I find myself again at the end of a mid-range card review and again impressed with what's on offer. The launch price on the HD 6790 is $149 US and we should see these custom versions go for only $10 US more at $159 US. This pretty much puts the card at exactly the same price point as the GTX 550 Ti.
So is it a better buy over the GTX 550 Ti? Well, it depends on the GTX 550 Ti you compare it to. From the performance side of things it looks to be overall probably a better buy; it tends to either be a little faster, or at the same speed. The times it comes in slower tends to be the times both cards don't offer playable FPS.
Noise levels on the Sapphire version are also very good, as is the heat. It's not as cool as some GTX 550 Ti cards, but is cooler than others. Outside of all this, though, the Sapphire version is running at its stock clocks. The MSI card we used today is running at 950MHz core and other brands we've looked at have been running at 1000MHz, which leaves us with the impression we've got some head room when it comes to performance.
The pre-overclocked nature of the GTX 550 Ti cards is what puts it all into perspective when you consider the fact the HD 6790 is running at stock. Outside of that and just stepping away from comparing it to the current generation competition - when looking at the model against the HD 5770...Wow!
If you're on a HD 5770 still and looking for a new mid $100 card, this is just an awesome upgrade; it offers a bucket load more performance and has all those little improvements that the HD 6000 series brought to the table like better tessellation performance. Also, some models will carry the mini DisplayPort connector setups and you'll be able to run up to five monitors off a single card. Sure, for gaming it's no good, but for an office environment it could be extremely handy.
We're really beginning to see a generation of $150 US cards that offer more performance than you would expect. This is another fantastic mid-range card and I think AMD choosing to use the new "90" naming scheme is going to be one of the best things they've done in a while when it comes to marketing strategy.
Sapphire has of course thrown their flair into the mix and offered us a cooler that's both quiet and performs well, and we ask ourselves what more we could ask for at the mid $100 US price range.