AMD Radeon HD 7790 - Bonaire GPUs Arrive

AMD knew it had a performance gap between the Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition ($95) and Radeon HD 7850 ($180) desktop graphics cards and wanted to fill that gap with another graphics card. Today, that gap has been filled thanks to the released of the AMD Radeon HD 7790 at $149.

AMD Bonaire GPU

The AMD Radeon HD 7790 features a brand new ASIC design (GPU) that goes by the codename Bonaire. The Bonaire graphics processor is based on AMD's 28nm Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture and features 14 compute unites, a die size of 160 mm2 and 2.08 Billion transistors. In case you forgot, the other AMD Radeon HD 7000 graphics cards are based on Cape Verde, the Radeon HD 7800 series uses Pitcairn and the Radeon HD 7900 series uses Tahiti.

AMD Radeon HD 7790 Features

The AMD Radeon HD 7790 has 896 stream processors that operate at up to 1000MHz on the reference design, but you'll see factory overclocked cards from all the board partners on day one. AMD Radeon HD 7790 graphics boards will also be equipped with 1GB or 2GB GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit bus. These specifications should give the AMD Radeon HD 7790 considerably higher performance compared to the Radeon HD 7750 and Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition cards. It also fully supports DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2, OpenGL 4.3, PCI Express 3.0, AMD Eyefinity 2.0, ultra high-definition output support using DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4a, optimized power consumption (Eight DPM States), integrated 7.1 audio controller, stereo-3D/Blu-ray 3D support, and other new technologies.

AMD Radeon 7700 Series Specs

The chart above gives you a closer look at the AMD Radeon HD 7790 graphics specifications compare to the other AMD Radeon HD 7000 series cards. As you can see the HD 7790 has 40% more stream processors and Texture Units than HD 7770 GHz Edition, increased memory bandwidth when compared to both the HD 7750 and HD 7770 GHz Edition thanks to faster memory clocking and an increased Primitive Clock Rate at 2 prim / CLK. Having 1.79 TFLOPS compute power and ~96.0GB/s of memory bandwidth is not bad for a card that costs around $149!Sapphire and Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 Video Card Boxes

We did not receive an AMD Radeon HD 7790 reference card, but our friends over at Sapphire and Gigabyte did send us some retail boxed cards to take a look at! Sapphire sent the HD 7790 Dual-X OC 1GB card, which retails for $159 and is factory overclocked to 1075MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory. Gigabyte sent the GV-R7790OC-1GD, which retails for $149 and is factory overclocked to 1075MHz on the core and 1500MHz on the memory.  Both Sapphire and Gigabyte will be releasing 2GB versions of the Radeon HD 7790 in late April and expect them to retail for $20 more. That puts the upcoming Gigabyte GV-R7790-2GB at $169, but is better suited for those gaming at 1920x1080 and higher due to the need of additional memory. Sapphire also has a version that features the AMD Radeon HD 7790 reference clock speeds for $149. It should be noted that all AMD Radeon HD 7790 video cards are part of the Never Settle campaign and will be bundled with BioShock Infinite from participating retailers.

Sapphire and Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 Video Cards

You can see that Sapphire and Gigabyte went totally different directions when it comes to the Radeon HD 7790 cards that they will be selling.  Sapphire went with the usual Dual-X GPU cooler design that has a dual-slot cooling system with two fans and a pair of U-shaped copper heatpipes that are not direct touch. The black PCB on the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC measures 8.5" in length. Gigabyte also went with a dual-slot card with a custom GPU cooler that has 'triangle cool' technology with a single large 100mm cooling fan. The blue PCB on the Gigabyte GV-R7790OC-1GD card is just 7.5" long, so it is an inch shorter than Sapphire.

Sapphire and Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 Video Card Back

Neither card features a backplate and none of the memory chips for the 1GB of GDDR5 memory are located on the back of the card. The Sapphire Dual-X GPU cooler actually makes contact with all the GDDR5 memory chips on that card, while the Hynix GDDR5 IC's are left open on the Gigabyte card. Both cards use 42mm mounting holes, which is good to know if you plan on changing the GPU cooler or adding a water block down the road.

