMD PowerPlay automatically manages the power consumption. AMD RADEON HD7000 Series with AMD ZeroCore Power Technology, the power consumption can be as low as less than 3 Watt when idle, making the best use of power.

 

 

Accelerated Internet Applications Rendering

The new AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series accelerates the rendering performance with the latest web browsers (IE10, Firefox 6) and programming interfaces (Direct2D, HTML5, WebGL, Flash 11 / Molehill).

 

 

 

AMD App Acceleration

AMD App Acceleration is a set of technologies designed to improve video quality and enhance application performance. Full enablement of some features requires support for OpenCL, DirectCompute or DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA).

 

AMD HD Media Accelerator

AMD HD Media Accelerator has been designed to help optimize and dramatically improve video playback on your computer by taking advantage of hardware video acceleration from your AMD Radeon GPU. With full 3D stereoscopic decode you can enjoy it all in 3D. AMD HD Media Accelerator speeds up the decode of one 1080p and one 1080i HD video streams simultaneously by hardware, and the new hardware encodes/transcoder processes your media content faster than ever!

 

Photo Op

Below you will find the retail packing for the Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate. Taking a look at the front of the box shows some typical high level information such as the amount of memory (1 GB), the silent cooling, HDMI, and multi-monitor support. Oh, and a female Ninja gracing the cover. The back side shows more features and goes into some detail on it those features. A, well, more ‘complete’ picture of that ninja on the front of the box as well.

As is typical with video card retail packaging,  it’s a box-in-a-box setup with molded supporting foam securing the card inside.

Retail Packaging - Front

Retail Packaging - Front

Retail Packaging - Rear

Retail Packaging - Rear

Sappire HD7750 Ultimate with accessories

Sapphire HD7750 Ultimate with accessories

Last, you can see the included accessories: a manual, driver disk, DVI to VGA adapter, and a 1.8M (~6′) HDMI cable which is not something you normally see. Being silent and more geared towards HTPC’s, it does make sense to include it, and is a nice addition. I don’t recall seeing an HDMI cable in any other video card I owned.

Accessories

Accessories

Ahh, finally the card. I admit, I’m not used to a passively cooled anything on any of my PC’s, especially a video card, but Sapphire has managed to strap on a 4-pipe aluminum heastsink on the 7750 to keep this unit cool. As you can see from the pictures of the back of the card, the heatsink actually goes over the top of the card and reaches down a bit over the backside. There is plenty of heatsink area to keep these low-powered cards cool. Not pictured is a warning sticker that was on the heatsink that basically stated not to touch the heatsink until it cooled off or you could get burned. The heatsink did get warm to almost hot to the touch after some benchmarking, but I can’t imagine it burning me. Though admittedly it didn’t go through long gaming sessions where the sink would saturated and at its warmest temperatures.

Front

Front

Rear

Rear

Pictured below are the outputs. The 7750 Ultimate is sporting one DVI-d, one HDMI (1.4a supporting stereoscopic 3D, and ready for next gen 4K displays), and one DisplayPort (1.2 HBR2) output. Plenty of options and you can of course run a multi-monitor setup from a single card.

Outputs - 1 DVI-d, 1 HDMI, 1 Displayport,

Outputs - 1 DVI-d, 1 HDMI, 1 Displayport,

Here is another view of the heatsink. You can see the four heatpipes as well as the miniscule, low profile ramsinks on the card. As you can tell, it will take up two slots on your motherboard. Being passive, having some airflow inside your case will certainly help keep the card cool and whisk away the heat put off by this large passive cooler.

Heatsink - 4 heatpipes, memory cooled as will with low profile sinks

Heatsink - 4 heatpipes, memory cooled as with low profile sinks

Performance and Overclocking

Test System

Benchmarking Method/Settings

  • All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
  • Alien vs. Predator was run at its default setting (textures high, no AA), and the highest it offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
  • Hawx 2 was run at a resolution of 1920×1080 with 8x AA and every setting at its highest (DX10)
  • Dirt 2 was run at a resolution of 1920×1080 with 8x AA/16x AF and all settings at their highest
  • Stalker: COP was run at a resolution of 1920×1080 using Ultra settings, 4x AA with tessellation enabled using the Sunshafts portion of the benchmark only
  • Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run with the “extreme” setting

Synthetic Benchmarks

On to the benchmarks! Taking a look at 3DMark 03, the Sapphire card is right in the ballpark of the previously tested 7750, and still beats its last generation counterpart, the 6750. The scores here are a bit lower, and slightly outside of what I would call a margin of error in this benchmark. I would imagine it’s due to the different drivers being used as the system has not changed outside of using the included driver (8.950.0, Catalyst 12.3 as ID’d by GPUz 0.5.9).

3DMark 06 shows nearly the same results between the two 7750′s and thus maintains its dominance over the 6750. The score differences here are well within the margin of error.

As far as the overclocked scores, this card would just not push as far as the other sample we had no matter what I tried. I used that card’s driver to no avail, but still had this ‘thermal imaging’ artifacting after 850 MHz. I even turned a powerful fan on the card thinking it may have been temperatures (didn’t break 65 °C), but that wasn’t it either. Pushing to 900 MHz to benchmark just wasn’t possible. I had to lower it to 850/1200 MHz to pass all benchmarks with Vantage being the one that repeatedly hung up. Our previous 7750 did max out to 900/1250 MHz though (limits of the software). Maybe the sample next to it would overclock better, but this just managed 50 MHz core and 75 MHz memory.

