Power Consumption and Conclusions

In our power testing the new Radeon HD 7790 is only using about 6 watts more power than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti while outperforming it across the board in our gaming tests, sometimes quite handily.  Compared to the larger Pitcairn GPU though, Bonaire is using more than 30 watts less power – while performing CLOSE to the levels of the bigger ASIC in a few cases.  It would appear our first Sea Islands offering may help AMD's performance / watt metric compete a bit better with NVIDIA.


Our benchmarks clearly showed that in each and every test we ran, the Radeon HD 7790 from Sapphire with slightly overclocked settings settled in between the Radeon HD 7850 and NVIDIA's GTX 650 Ti offerings that have been on the market for quite some time.  These two competing GPU vendors aren't dumb – they know how to match performance and pricing segments with each other.  What did differ on a per-game basis is which direction the new HD 7790 leaned; either higher towards the HD 7850 or lower towards the GTX 650 Ti. 

In Battlefield 3, Crysis 3 and Skyrim, the HD 7790 found itself more closely matching the performance of the GTX 650 Ti, while always staying enough ahead to make sure it offers a better total gaming experience than the NVIDIA option.  In Sleeping Dogs and DiRT 3 though, the HD 7790 was much closer to the more expensive HD 7850 card with twice the frame buffer, making it appear like a better GPU than it might otherwise look like.  

Pricing and Availability

Even though the HD 7790 will have an MSRP of $159 for reference models, the Sapphire overclocked Dual-X card we tested here is going to sell for $10 more.  That puts it in an interesting position:

The price delta between our HD 7790 and the HD 7850 is $15 while the delta between it and the GTX 650 Ti is $20 – pretty close all things considered.  With the performance sometimes leaning towards the GTX 650 Ti and sometimes towards the HD 7850, it's hard to see the HD 7790 placed anywhere else but in the perfect position it is supposed to be in.  That unfortunately makes the Radeon HD 7790 less exciting and market shifting than I had hoped it would be.

AMD claims the HD 7790 will be available starting on April 2nd, making today's release more or less a "soft" launch.  NVIDIA has plenty of time to respond between today and that date.

What might make a difference to you though is that AMD is including the HD 7790 in the Never Settle Reloaded campaign and buyers of cards through participating retailers will be eligible to get a free copy of Bioshock Infinite!  That is a $50-60 value and is one of the new games out this spring that I am personally really looking forward to.  I would guess in this sub-$200 price point game bundles mean more than elsewhere so I would love to hear from our readers about whether or not they see this as a big advantage for AMD.

Final Thoughts

AMD's new Radeon HD 7790 is the first Sea Islands GPU to find its way to the channel market and Bonaire proves to be very compelling product in the sub-$200 market that is usually quite crowded.  Because of NVIDIA's gap in product that lies between $149 and $230 (GTX 650 Ti to the GTX 660) the Radeon HD 7790 should make a pretty big splash as long as it has that opening.  The question is how long NVIDIA will wait to finally address this hole in its lineup that has existed for many months.  There are rumors swirling about a possible GTX 650 product with GPU Boost so don't be surprised if you find that on our test bed soon as well.

Some discerning readers and hardware enthusiasts will scoff at the apparent "rebranding" of the HD 7000-series hardware into new SKUs, or try to tell you that Sea Islands was supposed to be much more than this kind of product release.  When I asked AMD for details on what family Bonaire fell into, PR replied with a somewhat cagey "Sea Islands were ASICs planned for 2013" – implying that this was in the cards the whole time.  I find that a bit hard to believe but the current path that AMD's GPU division is taking matches closely with its plans on the APU side – keep the current architecture alive and profitable as long as possible without unnecessary investment in R&D.  In both areas, Radeon graphics and A-series APUs, AMD does have some distinct advantages – management has clearly decided to focus on those rather than spending too much on addressing the areas of concern.  At least until later.

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