AMD Unleashes Pitcairn - Radeon HD 7800 Series

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). 

AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series Roadmap

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.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 Graphics Core Next Architecture

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.

AMD Radeon HD 7800 Specifications

Here you can see the full specifications of the Radeon HD 7800 series cards.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 Specifications

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.

AMD Radeon HD 7850 Specifications

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 Radeon HD 7870 Graphics Core Next Architecture

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 Radeon HD 7800 Series Position

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.

AMD Radeon HD 7800 Series Cards

We have both the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and Radeon HD 7850 reference edition cards that we'll be reviewing today.

Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition Up Close

As we mentioned on the previous page, AMD sent over both the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and Radeon HD 7850 reference design cards. Both cards are virtually identical with the exception of the Radeon HD 7850 as it has just a single 6-pin power connector on the top. The AMD informed us that the Radeon HD 7850 that they sent us would never be sold as board makers would be using shorter 8.25-inch PCBs and custom GPU coolers. Since the Radeon HD 7850 we have will never see the light of day we won't be showing you a million pictures of it.

AMD Radeon HD 7800 Series Cards

The Radeon HD 7800 series has the usual red/black color scheme with high-gloss black plastic fan shrouds. This finish makes it hard to take pictures of them and it also makes finger prints clearly visible, so after installing a card in your system you'll need to wipe it down.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 Graphics Card

As you can see from the photo above, both cards use a dual-slot cooler with a single cooling fan located at the end of the card.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 Graphics Card

The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition video card has a black PCB and measures 9.5-inches in length. It should be noted that the fan shroud barely protrudes past the PCB making the overall length of the Radeon HD 7870 GHZ Edition to be ~9.7-inches. The height of the card is just shy of 4-inches if you count what sticks out of the PCI Express x16 slot.

The back of the Radeon HD 7870 is open as the reference card doesn't feature a back plate. Not too much to talk about back here as none of the 2GB worth of GDDR5 memory chips are visible on this side of the PCB. The only thing worth noting here is the GPU support bracket and mounting holes appear unchanged from previous generations. We measured and found that both cards are using 53mm mounting holes, so you you plan on changing the GPU cooler or adding a water block you'll need to know this dimension. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition reference PCB model number is 109-C40147-00.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 Graphics Card CrossFire

The AMD Radeon 7870 GHz Edition and the Radeon HD 7850 have just one CrossFireX interconnect, so you can only run CrossFire with another card (two cards total). Notice that just above the CrossFire interconnects are some black bumps with some spaced between them.  This is actually an air vent for the GPU cooler and a decent amount of airflow does come out here despite being such a small opening.  The AMD Radeon HD 7870 and 7850 do not have the 'Dual BIOS Toggle Switch' that is found on the Radeon HD 7900 series cards. 


AMD Radeon HD 7870 Graphics Card Video Power Connector

The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition has a pair of 6-pin PCI Express power connector located at the end of the video card. The AMD Radeon HD 7850 requires just one 6-pin connector.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 Graphics Card Video Connectors

The AMD Radeon HD 7870/7850 have a pair of mini-DisplayPort 1.2 connectors on it that have double the data-rate of DisplayPort 1.1. In addition to the higher data-rate, DP 1.2 also brings support for higher resolution support and support for stereoscopic 3D. The Radeon HD 7800 series supports AMD Eyefinity and up to six DisplayPort displays by "daisy chaining" them to the two Displayport outputs. To the right of the pair of mini-DisplayPort connectors is a full size HDMI 1.4a output for 3D video (Blu-ray 3D) support and a dual-link DVI-I output. With full support for 3GHz HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.2 HBR2, the AMD Radeon HD 7800 series is set to drive next generation displays at up to 4K resolution.

Notice that AMD did away with having two DVI outputs and by doing so they opened up an entire side of the PCI bracket for exhausting the hot air from the GPU.  AMD said that by opening this side of the bracket up and removing the DVI port there that they got two benefits. The first is that the card's thermal performance improved and the second was that the noise decreased as there is air flow isn't blocked as badly.

Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

The AMD Radeon graphics cards were tested with Catalyst 12.1 beta drivers and all of the NVIDIA graphics cards ran GeForce 295.51 Beta drivers.

