AMD HD7870 and HD7850 Graphics Card Review

AMD launch the ‘Pitcairn’ series of graphics cards today, completing their Trinity of new Direct X 11 discrete solutions. In previous months we analysed the ‘Tahiti’ series HD7970 /HD7950 and the ‘Cape Verde’ HD7770 and HD7750, targeting the ultra high and lower end price points respectively. The HD7870 and HD7850 are released to fill out the middle ground, aimed at the enthusiast user who wants plenty of bang for the buck.
AMD have thrown the discrete graphics market into turmoil this year with so many models available that the consumer has been left scratching his or her head in confusion. Which card to get if you want to play demanding games on an affordable 24 inch screen? Do you really need to cause serious injury to your credit card by picking up a HD7950? Is it really wise to spend your money on a last generation card such as the HD6950?
A quick look at the market right now is in order.
AMD’s HD7970 and HD7950 are without question two of the fastest video cards on the market, but sadly for most people they remain a pipedream, just out of financial reach. The HD7950 is retailing around £360 inc vat and the HD7970 is still priced around £460 inc vat. It would be fair to say that the audience for either card will be small. The HD7770 and HD7750 on the other hand are reasonably priced between £85 and £130 inc vat, but they lack the grunt to attract the hardcore gaming enthusiast. There is currently a gaping hole in the market between £200 and £300 for AMD to fill.
Gamers have been waiting on a price point replacement for the HD6950 and HD6970, the last generation flagship models which span the gamut between £200 and £300. They will be addressing this problem today, a couple of months after the HD7970 was launched.

AMD have a lot riding on the success of the HD7870 and HD7850. History has indicated that the series of hardware just below the flagship models often deliver amazing performance without the hefty price premium. The AMD HD6950 for instance proved incredibly popular, thanks in part to the fact that some could be flashed to the same specifications as the more expensive HD6970.

So are the HD7850 and HD7870 going to satisfy the demanding enthusiast?
Product AMD HD7970 AMD HD7950 AMD HD7870 AMD HD7850
Core Clock speed 925mhz 800mhz 1000mhz 860mhz
Transistors 4.31 billion 4.31 billion 2.8 billion 2.8 billion
Stream Processors 2,048 1,792 1,280 1,024
Compute Performance 3.79 TFLOPS 2.87 TFLOPS 2.56 TFLOPS 1.76 TFLOPS
Texture Units 128 112 80 64
Texture Fillrate 118.4 GT/s 89.6 GT/s 80 GT/s 55.0 GT/s
ROPs 32 32 32 32
Pixel Fillrate 29.6 GP/s 25.6 GP/s 32.0 GP/s 27.52 GP/s
Z/Stencil 128 128 128 128
Memory Type 3GB GDDR5 3GB GDDR5 2GB GDDR5 2GB GDDR5
Memory Clock 1,375mhz 1,250mhz 1,200mhz 1,200mhz
Memory Data Rate 5.5 GBps 5.0 Gbps 4.8 Gbps 4.8 Gbps
Memory Bandwidth 264 GB/s 240 GB/s 153.6 GB/s 153.6 GB/s
Above, we have a graph showing the technical specifications of the Tahiti and Pitcairn cards. Both HD7870 and HD7850 are built around 2.8 billion transistors, down from the staggering 4.31 billion on both HD7970 and HD7950 designs. The HD7870 is shipped with a very high core clock of 1 GHZ and the HD7850 is downclocked to 860mhz. We will expect AMD partners to ignore these reference clock speeds with upcoming custom overclocked versions. But that is for another day.

We can’t detail any bundle or accessories with our launch review. Our review cards are engineering samples which came direct from AMD HQ.

This reference sample is built around a black PCB and features the traditional AMD black and red cooler. A small fan is offset to the right of the front of the plastic shroud.

The AMD HD7850 is Crossfire capable, but only in a 2 way configuration. If you want three or four way Crossfire, you have to invest more money in a HD7950 or HD7970.

