Welcome to the battle of the low end of the mid range – or maybe it is the high end of the low range? One of the most confusing things about video cards right now is the sheer number of products out there on the market, which leads to a proliferation of model numbers and sub variants, all designed to hit different price points and compete with the myriad options from the other GPU manufacturer.
The Radeon HD 7790 and GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost are great examples of the triumph of marketing over sanity. Both launched in rapid succession, and both were designed to target the same end user. Unfortunately, the product positioning makes a lot of sense with stock models of the card, where the 7790 sits at $149, midway between the 7770 and 7850 Radeon cards – it makes a lot less sense with these overclocked models, which come with higher prices that push them close to that of the superior Radeon 7850.
At least in Nvidia’s case there is something of a price difference between the GTX 650 Ti Boost and the existing GeForce GTX 660. It is only a gap of $15 or so, but it exists. But ultimately one wonders, even before firing the cards up, if this is a case of relentless fixation on price points and the minutiae of video card marketing at the expense of the consumer’s sanity.
If we reverse engineer the sequence of events that led to the launch of these two cards it appears to be as follows. AMD knew its 7770 card just couldn’t match up to Nvidia’s midrange offering, the GeForce GTX 650, so it worked on getting a new GPU codenamed Bonaire ready for market. This GPU, which launched as the 7790, runs at the same speed as the 7770, but thanks to a tweaked architecture is much more efficient, with more stream processors and texture units. It also runs faster memory than the 7770, which enabled AMD to get the 7790 running at GTX 650 levels of performance.
Unsurprisingly Nvidia was aware of this, and started working on a tweaked up version of the GTX 650, which has both a higher base clockspeed and the ‘boost’ technology found on higher-end GeForce cards. While only a relatively small tweak, it meant that Nvidia was able to deliver performance that is consistently a few frames quicker than the Radeon HD 7790, thus winning this skirmish in the decades old GPU wars.
Ultimately though, one wonders if the real loser is the consumer, who is now faced with an even more complex video card landscape, full of slightly different model numbers and pricing that might make sense in the US, but certainly doesn’t in the local market.
We’ve tested two retail Radeon HD 7790 cards, and compared them to Nvidia’s reference design for the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost. We have Sapphire HD 7790 Dual-X OC, with 1GB of GDDR3 ram, and a factory GPU overclock to 1075MHz from the standard 1GHz and memory running at an effective 6400MHz, up from 6GHz. There is also an XFX 7790 Black Edition with 1GB of GDDR5 memory and a GPU at 1075MHz.
In our standard Crysis test both cards performed admirably, delivering playable framerates up to very high detail. We also played with some recent titles set to 1920 x 1080 resolution, and both cards delivered playable framerates at medium detail on even the most demanding games. Nvidia’s reference card delivered performance that was a frame or two higher across the board, but nothing that really translates to a noticeable real world difference.
In the same benchmarks the Radeon HD 7850 and GeForce GTX 660 deliver noticeable performance increases on a consistent basis. Which means that, despite the fact both XFX and Sapphire have delivered fantastic cards, the pricepoint on these overclocked models pushes them close to the price tag of the 7850, and given the big jump in performance we would heartily suggest spending the extra few bucks unless you absolutely cannot afford to. The GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost is an even less tempting proposition, priced much closer to the 7850 and GTX 660, making the decision even more of a no-brainer.