ConclusionWith the Radeon HD 6790, AMD has exploited the weaknesses of what is an easy target: the GeForce GTX 550 Ti. While the Radeon HD 5770 already matched the GTX 550 Ti in terms of performance, it was obvious that the Radeon HD 6790 could only be a winner at €130. This was confirmed in practice with a 10% advantage for the Radeon in our tests.
AMD has nevertheless adopted the same approach in assembling the Radeon HD 6790 as it did with the much maligned Radeon HD 5830. It has a similar GPU to the one used in the Radeon HD 6800s but cut down both in terms of processing units and ROPs. The reduction in ROPs has a big impact on performance as it prevents the GPU from fully benefitting from the memory bus it has at its disposal.
Another similarity with the Radeon HD 5830 is that AMD based its design on the Radeon HD 6870 and not the Radeon HD 6850. This implies higher energy consumption and is justified in AMD’s desire to be able to recycle GPUs with big current leakage or which require higher voltage. Although this depends on the customised designs from AMD’s various partners, it does also imply less aggressive pricing.
At the end of the day, while the Radeon HD 6790 may have easily won its match up against the GeForce GTX 550 Ti, we do wonder what real benefits it brings. For gamers on a low budget we’d recommend either the Radeon HD 5770, more compact, with good energy economy and not too far behind in terms of performance, or the entry level Radeon HD 6850 or GeForce GTX 460 1 GB. To make it a better buy its price needs to come down to or equal the Radeon HD 5770, a direction Sapphire seems to be taking with the announcement of its model at €120…