The HD7850 takes power from a single PCI E 6 pin port on the card. The HD7850 and HD7870 share the same cooler, so there is a ‘hole’ for another 6 pin power connector. This is used on the more powerful card which we will detail shortly.

The card is a dual slot design with a full sized DVI and HDMI port, and two mini Display Port connectors. It is Eyefinity capable. This card can simultaneously output multiple, independent audio streams from the HDMI and mini Displayport connectors at the rear of the card.

The AMD cooler is enclosed within the plastic shroud and is based around a copper heatsink which attaches directly to the GPU core.

A basic overview of the hardware which we discussed on the previous page. The Pitcairn GPU is manufactured on 28nm technology and this specific card features 32 ROPS and 2GB of GDDR5 memory which is connected via a 256 bit memory interface. The core clock is set at 860mhz and the memory 1,200mhz (4.8Gbps effective). The card has 1,024 shaders with a texture fillrate of 55 GTexel/s.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit Kitguru.net as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.






Another reference sample from AMD, so no bundle or cool accessories to mention. We will hopefully get a look at some partner cards in the coming weeks.

The cooler is identical to the HD7850 model mentioned on the previous pages. This time the sticker highlights the 1GHZ core clock speed. The same black PCB is used.

The AMD HD7870 is Crossfire capable in a 2 way configuration only. AMD want gamers to move up to the HD79xx series to get 3 way or quad Crossfire support.

The power draw of the HD7870 is clearly higher, as it requires not one, but two 6 pin PCI E power connectors for stable operation.

The card is a dual slot design with a full sized DVI and HDMI port, and two mini Display Port connectors. It is Eyefinity capable. This card can simultaneously output multiple, independent audio streams from the HDMI and mini Displayport connectors at the rear of the card.

The AMD cooler is enclosed within the plastic shroud and is based around a copper heatsink which attaches directly to the GPU core.

A basic overview of the hardware which we discussed earlier in the review. The Pitcairn GPU is manufactured on 28nm technology and this specific card features 32 ROPS and 2GB of GDDR5 memory which is connected via a 256 bit memory interface. The core clock is set at 1000mhz and the memory 1,200mhz (4.8Gbps effective). The card has 1,280 shaders with a texture fillrate of 80 GTexel/s.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit Kitguru.net as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.






To test today we are using our long standing Core i7 970 system, which is overclocked. We have a variety of hardware benchmarked on this system within the last couple of months which will make for an interesting market comparison. We will also move the HD7850 and HD7870 to an ultra high end 3960X EE system for the overclocking section, just to see what they are capable of delivering if money wasn’t an concern.
Main Test System:
Processor
: Core i7 970 @ 4.6ghz
Graphics: AMD HD7870 and HD7850
Cooling: Coolit Vantage
Motherboard: MSI X58A-GD65
Chassis: Thermaltake Level 10 GT
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Memory: 6GB ADATA @ 2133mhz 9-10-9-32
Storage: Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB Gen 2 SSD (Storage) / Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB (OS boot)
Overclocking Section System:
Processor: Intel i7 3960X EE @ 4.4ghz
Motherboard
: Asus Rampage IV Extreme
Cooler
: Antec H20 920
Memory
: 16GB G.Skill 2,400mhz memory
Power Supply: Enermax Platimax 1200W
Chassis
: Lian Li PC-A77FR Aluminium Red Full Tower Case
Boot Drive: Patriot WildFire 120GB
Secondary Drive: 1TB Samsung
Comparison Cards:
HD7970
HD7950
HD6990 (880 core)
HD6970
HD6950
HD6870
Sapphire HD7770 1GHZ OC Edition
XFX HD7770 Black Edition S CFx
HD7770 CFx
HD7770
HD7750
HD6790
HD6770
HD6670
GTX590 SLi
GTX590
GTX580 SLi
GTX580
GTX570
Monitors: Dell U3011
Software:
Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
FurMark
Games:
HomeFront
Alien V Predator
Dead Island
Tom Clancy HAWX 2
Resident Evil 5
Far Cry 2
F1 2011
Total War: Shogun 2
All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform generally under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests games across five closely matched runs and then average out the results to get an accurate median figure. If we use scripted benchmarks, they are mentioned on the relevant page.
Some game descriptions are edited from Wikipedia.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
We use the following settings: 1920×1080 resolution. Anti Aliasing off. Anisotrophy 4, Tessellation normal. Shaders High. Stereo 3D disabled. API: Direct X 11.


