Now I know that a lot of people when they look at a review, they normally see the GPU performance tested on optimum pc hardware. While it's great to see the latest Gpu perform at their full potential, one tends to wonder “what if I don't have a good or balance system?” “Will the game run on my non-optimised pc on high quality settings?” “Will my Cpu that’s bottlenecking the card hampers the game to be unplayable?” And even “will my chassis be big enough to fit it?” etc.
In short, this test is to see if one can still enjoy the latest games on an older or not-so-great RIG. This test will be focusing more on the playability of the games instead of the capabilities of the card, so I won't be testing on Furmark. I will also leave everything on stock values because I just wanted to know if the system could let the user enjoy playing games when they only know how to plug & play the GPU into their system this will help the less IT-Savvy community breathe easier.
So having said that, I decided to jump head on & bought the Sapphire HD7850, install it on my own mediocre' pc to see what kind of gaming performance we could get on a pc that most of us are and probably will be stuck with for a few years.
• AMD Phenom x3 710 @ stock speed
• Asus M4N785TD-V Evo
• Kingston DDR3 value ram 1333mhz, 8gb total
• Samsung 500Gb Hdd & WD Blue 1Tb Hdd
• Huntkey 700W Apfc PSU
• Cooler Master CM690II Advanced
• Dell 20" monitor (1600 x 900 )
• Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
• Sapphire HD7850 2GB (non-oc)
• Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
• MSI After Burner v2.1.0
• Unigine Heaven DX11 Benchmark 3.0
• Dirt 3
• Battlefield 3
FPS will be recorded through the MSI AB and noted while playing games on the highest settings & explain the experience as best I could. In-game benchmark will be used instead if it’s provided. Temperatures will be captured by HWMonitor where its launched after 10 mins the PC is turned on to get the idle temps while the max temp shall represent the load temp after a game of Battlefield 3 for about 10mins.
The FPS Numbers Explained (Courtesy of Tweaktown.com)
When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother.
30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.
60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.
So without further ado….let the tests begin
As you can see, the HD7850 idles at about 33C, which is good but the weird thing is that the fan kicks into 50% speed when it hits 34C, looks like some tweaking on the fan settings is needed.
Unigine Heaven DX11 Benchmark 3.0 scores
(Quoted from the Unigine website) Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced UNIGINE™ engine. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk. It is the first DirectX 11 benchmark in the world, the original version was released at the moment of Microsoft Windows 7 launch in October, 2009.
The FPS count dips to 18 is when the test started. Average FPS is at 34.8 which is decent so games that have high graphical requirements may be played but I'll need to tone down the details a bit should I need that extra FPS.
Dirt 3 was relatively easy to test as it has a built-in benchmarking tool, released in May 2011 it’s a beautiful game utilising DirectX 11 which I expect to have the GPU working hard.
• Here are the settings used on this game with details set to Ultra where available
• And here is the result of the benchmarking
• To my surprise (and joy), the game is very playable on stock settings, although the with the average FPS at 62.13 and even if the minimum FPS is below 60, I hardly notice any difference while the game was running. There are some screen tearing every now and then but the game runs gorgeously nonetheless.
Most of us would look for this game in online benchmarks, Dice’s Frostbite2 engine is said to tax the GPU heavily with its state of the art tessellation and lightings. Again, let me highlight that I'm running an AMD PhenomII x3 710 at stock settungs here so there is bound to be bottlenecks.
• Here is the screenshot of the game settings, which is of course set to Ultra, 4xMSAAAA enabled,16x AF enabled & HBAO enabled
Intro cut scenes are a breeze with over 200fps. However, once in the heat of the action, the game is not as smooth as I’d like it to be as the frame rates would dip as low as 29FPS at some point and as high as 57FPS when there is less action on the screen. So you might wanna tone down the settings a bit to play it smoothly. The game averaged at about 66FPS after a re-test with the AF lowered and HBAO disabled.
Summary & Conclusion
As you can see, even on a mediocre RIG like mine one can enjoy the latest games without sacrificing much on details on 1600x900 resolution. With the Sapphire HD7850 retailing for about RM760 in KL (Apr 2012), I’d say it’s an affordable GPU for most people looking for an upgrade. Size wise, it’s rather small so I doubt it will have trouble fitting in most standard ATX chassis.
As a bonus, the card runs at a cool 55C on load (room temp) with the fans running at 50% on auto. You will hear a low hum coming from the GPU depending on where you placed your chassis (I had mine beside the monitor BTW) a good job from Sapphire for this cooler. Further tweaking of the fan settings Via MSI AB leaves the card inaudible at 30% fan speed idling at about 36C.
Although some sacrifices need to be made to the details of Battlefield 3, the overall experience is unaffected. Other games such as Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age 2 runs smoothly on full details even with the processor bottleneck in my system. This means that anyone that has the same or slightly better system will be able to enjoy the latest games without much trouble. You do need to consider a few things though, do remember that all the games in this test is running at a resolution of only 1600x900 so for 1080p the results will definitely be different.