We've become used to manufacturers rebranding old hardware with ever higher iterative nomenclatures designed to foster the belief that they're new cards. Most recently this happened at the bottom end of the HD 7000 series, where the HD 7600 and below are practically identical to the HD 6600 series.
That's OK when GPUs that didn't make the grade as originally intended are used in cut-down form in new graphics SKUs. The Tahiti LE GPU was a revelation in the HD 7870 XT, and the Cape Verde LE chip used with the HD 7730 is mostly understandable too.
What makes us sad is ending up with two versions of the HD 7730. On the surface, they're practically the same - both have the same Cape Verde LE GPU, the same clockspeed and the same general design. They're even pretty much the same price.
But one is using 2GB of video RAM and the other is using just 1GB. With our advanced knowledge that bigger numbers are generally better numbers, you might automatically assume this 2GB card is the winner and wonder why anyone would drop the same cash on a card with half the frame buffer. Well, because it's actually a good bit quicker.
We're talking about the difference between 2GB of DDR3 and 1GB of GDDR5 video memory. It feels like Sapphire is hoping the 2GB version gets picked up as a higher-spec card than it is.
Across the board, this 2GB card performs worse than either the similarly priced cards with half the amount of GDDR5 memory. Neither are stellar performers at the top graphics settings shown here, but if you drop down a couple of notches you can get some impressive gaming performance out of these budget cards.
DirectX 11 gaming performance
Max Payne 3: Frames per second: Higher is better
HD 7730 2GB (DDR3): 9
HD 7730 1GB (GDDR5): 12
GT 640 REV 2 1GB: 10
Metro: Last Light: Frames per second: Higher is better
HD 7730 2GB (DDR3): 5
HD 7730 1GB (GDDR5): 7
GT 640 REV 2 1GB: 7
Tomb Raider: Frames per second: Higher is better
HD 7730 1GB (DDR3): 15
HD 7750 1GB (GDDR5): 18
GT 640 REV 2 1GB: 20
It would be easy for a normal consumer, especially one looking to pick up a budget card, to make a mistake and buy this. And it would most definitely be a mistake to pick up the DDR3-hobbled card over the GDDR5 version.
To be honest, it would also be a mistake to pick this up instead of Nvidia's impressive, tiny re-designed GT 640. Still, in this price range, any card other than AMD's HD 7770 is a tough sell. The budget GPU market is a fertile land, but this particular card needs its ground salting.