Sapphire HD6790 Review
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06
Reviewed on: April 7, 2011
Are you looking to upgrade your current graphics card solution? Maybe you are still running a card that only supports Microsoft's DirectX 10 or maybe you are not getting the FPS in your favorite game that you are looking for. Heck you may be one of those people like myself that likes to have the latest and greatest components in their system. Whatever your reason for wanting to upgrade your graphics card, Sapphire has just released a new addition to their current lineup, the Sapphire HD6790 graphics card. This card is going to come with support for DX 11, AMD Eyefinity, and AMD HD3D. I am curious to see exactly how well the Sapphire HD6790 is going to compare to the other cards that are currently on the market as well as to see exactly how well this card is going to be able to overclock.
The packaging for the Sapphire HD6790 is a little bit different than some of the other packages that I have seen in the past. There is an image of a woman in a quite revealing warror suit as usually you are going to see an image of a large man in battle gear. This image change is giving me the impression that not only is the card ready for battle with the other cards that are on the market, but it is also going to look good doing it. The top left hand corner of the front is where you are going to find the Sapphire logo printed, there is a 1GB GDDR5 badge in the top right hand corner of the package as well to let you know what kind of memory solution Sapphire decided to give the HD6790. Along the bottom edge of the package is where you are going to find all of the badges letting you know what kind of features the card has; such as Full DirectX 11 Support, AMD Eyefinity, DisplayPort Version 1.2, HDMI, and AMD HD3D Technology. When you take a look at the back of the packaging, you will find a more detailed list of the different features and a nice little description of each of them.
When you get the packaging opened up, you will find a brown cardboard box that is going to house not only the Sapphire HD6790 card itself but all of the documentation, drivers CD, as well as the accessories that the card is going to come with. You are going to get a Sapphire Case Badge to proudly display on your chassis if you choose to and you are going to get a Sapphire Select Club card in the packaging. This club is going to give you the ability to receive automatic RMA services as well as free promotions. There is a DVI to analog display dongle as well as two four pin molex to six pin PCIE power adapters as well.
Now that we know what the packaging looks like for the Sapphire HD6790 and what is included inside, it is time to take a look at the graphics card itself.
Taking the first look at the Sapphire HD6790, you are going to see a large cooler that does cover the entire card, it is black with a large sticker at the back end of the card with the Sapphire Radeon HD6790 logos. There is a large fan located in the center of the cooler that is going to suck in fresh air from inside your chassis and blow it directly down onto the heatsink. The PCB of the card is the signature blueish teal color that Sapphire tends to use on their cards that they bring out. You are going to be getting 800 steam processors on the Sapphire HD6790 graphics card with 40 texture units for your Advance Parallel Processing. The stock core clock speed is 840MHz and the 1GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit bus comes clocked in at 1050MHz. You are going to be getting all of the connectivity functions on the HD6790 that you would the higher-end cards such as AMD HD3D and AMD Eyefinity.
The rear IO panel of the Sapphire HD6790 is where you are going to find all of the ways that you can connect a display device to the card. The HD6790 has two DVI outputs, an HDMI and a DisplayPort version 1.2 adapter on it. Above the HDMI and DisplayPort outputs there is a vent that is going to allow some of the hot air that the card is producing to be blown out of the case to help keep the ambient air inside your chassis a bit cooler. The rest of the hot air is going to be exhausted out of the rear of the card where there is nothing hindering the air flow.
At the top of the card you will find a single CrossfireX connector, this is where you are going to be able to install a Crossfire bridge to allow data to be off loaded to a secondary card to help increase the graphics power that your computer is going to be able to output. The rear of the card is where you will find the additional PCI-E power adapters. The Sapphire HD6790 requires two 6 pin PCI-E power adapters, whereas some of the other HD6790s only require one.
After taking a look at the Sapphire HD6790 itself, the next step would be to check out the specifications and features then jump right on into the testing of the card.
2 x DVI
1 x DisplayPort Version 1.2
1 x HDMI
1 x Analog Display
- Microsoft DirectX 11 Support
- ATI Eyefinity Technology
- AMD HD3D Technlogy
- AMD Advanced Parallel Processing Technology
- Microsoft Windows 7 Support
- 40nm Process Technology
- 3rd Generation TeraScale Engine
- PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
- Advanced 256-bit GDDR5 memory interface
- HDMI 1.4a support with Deep Color, 7.1 High Bitrate Audio and 3D Stereoscopic support
- On chip HDCP Support
- ATI CrossFireX Multi-GPU support for highly scalable perforamance. (Use up to four discrete cards with an AMD 790FX based motherboard)
- Enhanced Unified Video Decoder (UVD 3)
- Dynamic power management with ATI PowerPlay technoogy including memory clocks
- Dolby TrueHd and DTSHD Master Audio Support
- Enhanced Internet Browser Applications
- GPU acceleration support for Microsoft Office 2010
- PCI Express based PC is required with one x16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard
- 500 Watt or greater power supply with two 75W 6-pin PCI Express power connectors recommended (600 Watt and four 6-pin connecors for AMD CrossFireX technology in dual mode)
- Certified power supplies are recommended. Refer to http://ati.amd.com/certifiedPSU for a list of Certified products
- Minimum 1GB of system memory
- Installation software requires CD-ROM drive, a keyboard, a mouse, and a display
- DVD playback requires DVD drive and a DVD
- Blu-ray playback requires Blu-ray drive and a Blu-ray disc
- For an AMD CrossFireX system, a second Sapphire Radeon HD6790 Graphics card, an AMD CrossFireX Ready motherboard and one AMD CrossFireX Bridge Interconnect cable is required
Testing of the Sapphire HD6970 will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where they fall on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.