Sapphire and Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 Video Outputs

The hot air exhaust slots differ on the cards respective backplates, but the video outputs are the same. You have DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4a, DVI-I and DVI-D.

Sapphire and Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 Power Connector

Both cards have a single 6-pin PCI Express power connector located along the top of the video card near the end of the PCB. Both Gigabyte and Sapphire recommend a 450W or greater power supply with one 75W 6-pin power connector for this video card to operate properly.

Now we can get to testing since we know what the AMD Radeon HD 7790 is and more about the Gigabyte and Sapphire retail cards!

Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

Z77 Test System

Test System Settings

The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0305 that came out on 12/25/2012. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.25.

The Intel X79 Test Platform

 

Component

 

Brand/Model

 

Live Pricing

 

Processor

 

Intel Core i7-3960X

 

Motherboard

ASUS P9X79 Deluxe

 

Memory

16GB Corsair 1866MHz

 

Video Card

 

Various

 

Solid-State Drive

 

OCZ Vertex 3 240GB

 

Cooling

 

Intel RTS2011LC

 

Power Supply

Corsair AX1200

 

Operating System

 

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD GPU-Z Information:

Gigabyte 7790 GPU-Z

Gigabyte 7790 GPU-Z Idle 

Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC GPU-Z Information:

Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC GPU-Z

Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC GPU-Z Idle

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City PC Game

Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.

Batman: Arkham City Game Settings

Batman: Arkham City Game Settings

Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.

batman

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC was able to perform slightly faster than the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 OC thanks to having faster clocked GDDR5 memory. The AMD Radeon HD 7790 cards were around 14% faster than the factory overclocked EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti SSC video card when gaming at 1920x1080.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.

bf3

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC was found to be 7.5% faster than the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti SSC at 1920x1080 in Battlefield 3. The performance of the cards in the $139-$159 price range is pretty tight, but AMD looks to have the lead thanks to the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC and its factory overclock.

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 is a space western first-person role-playing shooter video game that was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games. It is the sequel to 2009's Borderlands and was released for the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms. Borderlands 2 was developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games on September 18, 2012 in North America.

Borderlands 2 Image Quality Settings

border-settings-2

 

Borderlands 2 runs on a heavily modified version of Epic Games' Unreal Engine 3. We tested Borderlands 2 with vSync and depth of field disabled. We increased the general image quality settings and turned on 16x AF. PhysX effects were set to low to keep things fair as possible between AMD and NVIDIA cards.  FXAA was enabled.

bl2

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC and the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 OC were just a single FPS apart at 1920x1080 and just 1-2 FPS faster than the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti SSC in Borderlands 2. Very close race here with no significant difference between the cards at 1080p resolutions.

Dirt: Showdown

Image Description

Dirt: Showdown is a video game published and developed by Codemasters for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It was released in May 2012 in Europe and in June in North America. It is part of the Colin McRae Rally game series.

Dirt Showdown Settings
Dirt Showdown Settings

Dirt: Showdown removes several of the gameplay modes featured Dirt 3, and introduces new ones. Gameplay modes can be classified as Racing, Demolition, Hoonigan or Party. We ran the built in Benchmark at Ultra settings to get a true feel of what this engine has to offer!

It is very important to note that Global Illumination and Advanced Lighting have massive performance penalties when enabled, something not seen in other titles in the Dirt series. We disabled this setting.

showdown

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC was just 27% faster than the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti SSC in Dirt Showdown at 1920x1080.

Far Cry 3

Farcry3 Game Screenshot

Far Cry 3 is an open world first-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sequel to 2008's Far Cry 2. The game was released on December 4th, 2012 for North America. Far Cry 3 is set on a tropical island found somewhere at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[11] After a vacation goes awry, player character Jason Brody has to save his kidnapped friends and escape from the islands and their unhinged inhabitants.

FarCry 3 Quality Settings

FarCry 3 Video Quality

Far Cry 3 uses the Dunia Engine 2 game engine with Havok physics. The graphics are excellent and the game really pushes the limits of what one can expect from mainstream graphics cards. We set game title to 8x MSAA Anti-Aliasing and ultra quality settings. 

