Instead of taking route of having the fastest graphics card on the market with the GV-R779OC-2GD, Gigabyte has decided to make its product both efficient and quiet. This may turn off certain gamers that may want to squeeze that extra frame or two from their hardware, but it is refreshing to see a vendor attempt to balance performance with efficiency in a product aimed at a hardcore audience.
The compactness of the heat sink, dubbed Windforce 2X, makes the card surprisingly easy to slot into the case and motherboard. The heat sink is composed of two 100mm PWM fans and one 8mm heat pipe, though the cooling gets a boost from Gigabyte’s “Triangle Cool” design. The centrepiece of this is a triangle-shaped aluminum block that dissipates heat more effectively. By fitting two modest fans on the card, the GV-R779OC-2GD has the potential to be quieter than its competition when in use, though this is difficult to appreciate over the typical hum of a computer’s power supply.
The card comes fitted with an AMD Radeon HD 7790 GPU, which puts its performance squarely in the mid-range category. It has a 1000MHz core that can be safely overclocked to 1075, though for this review it was left on its standard setting. The 2GB GDDR5 128-bit memory interface clocks in at 6000MHz and the card interfaces with the motherboard with PCI Express 3.0 X16. The rear of the card consist of four output of DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI and a DisplayPort. The GPU features Shader Model 5.0 support, which translates to compatibility with DirectX 11.1 and OpenGL 4.2.
Past and present
The GV-R779OC-2GD was tested on an Intel i5 750 system with 8GB RAM and an SSD HDD. Before upgrading to this new card, the same system was fitted with a card from Sapphire based on the AMD Radeon HD 6850 GPU. The card was released in late 2010 and was at the time often voted as the best budget mid-range product. Similarly, the AMD Radeon HD 7790 is considered a good budget mid-range choice for gamers currently, which essentially puts the two cards head-to-head with each other.
The improved design of the Radeon HD 7790 GPU, assisted by Gigabyte’s heat sink, means that the GV-R779OC-2GD pulls approximately 85W in power. This is in comparison to the Radeon HD 6850, which draws just over 125W. That’s quite a power saving considering that the newer GPU pushes more polygons than its predecessor. The card was tested with the recently released StarCraft: Heart of the Swarm, which ran smoothly at 1080p resolution, all the in-game detail settings maxed out, and full screen anti-aliasing (FSAA) at 8X. However, since the game is an extension of 2010’s StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, the graphics engine is not that taxing.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is another recent release, and despite its roots as a console game, it makes heavy use of PC hardware. The GV-R779OC-2GD performed admirable at approximately 25 frames per second (FPS) when running FSAA at 4X, though cranking it up to 8X made the frame rate drop to approximately 15 FPS. A higher end Radeon GPU would likely overcome this graphical obstacle, but the budget nature of the Radeon HD 7790 meant that it essentially maxed out at 4X.
2011’s Rage is another console title that has made the jump to PC, though it features additional graphical settings aimed at powerful video cards. The game had no problem running at 25 FPS with FSAA at 8X, though there were several graphical settings that oddly not supported by the card. One was GPU transcoding, with the game displaying an error message saying it is “not available due to insufficient memory or unsupported hardware.” Attempting to choose the highest setting on texture detail gave an “insufficient number of cores” error, though the game allowed the setting to be forced. However, when it was forced the frame rate dipped well below 25 FPS.
The GV-R779OC-2GD was put through the ringer in 3DMark to gain a score of 5830. The Graphics score was 5687, Physics was 6609, and the Combined score was 5907. Graphics Test 1 ran at 24.0 FPS, Graphics Test 2 at 27.6 FPS, Graphics Test 3 at 35.3 FPS, and Graphics Test 4 18.0 FPS. The Physics Test managed 21.0 FPS while the Combined Test generated 27.5 FPS. To put these results in perspective, the tests were run with the default settings at 1280 x 720 resolution. MSAA sample count was set to one while the texture filtering mode was trilinear.
From the driver perspective, the card was generally stable though some crashes took place following the initial upgrade. Typically, the screen would turn black and then Windows would restart the drivers. This took place on the Windows desktop running 2D graphics and not during 3D gameplay. Turning off Intel HD graphics in device manager seemed to help, though this type of error did not happen with the older Sapphire card, even with both cards using stock drivers from AMD. Fortunately, no further crashes have occurred since the issue was rectified.
The GV-R779OC-2GD stands out for its quiet design and compact heat sink, which is exclusive to the Gigabyte card. From an overall Radeon perspective, the HD 6850 GPU provides good overall performance for a mid-range card. However, that means that the card struggles with features such as FSAA 8X. As such, gamers looking for bleeding edge performance with the latest games would be better off investing in a higher end card.
The Gigabyte GV-R779OC-2GD retails for $190 and can be found at all major retail channels.
Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.