AMD Radeon HD 7790 vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost: The latest $150 graphics card war

Summary:The midrange gets a pair of new boards for budget-conscious gamers.

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We might drool over the graphics-processing power of cards like the Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan , but there's a reason they are sold in limited quantities: Few gamers can afford to drop $1,000 on a single component, no matter how beastly.

Instead, most buyers have to settle for far-cheaper boards, which are also more likely to pop up in desktops sold by mainstream vendors. In recent days, both AMD and Nvidia have announced new products designed to hit the price-versus-performance sweet spot that appeals to most gamers.

First, AMD launched the Radeon HD 7790, which slots in between the cheaper HD 7770 and the slightly pricier HD 7850. Built on the new Bonaire GPU, it features 896 stream processors clocked at 1GHz, 1GB of GDDR5 memory, and 128-bit memory interface. (In comparison, the 7770 has 640 stream processors.) AMD has also improved its PowerTune overclocking software tool and has given the 7790 the ability to work in multi-card configurations.

The company is touting the $149 card's performance against Nvidia's GeForce GTX 650 Ti, though there's one problem with the comparison: Nvidia has just dropped the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost (pictured above) into our laps. Priced the same as the Radeon HD 7790, the 1GB Boost edition includes 768 CUDA cores clocked at 980MHz. Unlike the 7790, the 650 Ti Boost has a 192-bit memory interface, and uses an overclocking tool of its own — Nvidia's GPU Boost technology, which adjusts clock speed on the fly as the conditions warrant. It also works in 2-way SLI configurations. Thanks to the wider memory interface, Nvidia estimates that the Boost version is 40 percent faster than the original GTX 650 Ti, and can compete quite nicely with the Radeon HD 7850. A 2GB version will ship first, however, at a slightly higher $169 price point.

Early reviews from HotHardware and AnandTech of the 2GB GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost show that it is a more natural match for the Radeon HD 7850 than the 7790, though AnandTech finds its performance lags a bit more than HotHardware does. While there aren't 1GB flavors of the 650 Ti Boost available yet to directly compare to the 7790, the fact that a 2GB version is just $20 more makes the new Radeon a tougher buying proposition, unless you're looking for the absolute best deal.

Are you in the market for a new midrange graphics card? Would the Radeon HD 7790 or the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost appeal to you more? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.

Topics: Hardware, PCs

About

Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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