These results are very interesting. This tessellation heavy benchmark positions the HD7870 very close behind the Nvidia GTX580, around 2 frames per second slower. The HD7850 is at an almost identical level to the HD6970, averaging 65.5 frames per second. We can see how far AMD have progressed in tessellation performance with the latest 7x series boards.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.


The HD7870 manages to outperform the last generation HD6970 flagship by around 2,000 points, scoring 24,200 points. By comparison the GTX580 scores 26,342 points. The HD7850 almost matches the HD6950, scoring 19,780 points.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.


Direct X 11 performance is exceptionally impressive. The HD7850 scores around 5,500 points, an almost identical performance score to the HD6970. The HD7870 puts in a marvellous showing, outperforming two reference clocked HD7770′s in Crossfire and scoring around 200 points less than the HD7950.
HQV Benchmark 2.0 is an updated version of the original tool and it consists of various video clips and test patterns which are designed to evalute motion correction, de-interlacing, decoding, noise reduction, detail enhancement and film cadence detection.
There are two versions of the program, standard definition on DVD and high definition on Bluray. As our audience will be concentrating on HD content so will we.
This has a total of 39 video tests which is increased from 23 in the original and the scoring is also up from a total of 130 to 210. As hardware and software gets more complicated, the software has been tuned to make sure we can thoroughly maximise our analysis.
Read our initial analysis over here

AMD HD7870 & HD7850
Dial
4
Dial with static pattern 5
Gray Bars 5
Violin 5
Stadium 2:2 5
Stadium 3:2 5
Horizontal Text Scroll 5
Vertical Text Scroll 5
Transition to 3:2 Lock 5
Transition to 2:2 Lock 0
2:2:2:4 24 FPS DVCAM Video
5
2:3:3:2 24 FPS DVCam Video
5
3:2:3:2:2 24 FOS Vari-Speed
5
5:5 FPS Animation
5
6:4 12 FPS Animation
5
8:7 8 FPS Animation
5
Interlace Chroma Problem (ICP)
5
Chroma Upsampling Error (CUE)
5
Random Noise: Sailboat
5
Random Noise: Flower
5
Random Noise: Sunrise
5
Random Noise: Harbour Night
5
Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Text Pattern/ Scrolling Text
5
Roller Coaster
5
Ferris Wheel
5
Bridge Traffic
5
Luminance Frequency Bands
5
Chrominance Frequency Bands
5
Vanishing Text 5
Resolution Enhancement
15
Theme Park
5
Driftwood 5
Ferris Wheel
5
Skin Tones
7
Total 196
A score of 196 points is class leading right now, the ideal solution for high definition media playback on a big screen.
F1 2011 is the newest Direct X 11 racing game from industry pioneers CodeMasters. The 2011 Formula One season is the 62nd FIA Formula One season. The original calendar consisted of twenty rounds, including the inaugural running of the Indian Grand Prix before the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Pirelli returns to the sport as tyre supplier for all teams, taking over from Bridgestone. Red Bull Racing are the reigning Constructor’s Champions. Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel is the defending Drivers’ Champion, one of five World Champions appearing on the grid.


These results are interesting as the HD7870 scores the same as the HD7950, averaging 70 frames per second. The HD7850 delivers identical performance to the HD6950, averaging 60 frames per second.
Homefront’s PC version was developed by Digital Extremes, a Canadian developer responsible for numerous Unreal Tournament games and Bioshock ports. It received mixed reports, although Kitguru really likes the single player aspect of this title. The engine isn’t the most demanding on the market, but it requires decent partnering hardware for solid frame rates at 1080p.


