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AMD Radeon HD 6790 1GB Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.

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SKYMTL

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F1 2010 (DX11)

F1 2010 (DX11)



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SKYMTL

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Just Cause 2 (DX10)

Just Cause 2 (DX10)


Just Cause 2 has quickly become known as one of the best-looking games on the market and while it doesn’t include DX11 support, it uses the full stable of DX10 features to deliver a truly awe-inspiring visual experience. For this benchmark we used the car chase scene directly following the Casino Assault level. This scene includes perfectly scripted events, some of the most GPU-strenuous effects and lasts a little less than four minutes. We chose to not use the in-game benchmarking tool due to its inaccuracy when it comes to depicting actual gameplay performance.


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SKYMTL

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Lost Planet 2 (DX11)

Lost Planet 2 (DX11)


Lost Planet is a game that was originally released on consoles but in its port over to the PC, it gained some highly impressive DX11 features. For this benchmark, we forgo the two built-in tools and instead use a 2 minute gameplay sequence from the second level in the first chapter. The reason we use this level is because it makes use of three elements that are seen throughout the game world: jungles, water and open terrain.


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SKYMTL

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Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


There has been a lot of buzz about Metro 2033 which has mostly centered on its amazing graphics coupled with absolutely brutal framerates on even the best GPUs on the market. For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 3 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.


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SKYMTL

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Unigine: Heaven v2.0 (DX11)

Unigine: Heaven v2.0 (DX11)


Unigine’s Heaven benchmark is currently the de-facto standard when it comes to simple, straightforward DX11 performance estimates. While it is considered a synthetic benchmark by many, it is important to remember that no less than four games based on this engine will be released within the next year or so. In this test we will be using a standard benchmark run with and without tessellation enabled at three resolutions,


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SKYMTL

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Core Temperature & Acoustics / Power Consumption

Core Temperature & Acoustics


For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped. For this test we use the 3DMark Batch Size test at it highest triangle count with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled and looped it for one hour to determine the peak load temperature as measured by GPU-Z.

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.



The current crop of AMD heatsinks aren’t exactly the best available but this one cools down the Barts LE core quite well. There really aren’t any surprises here but we should mention that the GTX 460 SE we have in the charts is a custom cooled model which explains its incredible performance.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we once again use the Batch Render test in 3DMark06 and let it run for 30 minutes to determine the peak power consumption while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 30 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption. We have also included several other tests as well.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


Earlier in the review it was mentioned that higher clock speeds and the HD 6870-specific components on the reference HD 6790 would push power consumption higher than many expect. The results are pretty clear: our sample consumed more power than a HD 6850 but a bit less than the GTX 460 768MB.

Normally, we would worry about this but supposedly none of the board partners will be using this particular design so we expect (hopefully) higher efficiency as cards hit retail. For the purposes of this review though, these numbers aren’t particularly encouraging and bring us back to the HD 5830 days.
 

SKYMTL

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Truth be told we were originally going to skip this section altogether simply because the reference design isn’t necessarily representative products that will be available on launch day. However, the higher end PCB on the card AMD sent us should still give a good representation of how high the Barts LE core can overclock when paired up with a good set of onboard components. To say we were pleased with the results is a understatement, that’s for sure….


Core Clock: 981Mhz
Memory Clock: 4644Mhz (QDR)


 

SKYMTL

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Conclusion

Conclusion


If we look back through the history of GPU releases, the $150 price point has always been hotly contested. Recently, there has been a bit of a lull since both NVIDIA and AMD have been content to lower the prices of existing cards rather than introduce brand new products into the sub-$175 market. NVIDIA’s $149 GTX 550 Ti shook things up a bit and the HD 6790 one ups it in a number of ways.


There is plenty to like about AMD’s latest entry into more affordable waters and it all begins with a well trimmed architecture. Unlike the past examples of pared down GPUs, AMD didn’t cut the Barts core down to the bare necessities. Rather, they found an optimal mix of performance and aggressive pricing. It soundly beats the GTX 550 Ti in the vast majority of games, stays convincingly ahead of the HD 5770 and even runs with the GTX 460 768MB from time to time.

Many will likely bring up the fact that the GTX 550 Ti has seen its price fall in the last few days but we feel $129 should have been its introductory price to begin with. And let’s give credit where it’s due: the HD 6790 forced NVIDIA’s hand by raising the price / performance bar rather than lowering it. Less than three weeks have gone by since the GTX 550 Ti launch and budget-minded consumers can already buy a good portion more performance for their money. That alone deserves our praise.

One of the small issues encountered during testing was the power consumption figures displayed by the board we received. Due to relatively high clock speeds, an increase in efficiency over the HD 6850 wasn’t attained but we hope that will change when board partners use their own designs in place of AMD’s reference layout. Using a HD 6870 PCB which is tuned for a higher leakage GPU likely didn’t help matters in this area either.

Like most $150 graphics cards, the HD 6790 plays dangerous numbers game with slightly higher priced products. We have all seen this strategy fail time and again as previous generation cards tend to creep into the new product’s territory. Yet this time the result isn’t all that bad as the Barts LE more than held its own. The HD 6850 1GB is available for under $170 and provides better performance but it only achieves such a low cost through mail in rebates. On NVIDIA’s side of the fence we have the $149 GTX 460 768MB which routinely trades blows with this new AMD card and does tend to win when things are averaged out. However, the choice between the HD 6790 and GTX 460 768MB will likely come down to brand preference since each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

In many ways, the HD 6790 acts as a perfect bridge product between the HD 6850 1GB and the HD 5770 within AMD’s lineup. While there are alternatives available, they never steal the limelight in an overly convincing form. Its performance may not carry the excitement of higher end products but in our opinion, the HD 6790 is good card at the right price in an overly saturated GPU market.



 
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