The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing other than applying the AA and AF settings manually in the control panel. I will test the cards at stock speeds, then overclocked in order to see the effects of any increases in clock speed. The cards are placed in order from highest to lowest performing in the graphs to show where the cards fall by comparison. In addition to the stock testing, I will include performance testing in both Surround (NVIDIA) and Eyefinity (AMD) with the appropriate cards. For this review, a few new games have replaced some of the aging titles.
- Processor: Intel Core I7 920 200x18 3.6GHz
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U12P SE 1366
- Motherboard: ASUS P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition
- Memory: Mushkin 996805 Redline PC312800 6-8-6-24 1600MHz
- Video Card: Sapphire HD6790
- Power Supply: Mushkin 1000 watt Joule Modular power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: LG DVD-RW
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Case: NZXT Beta Evo
Comparison Video Cards:
- Galaxy GTX 470 GC
- XFX HD 5870
- Sapphire HD 6870
- XFX HD 6850
- Sapphire HD 5850 Toxic
- EVGA GTX 460 FTW
- Sapphire HD6790
- Sapphire HD 6790 1000MHz / 1230MHz
When it came down to the overclocking of the Sapphire HD6790, I was able to get the GPU clock speed all the way up to 1000MHz, which is about a 19% overclock on the GPU core with no voltage adjustments. I was able to get the clock speed a little bit higher, however it was not stable enough to run all of the benchmarks in the OCC benchmarking suite. The memory was a little bit more tricky to overclock on this card. I was trying to get up around 1250MHz, however anything that I set above 1235MHz was unstable and would give me artifacts on the screen, so I had to back my clocks down to 1230MHz. That is, however, about a 17% increase on the memory. Overall, the overclocking of the Sapphire HD6790 was just like any other video card when it comes to the clocking without using any voltage adjustments.
Maximum Clock Speeds:
Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Crysis Warhead and Unigine 2.5 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds will fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds and tests are rerun until they pass the full one hour of testing.
- Gaming Tests:
- Aliens vs. Predator
- Metro 2033
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
- Just Cause 2
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.1
- Batman: Arkham Asylum
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2
- 3DMark 11 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species, the Alien, the Predator, and the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems, and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.
- SSAO = On
- Texture Quality = Very High
- Hardware Tesselation = On
- Advanced Shadow Sampling = On
Higher = Better
The Sapphire HD6790 was unable to beat out any of the other cards in this benchmark, however the HD6790 was not intended to be the king of all cards; it was intended to take over the previous generation's mid-range card, the HD5770.
Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied — in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses — chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.
- DirectX 11
- Global settings = High
- Physx = off
Higher = Better
In the Metro 2033 testing, the HD6790 was once again at the bottom of the heap, however it was able to still deliver some decently playable frame rates at the 1680 x 1050 resolutions.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- Frost Map
- DirectX 10
Higher = Better
During the 2560 x 1600 overclocked testing, the Sapphire HD6790 was able to get within three FPS of the GTX 460 FTW.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is an iteration of the venerable first person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking. You start off the single player missions playing as Private Allen and jump right into a serious firefight. This is the point where testing will begin. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps.
- In-game settings to Maximum
- Fraps measured Gameplay
Higher = Better
Once again, the Sapphire HD6790 is staying close to the competition in the real-world benchmark, Call of Duty Moder Warfare 2, however it was still in last place.
Just Cause 2 is a third-person shooter that takes place on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. In this sequel to 2006's Just Cause, you return as Agent Rico Rodriguez to overthrow an evil dictator and confront your former boss. When you don't feel like following the main story line, you're free to roam the island, pulling off crazy stunts and causing massive destruction in your wake, all beautifully rendered by the Avalanche Engine 2.0. In the end, that's what the game basically boils down to — crazy stunts and blowing things up. In fact, blowing things up and wreaking havoc is actually necessary to unlock new missions and items.
- Global Settings = High
- Water Detail = Medium
- Dark Tower Time Demo
Higher = Better
The Just Cause 2 benchmark is where the HD6790 was able to shine, especially during the 1920 x 1200 testing; it was able to come out in the middle at stock speeds, however fell back down to the end by only one FPS during the overclocked testing.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes — Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and OpenGL. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.
