Introducing AMD’s HD 6790


Price to Performance

The HD 6790 leads the GTX 550 Ti in most of the benchmarks and it is a solid improvement over the HD 5770. We note that the GTX 460 completely stands out as a wild card to put up against the two new cards since they are all priced similarly at about $150 with the GTX 550 Ti street-priced about $20 less. Leaving the GTX 460 off of our chart would have made a completely different impression of the new Barts Radeon. The HD 6790 does succeed as a high-quality successor to the HD 5770 although they are totally eclipsed by the GTX 460′s strong price to performance ratio.

Let’s take a look at current suggested and very general USA etail pricing.  AMD wants the HD 6790 to be “hard priced” at $149

  • HD 6790 – $149
  • GTX 460 – $149 ($115 after MiR for the 768M to over $139 after rebate for the 1GB version)
  • HD 5770 – $129 minus $20 rebate
  • GTX 550 Ti – $149 minus $20 rebate
  • HD 6850 – $165-$20 rebate

Of course you have to consider the street pricing of the GTX 460 is at about or below $160 – considerably less for the 768MB version which will still generally beat both the GTX 550 Ti and the HD 6790.  There is also the HD 6850 which we do not have for evaluation that would also be faster than the HD 6790 and it is available for five dollars less if you are willing to wait for the rebate.

Did AMD succeed with HD 6790?

It appears that AMD succeeded in doing what they set out to do. They succeeded in beating the GTX 550 Ti’s performance; something the aging HD 5770 was unable to do even super-overclocked. However, it also appears that AMD was somewhat surprised by the GTX 460 and Nvidia’s willingness to blow it out to gain market share.  If this card did not exist and the HD 6850 was not priced below the price of the HD 6790, we would have no trouble recommending it in a heartbeat.  However, they do exist and they make it hard to recommend a less powerful and more expensive card.  In the case of the EVGA GTX 550 Ti a couple of days ago, it got a “Great Value” award due to the fact that it is already discounted to $129 after rebate and it came with a game and 3DMark11 included.

What is going to make this especially interesting is that Nvidia may well release another video card based on a GF114 variant (GTX 560 SE or Non-Ti) to finally replace the GTX 460 that may be even faster still although this is pure speculation now. One thing for sure – exciting times in the Graphics Wars are still ahead!  We also wait to see what market pricing does.

It is pretty clear from our 28 games and three synthetic tests that the HD 6790 is a quality upgrade over the aging HD 5770 video card. The new HD 6790 – in this snapshot in time – has the clear distinction of beating the GTX 550 Ti performance-wise. At a suggested retail price of $149, it sets the HD 6790 just above the average price of HD 6850 (after rebate) or the GTX 460.  We also expect that much of the HD 6790′s success will depend on market pricing and also what Nvidia does with their GeForce pricing as the two companies respond to each other. Basically, the HD 6790 is an improvement in every way over the HD 5770 although coming in with a small price premium.

The HD 6790

Pros and Cons:


  • The HD 6790 is much faster than its predecessor, HD 5770 and is it faster than the GTX 550 Ti.
  • There is further room for overclocking and good scalability.
  • New architecture brings support for GPU computing and a level of performance way beyond the last generation.
  • DX11 and greatly improved support for tessellation, 1 GB vRAM and a 256-bit pathway brings even more performance over the HD 5770.
  • CrossFire-X technology allows you to harness two or more GPUs for faster gaming at higher detail levels and resolutions.
  • Enhanced AA and more control over settings
  • Experience 3-panel Eyefinity for much less expense than with Nvidia’s competing Surround.


  • It is expensive at $150 – more than the HD 6850 after rebate or the GTX 460, both of which are faster; the market will ultimately decide the pricing

We do not know what the future will bring, but this new HD 6790 brings a decent performer to the Radeon family. Look for them immediately at an etailer. This editor believes that AMD brings a very full-featured DX11 GPU lineup to the market that will find good acceptance among customers and their fans alike. The new Barts architecture including the HD 6790 is a solid improvement over Cypress and Juniper and it translates to higher performance in gaming.

If you currently game on an older generation video card, you will do yourself a big favor by upgrading. The move to a HD 6790 will give you better visuals on the DX11 pathway and you are no doubt thinking of CrossFire-X if you want to get even higher performance. Perhaps you want to use Eyefinity’s multi-panel display (which we are going to explore in a future article versus 3-panel Surround).

The competition is hot as the prices on even the new video cards have softened and Nvidia offers their own set of features including PhysX, CUDA and 3D Vision. Stay tuned, there is a lot coming from us at ABT.  Stay tuned for a further evaluation of HD 6990 versus GTX 590 at 5760×1080 and 2560×1600 and also an evaluation of 3D Vision/Surround.  We also plan to test Surround versus Eyefinity.

Mark Poppin

ABT Senior Editor

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Founder and Senior Editor of ABT.

2 Responses

  1. EP says:

    I still think that 6790 is the 5830 of its generation. Too many cuts leads to a crippled chip that exists only because AMD marketing wanted to sell you a chip that would otherwise be thrown in the trash bin because it had too many defects to pass as a 68xx/69xx. That might be good marketing but it’s not a good deal for the buyer.

    Beating the GTX 550 is an accomplishment, sure, but not much of one, since the 550 is such a garbage card to begin with.

    If you’ve got $150 to spend on a video card, just save up and buy a 6950 for $250. That extra $100 has a great deal of marginal value. As opposed to, say the $150 delta between a GTX 570 and 580, which is just like throwing money away.

    This generation of GPUs at 40 nm has been rather underwhelming on the whole. No true spiritual successor to the 8800 GT from either the red or green team. And with DX 11 adoption at a virtual trickle, thanks to the negative effects of consolization, it would appear that progress will be slow until the next-generation of consoles appears.

    Bring on 28 nm.

    On the bright side, another great review by ABT.

  2. Bo_Fox says:

    100% agreed with above comment!

    Well, I’d say that GTX 460 1GB is almost like the 8800GT of its time, but only if you could find one for $150 with rebates.

    Both companies are desperately trying to keep the prices up. Now, a $500 GTX 580 is starting to look a bit “mediocre” with some recent games like Metro 2033, Mafia 2, etc.. The price to pay for eye candy on the PC is rather high, and many games are console ports from consoles that are “several” years old, or a few PC generations behind.

    I find it to be really misleading when AMD claims that the 6790 has 256-bit memory when the sawed-off ROPs limit access to only half of the available bandwidth, as the card behaves exactly like as if it has 128-bit bus. For more on this, if you want to discuss on the forums here, I started a thread:
    I also believe that all Barts GPU’s are VLIW4-based like the rest of Northern Islands. It’s something else that appears to be in a dimly-lit area.. when one shines a candle in that area, something just doesn’t look right.

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