The lower end of the graphics cards market may not see the products at their most glamorous, but for those who want to pay a modest sum to improve on their onboard graphics, and get a graphics card that can handle a few games, the likes of the 7730 come as pleasantly-priced appetisers. A new flavour of the Cape Verde line that sits behind the 7750 and 7770 cards, the 7730 has a good deal in common with those more expensive products. Indeed, at 1.5 billion transistors, it's the same size as the 7750 and 7770. (See all components reviews.)
Cape Verde offers up to 10 Compute Units. In the case of the 7770, all 10 of those are activated. In the case of the 7750, only 8 of the 10 are turned on, while this figure drops to 6 in the case of the 7730. What that means is that, in a number of areas, the 7730 has only 60% of the capabilities of the 7770, while the 7750 offers 80%. The 7770's 640 stream processors, for instance, become 384 on the 7730, while the number of texture units falls from 40 to 24. The 7730 also loses out on Raster Operation units - the 7750 and 7770 both have 16 of these, but the 7730 only has half that figure. All three cards are saddled with a 128bit memory interface.
There are at least two versions of the 7730, both with very different memory configurations. This particular version offers just 1GB of RAM, whereas the alternative comes with twice the memory. However, the 2GB model uses inferior DDR3 RAM rather than the significantly faster GDDR5 of the 1GB version. (There is also a less common 1GB version of the DDR3 card.) This review, then, covers the 1GB GDDR5 card. See Group test: what's the best graphics card?
The Sapphire version sticks very much to the reference card settings, so it has a core clock of 8GHz and a memory clock of 1,125MHz (5GHz DDR effective). (The DDR3 version, in contrast, only offers a memory clock of 900MHz, and so would be inferior in performance, even with twice the memory.) The Sapphire's memory bandwidth of 80GBps is actually identical to that of the more expensive 7750 (also from Sapphire), although the 7730 does lose out in terms of texture fill rate - offering just 19.2GTps to the 7750's 25.6GTps.
Sapphire HD 7730: benchmarks
We did some fresh benchmark tests for the 7730 and 7750, assessing them at a resolution of 1,680x1,050, and at lower detail levels - you won't be using this card for high graphics quality. Typically, the 7750 finished 6-8 frames ahead. In Crysis 3, for example, the 7750 and 7730 scored 27.4 and 21.2fps respectively. In Bioshock, the figures were 40.9 and 33.5fps, and in Stalker, 45.5fps played 37.3fps. These scores are surprisingly playable, suggesting that the 7730 isn't a total write-off as a gaming card. It is consistently behind the 7750, but not by a huge amount.
The card looks very stylish, with Sapphire's streamlined cooling system catching the eye. No additional connector is required from the PSU, so the card's demands are relatively light - its TDP of 47 watts is some 8 watts less than that of the 7750. It's surprisingly thick, though, and requires a dual slot, so those looking for a compact card that can fit into a small space will be disappointed. See all PC Components and Upgrades reviews.