AMD's Radeon HD 6790: Coming Up Short At $150by Ryan Smith on April 5, 2011 12:01 AM EST
Whether or not AMD calls the Radeon HD 6790 the successor of the Radeon HD 5830, that’s what it is. So 5830 comparisons are quite appropriate, both to look at what AMD did well at and where it doesn’t quite escapes its ancestor.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the 5830 was that it was a 3rd tier part from a high-end GPU; power, temperature, and noise could approach the levels of a high-end GPU without the matching performance. Barts is not a high-end GPU, and as such even if the 6790 were as hot/loud/power-hungry as the 6870, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Thankfully it looks like power consumption is being kept in check, so partners should be able to develop reasonably cool & quiet cards. In practice the 6790 will probably be a bit worse than the 6850 in this regard, which again is not great given that it achieves only 85% of the performance, but it’s not unreasonable. The 6790 is still a 3rd tier product, but it’s learning from the past.
The problem with the 6790, much like the 5830 before it, is pricing. When you can pick up a GeForce GTX 460 768MB for $150 or a Radeon HD 6850 for $10 more, what sense does a $150 6790 make? It doesn’t make any sense, and there’s the problem. The impression I get is that AMD wanted to make a card to thoroughly trample the GTX 550 Ti, and indeed the 6790 can do that. The problem is that they’re pricing it against the GTX 460 and 6850 right now. The GTX 550 Ti is a good $20 lower (and probably should be cheaper still).
At the end of our 5830 review last year, we said the issue came down to $20: the 5830 was $20 too expensive for what it offered. It’s fitting then that this seems to be the same problem with the 6790. If it were a $130 card it would fit in well between AMD’s other cards; it would beat the GTX 550 Ti, and it would make NVIDIA think long and hard about what to do with the GTX 460 768MB. Instead AMD is committing the same mistake as the 5830 and as the GTX 550 Ti by launching it at $150. $150 is quickly becoming a great place to mislaunch cards.
Long term I’m a bit worried that the $150 price will stick, giving AMD a price floor to bring up 6800 series prices. The 6790 is solidly ahead of the GTX 550 Ti, so if that’s the only thing AMD bases all of their pricing around they can charge more than the GTX 550 Ti, and more for the 6800 series on top of that. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but we have seen video card prices creep up before.
For the time being there’s not much going for the 6790 to recommend it. Throw some rebates on the Radeon HD 6790 to get it down to $130 and we can talk. Until then the GeForce GTX 460 768MB or the Radeon HD 6850 are both much better products.