Far Cry 3 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: All of the cards below the $159 price point had a tough time running Far Cry 3 with the Ultra image quality settings. At 1920x1080 we found all the cards averaging below 20FPS and encountered stutters run walking and driving around the open environment in this game title. At 1280x1024 things were a bit smoother, but not silky smooth. Lowering down the image quality makes Far Cry 3 playable on these budget friendly mainstream cards though, so all is not lost. The difference between the Radeon HD 7790 and Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition is very large, so if you want to run games like Far Cry 3 with Ultra settings at high resolutions you need to save up another $75-$100 and get a faster video card!

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.

Metro 2033 Settings

This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to 'Very High' quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX and DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.

metro

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC was 27% faster than the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti SSC in Metro 2033 with the DOF disabled at 1920x1080.The Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 OC was within 1FPS of the Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC, but the cards slower memory it holding the performance back just a tad.

Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs PC game

Sleeping Dogs is a 2012 open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix. The game was released on August 14, 2012, for Microsoft Windows. The game uses the Havok physics engine.

Sleeping Dogs Settings

We used the Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark tool to benchmark this game title to make sure the benchmarking was consistent. We tested with 'High' quality setting at 1280x1024 and 1920x1024 resolutions.

dogs-high

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC was 14.4% faster than the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti SSC video card in Sleeping Dogs with the 'High' preset at 1920x1080.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

On March 5th, 2013 Square Enix released Tomb Raider, billed as a reboot of the franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. In contrast to the earlier games Croft is portrayed as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.

Tomb Raider Settings

The game has been built on Crystal Dynamics's game engine called the "Crystal Engine" and the graphics look fantastic. AMD and Crystal Dyanmic's worked on a new technology called TressFX Hair, which AMD describes as “the world’s first in-game implementation of a real-time, per-strand hair physics system” for this game title. We set the image quality to ultimate for benchmarking, but we disabled TressFX Hair under the advanced tab to be fair to NVIDIA graphics cards that don't support the feature.

Tomb Raider Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: With 'Ultimate' image quality settings and TressFX Hair disabled we were shocked to find the EVGA GeForce GTX Ti SSC video card in the lead! It was found to be 9.7% faster than the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 OC at 1920x1080.

3DMark 11

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark Settings

We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:

 3dmark-p

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC scored P6086 3DMarks and the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 OC scored P6075 3DMarks. It is very close between the two cards as the only difference is the memory clock speed. The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC was 13.6% faster than the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti SSC video card!

3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:

 3dmark-x

Benchmark Results: After running the extreme preset on 3DMark11 we see the cards finishing in the same order, but the performance is very close on the Radeon HD 7790 cards and the GeForce GTX 650 Ti. All of these cards have 1GB of GDDR5 memory and the frame buffer is entirely full in most 1920x1080 applications.

Power Consumption

Sapphire and Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 Video Cards

 

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while four game titles at 1920x1080 by averaging the peak results recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter for the gaming results.

Power Consumption At The Wall

Power Consumption Results: When it comes to power consumption the AMD Radeon HD 7790 cards with the new Bonaire GPU do pretty well. All of the current generation cards idle fairly close to the same as our system pulled between 96-101 Watts at the wall with any of the cards when at idle. In gaming we start to see the cards true colors and that the Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD used a little more power than the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC. The same was true for when we ran FurMark, which is an OpenGL test that easily heats up the cores. As you can see the AMD Radeon HD 7790 doesn't use the most power on FurMark, so it looks like AMD is limiting the power draw for this application now.

Temperature & Noise Testing

Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on the pair of Radeon HD 7790 factory overclocked cards that we have.

Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD GPU-Z Idle:

Gigabyte 7790 GPU-Z Idle 

Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC GPU-Z Idle:

Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC GPU-Z Idle

Both cards had an idle temperature of 28.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F). We expected to see a difference due to the radically different GPU coolers, but that was not the case for idle temperature testing.

Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD GPU-Z Furmark:

gigabyte-load-temp-S
 

Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC GPU-Z Furmark:

sapphire-furmark-temp-S

When it comes to load results things were certianly not identical! The Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD peaked at 70C and the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC peaked at just 61C! That means that the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC was 15% cooler than the Gigabyte 7790 OC card!

