AMD readies Radeon HD 7790 GPU primed for 1080p gaming

Starting at $149, the GPU makes its entrance April 2

Radeon HD 7790

As promised last month, AMD will spend most of 2013 expanding its Radeon 7000 series of GPUs, and today it made good on that commitment by announcing an incremental evolution, the Radeon HD 7790.

"We want to augment and solidify the [7000] product stack, and we'll do that through the 7790," Evan Groenke, graphics product manager at AMD, said during a press briefing earlier this week.

The 7790 is based on a slick new piece of silicon, Groenke said, making this a never-before-seen GPU to add to the chipmaker's already well-selling 7000 repertoire.

Based on AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture, the chip is built on the promise of delivering excellent 1080p performance for a market that's become saturated with the mode.

"1080p is the minimum bar these days," Groenke noted, and AMD aims to have the 7790 dominate the field.

Built AMD tough

The reference engine clock for the Radeon HD 7790 sits at 1GHz, which isn't mind blowing by any means.

AMD, however, tried to make up for a lack of clock speed by doubling the processor's PowerTune Technology. In doing so, AMD claims it's created the first discrete chip to oscillate between eight DPM states. This allows for higher sustained engine clocks, greater performance and improved power efficiency, AMD explained.

In as little as 10 milliseconds, the 7790 can switch between an octagonal bunch of clock/voltage DPM pairings.

AMD also loaded the chip with 896 stream processors (14 compute units in all, four more than the 7770 model), a typical power draw of 85W and 1GB GDDR5 memory.

If the last spec strikes anyone as excessive, AMD is quick to assure that it's "absolutely appropriate" for a mainstream offering.

AMD threw in an all-new ASIC design and 16 render output units. The 7790 packs up to 96.0 GB/s of memory bandwidth and 1.79 TFLOPS of compute power.

Design-wise the chip features dual geometry and tessellation engines, similar to what's found in the 7800 and 7900 GPU models, and integral to supporting the chip's DirectX 11.1 support.

And although consumers won't see higher than a 1GB reference configuration at launch, 2GB versions from AIBs will hit later on.

Performance rating

Of course, AMD couldn't introduce an all-new GPU without jibbing at the competition.

In DirectCompute figures provided by AMD matching the 7790 against Nvidia's GeForce GTX 650 Ti on games running at 1080p, AMD's product was on average faster in a number of titles, including Hitman: Absolution (32 percent faster), DIRT Showdown (67 percent faster) and Tomb Raider (32 percent faster).

Though an independent analysis would be the true test of the 7790's mettle, AMD is obviously confident enough in its findings to make the data public domain.

A tale of timing

Word of the Radeon HD 7790 comes on the heels of Nvidia's Volta GPU announcement, which company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveiled during the annual GPU Technology Conference Tuesday.

Volta will be able to access 1TB per second of bandwidth, an astronomical figure, but it's not due until 2016. What's more, the 7790 isn't meant to blast high-end GPUs with otherworldly specs – its mission is superiority among the middle class.

The graphics cards – including overclocked editions – will be available in volume starting April 2. Pricing starts at US$149 and global gamers will be able to take advantage of the 7790's 1080p proficiency.

XFX, Asus, Sapphire, PowerColor and a host of other AIB partners are on board to produce vehicles for the chip, AMD said.

The chipmaker's much-made-of Never Settle Reloaded bundle will get a little new GPU love as AMD plans to continue the promotion with a free copy of BioShock Infinite for every new Radeon HD 7790 card purchased.

As with the card itself, this Reloaded/7790 bundle gets off the ground April 2.