Performance from both cards is very strong, with the HD7870 slotting in right behind the HD7950, averaging a few frames less each second. The HD7850 manages to slightly outperform the GTX570 with this engine.
Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today.
To test the cards we used a 1080p resolution with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occulsion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on. We use this with most of our graphics card testing so cards are comparable throughout reviews.

The HD7870 matches the HD7770′s in Crossfire with this intensive Direct X 11 engine, averaging 68 frames per second. The HD7850 matches the Nvidia GTX570 with this engine, averaging 54 frames per second. Very good results all round from the PitCairn cards.
Dead Island is a first person horror action-adventure video game developed by Techland and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows. It is centered on the challenge of survival on a zombie-infested open world island with a major emphasis on melee combat. It is rather good fun, for a short while, but it becomes repetitive.


Great performance with this engine, with the HD7870 matching the GTX580 frame for frame. The HD7850 just outperforms the GTX570 by a couple of frames per second.
Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. After the events of the first game, the H.A.W.X squadron is sent to Middle East, where a high level of violence is being registered, and the appearance of various insurgents leaders in various hotspots. The team also has to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Russian nuclear weapons. The player will be controlling three groups: one American (Hunter), one British (Munro) and one Russian (Sokov), each with its own pilots and supporting characters. There will also be references to other characters in the Tom Clancy universe.
We are testing in full DX11 mode with all settings to maximum.


This game favours Nvidia hardware which means the HD7870 and HD7850 only manage a mid table position in this chart. The HD7870 manages to hold onto the GTX570 however which is a positive result for this engine.
Resident Evil 5, known in Japan as Biohazard 5, is a survival horror third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on March 5, 2009 in Japan and on March 13, 2009 in North America and Europe for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. A Windows version of the game was released on September 15, 2009 in North America, September 17 in Japan and September 18 in Europe. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.
Within its first three weeks of release, the game sold over 2 million units worldwide and became the best-selling game of the franchise in the United Kingdom. As of December, 2009, Resident Evil 5 has sold 5.3 million copies worldwide since launch, becoming the best selling Resident Evil game ever made.

Resident Evil is a great looking Direct X 10 game and we can see that both cards deliver very impressive frame rates with this engine. The HD7850 manages to keep up with the GTX580 and the HD7870 is around 3-4 frames per second slower than its big brother, the HD7950.
Far Cry 2 (commonly abbreviated as “FC2 or “fc2″) is an open-ended first-person shooter developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It was released on October 21, 2008 in North America and on October 23, 2008 in Europe and Australia. It was made available on Steam on October 22, 2008. Crytek, the developers of the original game, were not involved in the development of Far Cry 2.
Ubisoft has marketed Far Cry 2 as the true sequel to Far Cry, though the sequel has very few noticeable similarities to the original game. Instead, it features completely new characters and setting, as well as a new style of gameplay that allows the player greater freedom to explore different African landscapes such as deserts, jungles, and savannas. The game takes place in a modern-day East African nation in a state of anarchy and civil war. The player takes control of a mercenary on a lengthy journey to locate and assassinate “The Jackal,” a notorious arms dealer.
Far Cry 2 is still a popular game and the open world environment can be taxing on even the latest hardware available today.
Settings: 1920×1200, D3D10, Disable Artificial Intelligence(No), Full Screen, Anti-Aliasing(8x), VSync(No), Overall Quality(Ultra High), Vegetation(Very High), Shading(Ultra High), Terrain(Ultra High), Geometry(Ultra High), Post FX(High), Texture(Ultra High), Shadow(Ultra High), Ambient(High), Hdr(Yes), Bloom(Yes), Fire(Very High), Physics(Very High), RealTrees(Very High).

