AMD has been quickly introducing the Radeon HD 7000 series (Southern Islands) of graphics cards over the past few months. The company first announced the AMD Radeon HD 7970 in December 2011, followed by the Radeon HD 7950 on January 2012 and then most recently the Radeon HD 7770 and 7750 in February 2012. AMD continues with what feels like the monthly blitzkrieg of video cards and are today releasing the Radeon HD 7870 and the 7850 video cards. Just like the other Radeon HD 7000 series cards, the new are again based on the 28nm manufacturing process and use a new core architecture called Graphics Core Next (GCN).
Before today, AMD had a large price gap between the Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition ($159.99) and the Radeon HD 7950 ($449.99) With the introduction of the Radeon HD 7850 and the Radeon HD 7870 AMD hopes to tap into the $200-$400 video card market and get mainstream gamers to upgrade their current card to one of these. We have been told that the Radeon HD 7850 will be available $249 and the Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition will start
at $349. Don’t get too excited yet though as the today’s launch date is a preview only. You can call this a paper launch of sorts, but AMD wanted to get the news out before big industry events like CeBIT and GDC take up all the headlines. AMD informed us that they expect consumer availability in mass volume should happen after March 19th, 2012.
The Radeon HD 7800 series cards are using the new ‘Pitcairn’ GPU core, which features 2.8 billion transistors made on the 28nm manufacturing processor by TSMC and a die size that is said to be ~212mm^2. Pircairn features 20 Graphics Core Next Compute Units (CUs), 1280 stream processors, 80 TMUs, 32 ROPs and a 256-bit wide GDDR5 memory interface in pristine form. This specifications just happen to be twice that of the AMD Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition card, so we are expecting to see some pretty good performance numbers from these cards. AMD says that the dual geometry engines and the 9th generation tessellator allows for up to 5x better performance than the Radeon HD 6970 in benchmarks like the Heaven 2.0 benchmark.
Here you can see the full specifications of the Radeon HD 7800 series cards.
The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition comes with the ‘Pitcairn’ core fully enabled; it has a core clock speed of 1GHz and a memory clock of 1200MHz (4800MHz effective). This puts the card at 2.56 TFLOPS when it comes to compute power and 153.6 GB/s on memory bandwidth.
The AMD Radeon HD 7850 has 16 of the Compute Units (CU) enabled, so it has just 1024 stream processors, 64 texture units and 32 ROPs. AMD also lowered the core clock speed down to 860MHz. AMD left the memory capacity, type or the bus width, so the memory bandwidth remains at 153.6 GB/s on the Radeon HD 7850. Both the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the Radeon HD 7850 have 2048MB (2GB) of GDDR5 memory. We heard rumors that some companies might be coming out lower cost 1GB versions of the Radeon HD 7850 in the months to come.
AMD is keeping their fingers crossed that AMD Radeon HD 5800 series
owners from 2009 will be persuaded to update to the AMD Radeon HD 7800
series. We’ll have to look at the performance numbers before we can see
if that would be a good idea, but looking at their bullet list, it does
look like the Radeon HD 7800 would be a nice little upgrade. AMD shows
that the Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition is 29% faster than the Radeon HD
5870 and being significantly more power efficient.
AMD usually doesn’t clearly highlight where their video cards fit against the competition, but they did so with this launch. They feel the AMD Radeon HD 7850 will fit between the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti and the GeForce GTX 570. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card should perform between the GeForce GTX 570 and the GeForce GTX 580. These are very good video cards, so AMD must be confident in the Radeon HD 7800 series to feel these cards will perform with the best of NVIDIA’s current offerings and for at a fraction of the price.
We have both the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and Radeon HD 7850 reference edition cards that we’ll be reviewing today.