Have I mentioned that I really enjoy cards from this price range? Their price makes them easily accessible to a wide range of users, and the ability to overclock them to a degree will give those users a bit more bang for their buck. They also serve to be a bit of a “lowest common denominator” for computer games that are aimed at enthusiasts. While AMD and Intel have made big strides in integrated graphics, they still do not perform at the now exceedingly common resolution of 1920×1080.
These products run a wide variety of applications at that resolution. Only when we get into really heavy duty games (like Metro 2033) do we see quality settings having to be backed down on. With lower quality settings, all three of these cards can run at that resolution all day long with any modern game in our inventory.
The one thing that really stuck out to me was how the HD 7790s performed right on par with the older HD 5870. The 5870 theoretically has more pixel fillrate, texel fillrate, memory bandwidth, and a higher TFLOP rating. None of those things mattered much as the diminutive HD 7790s matched the older card stride for stride, and in some circumstances outperformed it by a goodly measure. The 650 Ti BOOST walked all over the 5870, but it was not all that far behind in power consumption. Still, the numbers overall are very interesting and it gives a more visceral feel as to how technology progresses over the years.
The top performer overall is the Galaxy GTX 650 Ti BOOST. It was slightly ahead in most synthetic benchmarks, but in the majority of games it was 10% to 15% faster than the 7790s. The only weakness for this card is the OpenCL performance. CUDA applications run better on this card than OpenCL, but it is still not an optimal solution for people running programs that will actually utilize the GPU for those workloads (eg. Adobe Creative Suite 6). This card overclocked nicely and we saw a good boost in overall performance. The 2 GB of memory onboard really gave it a boost in games running above 1920×1200 and with titles that will utilize the extra memory space (like Metro 2033). The build quality is ok, but nothing really special. The cooling solution is more than adequate, but it is louder than the competition by a small amount. It never became annoying or troublesome, but it was noticeable. Of the three this is probably my least favorite card, but this is not a negative thing. It worked great, it did what it was designed to do in an efficient manner, and it is not overpriced for what a user receives. It is the highest priced card of the roundup at $179.99 US. In terms of price I think it is a fair package. The 2 GB of memory helps out a lot in a variety of top end games. Right now is a bit of a state of flux in that some 650 Ti BOOSTs are now down at the $165 range and Galaxy has yet to follow with pricing. Keep those eyes peeled for drops.
Galaxy GTX 650 Ti BOOST
The Asus HD 7790 is probably the most overbuilt card of the bunch. Asus has done some really neat things with their DCII line, and this card is no exception. The cooling was top notch, the build quality was excellent, and the component choices are well above average. It was the most aggressively overclocked of the group out of the box, but it remained cool and quiet through testing. It would be interesting to see how far this card could go fully unlocked, but until some workarounds are available then 1200/1600 will be the best the average user can hope for. Still, performance at that overclocked level is good and approaches more expensive cards like the 650 Ti BOOST. This is the second most expensive card at $149.99 US. At that price I think it is a fair bargain and a user receives an excellent card that is built amazingly well. It is often being offered with a $10 MIR, but expect the price on this to drop a bit as we head further into summer.
Asus HD 7790 DCII
The card that surprised me the most was the MSI HD 7790. It is slower out of the box than the Asus. It does not have the fancy double fans that we have seen on the Twin FROZR series of cards. It is a small card that, off the bat, looks fairly cheap. Looks are deceiving. This card was cool, it ran very quiet, and it overclocked with ease to the same level as the higher end Asus board. It is like the MSI engineers made some really clever tradeoffs to achieve this performance with the smallest bill of materials of the lot. Have I mentioned that the card currently retails for $129.99 (and that is before a $10 MIR)? I have no qualms about recommending this card. It does everything the competition does, but for about $20 cheaper. It does seem to hit that perfect balance of features, components, performance, and price.
MSI HD 7790 OC Edition
None of these cards are bad choices. Each has their own value in what they offer, and the price of the products reflects that nicely. Perhaps the 650 Ti BOOST is a tad more expensive than it should be when looking at the shifting landscape of graphics performance, but it certainly is not out of line. The Asus card is very well built and apportioned, and a user will pay a little extra for the luxury of having a card with higher end component choices and excellent cooling. The MSI card just seems to hit everything right and at a rock bottom price. Budget enthusiasts rejoice! There are no bad choices here!