- GPU: AMD Radeon HD 7790 1 GB, 1,075 MHz
- VRAM: 1 GB GDDR5, 6.4 GHz effective
- Compatibility: DirectX 11.1, OpenGL 4.2
- Outputs/Inputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I, DVI-D
- Power Connections: 1x 6-pin, top-mounted
- Size: 216mm, dual-slot
- Quiet fans
- Low power consumption
- Value for money
- Overdrive mode could have higher limits
- Very low framerate above 1920×1080 and High/Ultra settings
- Catalyst Control Center a bit difficult to navigate for non-techies
- It’s not a bad card, but you’ll need to overclock and turn down your graphics settings from High/Ultra if you plan on running higher than 1920 x 1080 resolution.
Every gamer needs video cards. Otherwise, we’d be using the integrated graphics that come with our motherboards, and these don’t really come up to the demands of PC games today, or won’t even let us run some games at all. Some people use multiple cards and/or multiple monitors to make the graphics as realistic and as crisp as possible, and for the more daring, they do something called overclocking—pushing the card past its advertised speeds.
The Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 7790 is a graphics card that caters to the gamer on a budget. If you’ve purchased a graphics card before, you probably already know how to put one in—just open up your desktop, find the PCI-E port on your motherboard, attach the graphics card into the PCI-E port, secure it to your case, and then plug the included six-pin cable into your power supply. You can then use the port of your choice (usually an HDMI port) and attach an HDMI cable from your device straight to the monitor. When you first start up your computer with your new graphics card, you’ll be on integrated graphics—just pop in the CD that comes with the card and follow the on-screen instructions to install your drivers to have the monitor run on your new graphics card and at the resolution you desire. You might need to restart your computer again for the new settings to take effect. Keep in mind you’ll need to update your drivers to enjoy the full power of your video card if you plan to use it long-term—most video card manufacturers roll out these updates at least once a month. The device comes with two more DVI ports, so you can also hook up additional monitors to the device. It also takes up two slots on the back of your case, so if you plan to use more than one card, keep in mind how many slots are available on both your case and motherboard.
For starters, you’ll have 1GB of GDDR5 RAM at an effective speed of 6.4GHz on the Radeon HD 7790 itself, along with an overclock of 7.5 percent on the GPU, thus taking it up to around 1,075MHz. To truly bring out the power of the graphics card, you need to watch HD video or play a graphics-intensive game or set an older game’s video settings to High or Ultra. The games I used for my review were World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria and BioShock Infinite.
The Radeon HD 7790’s performance will also rely on the rest of your rig’s specs, so keeping your other components current will make a difference as well. The system requirements for Mists aren’t extremely high, but when set to High or Ultra, the game will really be tested. I set my graphics to Ultra and went to one of the most crowded areas in the game, Stormwind’s Trade District. The card has to render plenty of character models along with other game graphics that are enabled upon switching your video settings to High or Ultra. I also play on a very high population server, so rendering the game graphics pushed the card heavily. I got an FPS rate of only 17, which is somewhat playable if you’re just standing around, but not when you’re in a dungeon or a battleground, where you need to react quickly to what is going on around you. BioShock Infinite ran well, but the frame rate had moments where it dropped below 20FPS. I also wouldn’t recommend playing games above 1920×1080 resolution with this card.
I also noticed a little discoloration in gaming and outside of it on my display. I’m not sure if it was my display itself or a mistake in the card’s settings. You can adjust display settings through AMD’s Catalyst Control Center (CCC), and you can also adjust other card settings, although the same settings in the CCC can also be found in the settings of your games. Overdrive mode boosts the card’s performance even further, although the limits on Overdrive mode might not satisfy those who overclock their rigs. In its defense, however, it makes overclocking easier for gamers who don’t know much beyond just putting in the card and installing its drivers.
Some people have reported power consumption issues with AMD cards in the past, but the Radeon HD 7790’s power consumption has improved over its predecessors. Idle, the card only consumes 7W of power, but if you use multiple monitors, this number almost triples to 20W. During gameplay, you’ll see an average of between 69W to 78W of power usage, with a maximum of 100W. You’ll probably never reach the maximum unless you’re running multiple monitors off of the same card and playing a graphics-intensive game (for example, Crysis 3) at Ultra settings on DirectX 11.
The HD 7790 isn’t bad, but it’s not the cream of the crop either. You’ll need to overclock to get it to perform well, and limit yourself to 1920×1080 resolution if you want a decent frame rate at the High/Ultra settings in the games you play.
Words by Jose Alvarez