ASUS Radeon HD 7790 DirectCU II OC Video Card Review

AMD is launching the Radeon HD 7790 today. This new video card should give the sub-$200 video card segment a kick in the pants. Will it provide enough performance for today's latest games at $149? We will find out, testing the new ASUS Radeon HD 7790 DirectCU II OC with no less than six of today's hottest games.

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Tomb Raider

We are using the latest 2013 game release of Tomb Raider from Steam. We have the latest patch installed, which currently is 1.00.722.3. You can read our video card performance and image quality evaluation here to learn all about this game and find out what the graphics settings mean. We utilize all the graphics options that we can for each video card. TressFX is a graphics intensive method to produce realistic hair. Tessellation is used on characters and the environment, and also a graphics intensive option. We also utilize the highest shadows possible with the manual selection of "Ultra" shadows when possible.

Our run-through for this specific evaluation simply takes place during the first introduction scene of the game. We start it at the beginning with Lara hanging on a rope, and end it when she exits the cave and looks out over the ocean. The entire scene has a lot of action going on, and a lot of graphical effects with a ton of particles. Intense lighting, shadowing, tessellation, and TressFX hair rendering, with water, ambient occlusion and depth of field are present.


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Right off the bat, the previous AMD Radeon HD 7770 struggled quit a bit in today's latest games like Tomb Raider and Crysis 3. This was the first thing we noticed. In every game, as you will see, the GeForce GTX 650 Ti allowed a better gameplay experience over the Radeon HD 7770. The new Radeon HD 7790 brought performance to, and just slightly over, the GTX 650 Ti in every game as you are also about to see.

So let's start with Tomb Raider, which has three graphically intense options. Firstly, TressFX is the DX11 DirectCompute graphical effect that renders realistic hair on Lara. This option is by far the most graphically intense option in the game. For these level of video cards, we simply had to disable it, and use normal hair because TressFX was way too slow, even on the new Radeon HD 7790.

We also discovered a major graphical bug with TressFX on the Radeon HD 7790. When enabled, Lara's hair looks like a porcupine. It is out of place, artifacting, and blatantly obvious it is bugged. This could also be causing slow performance. AMD is aware of the bug and working on a fix. It is possible that the fix might also improve performance with TressFX enabled on the HD 7790.

The next graphically intense option is tessellation. With the Radeon HD 7770 we had to disable this option because it was simply too slow with it enabled. In order to play with tessellation enabled on the HD 7770 we would have had to turn everything to the lowest settings, and even turn some things off and lower textures. Turning tessellation off allowed us to keep some of the other settings higher, like texture quality. The new Radeon HD 7790 was able to play this game easily with tessellation enabled, so that is a big upgrade from the HD 7770. The GTX 650 Ti was also playable with tessellation.

Ok, starting with the Radeon HD 7770, this video card has the lowest gameplay experience. Keeping the resolution at 1080p, and with FXAA (which takes no performance hit) we had to lower every setting in the game. As mentioned, we had to disable tessellation, this was the big graphical option that caused a decrease in the visual quality. We had to use normal hair, and we had to lower everything like shadows, reflections, depth of field, ambient occlusion and level of detail to normal level. We even had to lower the shadow resolution to low settings, so the absolute worse shadows in the game. We were able to keep textures at ultra however. The game was not pretty at these settings.

The GeForce GTX 650 Ti allowed a much better experience compared to the Radeon HD 7770. We were able to run at 1080p with FXAA and have the shadow resolution at high, level of detail at ultra, reflections at high, depth of field at ultra, ambient occlusion at ultra and even have tessellation enabled. This was a much better gameplay experience, it literally blew the old Radeon HD 7770 away.

The brand new ASUS Radeon HD 7790 DirectCU II OC brought about a massive improvement over the older Radeon HD 7770. We were able to have high resolution shadows, ultra level of detail, high reflections, ultra depth of field, ultra ambient occlusion and ultra textures with tessellation enabled! We did have to keep TressFX turned off however. That means the new ASUS HD 7790 DC2 OC was playable at the same level as the GeForce GTX 650 Ti now. It brought performance up to the GTX 650 Ti. Performance was nearly identical.

Therefore, it is a large improvement over the HD 7770, but only matches the GTX 650 Ti in performance. It is possible new game patches, and drivers, could change this in the future.


Apples-to-Apples

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For the apples-to-apples test we increased this game to the highest in-game settings, including everything on ultra along with ultra shadows. We have tessellation enabled and we have TressFX enabled.

You can see that with TressFX enabled, the HD 7770 and GTX 650 Ti have similar performance. It doesn't look like the Radeon HD 7790 is that much faster, but it is technically 20% faster. Also, with the current TressFX bug, it might be held back in performance.