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

Intel LGA2011 Test System
Intel LGA2011 Test System

The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0055 that came out on 12/16/2011. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with  firmware version 2.15.

The Intel X79 Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core i7-3960X

Motherboard

ASUS P9X79 Deluxe

Memory

16GB Corsair 1866MHz

Video Card

Various

Solid-State Drive

OCZ Vertex 3 240GB

Cooling

Intel RTS2011LC

Power Supply

Corsair HX850W

Operating System

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Video Cards Tested:

AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB GPU-Z Information:

AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB GPU-Z
AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB GPU-Z Idle

AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB GPU-Z Information:

AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB GPU-Z
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB GPU-Z Idle

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City PC Game

Batman: Arkham City is a 2011 action-adventure video game developed by Rocksteady Studios. It is the sequel to the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The game was released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The PC and Onlive version was released on November 22, 2011.

Batman: Arkham City Game Settings

Batman: Arkham City Game Settings

Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal Engine 3 game engine with PhysX. For benchmark testing of Batman: Arkham City we disabled PhysX to keep it fair and ran the game in DirectX 11 mode with 8x MSAA enabled and all the image quality features cranked up. You can see all of the exact settings in the screen captures above.

Batman: Arkham City Benchmark Results
Benchmark Results: The game title Batman: Arkham City showed that the performance levels between the Radeon HD 7850 and 7870 GHz Edition were very similar.  Both use the same tesselator and have the same memory bandwidth, so it appears that would be the bottleneck here and not the core clock speed or the number of cores. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the Radeon hD 7850 were both performing on the same level as the GeForce GTX 560 Ti 448 Core limited edition graphics card that came out during the 2011 holiday season! 

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.

This game looks great and we tested with the highest settings possible.  This means we used 'ultra' settings and really punished the cards being tested. We ran FRAPS for two minutes on the single player map called 'Rock and a Hard Place' for benchmarking.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Benchmark Results:
The AMD Radeon HD 7950 cards are grouped together here and performance goes up as the clock speeds increase. 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex Human Revolution PC Game

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the third game in the Deus Ex first-person role-playing video game series, and a prequel to the original game. Announced on May 27, 2007, Human Revolution was developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix. It was released in August 2011. Human Revolution contains elements of first-person shooters and role-playing games, set in a near-future where corporations have extended their influence past the reach of global governments. The game follows Adam Jensen, the security chief for one of the game's most powerful corporations, Sarif Industries. After a devastating attack on Sarif's headquarters, Adam is forced to undergo radical surgeries that fuse his body with mechanical augmentations, and he is embroiled in the search for those responsible for the attack.

Deus Ex Human Revolution Game Settings

Deus Ex Human Revolution Game Settings

Deus Ex: Human Revolution uses a modified Crystal Dynamics Crystal game engine, which some of you might know as the game engine from the last Tomb Raider game title. The game developers did some rather hefty modifications to this engine though as the graphics are superb in this title.

Deus Ex Human Revolution Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results:
The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition was looking really good in Deus Ex: Human Revolution as it was slightly slower than the ASUS MATRIX GeForce GTX580 and faster then the Radeon HD 6970 and the GeForce GTX 570. AMD said that the Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card would fall between the GTX580 and the GTX570 in most benchmarks and we see the first example of that here. The AMD Radeon HD 7850 was no slouch though as it performed on the same level as an overclocked Radeon HD 5870 and was a smidgen faster than the GeForce GTX 560 Ti. 

DiRT 3

Dirt 3 PC Game

Dirt 3 (stylized DiRT 3) is a rallying video game and the third in the Dirt series of the Colin McRae Rally series, developed and published by Codemasters. However, the "Colin McRae" tag has been completely removed from this iteration. The game was released in Europe and North America on the 24 May 2011.

Dirt 3 Game Settings

Dirt 3 Game Settings

Dirt3 uses Ego 2.0 Game Technology Engine (more commonly referred to as Ego Engine or EGO, stylised ego), which is a video game engine developed by Codemasters. Ego is a modified version of the Neon game engine that was used in Colin McRae: Dirt and was developed by Codemasters and Sony Computer Entertainment using Sony Computer Entertainment's PhyreEngine cross-platform graphics engine. The Ego engine was developed to render more detailed damage and physics as well as render large-scale environments.

