AMD's newly-announced Radeon HD 7790 guns for the budget 1080p gaming crown
Last month's release of Nvidia's Titan graphics card—the most powerful consumer GPU ever announced—may have inspired uncontrollable drooling among the enthusiast crowd, but at a cool $1000, the card simply isn't priced to move. AMD's latest release takes a different tack. Today, the company announced the Radeon HD 7790 series graphics card, a $150 mid-range GPU designed to bring better 1080p gaming to the masses.
The Radeon HD 7790 fills a hole between the Radeon 7770 GHz Edition, which is typically priced between $100 and $110, and the $180 and up Radeon 7850. At $150, the Radeon HD 7790 directly competes against Nvidia's GeForce GTX 650 Ti, which has thus far been sitting uncontested at that particular price point.
Most of AMD's press materials for the Radeon HD 7790 unsurprisingly compare its 1080p gaming performance against Nvidia's counterpart, with AMD's card claiming frame rate victories to the tune of 8 to 32 percent across a slew of games—and a whopping 67 percent frame rate lead over the Nvidia GTX 650 Ti in DiRT Showdown. (That game heavily favors AMD graphics cards, to be fair.) AMD claims the Radeon HD 7790 performs delivers "an average performance advantage of up to 20 percent over the GTX 650 Ti."
The Radeon HD 7790 offers full DirectX 11.1 support and works just fine with EyeFinity multi-monitor setups, though frame rates will obviously drop if you're rocking several displays. Fortunately, AMD loaded the Radeon HD 7790 with CrossfireX support just in case you want a graphical boost down the line. The GTX 650 Ti, on the other hand, doesn't support multi-card solutions.
To complement the card's positioning as a solid, low-cost 1080p gaming option, AMD is extending its popular "Never Settle Reloaded" bundle to the Radeon HD 7970. When you purchase the card at a participating retailer—it will hit the streets April 2—you'll receive a download code for the upcoming Bioshock Infinite game, which will retail for $60.
Nuts and bolts
Rather than using a cut-down version of the Pitcairn GPU found in the Radeon HD 7800 series to create the Radeon HD 7790, AMD instead decided to utilize a new GPU code-named "Bonaire" in the card. You can see how the nitty-gritty details compare against the weaker Radeon HD 7750 and 7770 GHz Edition GPUs in the slide deck below.
In a nutshell, the Radeon HD 7790 should be considerably more powerful than the Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition at nearly the same power draw—though not quite as potent as the Radeon 7850, which has twice as much memory and twice the memory bus width as the 7790, plus quite a bit more processing oomph. (And twice the power consumption.) As far as texture units and transistor counts go, the Radeon HD 7790 sits neatly between the 7770 and the step-up 7850.
The Radeon HD 7790 also packs a beefed-up version of PowerTune, an AMD technology that intelligently adjusts the clock speed and voltage of the GPU to meet the graphical demands of your system on the fly. Basically, if you're playing a game that pushes your rig harder, PowerTune pushes the GPU harder. The new version of PowerTune found in the Radeon HD 7790 doubles the number of PowerTune "states" from four to eight and supports higher sustained clock speeds than before.
Holding us over
Don't be surprised if the Radeon HD 7790 is followed by a few more Radeon 7000-series offerings in the upcoming months. Last month, AMD said it is happy with the performance, pricing, and positioning of this generation of video cards.
Next-gen Radeon HD 8000 series video cards are coming, but not until the end of the year. Until then, expect to see more AMD offerings like the Radeon HD 7790—solid cards made to fill gaps in the company's lineup, rather than something completely revolutionary.