We love a good low-end graphics card with some get-up-and-go here at OC3D. There is nothing better than spending peanuts and obtaining some great performance.
Recently we reviewed the GTX650Ti Boost, a graphics card which was not only at a great price, but had bags of performance on a budget. We liked nearly everything about it.
Returning to the fray with a card that sits between the pretty poor HD7770 and the excellent HD7850, AMD look to pick up the gauntlet that the GTX650Ti laid down with the HD7790. Is it going to be a great performer at a low price like the HD7850, or will it retain the low results we saw from its HD7770 brethren?
We hope for AMD's sake that it's going to be a stellar performer, because production of the HD7850 is being stopped to make room for this card in the Radeon range.
When compared to the GPU at the heart of the HD7850, the HD7790 has a huge reduction in the amount of transistors and shaders available. We've often commented that pure clockspeed looks impressive in advertising blurb, but the architecture is what counts when it comes to delivering performance.
|Model ||VX7790 1GBD5-DHX|
|Graphics Engine||RADEON HD 7790|
|Video Memory||1GB GDDR5|
|Bus Standard ||PCI Express 3.0|
|Core Speed ||Boost up to 1030MHz|
|Memory Speed||1500 MHz (6.0 Gbps)|
|Display Outputs||DVI x2|
When you're buying a card at such a low price, you expect certain features to be lacking, but we have to say that the VTX3D really looks cheap. Quite why they decided to remove the shroud is beyond us, and it certainly doesn't improve the aesthetics.
It reminds us of the ASUS HD4850, with a cooler sitting alone in an island of PCB. That's not a good thing.
At the business ends of the card we have a couple of DVIs, an HDMI and a DisplayPort, covering all the options. There is a DVI to VGA adaptor if you're still using a very old monitor.
This is why we're so hard on the looks of the VTX3D. The reference card includes the shroud and so at a glance it could be any of the many Radeon cards on the market. Whereas the VTX3D is unquestionably a cheap low-end card.
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Corsair Dominator Platinum
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
Despite the looks the cooler works well enough. Given how little power the HD7790 takes we're surprised to see temperatures this high, but it's tolerable.
3D Mark Vantage
Initially the P-Score gives us hope. It's behind the GTX650Ti but on a par with the HD7850 that the HD7790 is replacing. However when the detail level is ramped up to a level you'll actually use, the performance drops off dramatically. The HD7770 is the only card in our graph with a lower X-Score.
3D Mark 11
In 3D Mark 11 the HD7790 just about matches the HD7850, but it's still a few points shy of the nVidia card.
As the latest version of 3D Mark is so new we only have a handful of tests, but we can still compare it to the GTX650Ti and it doesn't stack up well. The Ice Storm test is so undemanding it is able to be run on Tegra phones at a decent clip, and as we move through the tests up to ones running with the detail and resolution expected of a modern game the HD7790 really falls off a cliff.
Moving on to Alien vs Predator and we have a good result at last. The VTX3D HD7790 is comfortably ahead of the GTX650Ti and definitely in the range we'd class as playable.
Batman Arkham City
Recent driver updates have transformed Batman : AC on AMD hardware, and the HD7790 makes full use of this to pull in a very handy score indeed.
Oh dear. The GTX650Ti, which we felt was struggling a little in the latest title from Crytek, looks like a performance behemoth in comparison to the 7FPS average obtained on the HD7790. Seven. You would get a smoother experience flicking through some screenshots quickly. Ridiculous.
Far Cry 3
Things don't improve in Far Cry 3. With nearly half the performance of GTX650Ti, the HD7790 so underwhelming that you could probably call it incompatible with this title.
Far Cry 2
Things improve with the much older Far Cry 2. It's no secret that this runs on the older DirectX 9 framework rather than the DX11 of the previous two titles. A portent of results to come perhaps.
The answer, in short, is yes the poor DirectX 11 performance continues in Hitman. 13 frames per second is a slideshow.
The VTX3D HD7790 finally gets closer to the GTX650Ti in Sleeping Dogs. Still nothing to write home about, but at least it's not getting destroyed this time.
A title that normally favours the AMD offerings, and the HD7790 is not even able to match the performance of the GTX560, let alone the GTX650. Playable, but what card isn't playable with Mafia 2?
We're starting to run out of new ways to express how disappointing the performance of the HD7790 is. It's relentlessly poor.
Resident Evil 5 - DX9
Yes, finally Resident Evil 5 comes to the rescue. The game that provides a playable frame-rate on a toaster does so with the HD7790. But don't get out the bunting and trumpets just yet. The HD7790 is the only card that gives an average framerate below 100FPS. Even the reference HD7770 did better. So even in a title that appears to give the HD7790 some hope, it's still rubbish.
Resident Evil 5 - DX10
At least with the DirectX 10 version of Resident Evil 5, the HD7790 performs a little better, and manages to not be as bad as a stock HD7770, although the overclocked HD7770 does outperform the stock HD7790.
Resident Evil 6
Even on the base settings, the HD7790 is nowhere near as good as the GTX650Ti. Even the benchmark itself says that the game only runs "pretty well", and the benchmark is designed to be generous to sell the game to the maximum audience.
We're always seeking to expand our test suite, and the latest title to enter the fray is Tomb Raider. 28FPS average isn't great, but with nothing to compare it to we can't complain too much.
40 frames per second isn't great, and the maximum FPS graph shows how much the HD7790 struggles, even with no anti-aliasing. The next page should be fun.
The HD7850 comfortably bests the HD7790, as does the GTX650Ti. To be honest though, what doesn't?
Finally Unigine Valley and the interminable quest to find a new way to express how poor the HD7790 performs is at an end.
We've often commented upon the fine line that exists between reducing the performance of the hardware to the point that it's a bargain, and reducing it too much to be worth purchasing.
There is no doubt that the HD7790 is reduced past the point of usefulness. In every single test it was bested by the GTX650Ti, and quite often it was barely ahead of the HD7770.
Given that AMD are removing the HD7850 from their range and filling the hole with the HD7790, it really needs to be good. It just isn't. Nothing about it makes it worth recommending. If you want a cheap card regardless of performance then there are loads on offer. If you want a better performing card then almost anything works too. But if you want something that nicely hits the sweet spot of price and performance without busting the budget, it's unquestionably worth either purchasing a GTX650Ti or, if you must have an AMD product, seek out a HD7850 before they disappear off the shelves.
Don't think we're being mean to the HD7790 either. This is testing in the absolute best case scenario, giving the card every chance to shine. If you can afford a i7-3960X and overclock it to 4.6GHz, the likelihood of you only being able to afford a HD7790 is slim. The reality is that it will form part of a system based around lower performing components, and so the results will be even worse than those we see here.
The final nail in the coffin for the VTX3D HD7790 is the decision to stick with an unshrouded cooler. Whilst we understand that PC hardware is one of those places in which elitism is rampant, you still want a system that, even if it doesn't actually perform well, looks like it could. The reference design apes those of the big budget models and could, at a glance, be confused with one. The VTX3D looks cheap, half-finished almost, which only makes the lack of performance even more galling.
All in all we have no reason at all to recommend the HD7790. It's cheap, but so a pencil and paper and given the HD7790 struggles into double digit frame-rates on modern titles then you'd have more fun with a game of dots and boxes. It would have a higher frame-rate too. Find an HD7850, or grab a GTX650Ti. Both provide vastly superior experiences than the HD7790.
Thanks to VTX3D for supplying the HD7790 for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.