Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 1GB OC graphics card
This mid-range graphics card is good value, and gives good single-screen performance
- Low power requirements and fan noise
- Good sub-Full HD gaming performance
- Occasional slow-down at 1080p resolution
- Few bundled extras in the box
Gigabyte's factory-overclocked version of the new AMD Radeon HD 7790 core gives good performance if you're intending on playing games with a mid-range PC and 1080p (or lower) screen. Its sub-$200 price makes it good value.
Choosing components when you’re building a new PC is a tricky business. Upgrading an existing PC, or building a new PC without buying top-of-the-line kit, is even trickier. AMD’s new Radeon HD 7790 graphics card is aimed at providing the best performance possible for mid-range PCs — it costs around $200, putting it squarely in competition with the NVidia GeForce 650Ti but slotting in comfortably between AMD’s own 7770 and 7850.
The HD 7790 is built around AMD’s latest 28-nanometre fabrication process, which means good performance without excessive heat, smaller coolers and less overall power required. You can expect half the performance of a NVidia GeForce 680, at a lot less than half the power.
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 1GB OC: Design, connectivity and setup
Compared to the most recent cards we’ve looked at — the GeForce GTX 680 and the ASUS ARES II — the HD 7790, and Gigabyte’s chosen fan-sink cooler, is tiny. There’s no heavy metal casing around the card — just a heatsink over the graphics core, and a 100mm fan with a plastic surround. The card’s memory chips aren’t directly cooled, although they’re under the fins of the GPU cooler.
The Gigabyte HD 7790 has a dual-link DVI-I port as well as a secondary DVI-D, as well as HDMI and DisplayPort. All ports are capable of displaying resolutions up to 2560x1600, although such a high setting is definitely out of the 7790’s 3D gaming comfort zone.
Being a PCI-Express 16x card, you’ll need a compatible slot to use the Gigabyte HD 7790 1GB OC in your PC. This isn’t much of an ask, though; the PCI-E 2.0 (16x) standard has been used in all Intel and AMD motherboards for at least five years. Any pre-built computer from recent years should accept this card; if you’re looking for an easy upgrade we’d check your PC manufacturer’s documentation to make sure you’re able to install different cards without issue.
The HD 7790 asks for a minimum power supply rating of 450 Watts, which is well within the standard configuration of any reasonably powerful pre-built PC like the Dell XPS 8500 — which came with a 460 Watt unit. Installing it is as straightforward as any other graphics card — push it into the PCI-E slot, plug in the extra 6-pin power connector on the top of the card, and you’re ready to go.
Gigabyte ships this particular HD 7790 variant with a bare minimum of accessories — a driver CD, installation guide, and dual-Molex-to-6-pin adapter. We didn’t expect a great deal for under $200, but a free game to try the card out with would have been nice, especially considering the likely-penny-pinching target market.
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790: Performance and benchmarks
Using the same system that we tried the $1,899 ASUS ARES II out on, we put the Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 through a series of benchmarks on a Intel Core i7-3770K CPU clocked to 4.3GHz, a 256GB Crucial M4 SSD, and 16GB of DDR3-2400 RAM. The system was running a clean installation of Windows 8 Pro 64-bit, outputting to a BenQ RL2450H at 1920x1080 resolution, as well as a Samsung SyncMaster S27A850T at 2560x1440.
The Gigabyte version of the Radeon HD 7790 we tested had 1GB of GDDR5 RAM, and a moderate factory GPU overclock to 1075MHz (from the standard 1GHz). The card’s RAM runs at the standard 6GHz effective GDDR5 rate.
The Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 1GB OC handles most modern games with aplomb as long as you don’t try to run excessively high quality settings or resolutions over 1080p. We gave it a run through on Battlefield 3, Skyrim, and the 3DMark 11 benchmark to see how it performed.
Battlefield 3 is a popular shooter that scales well from low- to high-end PCs, and we saw the Gigabyte HD 7790 1GB OC’s frame rates around an average of 37FPS at 1080P in High detail mode. Bumping the detail up to Ultra with accompanying 4x anti-aliasing brings the average frame rate down to just over 30FPS, which is playable but we’d expect to see slowdowns in graphically-demanding scenes. Switching to 2560x1440 resolution and the High detail mode becomes unplayable, with frame rates consistently hovering around the 14-15FPS mark.
Similarly, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim performs well with High to Ultra detail modes at 1920x1080. We recorded an average frame rate of 47FPS on our playthrough. Bumping the resolution up to 2560x1440 does drop frame rates massively though — we found an average of 25FPS to be generally unplayable. We got a 3DMark 11 Performance result of P6701 and an Extreme result of X1782, both of which are acceptable for a mid-range graphics card of the HD 7790’s specifications.
Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 1GB OC: Conclusion
The Gigabyte Radeon HD 7790 is a solid performer for a graphics card that costs under $200. It would make for a good, low-cost upgrade to an aging system, and with appropriately modern CPU can handle Full HD gaming at high detail levels.
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