A firm favourite with Nvidia hardware and drivers, however both cards produce very strong results at these settings averaging 85 fps and 75 fps. The HD7850 performs at the same level as the HD6950 and the HD7870 at the same level as the HD6970.
Shogun 2 is set in 16th-century feudal Japan, in the aftermath of the Ōnin War. The country is fractured into rival clans led by local warlords, each fighting for control. The player takes on the role of one of these warlords, with the goal of dominating other factions and claiming his rule over Japan. The standard edition of the game will feature a total of eight factions (plus a ninth faction for the tutorial), each with a unique starting position and different political and military strengths.
We are using the built in benchmark which is available via the STEAM client for this game.




Shogun 2 is a demanding Direct X 11, especially at high image quality settings. Both HD7850 and HD7870 produce smooth frame rates at these settings. The HD7870 is only 6 frames per second behind the more expensive HD7950.
We have changed our method of measuring noise levels. We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. We are using a heatpipe based passive power supply and an Intel SSD to keep noise levels to a minimum. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests.
Ambient noise in the room is around 20-25dBa. We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the closed chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation.
Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA - High Quality Computer fan
40dBA - A Bubbling Brook, or a Refridgerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum

Both cards are quiet when idle, although the fan speeds quickly ramp up when under gaming load. AMD reference coolers lag some way behind the modified solutions from companies such as XFX and Sapphire and we would expect these figures to be reduced when third party models are released over the coming weeks.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.
Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test. All fan settings were left on automatic.


As these coolers are identical the HD7870 fan has to work harder to maintain similar temperatures with the fan averaging around 2,000 rpm. The HD7850 fan can spin a little slower, around 1,600 rpm under Furmark load. This directly translates to the lower noise levels as detailed on the previous page. Generally the HD7850 is around 5c cooler than the HD7870 under the same load.
To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. We measure results while gaming in Crysis Warhead and record the results.
In such an energy aware climate, AMD are making a big deal out of their new ‘ZeroCore Power’ technology. Many solutions today use power gating, clock gating and memory compression to reduce idle power requirements, but ZeroCore power technology can completely power down the core GPU while the rest of the system remains active.

As with the other 7000 series cards, power efficiency is very good. Tthe HD7850 consuming around 110 watts when gaming. The HD7870 demands around 35 watts more when loaded, averaging 145.
Today we had to rely on AMD’s Catalyst Control Center for our overclocking adventures. Sapphire’s excellent TriXX tool has not yet been updated to support the latest AMD hardware.
As we mentioned earlier in the review for this overclocking section today we decided to push the cards to the limit, when paired up with a state of the art Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition system and 16gb of 2400mhz memory.
Processor: Intel i7 3960X EE @ 4.4ghz
Motherboard: Asus Rampage IV Extreme
Cooler
: Antec H20 920
Memory
: 16GB G.Skill 2,400mhz memory
Power Supply: Enermax Platimax 1200W
Chassis
: Lian Li PC-A77FR Aluminium Red Full Tower Case
Boot Drive: Patriot WildFire 120GB
Secondary Drive: 1TB Samsung


Both cards have plenty of headroom, with the AMD HD7850 running out of ‘slider’ room in Catalyst Control Center. It was stable at the maximum setting of 1050mhz, which translates to a 22 percent increase on the core. Both cards achieved a 12.5 increase on the GDDR5 memory, peaking at 1,350mhz. We could overclock the HD7870 core from 1,000mhz to 1,155 mhz, a 15.5 percent increase. Any higher and the system would hardlock.


A final score of 28,524 and 24,377 points is extremely impressive and shows the potential performance possible with one of the latest high end Intel Core i7 systems.


When both cards are overclocked to the limits and partnered up with the Core i7 3960x system the gains are immense. The HD7870 score jumps from 6,549 points to 7,750 points, positioning it just behind the flagship HD7970.


A similar pattern to the other synthetic benchmarks. The overclocked HD7850 manages to outperform the reference clocked HD7870 running on the Core i7 970 system. The overclocked HD7870 passes the Crossfire HD7770 configuration, averaging over 70 frames per second.
To end the review today we thought it would be interesting to configure both cards in Crossfire.