Dirt 3 PC Game Benchmark Results
Benchmark Results: The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition was very impressive in Dirt 3!  The fact that it was under 1FPS slower than the $100 more expensive Radeon HD 7950 at both 1920x1080 and 1280x1024 resolutions was pretty crazy! The Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition has a core clock of 1000MHz versus the 900MHz on the Radeon HD 7950, so this benchmark might like the higher core clocks!

H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2

Aerial warfare has evolved. So have you. As a member of the ultra-secret H.A.W.X. 2 squadron, you are one of the chosen few, one of the truly elite. You will use finely honed reflexes, bleeding-edge technology and ultra-sophisticated aircraft - their existence denied by many governments - to dominate the skies. You will do so by mastering every nuance of the world's finest combat aircraft. You will slip into enemy territory undetected, deliver a crippling blow and escape before he can summon a response. You will use your superior technology to decimate the enemy from afar, then draw him in close for a pulse-pounding dogfight. And you will use your steel nerve to successfully execute night raids, aerial refueling and more. You will do all this with professionalism, skill and consummate lethality. Because you are a member of H.A.W.X. 2 and you are one of the finest military aviators the world has ever known. H.A.W.X. 2 was released on November 16, 2010 for PC gamers.

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2

We ran the benchmark in DX11 mode with the image quality settings cranked up as you can see above.

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2

The H.A.W.X. 2 PC game title runs on what looks like seven threads as you can see from the task manager shot seen above that was taken on the test system that was running the Intel Core i7-3960X processor.

Tom Clancy's HAWX 2 Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: H.A.W.X. 2 shows the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition and the stock AMD Radeon HD 7950 once again trading blows! The AMD Radeon HD 7850 isn't too far behind and has some very good performance numbers as well. The AMD Radeon HD 7850 pulled ahead of the AMD Radeon HD 6970 once again.

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2 is a sandbox style action video game developed by Swedish developer Avalanche Studios and Eidos Interactive, published by Square Enix. It is the sequel to the 2006 video game, Just Cause. 

Just Cause 2 Game Settings

Just Cause 2 employs a new version of the Avalanche Engine, Avalanche Engine 2.0, which is an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause.  The game will be set on the other side of the world, compared to Just Cause, which is on the fictional tropical island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Rico Rodriguez will return as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former boss, Tom Sheldon.

Just Cause 2 Benchmark Results
Benchmark Results: A performance difference of less than 10% separates the Radeon HD 7950 and the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition video cards in Just Cause 2. The Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition at $349 is a very capable card! the Radeon HD 7850 might be a bit slower, but at $249 it still packs a mean punch and can easily run current game titles with all the settings maxed out with no problem. Just Cause 2 is pretty tough on video cards and we see the Radeon HD 7850 putting down respectable and very playable frame rates of 40FPS at 1920x1080 and 60FPS at 1280x1024. 

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in the Ukraine. The game is played from the perspective of a character named Artyom. The story takes place in post-apocalyptic Moscow, mostly inside the metro station where the player's character was raised (he was born before the war, in an unharmed city), but occasionally the player has to go above ground on certain missions and scavenge for valuables.

Metro 2033 Settings

This is another extremely demanding game. Image quality settings were raised to Very High quality with 4x AA and 16x AF. We turned off PhysX, but turned on DOF (Depth of Field) for benchmarking.

Metro 2033

Benchmark Results: Metro 2033 is quickly becoming one of the oldest game titles in out benchmark suite, but it's one of the most popular benchmarks among our readers and one of the toughest that we can run on our DirectX 11 cards. In this benchmark we see a larger gap between the cards and we can see where the extra stream processors on the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition come into play as there is a fairly large gap between the Radeon HD 7000 series cards. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition was right between the GeForce GTX 580 and the GeForce GTX 570 once again.

3DMark 11

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark Settings

Since Futuremark has recently released 3DMark11 we decided to run the benchmark at both performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark Results

In Futuremark 3DMark11 with the default Performance Preset we found the AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition scored P6720 and the Raden HD 7850 scored P5594.  Not bad scores at all!

