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MSI Radeon HD 7790 OC Edition: Mid-Range Graphics
Date: May 10, 2013
Author: Joshua Gulick
Introduction and Specifications
Just before the mid-range AMD Radeon HD 7790 hit store shelves in early April, NVIDIA countered with the GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST. NVIDIA’s move also involved pricing changes that were good for mid-range card shoppers, but what matters most is that the card NVIDIA managed to launch coincident with the Radeon HD 7790’s launch, offers better performance in most of our benchmarks. With the dust settling, all that’s left now is for the factory-overclocked cards to battle it out.

Asus and Sapphire have already taken a crack with their overclocked Radeon HD 7790s. Those cards definitely out-perform the stock-clocked Radeon HD 7790 we tested in March, but couldn’t always overcome the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST. Today, we’re looking at the MSI Radeon HD 7790 OC Edition (R7790-1GD5/OC), which has a slightly lower base clock speed of 1,050MHz than its Asus and Sapphire counterparts. The frame buffer is also clocked a touch slower, but keep in mind that the MSI 7790 is set to street at around $135 (currently listing for $139 on Amazon after rebate), while the Asus and Sapphire cards are priced at $154.99 and $159.99, respectively.

MSI Radeon HD 7790
MSI Radeon HD 7790
Available at Amazon for $139.99 currently, after rebate.

As we mentioned, MSI’s Radeon HD 7790 has a core clock speed of 1,050MHz. The card also has 1GB of GDDR5 memory and a memory clock right at 6Gbps. That’s really not much slower than the memory bandwidth offered by the other cards; our Asus and Sapphire boards offer 6.4Gbps. But it’s enough to mean a slight edge for those cards in the benchmarks, as we’ll see on the following pages.

As a mid-range card, the MSI Radeon HD 7790 has a modest footprint in your system – though it will take up two slots at the back of your chassis. The card is 7.17 inches long x 4.16 inches tall, and 1.5 inches across, thanks to the cooling shroud on one side. That shroud covers copper heat pipes and an aluminum heatsink, all of which is cooled by a surprisingly quiet fan. According to MSI, the fan features its proprietary “Propeller Blade Technology,” which provides 20% more airflow than your average graphics card fan.

MSI also touts the quality of the card’s components, garnering it the company’s own “Military Class III” rating, because the card meets the U.S. MIL-STD-810G durability standard. Marketing-speak aside, this is a feature worth looking for in your components, particularly when you plan to undertake overclocking.

PCB Side Of The MSI Radeon HD 7790

MSI Radeon HD 7790 PCB View

The MSI Radeon HD 7790 is powered by a single six-pin PSU connector and the Thermal Design Power requirement is 100W. For output, the card offers two DVI ports, an HDMI port, and a DisplayPort. It supports resolutions up 2560x1600 and handles DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.2. And, of course, the card has support for AMD’s CrossFire. The card includes two physical accessories: an external power cable and a DVI/D-Sub adapter.

Before we dig into MSI’s software bundle, we should point out that the card is selling on some retailers with a limited-time bundle that includes a couple of noteworthy titles: BioShock Infinite and Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon. That bundle also includes a copy of Futuremark’s new 3DMark benchmarking tool.

Output Panel of the MSI Radeon HD 7790
The MSI Radeon HD 7790's output ports.

As for the MSI software typically included with the video card, you’re looking at a Norton Internet Security trial, MSI Afterburner, MSI Dual Core Center, MSI Live, and MSI StarOSD. The most important of these applications is Afterburner, which is MSI's popular, robust overclocking utility. The program has overclocking profiles that let you quickly kick your card into overdrive when you’re ready to fire up a game (or even switch in-game), and it includes tools for logging the card’s status and identifying important info, like the BIOS version. The utility also has a video-capture feature called Predator for recording your game sessions.
Test System and Unigine Heaven v4.0
How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard powered by a Core i7-3960X six-core processor and 16GB of G.SKILL DDR3-1866 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI and set all values to their "high performance" default settings and disable any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The memory's X.M.P. profile was enabled to ensure better-than-stock performance and the hard drive was then formatted and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist along with all of the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-3960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
Asus P9X79 Deluxe
(Intel X79 Express)

Asus Radeon HD 7790 Direct CU II
Sapphire Radeon HD 7790 OC
MSI Radeon HD 7790 OC
Radeon HD 7770
Radeon HD 7850
GeForce GTX 660
GeForce GTX 650 Ti
GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST

Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network
 Relevant Software: 
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
AMD Catalyst v13.3 Beta 3
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v314.21

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v4
3DMark "Fire Strike"
Batman: Arkham City
Hitman: Absolution
Alien vs. Predator
Metro 2033
Sleeping Dogs
Crysis 3

Unigine Heaven v4.0 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming

Unigine Heaven v4.0
Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v4.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform, real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion). It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

The MSI Radeon HD 7790 kicked off our benchmarks with some solid scores in Unigine Heaven. In fact, it provided frame rates that were even with (or close to) the pricier ASUS and Sapphire 7790s. But it fell a little further behind when it came to the overall Heaven score. And because the MSI card didn't top any of its fellow 7790s, it also couldn't match the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST.