3DMark 03

3DMark 03

3DMark 06

3DMark 06

Moving on to 3DMark Vantage, we again see this 7750 matching the other in Vantage. Due to the difference in overclocks is why the Sapphire is lacking on that front. 3DMark 11 shows the same theme as expected, as does Heaven below. The Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate is dead silently matching its peer at stock clock speeds.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

Game Benchmarks

Starting off the gaming benchmarks with Alien vs. Predator, the 7750 shows frame rates at 26.5, which many would consider unplayable, at 1920×1080 with settings at default (no AA, 16xAF, High Textures, DX11). Watching the benchmark though it did seem pretty smooth. Moving up to the highest quality settings (4xAA, Highest textures) on this fairly demanding game, does bring the 7750 to well below what most would consider playable levels. You would have to lower the resolution to play this game at its highest settings, or turn down the details just a bit. Still, not a bad showing for this kind of card.

Alien vs. Predator (Default)

Alien vs. Predator (Default)

Alien vs. Predator (Highest Quality)

Alien vs. Predator (Highest Quality)

Stalker: Call of Prypat is another title in the DX11 arena making use of DX11 features including tessellation. We choose to only use the Sunshafts portion of the integrated benchmark as it works out the video card the most out of its four total tests. When the highest settings are used, its dropping below that magical mark of 30 FPS. I’m sure backing off on the tessellation or some other settings would help a bit on this game. It, like AvP above, also didn’t appear too choppy when running the bench.

Dirt 2 is one of my favorite racing games, and I even enjoy sitting back and watching the benchmark. Again using tessellation quite heavily making the game look gorgeous when using the DX11 path/settings. Frame rates were entirely playable showing results in the low 40′s for average here with the settings all turned up. It is a bit of an older title, but still was plenty playable at 1920×1080!

Hawx2 is one of the more easy titles we have to benchmark. Here the Saphhire 7750 Ultimate had no issues running this game at 88 FPS at stock speeds. I would imagine using the DX11 path and the settings to go along with it, the card would take a hit. I also have to believe that it would still be plenty playable there too.

Stalker: Call of Prypat (Sunshafts)

Stalker: Call of Prypat (Sunshafts)

Dirt 2

Dirt 2

Hawx 2

Hawx 2

For a little bonus, I decided to CrossFireX two 7750′s and see where the ended up against some mid-range and higher cards. I used  6870, 560ti, 560ti 448c, and a 6950. There are a couple of things I can take away from this testing. The first being that scaling is pretty solid across the board from 50%-75% for the applications and games we tested. I would imagine as time goes on this may improve with new drivers and CAP releases from AMD. The next thing I took away from this testing is two of these are as fast a single 6870 (stock). Not too shabby as the 6870 can power through some games. The kicker though is price. One probably wouldn’t want to do this right now considering you can get a 6870 from $150 and two 7750′s will set you back around $210. Regardless of price, it’s a decent showing in CrossFireX scaling and would allow you to play more games with higher settings at higher resolutions at a slight premium.

Temperatures/Cooling/Power Consumption

I have never owned a passively cooled card before so I have to admit I was curious about how this would work out, especially when overclocking. I have to admit I was surprised and pleased with its results. At idle the GPU sat at 30 °C (300 MHz and 0.885 V) Putting this card through its paces at stock speeds (working 1.1 V) yielded a maximum temperature of 57 °C in an 19 °C ambient room. This is also on an open test bench with almost no airflow around it. I would have to imagine any ambient air breeze across this cards large 4-pipe heatsink would drop temperatures even more. After overclocking just a bit to 850 MHz core, the card did reach a maximum of 64 °C with the same 19 °C ambient temperatures. That is still well within acceptable operating temperature. There is a warning sticker that came on the heatsink saying not to touch it until after it cools down. It sure does get warm when loaded with little air movement across it, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it personally.

Just remember this cooler is passive so you will hear NOTHING coming from this card. To keep it cool though, even using a maximum of 55 W when stock, the heatsink is large enough to be a dual slot cooler and does stick up around 1/2″ above the PCB on the card. So if this is going in an HTPC, be sure you have the room in a small form factor case. The fact I want to point out about this card/cooler is that it kept it cooler than an actively cooled competitors card, so kudos on the cooler Sapphire!

Power consumption from this card is pretty darn low. Of course with AMD’s Zero Core power, at idle she will sit at less than 3W consumption. In a LONG idle state, the card powers down all major functional blocks of the video card and reduces power consumption to well under one Watt. While in this powered down state, the rest of the system is still available to do what it needs to do. Peak while overclocked on the test system (using 3DMark 11 combined test, I hit a whopping 142 W. In a test which doesn’t utilize the CPU as heavily, the system managed a mere 139 W peak.

Conclusion

Ahh, another mainstream card in the books. So how do we feel about this one? With performance being the same as the other we tested (stock speeds), there isn’t too much to say there. It couldn’t overclock as well, but I sort of expected that out of the cooler… not that the cooling limited the overclocking in this case. The Sapphire HD 7750 Ultimate is a solid card and should be able to play modern games with the settings turned down a bit on lower resolutions than 1920×1080. Some slightly older titles though, like Dirt2, it had no trouble playing full that title with all the eye candy available. There is PLENTY of power in this card to watch all the 1080p videos your heart desires without skipping a beat.

The difference in this card as we discussed earlier is in the cooling. With being passive its dead silent. You will not hear a peep out of this card with its dual slot, 4-heatpipe cooler. With passive cooling naturally comes a more robust cooler so if this is going in a small form factor case, just make sure you have the room for it as the cooler does arc over the top of the PCB.

Coming in at $129.99 MSRP, it is the higher priced of all available 7750′s upon publishing. That’s a bit high for my tastes, but not a deal breaker. Also consider its the only passive 7750 available. The bottom line is if you want absolute silence (like absolute top performance) you will have to pay a small premium for it. Regardless, the card performs well for what its geared towards, and sips on power. With that, it is Overclockers approved.

~Earthdog

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