3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:

Futuremark 3DMark 11 Benchmark Results

We know that 3DMark11 is fairly math or compute heavy, so it didn't come as a big surprise to see the AMD Radeon HD 7950 and the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition performing so closely. AMD says the Radeon HD 7950 has a compute performance rating of 2.87 TFLOPS and than the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition comes in at 2.56 TFLOPS.  This makes the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition ~10.8% slower in terms of compute performance and in 3DMark11 with the Extreme preset we found it to be ~9.6% slower. By the time you factor in the lower memory clocks, fewer stream processors and all the other reductions it makes sense.

Power Consumption

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we measured the peak wattage used by the system while running the OpenGL benchmark FurMark 1.9.2 at 640x480 resolution. We also ran the game HAWX 2 and looped the benchmark three times and recorded the highest Wattage seen on the meter. 

Total System Power Consumption Results

Power Consumption Results: The AMD Radeon HD 7850 barely broke 253 Watts at load even with Furmark running and was able to idle at just 93 Watts (long idle with ZeroCore was 83 Watts). This card has a typical board power of ~130 Watts and is a good call for someone looking for an energy efficient card with just a single 6-pin video card power connector. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition was found to use 2 more Watts at idle and 34 Watts more at full load.

The AMD Radeon HD 7000 series has impressive board power numbers and you can see what AMD claims as the typical board power is in the table below.

  Maximum Board Power
Typical Board Power
Long Idle Power
Radeon HD 7970
250W
~230W
<3W
 Radeon HD 7950
200W
~180W
 <3W
 Radeon HD 7870
 -  ~175W  <3W
 Radeon HD 7850
-
 ~130W  <3W
 Radeon HD 7770
 100W  ~80W  <3W
 Radeon HD 7750
75W
 ~55W  <3W

AMD has stopped using maximum board power ratings for video cards and is only giving typical board power ratings. AMD wouldn't give us the maximum board power ratings even after asking for them, so based off the power connectors we know the Radeon HD 7850 won't pull more than 150 Watts and the Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition tops out at 225 Watts. Based off the Radeon HD 7950 numbers we would guess that the Radeon HD 7870 tops out around 195 Watts.

Temperature & Noise Testing

Since video card temperatures and the heat generated by next-generation cards have become an area of concern among enthusiasts and gamers, we want to take a closer look at how the graphics cards do at idle, during gaming and finally under a full load.

Video Card Temps

The AMD Radeon HD 7850 topped out at just 67C in Furmark, which was much cooler than the Radeon HD 7870 as it topped out at 73C. The Radeon HD 6970 hit 82C in Furmark, so you can see that AMD has greatly improved cooling performance on the Radeon HD 7800 series. These cards run cooler and quieter than previous generation cards.

Video Card Noise Levels

We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 38dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.

Video Card Noise Levels

The AMD Radeon HD 7800 series had respectable noise levels and were on par with what we expected.  The AMD Radeon HD 7870 was 4 dBA louder than the Radeon HD 7850 in Furmark as it ran hotter and the fan needed to spin faster. The observed fan speeds are shown below.

 

  Radeon HD 7870
Radeon HD 7850
 Idle
 1000 RPM
 975 RPM
 Furmark  1925 RPM
 1590 RPM
 HAWX II
 1440 RPM
 1260 RPM

 

Overclocking The Radeon HD 7850 & 7870

To overclock the AMD Radeon HD 7800 series cards we used AMD OverDrive:

AMD OverDrive Radeon HD 7850

The AMD Radeon HD 7850 reference card came at 860MHz on the core and 1200MHz on the memory out of the box. By using CATALYST Control Center (CCC) you can raise or lower the clock frequencies within the parameters set by AMD. For this card AMD set limits for this particular BIOS to 1050MHz on the core and 1450MHz on the memory.

AMD OverDrive Radeon HD 7850 Overclock

We were able to get 1050MHz on the core stable, but the memory was acting very weird on this card. We were unable to get much of an overclock with it and even running it at 1250MHz was cause games to lockup and we would have to reboot the system or it would bluescreen. We ended up just leaving the memory stock as it wasn't worth increasing. We also figured that since retail cards won't be using this PCB, these results don't really matter that much anyway.

Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance.