3DMark Fire Strike Test
Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike Test
Synthetic DirectX Gaming
Futuremark 3DMark
Fire Strike
Fire Strike has two benchmark modes: Standard mode runs in 1920x1080, while Extreme mode targets 2560x1440. GPU target frame buffer utilization for normal mode is 1GB and the benchmark uses tessellation, ambient occlusion, volume illumination, and a medium-quality depth of field filter. The more taxing Extreme mode targets 1.5GB of frame buffer memory and increases detail levels across the board. Extreme mode is explicitly designed for CrossFire / SLI systems. GT 1 focuses on geometry and illumination, with over 100 shadow casting spot lights, 140 non-shadow casting point lights, and 3.9 million vertices calculated for tessellation per frame. Only 80 million pixels are processed per frame. GT2 emphasizes particles and GPU simulations. Tessellation volume is reduced to 2.6 million vertices, but the number of pixels processed per frame rises to 170 million.

Like the other 7790s, the MSI Radeon HD 7790 managed to best the GTX 650 Ti BOOST in the Fire Strike GT1 test, though it fell behind in the combined test results. And as before, it lagged just slightly behind the other 7790s, both in terms of frame rates and the overall 3DMark score.
Aliens vs. Predator Performance
Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance

Alien vs. Predator
The Aliens vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion, and high-quality shadow features available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11-related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested. 

Alien vs. Predator gave us much the same story as we've seen in previous benchmarks: the MSI Radeon HD 7790 came in smack between the baseline 7790 framerate and the overclocked ASUS and Sapphire card framerates. The GTX 650 Ti BOOST, on the other hand, has a more noticeable performance lead and even challenges the Radeon HD 7850, coming up just 2.2 frames per second shy of higher-end card.
Regardless, all cards in this test remain closely grouped in terms general performance.
Metro 2033 Performance
Metro 2033
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance

Metro 2033
Metro 2033 is your basic post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment; rather, you’re left to deal with life, or lack thereof, more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. The game is loosely based on a novel by Russian Author Dmitry Glukhovsky. Metro 2003 boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform and includes a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with adaptive anti-aliasing and in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled. 

In Metro 2033, we see more neck-and-neck competition. At a 1920x1200 resolution, the Asus and Sapphire cards come in with identical average framerates of 47.67, while MSI’s 7790 posts an average framerate of 47.33. That’s the sort of gap you’d expect to see among cards that are on identical clocks, but remember that the MSI 7790 is clocked a little slower for both its engine and memory speeds.

Batman: Arkham City Performance
Batman Arkham City
DirectX Gaming Performance

Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City is a sequel to 2009’s Game of the Year-winning Batman: Arkham Asylum. This recently released sequel, however, lives up to and even surpasses the original in many ways. The story takes place 18 months after the original game. Quincy Sharp, the onetime administrator of Arkham Asylum, has become mayor and convinced Gotham to create "Arkham City" by walling off the worst, most crime-ridden areas of the city and turning the area into a giant open-air prison. The game has DirectX 9 and 11 rendering paths, with support for tessellation, multi-view soft shadows, and ambient occlusion. We tested in DX11 mode at various resolutions with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values. 

In Batman: Arkham City, the MSI Radeon HD 7790 lands right where we expect it to: slightly behind its fellow 7790 OC cards but behind NVIDIA’s competing GTX 650 Ti BOOST. Even so, we’re talking about very playable framerates here – at 1920x1200, you’re looking at an average 51 frames per second, which is plenty smooth.
Sleeping Dogs Performance
Sleeping Dogs
DX11 Gaming Performance

Sleeping Dogs
Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game in which you play the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads from the inside. In the game, you have to fight your way up in the organization and take part in various criminal activities without blowing your cover. We tested Sleeping Dogs at two resolutions, with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values with FXAA enabled. 

