For the money, the Radeon HD 6790 1GB turned out to be a pretty impressive graphics card.  First looking at how the newcomer competes with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB, the latest ~$150 option from NVIDIA, it is a hands down win for the AMD option.  In pretty much all of our tests, with the exception of the Lost Planet 2 game, showed the HD 6790 to outperform the GTX 550 Ti.  Metro 2033, F1 2010, Bad Company 2, Civ V, etc – all showing better performance, frame rates and gaming experiences on the Barts-based card over the GF116-baed GTX 550 Ti.  Not only that, but the power consumption between to the two cards is nearly identical as well indicating a big advantage for AMD in terms of performance per watt – another important indicator for cards at this price segment.  The price on the GTX 550 Ti has been dropping though over the past several weeks, from $159 to $139 (and a bit lower with MIRs) so obviously NVIDIA is aware of this difference.

AMD Radeon HD 6790 1GB Review - Barts hits $150 - Graphics Cards 69

The aging GeForce GTX 460 768MB card however IS a strong competitor to the HD 6790 with its $149 price point.  With the exception of Lost Planet 2, I would give the Radeon HD 6790 the edge EVER SO SLIGHTLY over the GTX 460 card in our other tests where the cards were tied.  The prices are identical and the performance is very similar so it could be a very tough match up for both sides except that AMD has a couple other feathers in its cap including lower power consumption as well as support for 3+ displays (though Eyefinity gaming would be a waste on a card with this level of performance).  Not to mention that the GTX 460s are getting harder and harder to find…

As expected, the new HD 6790 is quite a bit faster than the Radeon HD 5770 at only $20 more; a good move for consumers that want to get the most performance out of their dollar. 

Pricing and Availability

While I mentioned pricing in our conclusions above, it is worth seeing it again here:
At $149, I think the Radeon HD 6790 is the best overall deal for consumers with a great of performance, power efficiency and features.  The GTX 460 is also a great graphics cards for users that tend to lean the NVIDIA route and until the GTX 550 Ti takes another slight dip in price I would fit it hard to recommend over even the Radeon HD 5770. 

Final Thoughts

AMD’s new Radeon HD 6790 1GB graphics card based on the Barts GPU design is a great choice for users looking for a ~$150 graphics card for their next budget build.  The competition between AMD and NVIDIA in this particular space is interesting, with AMD’s move to use a single GPU for as many SKUs as possible (Barts and Cayman basically cover the entire 6000-series spectrum with two GPU spins) and NVIDIA’s tendency to make a large GPU for their flagship card and slowly spin out new designs for the changing price segments (GF110, GF114, GF116).  Both offer advantages and disadvantages but it seems that AMD’s flexibility has allowed it to undercut NVIDIA in many ways while maintaining performance levels and pricing that customers demand.  The only question for AMD long term is how that affects their profitability. 

AMD Radeon HD 6790 1GB Review - Barts hits $150 - Graphics Cards 70

For the majority of gamers though, that doesn’t really matter; what does is how much gaming power you can get for your hard-earned (or lazily acquired) local currency.  In that regard, the Radeon HD 6790 1GB is a graphics card that puts even more pressure on NVIDIA and its GTX 500-series than it had before and leaves AMD as our favorite option for $150.

Further Reading:

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