We overclocked the HD7850 to from 860mhz to 1ghz core, so it matched the HD7870. Obviously this won’t be quite as fast as a native HD7870 Crossfire configuration as the HD7850 has a lower shader count.






The mixed Crossfire performance is extremely impressive, slotting in a little behind the GTX 580 in SLi. Only 500 points behind in 3DMark 11 and 5 frames per second in Unigine Heaven.
When AMD launched both Tahiti based HD7950 and HD7970 journalists waxed lyrical when detailing the frame rate prowess. There were no doubts that the hardware really hit the spot, but it was far from a perfect launch. Firstly, the price point for both cards was just too high.
AMD were touting the HD7970 as a high performance replacement for the HD6970 and while it utterly eclipsed the last generation part, the asking price was a jaw dropping 50 percent extra. Furthermore, the HD7950 was around £360 … a little more palatable, but still too expensive for the lion’s share of the enthusiast audience.
AMD currently face another problem, which is mostly out of their hands. It is a rather dull time in the PC gaming sector. Many of the latest games such as Alan Wake, and the Darkness II simply don’t need cutting edge, high end hardware to be enjoyed, even at extreme image quality settings and resolutions.
The industry really does need another Crysis style game to push sales and drive the hardware demand forward. Sure, that legendary title may have faced criticism from a select audience for unnecessary hardware demands, but in reality it sold thousands of high end video cards for both AMD and Nvidia.
Cape Verde hardware was released a few weeks ago, and I still remain unimpressed. AMD have sought out key selling points such as focusing on the ’1ghz core clock’ speed, however both HD7770 and HD7750 have a castrated shader count when compared to the previous generation. AMD didn’t mention anywhere that they removed 160 stream processors from HD6770 to HD7770 (800 to 640), so the new hardware was always going to be playing catchup regardless of the boosted clock speed.
On a more positive note when two HD7770′s are combined, they go head to head with the GTX580, while costing around £100 less. The only downside is the reliance on Catalyst driver profiles for optimum Crossfire performance.
This leads us to the Pitcairn cards, released today. The HD7850 and HD7870 are without doubt the outstanding cards in the current line up. While we have yet to receive confirmed UK pricing, the last contact with AMD indicated a $350 and $250 price point for the HD7870 and HD7850 respectively. It is hard to know what this will translate to in the UK market as it seems to fluctuate almost daily, but we would expect around £299 for the HD7870 and £230 for the HD7850. At these prices, they are a win.
There are really no performance concerns we can mention. Unlike the Cape Verde hardware, AMD have ensured that both Pitcairn cards have strong processing performance, The HD7850 has 1,024 stream processors and the HD7870 has 1,280 stream processors.
In combination with the high clock speeds this means the HD7870 can generally keep up with the GTX580 at reference clock speeds and when overclocked to 1150mhz it is very closely matched against the more expensive reference clocked HD7950. If AMD manage to achieve a price under £300 then this is going to make a lot of sense for a very wide audience.
The HD7850 looks to offer great value for money. It offers comparable performance to the last generation flagship HD6970 at a lower cost. When overclocked to 1050mhz it is very closely matched against the GTX580, which is a hell of an achievement, considering the indicated price point.
AMD pulled the launch date forward and many of the partners were not ready to sample. Unfortunately we have had to focus solely on reference samples from AMD headquarters which is less than ideal. I really don’t like reviewing hardware that people can’t buy. We can expect custom cooled, quieter, pre-overclocked cards shortly from leading AMD partners such as Sapphire and XFX. We would expect these to be improved over the hardware we reviewed today.
As it stands however, this is the shining moment for AMD in 2012. These cards should both sell very well, if they manage to hit our expected price points in the UK.
Pros:
  • Our favourite range in the new 7x series line up.
  • Bags of overclocking headroom.
  • They look to be hitting the right price this time.
  • Significant improvement on the last generation.
Cons:
  • AMD’s reference cooler isn’t wonderful.
බලු කුක්කා නම් කියන්නේ: We wait for custom cooled cards from AMD’s partners in the coming weeks
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