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Sapphire HD7790 OC Review

Rating: 8.0.

Today we are looking at the new Sapphire HD7790 graphics card which is based around AMD’s new 28nm Graphics Core Next ASIC (Bonaire). The new HD7790 slots in between the budget HD7770 and low-mid range HD7850 at around the £125-£130 inc vat mark. Is there really any room for this card in an already crowded marketplace?

Before we jump straight into testing the new HD7790 I really do want to discuss AMD’s hardware strategy, because I feel it is critical in today’s market.

When we look back in history at previous generations of AMD hardware, the array of choices could be simply bewildering. We had the HD5770, HD5830, HD5850 for instance. The enthusiast user shunned the HD5830 as it was too closely priced to the HD5850 and was massively outperformed.

When the six series launched AMD had HD6770 and HD6850 solutions. When various models of HD6790 launched, everyone was completely confused on the performance and deals, especially as the HD6850 ended up so competitively priced. Why would we want the HD6790? Sadly for AMD, history proved that no one really did.

Today AMD are aiming the HD7790 at the market between the capable but bandwidth limited HD7770 and the more powerful HD7850, which I rate today as a very high value for money solution. The budget gaming market is very competitive, because to this consumer every penny counts. That GTX Titan at £850 for instance could buy a budget enthusiast user a very capable gaming system. The best price to performance deal is crucial before parting with the cash. It makes sense to say that scoring these budget oriented graphics cards is much more focused on achieving a very specific price point.

When AMD launch a new graphics card, it is very difficult to get solid UK pricing. As we all know dollar prices are little use to the UK punter as they shift and change almost daily. I tend to ping several of our etailer partners to get ‘on the street pricing’. Sadly several etailers seemed rather disinterested when we discussed the HD7790, and ARIA said they would rather focus on bargain basement 1GB HD7850 solutions which would be priced close to the HD7790. They hadn’t even ordered HD7790 stock the day before launch.

We received the Sapphire HD7790 OC version for review today (above right). This is the ‘overclocked’ version with dual fans. Sapphire will also launch a vanilla HD7790 at a slightly lower cost (above left). We don’t have confirmed pricing on either card although we would confidently opt for the dual fan cooled version ourselves.

The graph above from an AMD presentation highlights how the HD7790 sits at the top of the AMD ‘budget’ gamers card pile. For comparison purposes today we will be testing the HD7790 OC against the XFX HD7770, XFX HD7850 and Sparkle GTX650 Ti Dragon Series. I don’t know any gamer who is interested in the HD7750 and I would rather focus on the HD7850, especially as the deals on this solution are extremely competitive today.

Above, we can see an overview of the cards we are comparing against in this review today, all labelled and running the latest AMD and Nvidia beta drivers (Catalyst 13.3 and Forceware 314.21).  The HD7850 is the only card on test utilising a 256 bit memory interface. That said, thankfully AMD have equipped the new HD7790 with 896 shaders, up from a measly 640 on the HD7770.

The Sapphire HD7790 OC has not only a dual fan cooler, but the core clock speed has been increased from 1,000mhz to 1,075 mhz and the memory also receives a boost from 1,500mhz (6,000mhz effective) to 1,600mhz (6,400mhz effective).

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