- Shaders = High
- Tesselation = Normal
- Measurement = FPS
Higher = Better
The HD6790 was just a few frames away from beating out the HD6850 in a majority of the resolutions tested in the Unigine 2.1 benchmark.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts for Windows, PS3 and XBox. This game is part of the Battlefield franchise and uses the Frostbite 1.5 Engine, allowing for destructible environments. You can play the single player campaign or multiplayer with five different game modes. Released in March 2010, it has so far sold in excess of six million copies.
- Global settings = Advanced
- HBAO = Off
Higher = Better
The Sapphire HD6790 was once again at the end of the heap in the Battlefiled Bad Company 2 benchmarking suite.
3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the upcoming date in number (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11 so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode whereas Vantage only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark and the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing, one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.
With the new benchmark comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests but unlike the tests, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and have a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and is similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story, they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides with the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.
- Default test settings
- Entry test 1024 x 600
- Performance test 1280 x 720
- Extreme test 1920 x 1080
Higher = Better
In the 3DMark 11 testing, the Sapphire HD6790 was once again in the back of the pack, however it was pretty close to the other cards that it was compared against.
Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.
- Settings (each preset): Default Testing
- Entry: 1024 x 768
- Performance: 1280 x 1024
- High: 1680 x 1050
- Extreme: 1920 x 1200
Higher = Better
During the Entry benchmarks, the scores were very close to each other, however as the resolutions got higher, so did the differences in the scores. The HD6790 was still unable to beat out any of the competition.
Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using MSI Kombuster, which is paired with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using the stability test set to a resolution of 1920 x 1200 using 8xAA. I will use a 15 minute time frame to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will be a 20 minute cool down with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running the overclocked idle and load testing. For load testing the GTX 580 and GTX 570, I will use Crysis Warhead run at 2560 x 1600 using the Gamer setting with 8xAA looping the Avalanche benchmark scenario, as I have found this to put a load close to that of Kombuster on a video card. This is needed as a way around the current limiting ability of the GTX 500 series when it detects programs that put an unrealistic load on the GPU, which Kombuster does.
- Monitoring with MSI Afterburner
- GPU Stability test in MSI Kombuster
- 15 minute load duration
- 20 minute idle duration
- Temperature measured in degrees Celsius
Lower = Better
Sapphire did put a nice cooler on this card, even under the overclocked settings, it was still able to be in the middle of the pack; never breaking 70°C.
Power consumption of the system will be measured in both idle states and loaded states and will take into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use MSI Kombuster to load the GPU for a 15 minute test and use the peak load of the system as my result for the maximum load. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. For load testing the GTX 500 series, I will once again use Crysis Warhead run at 2560 x 1600 using the Gamer setting with 8xAA looping the Avalanche benchmark scenario.
- MSI Kombuster Stability test
- 1920 x 1200 Resolution
- 15 minute load test
- 15 minute idle test
- Measurement is in Watts
Lower = Better
During the final testing of the Sapphire HD6790, it was able to draw the least amount of power from the wall, which is one of the highlights of the card.
What is there to say about the Sapphire HD6790 other than it does seem to be a pretty good replacement for the HD5770 graphics card? Not only does it come in at a pretty decent price point of $149, there is quite a nice list of features that the Sapphire HD6790 comes with. Features such as having support for AMD's EyeFinity allowing you to connect multiple monitors up to your system and game with the usage of only one single card. The temperatures that the HD6790 were giving out were pretty impressive as well as they never went above 70°C during any of the testing that was performed on it. When it comes to how much power the card was drawing from the wall, it never broke 300W which is also pretty impressive, giving you the options to use this card in an everyday computer that does not need to have high-end graphics power such as an HTPC or a media PC that your entire family is going to be using.
Sapphire did give you quite a few different ways to connect a display to the HD6790; you have two DVI; an analog; an HDMI; as well as a DisplayPort 1.2 connector all on the rear I/O panel of the card. This is going to give you the ability to easily plug in any display device that you may have laying around in your house easily and right out of the box without having to dig around for a dongle, but there is an analog to DVI dongle provided for you in the package if you do need one. When it comes down to the performance of the Sapphire HD6790, it was unable to beat out any of the cards it was stacked up against, however it was not designed to be the top of the line graphics card on the market. This is the card that is supposed to be replacing the HD5770 which it should easily be able to do. The Sapphire HD6790 was able to give playable frame rates at just about every single benchmark it was throw up against at just about every resolution tested. The card was also able to overclock quite well, getting a boost of 19% on the GPU Core and 17% on the Memory.
If you are looking to upgrade your current system from a card that does not have DirectX 11 support, or maybe you are looking to dabble into the AMD EyeFinity, you may just want to check out this card as it can do it all, and it can do it all with a pretty price tag on it.
- AMD EyeFinity
- Power Consumption
- Mid-range Card
- More Powerful cards available for not much more money