AMD Radeon HD 6790 1GB Review - Barts hits $150
Barts sees a lower price
The Radeon HD 6790 1GB is a new $150 graphics cards based on the same Barts architecture found in the Radeon HD 6800-series of cards. Obviously there are fewer shader processors and lower clock speeds, though the 256-bit memory bus remains for better memory throughput. The goal is obvious: unseat the GTX 550 Ti (and the GTX 460) from NVIDIA as the best option for this price segment. Does it succeed?
The hits just keep coming. In a time of the year that is traditionally a bit slower (after CES but before Computex) the world of the graphics card continues to evolve and iterate at a blindly pace. Since January we have seen the release of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the Radeon HD 6950 1GB cards, the Radeon HD 6990 4GB dual-GPU behemoth, the GeForce GTX 550 Ti budget card and even NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX 590 dual-GPU card. It has been a busy time for our GPU testing labs and the result is a GPU market that is both stronger and more confusing than ever.
Today AMD is releasing another competitor to the ~$150 graphics card market with the Radeon HD 6790 1GB based on the Barts architecture we first tested with the HD 6800-series in October 2010. When NVIDIA released the GTX 550 Ti in this same price field, AMD was dependent on the higher priced HD 6850 and the previous generation HD 5770 to hold its ground, both of which did so quite well. The GTX 550 Ti was over priced at launch and is only now starting to see the correction needed to make it a viable selection.
AMD had different plans though and the Radeon HD 6790 will enter into the $150 space as the performance and pricing leader if neither of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 550 Ti or GTX 460 768MB can make a stand.
Radeon HD 6790 Specs and Reference Design
The new Radeon HD 6790 will sit in the current product stack from AMD just below the HD 6850 and above the currently available HD 5770 offerings. For those that might have already done their research, yes there is indeed a Radeon HD 6770 being sold by AMD but it is only offered to OEMs for now while end users are left without it.
The fact that AMD chose to simply used re-binned GPUs and disable portions for the HD 6790 is interesting. We might have imagined that they would build another GPU die rather than force board designers to deal with a 1.7 billion transistor GPU for a $150 card. If AMD has a solid yield on these parts it might actually save them money in the long run rather than going through the process of another chip fab but just as likely is that AMD has seen quite a few raw die from TSMC that will support these specifications and no higher - now they have a part number to sell them under.
If you want a bit more refresher on the Barts GPU design and how it differs from the Radeon HD 5000-series lineup, take a quick look back at our Radeon HD 6800 launch article.
Now, before we jump into looking at the reference card AMD sent for our performance evaluation I should note that ours looks VERY much like a Radeon HD 6850 card. Retail offerings will likely be quite different though as AMD has said most vendors will be utilizing their own custom designs for the Barts architecture on this HD 6790 part. You can expect retail HD 6790 cards to be smaller (and better looking) when they go on sale today.