At 1920x1200, the MSI Radeon HD 7790 catches up to GTX 650 Ti BOOST, offering an average framerate of 20.5 to the NVIDIA card’s 21.4. Of course, the MSI card still ends up just a hair behind the ASUS and Sapphire cards. And the GTX 650 Ti BOOST pulls back firmly into the lead at 2560x1600.
Hitman: Absolution Performance
Hitman: Absolution
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance
Hitman: Absolution follows Agent 47, a cold-blooded assassin, who takes on his most dangerous contract to date. Betrayed by those he once trusted - and now hunted by the police - he suddenly finds himself at the center of a dark conspiracy and must embark on a personal journey through a corrupt and twisted world. We tested the game at multiple resolutions, with all in-game options set to their maximum values and global illumination and 4X anti-aliasing enabled. 

Hitman leveled the playing field a bit for all of the cards we’ve been discussing. The MSI Radeon HD 7790 kept its place just behind the ASUS and Sapphire cards, but the GTX 650 Ti BOOST pulled off only a few more frame rates than its competitors at both 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 resolutions.
Crysis 3 Performance
Crysis 3
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance

Crysis 3
Crysis 3, which is powered by Crytek’s proprietary CryENGINE 3 technology is the third installment in this popular franchise. Crysis 3 is the sequel to 2011’s Crysis 2 and follows Prophet as he returns to New York a few years after the events of Crysis 2. Like previous games in the franchise, Crysis 3 has impressive visuals that can tax even the most powerful PCs when cranked up to their maximum values. We tested this game at various resolutions with all in-game graphics options set to Very High, with 4X MSAA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled and motion blur set to high. 

Although the numbers generally stuck to their familiar pattern in the Crysis 3 benchmark, we noticed that MSI’s Radeon HD 7790 did slip a little further behind the GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST than we expected. Otherwise, the card landed squarely where we expected it to: bringing up the rear, but only ever so slightly, versus the other overclocked Radeon HD 7790 cards.
Power Consumption, Noise, Temps
Heat is always something to keep in mind when you’re adding components to a new or existing gaming rig, so we monitored the heat of our review graphics cards at both idle and heavy load states. We also measured power consumption to give you an idea of the card’s power draw. Because we monitor at the outlet, our readings show the entire system’s power draw. Use the data to compare power consumption among the card and its competitors.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

The MSI Radeon HD 7790 starting taking some top spots when we ran the power consumption and temperature tests. The card handled itself just fine when the system was idle, but when we put the system under heavy load, the card remained cooler and drew less power than its competitors. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re planning a build that involves a Mini-ITX chassis or if you’re keeping a close eye on power draw. As for acoustics, the card is extremely quiet overall and more than suitable for consideration in a "quiet computing" build.
Summary and Conclusion
As we mentioned our introduction here, you’re saving a good $20-$25 by going with MSI’s HD Radeon 7790 OC Edition over one from ASUS or Sapphire. If you’re looking at a mid-range graphics card like this, you’re likely building a computer (or upgrading it) on a budget, so $25 means you have more cash that can go into buying a better version, or more of some other component, like memory. So, is this card the way to go? What do you gain (or lose) by going with MSI’s 7790 card?

MSI Radeon HD 7790
The MSI Radeon HD 7790: a compact, solid performer.
Check out MSI's line of Radeon HD 7000 Cards on Amazon

In each of our benchmarks, the MSI Radeon HD 7790 makes its case as a solid mid-range graphics card. No, it doesn’t have quite the performance of competing 7790 cards that we tested. And no, it’s not a slam-dunk challenger to the GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST – by performance numbers alone. What makes MSI’s card competitive is its price. Viewed from the perspective of its $135 price tag, those performance gaps start to look smaller. For many games, the extra $25 is only buying you a couple more frames per second than other 7790s, which you'll be hard pressed to perceive in virtually any game environment. Given that, the MSI Radeon HD 7790 looks like a pretty good deal for casual gaming.

Box for MSI Radeon HD 7790 Accessories for MSI Radeon HD 7790

It also doesn’t hurt that the MSI Radeon HD 7790 has the lowest temperatures and power draw (under load) of all of the cards we compared it to. If you’re dealing with limited chassis space, or you’re watching temps and power draw, the MSI card is likely worth the very minor drop in FPS compared to the other 7790 cards.

It’s easy to give a PC component flack for bringing up the rear in the benchmarks, but given the context, we’re rather comfortable with the MSI Radeon HD 7790. A card like this is going to be the right choice for a lot of people looking at mid-range graphics cards on a budget or with cool and quiet performance in mind; though it might occasionally get passed over by people who are hunting for the absolute best mid-range performance.


  • Low Price
  • Reasonably Good Mid-Range Performance
  • Quiet Fan
  • Low Power Draw
  • Performance Slightly Trails Similar Cards

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