Radeon HD 7730 Is Good, If The Price Is Right
With our benchmarks out of the way, we can compile a chart of aggregate performance to get a better sense of where the Radeon HD 7730s sit in comparison to their predecessors and competition.
It comes as little surprise that the Radeon HD 7750 finishes today's story on top. Relative to the Radeon HD 6670 with DDR3 memory, the new 7730 (also equipped with DDR3) is more than 20% faster. The GDDR5-equipped model's lead is slightly smaller versus the Radeon HD 6670 GDDR5, but still in the double-digit percentage range. Nvidia's GeForce GT 630 and 640 show up in the middle, between old and new generations of AMD hardware.
At the end of the day, availability, pricing, and competition will determine the Radeon HD 7730's fate. At $90, the Radeon HD 7750 doesn't leave much room in the entry-level discrete space for cheaper options to maneuver, and we've never been able to recommend the GDDR5-equipped 6670 or GeForce GT 640 because they share that same price point.
On the other hand, AMD's Radeon HD 6670 DDR3 consistently gets a recommendation in the $60 range. That $30 spread is a really big deal when you're talking about sub-$100 graphics cards. Nvidia's GeForce GT 630 GDDR5 suffers from sparse availability, but also deserves recognition in this segment.
So, what impact will the Radeon HD 7730 have on today's entry-level market? Sapphire tells us that the Radeon HD 7730 with 1 GB of GDDR5 memory will be available in North America for $70. If so, that'll become a true spiritual successor to the Radeon HD 5670 GDDR5, with better sub-$80 performance than we've ever seen before. Cross your fingers; this is what we're hoping to see happen.
As for the Radeon HD 7730 with 2 GB of DDR3, Sapphire is anticipating an $80 price point. Let's be clear: despite the extra gigabyte of memory, less bandwidth means this board is slower than the GDDR5-equipped card. We might have been alright with a $60 Radeon HD 7730 sporting 1 GB of DDR3, but at just $10 cheaper than a Radeon HD 7750, this card is not a viable option. In fact, it'd be downright uninformed to pay for the 2 GB DDR3 model when the faster card didn't exhibit any symptoms of its 1 GB on-board GDDR5 bottlenecking performance.
Bear in mind that neither card is yet available on Newegg or TigerDirect, and a few dollars of mark-up can quickly drown a value-oriented offering. If the Radeon HD 7730 GDDR5 card shows up for $80 instead of $70, it would be too close to the $90 Radeon HD 7750. Until these cards show up in the U.S. and we size them up on store shelves, we can't give you concrete guidance. But you can bet that we'll be updating Best Graphics Cards For The Money with definitive recommendations once we start seeing availability.
Update, 8/8/2013: We're disappointed. Sapphire called to let us know that its original information was incorrect and the GDDR5-based Radeon HD 7730 will not be available in North America. The 2 GB DDR3 version of the the card is now available on Newegg for $75. But with a mere $15 separating it and the GDDR5-equipped Radeon HD 7750, we cannot recommend the 7730. Expect to read more about this in next month's Best Graphics Cards For The Money.
Otherwise, we're coming away with some useful information. Mainly, as we suspected, AMD's GCN architecture is as solid of a step up from its VLIW designs in the entry level as it was in higher-end GPUs. This bodes well for the upcoming Kaveri-based APUs, even if they were delayed until 2014. It's very likely that those chips will sport specifications similar to the Radeon HD 7730. And so, this graphics card may be the closest thing we can get to a crystal ball for predicting the performance of AMD's next-generation APU.