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Sapphire Radeon HD 6790 1GB Video Card Review

With the high end market taken care of, AMD begin to concentrate on some more budget friendly models with the new HD 6790. We look at Sapphires to kick things off!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Apr 4 2011 10:54 PM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package


Introduction

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If all those NDAs last month weren't already enough for everyone, we start the NDA run for April nice and early. With AMD having taken care of the high end segment with cards like the HD 6970 and HD 6990, while also taking care of that mid-range - high end segment with cards from the HD 6800 series, it was only a matter of time 'till we saw some more mid-range, cheaper cards hit the market.

Considering NVIDIA released the GTX 550 Ti last month and more mid-range models are rumored, it comes as no surprise that AMD are starting to release their line-up. The first comes in the form of the HD 6790. It's clear that the xx30 naming scheme didn't work for them in the past, so it seems they've decided to look at a 50, 70 and 90 line-up now.

The first HD 6790 comes from our good friends at Sapphire and I find myself actually quite interested in testing the model. To be honest, I thought that the GTX 550 Ti would be painfully slow and NVIDIA was just being a bit tail happy with the new Ti prefix, but the card ended up performing much better than I thought and offered some great overall performance.

So the question is, can I find myself pleasantly surprised with the HD 6790? And is it something you should be looking at? Well, there's only one way to find out; but before we look at the performance of the card we'll first check out the package, the card itself and take a deeper look at the specifications to see what exactly is on offer from this card.


Package

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Looking at what's on offer here, there's no real surprise with any of it from the smaller packaging to the limited bundle. What was a surprise is the inclusion of two power convertors, not because we're not used to seeing them, but more so that a card that sits below the HD 6850 would still require two power connectors.

Card and Specifications


The Card

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Head on there's nothing too crazy going on with the card. The cooler design isn't really anything new and we've seen similar designs from Sapphire over the years. Behind the fan, though, we can see a couple of copper heat pipes that protrude straight out from where the core sits.

This isn't the reference cooler; like most mid-range models, partners have been able to attack the card straight away with their own design.

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It's a little bit of a shock to see two 6-Pin PCI-E power connectors at the back. As we mentioned on the first page when looking at the bundle, it's not so much that the card carries two PCI-E power connectors, because that's not uncommon; it's more so that a real mid-range card like the HD 6790 carries two. AMD has told us, though, that some companies will be offering two, while the reference design only offers one. It's all very interesting none the less.

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Closer to the front we've got a single CrossFire connector and connectivity is strong with a Single-Link DVI, Dual-Link DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort connector.


Specifications

Specification wise, the HD 6790 doesn't look too bad at all. We've got 800 Stream Processors, 40 Texture Units, 16 ROPs and 64 Z-Stencil. At default the card carries with it 1GB of GDDR5, but more impressive is the fact it's on a 256-bit memory bus. Note below that some of the details are a little different, as GPU-Z didn't want to play nice with the card.

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Clock wise we've got 840MHz on the core and the 1GB GDDR5 comes in at 4200MHz QDR. Overall it's not a bad looking card, and you do feel like there's going to be a bit of power on offer due to the fact we've got two power connectors there. It will be interesting to see how the model performs, that's for sure.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11


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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

Being a true mid-range card, we've dropped the 2560 x 1600 testing and removed our AA / AF testing. Instead we just test our line-up at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200, as that's ultimately the kind of resolution you would play games at with this kind of card.

As for the line-up, we've got the older HD 5770 and new HD 6850 from AMD. On the NVIDIA front we've included the older GTX 460 and the new GTX 550 Ti and GTX 560 Ti.

Let's get started!


3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Out the gate performance is looking very strong. We can see the card has no trouble taking on the GTX 550 Ti in this instance and offers a good improvement over the HD 5770, which was a great buy for budget conscious users of last generation.

3DMark Vantage




Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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Performance amongst the AMD models again shows the card doing very well. NVIDIA of course have the benefit of PhysX here, so it's not a surprise we see the HD 6790 not perform as strong against those offerings.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark




Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//



New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Tessellation was a real struggle for AMD in the HD 5000 series, but it's been improved in the HD 6000 series and you can see overall its performance is very similar to the GTX 550 Ti 1GB, which is its main competition.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5


Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/




Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Here we've got some great performance and you can really see if you're a HD 5770 user the kind of performance boost you would achieve. In something older like RE5 you'd probably find that you'd get a small amount of AA on which would be great.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/




Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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H.A.W.X. 2 indeed favors the NVIDIA offerings, but we can again see the kind of performance improvement we get over the older HD 5770. The HD 5770 offered absolute borderline performance; we want an average of 60 FPS and it's that exactly. The HD 6790 on the other hand offers a significant increase with the 1680 x 1050 performance being 50% better.

Benchmarks - Mafia II


Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Buy It Here




Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Mafia II performance does fall a little below the 60 FPS mark we want, but it's pretty much what we consider playable while also performing almost in line with the GTX 550 Ti. A small detail drop, though, would yield some extra FPS which would make sure overall performance was silky smooth.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2


Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/




Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Again compared to the older HD 5770, performance is strong. Overall, though, most cards struggle under Lost Planet 2 due to how intensive it is and everything but the GTX 560 Ti at 1680 x 1050 isn't able to break 60 FPS.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator


Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Again we have good performance and compared to the GTX 550 Ti it's indeed faster here. Like Lost Planet 2, though, we see that overall the numbers are a fair bit behind that 60 FPS average we aim for, so you'd really want to drop the detail.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV


Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/




While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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No surprise that we've got strong FPS and you can see the HD 6790 manages to just edge out the GTX 550 Ti 1GB.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Good performance under Far Cry 2 with that minimum not being an issue. We continue to see that strong performance over the older HD 5770 and compared to the GTX 550 Ti AMD manage to edge out another win.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum


Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/





Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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Looking at Batman AA, there are no surprises with again strong performance at both resolutions. Compared to the GTX 550 Ti it's a little back and forth with one card edging out here and the other edging out there.

Temperature Test


Temperature Tests



The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Checking out the temperature, there's nothing that's going to worry most users here with a 63c maximum temp achieved.

Sound Test


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Noise level on the card is extremely good. Unlike the Palit GTX 550 Ti which is very quiet as well, the Sapphire card runs a good chunk cooler than it, bringing both low noise and low heat to the party.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw is quite low; it's lower than I expected, though, considering we've got two 6-Pin PCI-E connectors powering the card.

Final Thoughts




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.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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