AMD Radeon HD 6790 Review

AMD is adding another card to round-out their 6700 series selection: the Radeon HD 6790. It is aimed performance/upper mid-range market and will be retailing for $149. It’s supposed to lie between the 6850 and 5770/6770 in terms of performance and compete with the NVIDIA Geforce GTX 550Ti. Including all of the features common to other 6700 series cards, like 16 render back-end units, this should offer a great 1080p gaming experience for consumers.

Die shot

Die shot

The reference board in all its glory

The reference board in all its glory

Features and Specifications

Process 40nm
Transistors 1.7B
Engine Clock Up to 840 Mhz
Stream Processors 800
Compute Performance Up to 1.34 TFLOPs
Texture Units 40
Texture Fillrate 33.6 GTexel/s
ROPs 16
Pixel Fillrate 13.4 GPixel/s
Z/Stencil 53.8 GSample/s
Memory Type GDDR5
Memory Clock Up to 1050 MHz
Memory Bus Width 256 bit
Memory Data Rate Up to 4.2 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth Up to 134.4 GB/s
Load Board Power 150W
Idle Board Power 19W

It is note worthy that just about all of these specifications are below the 6870.  Granted, it isn’t aimed to compete with the 6870, but that is all that I had here to compare with.  This comparison will certainly give some perspective on performance/price scaling in the AMD ranks, though.  Also by that comparison, it is easy to see that these specs are a little more for the mainstream to mid-level gaming arena.

I’m not going to post the normal plethora of different angled pictures showing off every nook and cranny of this card because AMD has assured me the sample they sent will never see the light of day.  All of their partners are releasing their own designs and some even come with only one extra power plug.  AMD was gracious enough to include some shots of these products that should be available now or in the near future. I’m extremely grateful to see none of these cards are using the mouse wheel style fan because those create way too much noise.

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

courtesy AMD

Overclocking

The card I received wasn’t too bad at overclocking even though I couldn’t unlock any of the voltages.  I ended up settling with 985 MHz on the core and 1215 MHz on the RAM.  That equates to a 17% gain on the core and 15% gain on the RAM, which isn’t anything to sneeze at. I didn’t have enough time to play with flashing the BIOS to see if I could unlock any hidden specs like extra stream processors. If it is possible to do so, then that would definitely add extra value to the card. As it stands, the core and RAM speeds alone are very close to what I could achieve with the PowerColor PCS+ 6870, so all hope is not lost.

Overclocked to 985/1215

Overclocked to 985/1215

Benchmarks

There isn’t really anything outrageous in these benchmark graphs.  The 6870 I had on hand won every test with ease, as it should. Even with a comparable core and RAM clock speeds, the added specs of the 6870 steal the show.  In the 1080p tests, it is notable that every test stayed above 30 FPS which really is the lower limit of perceivable choppiness in games, as I’m sure you are aware. This was the first time I’ve run the HAWX2 benchmark and it was very frustrating that there was no way to enable the Terrain Tessellation under the DX11 section in the setting. I’m sure that would add another level of complexity to the test to help bring these cards to their knees.

Test System

  • Intel i7 2600k @ stock
  • Patriot Sector 5 Viper II 2×2 GB @ DDR3-2133 cas9
  • Zalman CNPS9900-LED
  • NZXT HALE-90 850W
  • Asus P8P67 Pro
Gaming tests at default settings

Gaming tests at default settings

Gaming tests at 1080p

Gaming tests at 1080p

Taking a quick look through HWBot for some data on the GTX 550Ti, you can see the 6790 competes almost neck and neck depending on the test. AMD is claiming that the 6790 beats the 550 Ti by up to 30% in gaming benchmarks so it will be interesting to see what the HWBot rankings show in the next few weeks as overclockers get their hands on these.

Conclusion

In terms of benchmarking, the only record you are going to be breaking with this card will be the ones specific to the 6790.  This isn’t a high-end screamer but it still holds its own in its proper segment.  When you look around for cards that are about $150 you’ll see the 6850 just above, the 5770 just below, and the GTX 550 Ti right there. So, for the price this is a decent card. It overclocks so you can stretch your dollar a little farther and if it is possible to unlock some features with a BIOS flash then I could see this card being a hot commodity in the future. Overall, I’m marking the 6790 Overclockers Approved because it holds true to its mantra of being an affordable 1080p gaming solution.

-splat

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11 Comments:

Janus67's Avatar
Would the GTX 460 be a better comparison/choice for the card?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I think AMD was aiming at the GTX 550 with this one. They have comparable prices. With any luck in the next couple of weeks we'll have a GTX 550 (or two ) to compare.
Jmtyra's Avatar
Nice article
ratbuddy's Avatar
Not sure how this ends up approved. It's soundly trounced by both the 460 and 6850 in the same price range.

The 550 is available on newegg right now for as little as $135 with no rebate involved, or $115 after a rebate. Closer to competing with the 5770 than the 6790.

The 6850 can be had for $165 before, $145 after rebate. The GTX 460 768MB is $150 before rebate, and as low as $115 after. Even the 460 1GB can be yours for $160 after rebate. All are faster than the 6970.

At $130 this would be a decent card and I wouldn't protest the 'recommended' badge. At $150, it's as lame as the 5830 and GTX 550 were at launch.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Approved/Meh/Fail ratings explained. It's a new creation borne out of recent discussion on what approved means. We now link to it from the awards. Hope that helps.
ratbuddy's Avatar
Seems this card is the very definition of meh, then.

hokiealumnus's Avatar
I suppose that just falls to the reviewer's opinion. $150 for a card that seems to overclock pretty well and perform decently around its price range. You, he and everyone else are certainly welcome to their own opinions. If we were all the same the world would be a boring place.
splat's Avatar
I agree the 460 is a great card, but the 6790 isn't aimed to compete with it. If you can find a great deal on a 460, and you think it performs better than the 6790 for your purposes, then awesome.

I still stand by approving the card, because of exactly what i stated in my conclusion: the card overclocks well, its a decent price, and it does well against its competition.
ratbuddy's Avatar
We'll have to agree to disagree. I see the competition as being cards in the same price bracket. 6850 and 460 both qualify and are both faster
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Part of the problem is they're releasing too many cards too close together (both companies IMHO). There is a price difference between the two; the 6850's on newegg range from $165 to $195. I'm sure these will have MIR's too at some point, so those prices don't reflect that. It will depend on whether the person wants to pay the extra $15 for the increased performance. They are two silly close price brackets, but distinct nonetheless in the manufacturers' eyes.
splat's Avatar
right, the 6850 is faster and more expensive...as it should be.
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