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Price/Performance: HD 6790 vs. HD 5850

Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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November 10, 2011 12:49:09 AM

[System: Intel Core i5 2500K, 8GB RAM, Win7 x64]

[Games: Civilization V, Metro 2033]

Hi Everyone,

I got my hands on two very nice cards at, what I think, are good prices. I'm not a very demanding PC gamer (I don't need top notch settings or anything like that). But I do like getting the most I can for my money. Sadly, I don't have a large budget, so wherever I can maximize my price/performance, I do my best. I would also like to have the flexibility to improve the graphics output when future games call for it.

That being said, here are the two cards I was fortunate enough to get:

HD 6790 for $80 (new)

- I like this card because I got it for a pretty good price, and it is part of the 6000 series, which supposedly scales better in crossfire.

HD 5850 for $115 (used)

- This is obviously the more powerful card, but does that increase in power justify the $35 extra in price? I also have a concern about an older card lacking some of the modern tech I might need in future games (I'm out of my element there. Don't know much about the differences in the 5000 and 6000 series.)

So what do you guys think? I could use some input!

Thanks!
a b U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 1:02:12 AM

The HD 5XXX are actually stronger than the 6XXX series but are less ecofriendly. The 5850 is about 6870. Pretty freaking powerful. Also, for Civ 5, nvidia cards do a LOT better. like x2 better. 5850 is the better performance/buck thogh.
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November 10, 2011 2:12:37 AM

Thank you for the response, samuelspark.
Would you be able to enlighten me on what the difference between the 5XXX and 6XXX series are? I've seen a lot of people say that the 5XXX cards are stronger/faster cards? So what is the purpose of the 6XXX series? Is it a power consumption thing? Do they scale that much better in CF?
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a c 141 U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 2:13:44 AM

I would definitely get the 5850 out of those two cards. It is a bit older, but it does have DX11 support, and is a good deal faster than the 6790. The 5850 will run most games on maximum fine at 1080p, I doubt the 6790 could pull that off for nearly as many titles. The only feature the 6790 has that the 5850 doesn't would be BluRay 3D support. Unless it is absolutely vital that you be able to watch 3D movies on your PC, don't bother with the 6790.

Edit: The 6000 series mostly has better Crossfire scaling, slightly improved DX11 performance, and better power consumption, and as said above 3D support for BluRay and games using AMD HD3D (HD 6800 cards or higher only). Only the top of the line single GPU, the 6970 is better than the best single GPU 5XXX card.
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November 10, 2011 2:32:07 AM

Supernova1138 said:
I would definitely get the 5850 out of those two cards. It is a bit older, but it does have DX11 support, and is a good deal faster than the 6790. The 5850 will run most games on maximum fine at 1080p, I doubt the 6790 could pull that off for nearly as many titles. The only feature the 6790 has that the 5850 doesn't would be BluRay 3D support. Unless it is absolutely vital that you be able to watch 3D movies on your PC, don't bother with the 6790.

Edit: The 6000 series mostly has better Crossfire scaling, slightly improved DX11 performance, and better power consumption, and as said above 3D support for BluRay and games using AMD HD3D (HD 6800 cards or higher only). Only the top of the line single GPU, the 6970 is better than the best single GPU 5XXX card.


Thanks, Supernova. That was very helpful.

I won't be using any 3D-related material. I'm not ready to jump off that ledge just yet. So I guess the 5850 would be the way to go there.

So even at $80, you don't think the 6790 is a better buy? Its odd... to me, the card looks pretty solid, but the friends that I've asked (much smarter than me in this area) and the people online really seem to think it's crap.

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a c 141 U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 2:40:07 AM

80 bucks isn't a bad price for the 6790, but when you can get a 5850 for a little bit more it just isn't worth it. The main problem with the 6790 is it is basically a heavily cut down 6870, one that failed quality control, and has had its defecitve shaders disabled. AMD recoups their losses by selling the defective chips as a lower end GPU. This tends to lead to problems mostly with power consumption, as the chips on the 6790 often need to pull a lot of power in order to remain stable, this will also generate more heat. The end result is a weaker card that will often have power consumption and heat figures similar to a much more powerful card. As such, cards like this don't get recommended too often, especially when most of the time you can get a more efficient and more powerful card for just a little bit more money.
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a c 376 U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 3:03:37 AM