AMD Radeon HD 7850 at 860MHz core and 1200MHz memory:

AMD Radeon HD 7850 3DMark11 Stock

AMD Radeon HD 7850 at 1050MHz core and 1200MHz memory:

AMD Radeon HD 7850 3DMark11 Overclocked

We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P5594 to P6286, so this is a 12.4% improvement over the reference speeds! Not bad, especially considering we weren't able to increase the memory clock speeds at all with good stability. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition scored P6720 at stock speeds, so overclocking the Radeon HD 7850 nearly brings you up to that performance level.
 

Now let's see what the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition can do! 

AMD OverDrive Radeon HD 7870 Overclock

After overclocking the Radeon HD 7850 we didn't have high hopes for the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, but we were able to get some decent numbers out of the card.  It started out at 1000MHz on the core and 1200MHz on the memory, but by using AMD OverDrive we were able to get 1200MHz on the core and 1350MHz on the memory.  This is the first AMD Radeon HD 7000 series card that we have been able to hit the 1.2GHz mark with full stability and without a voltage increase! We hit a wall there though as at 1205MHz we started to get artifacts in the games. We also had issues with the memory again as we found that we could run it at 1400MHz and everything looked good, but the performance scores went down. The highest we could get was 1350MHz before we started to see the performance actually decrease.

Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark11 on the performance preset to see how the overclock helped performance.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition at 1000MHz core and 1200MHz memory:

AMD Radeon HD 7850 3DMark11 Stock

AMD Radeon HD 7850 at 1200MHz core and 1350MHz memory:

AMD Radeon HD 7850 3DMark11 Overclocked

We tried out this overclock with Futuremark 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and saw the score go from P6720 to P7762, so this is a 15.5% improvement over the reference speeds. We bumped up the core clock exactly 20% and the performance you get from overclocking is very rarely a 1:1 ratio.

Overclocking the core clocks on the AMD Radeon HD 7870 & 7850 proved easy to do, but overclocking the memory on the Raden HD 7850 was an issue and on the Radeon HD 7870 we had to be conservative and dial it in for the best performance numbers. 

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

Many months ago AMD informed us that the Radeon HD 7800 series would have roughly the same performance as the Radeon HD 6900 series and do so for less money and with better power efficiency. After spending some time with the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the Radeon HD 7850 it appears that is exactly what they have done.

The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition ($349) performed better than the AMD Radeon HD 6970 ($364.09) and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 ($329.99) and in some cases it was trading blows with the mighty GeForce GTX 580 ($449.99). When this card becomes available on March 19th, 2012 we expect that pricing on other cards on the market will be adjusted. This card was very powerful and in some benchmarks and games we found it being only slightly slower than a stock Radeon HD 7950 3GB card that costs nearly $100 more. The AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition card is solid and ideal for those running any monitor sizes other than a 30-inch. Considering how fast, quiet, overclocking friendly and power efficient the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition is, we can see this card selling very well. Overclocked up to 1.2GHz this card screamed and was an impressive DX11 graphics card.


AMD Radeon HD 7800 Series Cards

The AMD Radeon HD 7850 was also a decent little card, but we did all of our testing on a reference design that will never see the consumer market.  It's hard to come to a conclusion on this card when the PCB and GPU cooler will be totally different on the retail cards. Our numbers should it performed better than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti (slower than the GTX 560 Ti-448 Core) and Radeon HD 6950 1GB video cards. Overclocking the core clocks on the card was straight forward and easy, but overclocking the memory was a nightmare. We'll have to see if the retail cards are any better! Just looking at the performance numbers and the $249 price tag, it looks like this card will be solid as well.

Now that AMD has released the Radeon HD 7900, 7800 and 7700 series of video cards it will be interesting to see what NVIDIA is cooking up. Rumor has it that NVIDIA will begin introducing their next-generation Kepler GPUs for desktops in April/May, so things will certainly get very competitive once those cards are released. Many gamers and enthusiasts feel that AMD has priced their Radeon HD 7000 series cards too high, but why not when you are the first out the door and have a solid product. If NVIDIA is competitive with Kepler it allows for them to adjust the price down if needed. Right now the pricing makes sense and the graphics card market is full of cards to pick from. The AMD Radeon HD 7800 series based off the Pitcairn GPU are a welcomed addition for those looking to spend between $250-$350!

GIGABYTE GA-X79-UD7 Legit Reviews Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon HD 7800 series helps fill the void in the $250 to $350 price range and are great gaming graphics cards for those running 1920x1080 monitors and like to crank up the image quality!