AMD Radeon HD 7850 & HD 7870 Launch Review

Product: AMD Radeon HD 7800 Series
Company: AMD
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 4th, 2012

Summary & Conclusions

With AMD's full Southern Islands GCN discrete GPU line up launched and shipping before NVIDIA's first Kepler-based product, AMD once again demonstrates excellent engineering and execution - similar to the game-changing Evergreen series launch. Whether the NVIDIA response is similar to the Fermi introduction remains to be seen, but all indications are that NVIDIA has learned valuable lessons from the 40nm adoption and release experience.

The AMD Radeon HD 7800 series are a real pair of jewels, great cards with the right balance of performance, features and power consumption. If you've been holding out for an upgrade for the last 2-3 years for your performance gaming needs, the wait is over - get one, or two, AMD Radeon HD 7800s and don't look back. Zero Core Power ensures you will minimize waste when you're not gaming and PowerTune ensures your cards aren't more likely to go pop under hard gaming load in the next 24-36mo. The only complaints we have are specific to the reference cooler design, which AIB custom designs will sort that in short order, and the number of Crossfire connectors; the number of the counting should be two, not one. Triple overclocked 7850s with custom cooling would be a sight to behold ... maybe Lucid can help out here. If AMD wanted to win mindshare, marketshare and general all-around adoration, the HD 7850 would be $199-$219 and the HD 7870 would be $299. Still, when you have no competition, you get to define the price point.

As Intel and AMD heterogeneous processing units soak up sales of low end discrete GPUs, the $100-$300 market will become more important and, hopefully, more competitive. AMD's product spacing and pricing makes it reasonable to consider that there will be more derivatives of Pitcairn and Tahiti, similarly to Cypress LE and Barts LE; a Tahiti LE as 7890 and ~$399 and a Pitcairn LE as 7790 at ~$199. We haven't received any indication that this is true, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise - although Tahiti LE in a consumer product seems less likely given the fairly close performance of the HD 7950 and HD 7870.

AMD Radeon HD 7800 Series

Thinking of new SKUs, something else that would be awesome would be a dual Pitcairn card. AMD has seen fit to only design in one Crossfire bridge connector on the Pitcairn reference design, so 3xPitcairn kicking ass and taking names is regrettably not going to happen. Pitcairn XT uses a little less power than Cypress XT did, meaning a HD 5970 equivalent featuring dual Pitcairn chips, 300W max board power and 4GB of VRAM is very obviously doable, especially with PowerTune to keep things in check. That's not to say we don't want New Zealand to be dual Tahiti, but we can dream of two dual-GPU SKUs, can't we?

Both HD 7800 cards do an okay job of redefining perf/$ to the price segments they inhabit and, although the absolute pricing might not be where everybody hoped, it's where the current global economics indicate they really should be; you can't just ignore a global economic downturn, interruptions to supply chains, and shrinking markets. AMD Radeon graphics cards are premium products and are priced according their value and quality. From a performance and power perspective the AMD Radeon HD 7800 series appear to be the spiritual successors to the ATI Radeon HD 4800 series, even if not the perf/$ champion RV770 was.

If you're still holding on to a DX10 card, or have a first generation DX11 card, the combination of performance and power efficiency in the AMD Radeon HD 7800 series should be a compelling offering for you, especially if the current ultra-enthusiast products price, power and heat profiles are a little off-putting. AMD definitely had their eyes on the prize with Pitcairn, and it looks to be a winner for the enthusiast gamer. If only you could buy one today ...