The HD5850 is approximately 30-35% faster than the HD6790 at high resolutions. Despite what some of the others have claimed the HD6000 series is not particularly more power efficient than the HD5000 cards. The HD5850 only uses about 10w more than the HD6790 under load.
Considering the prices for both of the cards are good deals I would say it mostly depends on what resolution you will be using. At 1680x1050 or above the performance level of the HD5850 is more appropriate. Below that you'll be able to max out most games with the HD6790 so you might as well save some money.
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November 10, 2011 3:11:48 AM

jyjjy said:
The HD5850 is approximately 30-35% faster than the HD6790 at high resolutions. Despite what some of the others have claimed the HD6000 series is not particularly more power efficient than the HD5000 cards. The HD5850 only uses about 10w more than the HD6790 under load.
Considering the prices for both of the cards are good deals I would say it mostly depends on what resolution you will be using. At 1680x1050 or above the performance level of the HD5850 is more appropriate. Below that you'll be able to max out most games with the HD6790 so you might as well save some money.


Sorry, I forgot to include information about my monitor in the setup. I'm actually currently using a 40" LCD TV at 720P, so currently, the best resolution I can get is pretty lousy (1280 x 720). I'm going to try looking for a 1080P TV on Black Friday maybe, so that would permit me a slightly better resolution, but it still won't be near the Max that you can get with a quality computer monitor. (For me, I just like having such a large screen to work off of, even if the resolution isn't as great as it could be).

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a c 376 U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 3:24:59 AM

At 1080p I would definitely get the HD5850. The HD6790 would still do alright but the extra 30-35% performance I mentioned would really help on the more graphic intensive current games.
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a c 358 U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 1:05:38 PM

I agree that if you are eventually going to upgrade to a 1080p HDTV, then the HD 5850 will give you much better performance than the HD 6790.

My 2 year old HD 5850 still performs well in games which I play at 1920x1200 resolution. I still using WinXP so I am not playing games with DX10 or DX11 effects. However, to be honest, the only game that I have purchased which natively supported something better than DX9 was Crysis. Crysis 2 doesn't count since it was released as a DX9 title and only later did the DX11 upgrade patch come out.

Skyrim will likely be the next game i will buy and that is another DX9 title.
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a b U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 1:13:40 PM

definitely the 5850! i couldnt be happier with this 5850 i bought in around march 2010, it is very OCable and power efficient too. runs cool and maxes out almost every game at 1080p.

@ 950mhz core 1200mhz memory i max out BF3 at 1080p with no MSAA ;) 
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a b U Graphics card
November 10, 2011 1:58:25 PM

jviper88 said:
Thank you for the response, samuelspark.
Would you be able to enlighten me on what the difference between the 5XXX and 6XXX series are? I've seen a lot of people say that the 5XXX cards are stronger/faster cards? So what is the purpose of the 6XXX series? Is it a power consumption thing? Do they scale that much better in CF?


The 6xxx cards were the next refresh of the AMD lineup. The numbering scheme changed a little with the 6xxx cards (ostensibly for marketing purposes) so things are a little confusing for consumers who aren't very familiar with the products. The result was a 6850 that is less powerful than the 5850, etc. Below is a rough ordering of fastest to slowest. This is only meant to provide a little more understanding for the OP.

6990 (dual gpu), 6970, 5870/6950, 6870/5850, 6850, 6790, 6770/5770

One of the best things about the 6xxx lineup is that they tend to have a little better crossfire scaling than the 5xxx.
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November 10, 2011 9:29:43 PM

beltzy said:
The 6xxx cards were the next refresh of the AMD lineup. The numbering scheme changed a little with the 6xxx cards (ostensibly for marketing purposes) so things are a little confusing for consumers who aren't very familiar with the products. The result was a 6850 that is less powerful than the 5850, etc. Below is a rough ordering of fastest to slowest. This is only meant to provide a little more understanding for the OP.

6990 (dual gpu), 6970, 5870/6950, 6870/5850, 6850, 6790, 6770/5770

One of the best things about the 6xxx lineup is that they tend to have a little better crossfire scaling than the 5xxx.


Thank you for this clarification on the graphics cards. It would have been nice if they had kept the same number scheme, but I understand. At least this way, I can see where my card would rank.

It seems I wouldn't even be able to use the 5850 card to its fullest with my current setup. I need a better TV or I will be wasting my cards' ability.
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November 10, 2011 9:30:12 PM

Best answer selected by JVIPER88.
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