It is good to see a new player in the lower segment of the dedicated consumer graphics card market. Merely a year after the release of the 7770 this 7790 is now introduced and really, it's a nice little card that offers decent muscle to play today's games with the understanding that you need to place this product where it belongs, upper-segment entry level.
So the R7770 already is/was a decent performer for the money really. The R7790 however offers a chunk extra in game performance. On average you'll see roughly a third more performance seen on the R7770 and that's thanks to the slightly revised GCN architecture with Boost function, the increased memory bandwidth and obviously the 256 extra shader processors that take the R7790 towards 896 shader/stream/compute processors.
The outcome of that equation is simple; better performance, with the factory clocked faster SKUs closing in on the Radeon HD 7850. Now don't expect a game like Crysis 3 to run at 1920x1200 at Very High Quality, no sir, but with AA disabled and a notch lower image quality settings it is possible, especially if you drop down to say 1600x1200. But realistically, everybody has moved on to Full HD monitors at 1920x1080/1200.
The sheer amount of performance at this price range remains good, and the game image quality you get thrown at you doesn't suck either. Hitman is such a title that is demanding on the GPU yet offers such nice eye-candy, and at 1920x1200 in DX11 mode. Lovely. So overall the R7790 is in sync with today's games versus image quality versus a monitor resolution of 1600x1200. If you lower image quality and can forfeit on say AA, then Full HD 1920x1080/1200 monitor resolutions become an option as well. This of course differs per game.
AMD did not send out reference cards for this review and I'm not too happy with that. The Sapphire model submitted is an OC model, hence the performance is slightly faster than the reference clocks. Regardless, this two fan cooler design looks good and performance is nice. Taste obviously differs per person.
Directly related to the cooling are the noise levels. The Sapphire Dual-X OC graphics card has two fans. They're low RPM though so it's not noisy. Cooling performance overall is really fine. So on both topics we really can't complain. This is not the high-end game and as such GPU heat and all related variables are just not really an issue.
The Radeon HD 7790 is rated at a 85 Watt TDP. That is fine really. Our measurements show that 90 Watt at peak with a modern game is more in line with what you'll see, though again our model was a factory OC version. So yeah, these are acceptable numbers really, so that is not an issue. Obviously you need to add to that the processor, memory, motherboard and other peripheral devices, our recommendation stands at a 450~500 Watt power supply, even with a decent overclock that should be sufficient.
Overclocking then, we again notice decent results. We had hoped to see a little more performance though, but we'll have to wait and see what all the board partners will do in terms of even higher (factory clocked) clock frequencies. If you need a little more bite, don't be afraid to overclock these cards. A 10% gain could be easily achieved under the condition that the BIOS will not be locked down, if not 1150 MHz is a viable clock frequency you can reach with probably any model. With better cooling, even higher as shown today.
This will remain a bit debatable. The Radeon HD 7790 cards will sell at roughly 149 USD & 139 EUR. That is of course the regular reference models. Expect the factory overclocked, or should I say faster clocked, products to be 10 to 20 bucks more expensive. And those I find to be mid-range prices.If you browse around a little then you'll find a Radeon HD 7850 with 1 GB of graphics memory for roughly 160 EUR already and yes, obviously the 7850 is a notch faster than the R7790. So keep a close eye on prices.
We do expect though that in the weeks to come prices will drop once there is good volume availability. Honestly, the prices inevitably will settle at 125 USD/EUR which is a more realistic price for this series. For that money you will receive a nice graphics card that can play all the latest games at acceptable image quality settings with very acceptable framerates, especially at a resolution of 1600x1200 it's golden for the money. You will benefit from the 1GHz+ clock frequency. Combined with a cooler that keeps the product silent and chilled down to excellent temps you will not have anything to complain about really.
But let me finish things up. The Bonaire based product seems a good fit in the lower segment of the graphics card market. We do like this product as it does offer a nice chunk of extra performance over the R7770, making the R7790 perform closer to the R7850. Pricing wise, once there is good volume availability we say that 125~130 USD/EUR would be a fair amount of money for what you get in return. My one gripe with R7790 really is memory, AMD probably should have enforced 2 GB framebuffers as all modern games tend to pass 1GB fairly easily these days. Now there will be 1GB and 2GB versions of this product series, but the 1GB models are the ones being promoted. With most games these days passing 1 GB we would strongly recommend a 2GB card version, but that will cost you an extra 10~15 bucks which again drives up the pricing towards the better R7850.
Anyone with a monitor up-to 1600x1200 will get 'very nice' performance with the latest games available whilst applying harsh image quality settings as well. Throttle down on image quality settings a bit and then 1920x1080/1200 is viable and playable as well. The Radeon HD 7790 1GB as tested today works out well, the cooling performance is nice, the noise levels very low, we had a 3rd party cooled SKU at hand and that thus says nothing about reference measurements. Overall we can certainly recommend the Radeon HD 7790 based products if that is what your budget allows you to purchase. We are now slowly entering the phase where entry level cards reach Full HD resolutions. Then again, I always stated that entry level cards never should be priced higher than 100 EUR.
But I need to add this little note alright; AMD's Never Settle Reloaded promotion continues. At participating retailers beginning 02 April, 2013, gamers will be able to receive a free copy of BioShock Infinite with a purchase of their new AMD Radeon HD 7790 graphics card. See, now that's great value. The Radeon HD 7790 series cards will be available in stores starting April 2, 2013
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