Sound Testing

For sound testing we use an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.

noise

 

When it comes to noise levels the Sapphire HD7970 Dual-X OC was the quietest of the bunch at idle, but it was louder than the Gigabyte 7790 OC when gaming and in FurMark. So, you have a toss up on your hands.  At idle both cards are the same temperature and the noise level is comparable. When gaming the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC card was 15% cooler, but it is also a tad louder.

Overclocking Radeon HD 7790 Bonaire

To take a quick look at overclocking we fired up AMD Catalyst Control Center and used AMD Overdrive to overclock both the Gigabyte and Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 video cards.

Radeon HD 7790 OC with OverDrive

We were shocked to see that AMD set what we considered rather low overclocking limits for Radeon HD 7790 cards. You can go up to just 1200MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory. The Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC comes at 1600MHz on the GPU, so you can't overclock it any further! 

Radeon HD 7790 OC with OverDrive

We were easily able to overclock both cards to 1200MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the memory. We asked AMD why they were so conservative with overclocking functionality on this card and they said they gave 20% overhead from the cards default settings. That may be true, but companies like Gigabyte aren't offering anything except factory overclocked Radeon HD 7790's!

 

Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance. Both cards perform the same when overclocked, so we'll just be showing the results from the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 OC card.

Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD at 1075MHz core and 1500MHz memory:

Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD 3DMark11

Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD at 1200MHz core and 1600MHz memory:

gigabyte-oc-3dmark

We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P6075 to P6467, which is a 6.4% improvements from the cards factory overclocked settings. Not a bad huge increase from the 11.6% clock frequency on the core clock on the Radeon HD 7790 video card. 

Final Thoughts

AMD 7790 AIB Cards

The AMD Radeon HD 7790 will be available in volume beginning April 2nd, 2013 and most companies will be offering overclocked cards from the start. It looks like almost all of them will be clocked at 1075MHz on the core and either 1500 or 1600MHz on the GDDR5 memory. The initial batch of cards will have 1GB of memory, but later in April we are told to expect to see the 2GB versions start to roll in. AMD informed us that the 2GB cards will cost about $20 more, so you are looking at around $149 for a 1GB version or $169 for a 2GB card. We noticed that on some of the games we tested that we were filling up all of the 1GB frame buffer at 1920x1080 with high image quality settings, so if you are gaming at 1920x1080 it might be a good idea to wait and snag one of those cards.

Sapphire and Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 Video Cards

We were able to test the Gigabyte GV-7790OC-1GD ($149) and the Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC ($159) and found both to be stellar cards. The Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 Dual-X OC lead the performance benchmarks thanks to the higher memory speed it had, but when we overclocked the cards they both maxed out at 1200MHz core and 1600MHz. This means overclocked performance was identical. The Gigabyte card was shorter, costs less and was quieter when gaming. The Sapphire card looks better, performs better out of the box, is more power efficient and runs cooler when gaming. Both cards have strong areas, so it really depends on which depends the most to you!

AMD 7790 Product Positioning

At the end of the day, AMD set out to fill the product gap between the Radeon HD 7770 GHz edition ($95 shipped) and the Radeon HD 7850 2GB ($180 shipped). The AMD Radeon HD 7790 at $149-$159 for 1GB versions and $159-$169 for 2GB versions does just that.There was a very big hole between the $100 and $180 price points, so this card should appeal to mainstream gamers.

That said we expect pricing to fall just a bit in the weeks ahead due to a number of reasons. For starters the XFX Radeon HD 7850 2GB at $180 shipped after rebate and many gamers will want to jump up to that card for better performance for a bit more money. You also have the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti with Boost that is rumored to be coming out next week. Since the AMD Radeon HD 7790 won't be available to purchase until April 2nd, 2013 we advise to sit back and see what NVIDIA has to offer in the $150-$200 price range as you know they won't be letting AMD have all the fun in this price segment. The Sapphire HD7790 Dual-X OC runs $159 and was able to manhandle the EVGA GeForce GTX 650 Ti that runs $165 in this review, but that is before NVIDIA slashes some prices and releases their new card for this price segment! Let the spring GPU wars begin!

Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon HD 7790 was found to be a solid card for the $150 price point, but NVIDIA has yet to release this cards true competition!