Sapphire Radeon HD 6790 Review

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Sapphire Radeon HD 6790 Review

Remember the Radeon HD 5830? That videocard filled a certain price point, but it was actually the same GPU used in the high-end HD 5870, with a large chunk of the die disabled. The net result was a graphics card that was physically bigger than the intermediate HD 5850 and used more power. And although it cost less, performance really wasn’t up to snuff for the target price point.

Enter the Radeon HD 6790. At first blush, it’s similar in concept to the HD 5830. AMD took its Barts GPU (used in the Radeon HD 6870 and 6850) and disabled a big chunk of it. Voilà: the Radeon HD 6790. The card requires two 6-pin PCI-E power connectors, while the beefier HD 6850 only needs one. AMD told us this was necessary due to the HD 6790’s higher core clocks and voltages.

Sapphire’s Radeon HD 6790 is surprisingly capable, but still an oddball GPU.

We’re being a little unfair, though, because AMD (and Sapphire, which makes this particular model of the HD 6790) is setting a more appropriate price for the performance, particularly when compared to its direct competition, the Nvidia GTX 550 Ti.

The problem, however, isn’t how it fares against the 550 Ti. Rather, it’s the fact that for a few dollars more, you can get faster cards. On the one hand, you can find Radeon HD 6850 cards, which typically require only a single power connector, for about $20 to $25 more. On the other hand, you can still find 768MB Nvidia GTX 460 cards for around $160—just a $10 increase.

It’s worth noting that the Zotac GTX 550 Ti used in our comparison is factory overclocked to 1GHz—fully 100MHz higher than the factory default. (Does “factory default” even have a meaning anymore?) The Sapphire card is running at the stock 840MHz.

When you look at performance, the Sapphire looks like a pretty decent choice, particularly for single 1080p displays. At 1920x1200, with 4x AA enabled, it managed respectable frame rates in some games, and generally overpowered the overclocked Zotac. It does use a little more power at idle, but is more efficient at full throttle, which is pretty typical of AMD parts. The 6790 seems a bit bulky for its class, but should fit in most PC cases. The Sapphire HD 6790 ships with two DVI ports (one is single-link), one full-size DisplayPort 1.2 connector, and an HDMI 1.4a port. The card can fully support three displays, though if you want three 30-inch monsters, they’ll need DisplayPort 1.2 capability.

In the end, Sapphire’s Radeon HD 6790 offers decent enough performance in its class, but bear in mind, for just a few bucks more, you can pick up an HD 6850.

$150, www.sapphiretech.com

Sapphire Radeon HD 6790

DIAMOND

A step up from the old HD 5770; just $150.

ZIRCON

Uses more power than an HD 6850; needs to cost just a little less.

8

SPECIFICATIONS

Sapphire Radeon HD 6790 Zotac GTX 550 TiAsus ENGTX 460 TOP 768MBXFX Radeon HD 6850 1GB
Die Size (square millimeters)
255
238
332255
Transistor Count
1.7 billion
1.17 billion
1.95 billion
1.7 billion
Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)
134.4
98.5
192128
Stream Processors / Shader Processors
800
192
336960
Texture Units
40
32
5648
ROPs
16 24
2432
Core Clock
840MHz
1,000MHz
675MHz775MHz
GDDR 5 Memory Clock
1,050MHz 1,100MHz
900MHz1,000MHz
Memory1GB GDDR51GB GDDR5768MB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
Power Connectors2 x 6-pin1 x 6-pin2 x 6-pin1 x 6-pin

*AMD and Nvidia computer cores are not directly comparable.

Benchmarks

Sapphire Radeon HD 6790 Zotac GTX 550 TiAsus ENGTX 460 TOP 768MBXFX Radeon HD 6850 1GB
3DMark 2011 (Extreme)
3,216
2,779
3,2013,596*
3DMark Vantage Perf
13,315
12,559
13,73714,292*
Unigine Heaven 2.1 (fps) 14
16
18*16
Crysis (fps) 20 17
1924*
BattleForge DX11 (fps) 31
3138*36
Far Cry 2 / Long (fps) 68 7788*85
HAWX 2 DX11 (fps) 62
83
85*68
STALKER: CoP DX11 (fps) 26 25
2528*
Just Cause 2 (fps)26293030*
Aliens vs. Predator (fps) 22
19
2123*
F1 2010 (fps)
39
33
36
46*
Metro 2033 (fps)11
615*9
Power @ idle (W)
137132128*133
Power @ full throttle (W)226263248218*
Street Price$150$150$160$170

Asterisk denotes best result. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-975 Extreme Edition in an Asus P6X58D Premium motherboard with 6GB of DDR3/1333 and an 850TX Corsair PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows Ultimate. All games are run at 1920x1200 with 4x AA.

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