The Sapphire HD 6790

Sapphire's new video card, the HD 6790, released yesterday. People are buzzing all over about it, and a lot of people are positively enthralled. Personally, I can't really blame them- Sapphire Technology is the largest manufacturer and supplier of graphics hardware for a reason. But then, even the best can make mistakes, and talk is cheap. How does the card actually stack up? 

Performance/The Hardware

I've not heard anything negative here. The Radeon HD6790 utilizes the latest AMD Graphical Processing Unit microarchitecture, with a total of 800 stream processors and 40 texture units.(Techpowerup) There's been nothing negative said about the hardware reliability yet, and I doubt there will be. AMD knows what it's doing as far as system architecture is concerned.

There's more to the card than just the processors and texture units, though. This card's pretty high tech, and Sapphire's packed some advanced hardware into it for the sake of gamers the world over. An "enhanced Tessellation unit, stereoscopic three dimensional support, and HDMI 1.4a. Supposedly, the card is also very power-efficient, to boot.(Techeye). 

The Specs

Now, here's what I'm sure most of you are clamouring to hear. How much heat is this card packing? How much power's under the chassis? The Radeon HD 6790 delivers the following(Specs from Hothardware and Fudzilla):

  • Core Clock Speed of 840 MHz
  • Memory Clock Speed of 1050 MHz
  • 1GB of GDDR5 memory with a 256-bit interface, delivering an effective speed of 4.2 GBps
  •  Vapor-X Cooling Technology
  • High Dynamic Range Texture Compression
Now, a lot of the above might as well be Greek for some of you, so as always, I'll take a few moments to do some explaining. You guys know the drill- if you understand the terminology, skip this next part

A Few Definitions

Okay, more than a few this time. We've gotta define the following: Stream Processor, Texture Unit, Tessellation Unit, Multi-threaded communication, and HDR Texture Compression. Pretty big list, no? Fortunately, most of these terms are pretty straightforward, so this shouldn't take too long. 

Stream processors are essentially processors which allow for parallel operations to be carried out by a graphics card. This is a highly simplified definition, but for our purposes, it'll work.Texture basically do what you'd expect- manage textures. A Tesselation unit is used to manage onscreen polygons, increasing the graphics cards polygon count. What this ultimately equates to is more detail in the rendering of images. Basically, it makes things look prettier.

HDR texture compression saves bandwidth on the memory card, allowing its tasks to take up less graphics memory and system memory. Again, very basic definition, but it'll suffice. Multi-threaded communication, as opposed to single-thread communication, 

Multithreading is a process that allows multiple threads of programming to be active at any one time. To that end, a thread is the smallest 'unit' of processing a computer can execute. Multithreading is basically like multitasking- say, for example, jumping between two different phone calls. This generally occurs with such frequency that most people don't know the difference. Multithreaded communication in this context, then, allows the card to communicate with the system through multiple persistent channels at once. 

Graphics Benchmarks

Most of you have probably figured out by now that, while this card certainly is packing its fair share of processing power, it's not ultra high end. As far as relative performance goes compared to other cards, it's towards the lower end of the gaming spectrum, though with Crossfire X scaling its performance shoots up to around the middle of the chart, putting out an average of 50 fps.  If you'd like to see for yourself, swing on by Kitguru for a look at their Unigine Heaven benchmark table.

Final Thoughts

First, it might be worth noting that the HD 6790 has received universally positive reviews. That right there speaks for itself. No one really seems to have been able to find any significant faults or flaws with its performance or design, and though in terms of raw power it's not benchmark-shattering, it's still pretty reasonable performance for its price.

Ah, that's right. You all wish to know how much it costs, right? Though the card hasn't officially been made available to the public- we'll have to wait until later this month - the official price currently sits at $149.99-$179.99: around the same price as Nvidia's recently released GTX 550.(Kitguru). When it does release it should be available on Sapphire's Website.