What’s In a Name?

GPU naming is rarely consistent. While NVIDIA is usually the biggest perpetrator of naming confusion or suddenly switched names AMD does not have a clear record either (the Mobility 5100 series comes to mind). However we’re not sure there’s precedent for AMD’s latest naming decision, and there’s really no stepping around it. So we have a few thoughts we’d like to share.

Since the introduction of the Radeon 3870 in 2007, 800 has been the series designation for AMD’s high-end products. The only time they’ve broken this is last year, when AMD ditched the X2 moniker for their dual-GPU card for the 5900 designation, a move that ruffled a few feathers but at least made some sense since the 5970 wasn’t a true 5870 X2. Regardless, the 800 series has since 2007 been AMD’s designation for their top single-chip product.

With that naming scheme come expectations of performance. Each 800 series card has been successively faster, and while pricing has been inconsistent as AMD’s die size and costs have shifted, ultimately each 800 series card was a notable step up in performance from the previous card. With the 6800 this is not the case. In fact it’s absolutely a step down, the 6800 series is on average 7% slower than the 5800 series. This doesn’t mean that AMD hasn’t made enhancements to the card –we’ve already covered the enhanced tessellation unit, AA/AF, UVD3, and other features – but these are for the most part features and not performance enhancements.


Click to enlarge

Today AMD is turning their naming scheme on its head by launching these Barts cards with the 6800 name, but without better-than-5800 performance. AMD’s rationale for doing this is that they’re going to be continuing to sell the 5700 series, and that as a result they didn’t want to call these cards the 6700 series and introduce confusion. Furthermore AMD is trying to recapture the glory days of the 4800 series, where those parts sold for under $300 and then quickly under $200. It wasn’t until the 5800 series that an 800 series card became outright expensive. So for these reasons, AMD wanted to call these Barts cards the 6800 series.

We find ourselves in disagreement with AMD here.

We don’t have a problem with AMD introducing the 6 series here – the changes they’ve made, even if not extreme, at least justify that. But there’s a very real issue of creating confusion for buyers of the 5800 series now by introducing the 6800 series. The performance may be close and the power consumption lower, but make no mistake, the 5800 series was faster.

Ultimately this is not our problem; this is AMD’s problem. So we can’t claim harm per-say, but we can reflect on matters. The Barts cards being introduced today should have been called the 6700 series. It would have made the latest rendition of the 700 series more expensive than last time, but at the same time Barts is a very worthy upgrade to the 5700 series. But then that’s the problem for AMD; they don’t want to hurt sales of the 5700 series while it’s still on the market.

High IQ: AMD Fixes Texture Filtering and Adds Morphological AA NVIDIA’s 6870 Competitor & The Test
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  • Ryan Smith - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    In case it isn't obvious from the slipshod organization of the article, we didn't quite get it done on time. We had less than a week to put this article together when normally for an article of this size it takes 2 weeks. Check back in the morning, everything on Eyefinity, DP1.2, etc will be up by then. Reply
  • counter03 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    i am quite interested in that 'mst hub'.is there any available product now?well,i just find nothing with google. Reply
  • wolrah - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    The card still has two TMDS clock generators. This means only two DVI/HDMI displays can be driven off the card at one time, no matter what connection. With that in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if the card doesn't even support passive adapters as there is literally no good reason to ever use them. You already have two native ports, so with a maximum of two DVI displays that's that.

    Regardless of if passive adapters are supported, you'll still need active adapters or native DisplayPort on your display to run three or four monitors off this card.

    Supposedly it also supports DisplayPort daisy chaining, so possibly when monitors arrive that have an out port it may handle more than four displays, but again only a maximum of two can be DVI/HDMI without active adapters.
    Reply
  • ninjaquick - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    DP support shouldn't be a problem since I've seen quite a few monitors coming out with DP in and some with I/O. Reply
  • Abot13 - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    With the 6800 series the cards can support up to 6 monitors in Eyefinity. The DP ports can use a DP hub or the monitors can be chained with DP. Either way the max is 6 monitors per card. Reply
  • ol1bit - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    The naming stinks, but I can see how these cards will be a big Christmas season for AMD.

    So people that don't the new naming scheme will rush out an buy the bigger names. Smooth Marketing Move.

    Well, if the 6900's launch next month, that will be fun to see.
    Reply
  • Zokudu - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    You removed Left 4 Dead from your benchmarks. Does this mean you won't be replacing it with another Source game (ie L4D2 or maybe Portal 2 when that releases)?

    I know its not 100% perfect but 3 of the top 10 selling games on steam right now are run on the Source engine and the only other ones that share and engine are BF:BC2 and MoH both using Frostbite. I would think that having some form of a Source game in there would be a good idea considering the vast amount of popular games that run on it. I always used the L4D benchmark to compare performance for TF2 and CS:S. in the past.

    Otherwise good review and I'm excited for the HD6900 launch next month.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    By the time Portal 2 comes out, it'll be about the time we refresh our suite anyhow. For the time being the existing Source games run on anything (even the GT 430 got L4D playable at 1680 with 4xAA) so it's not a useful benchmark, especially since there's no guarantee Portal will run that well. Reply
  • AmdInside - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    In the 3DTV Play article, you mentioned AMD's 6000 series would challenge NVIDIA in 3D with the 6000 series but I didn't read any info on it in this article. What gives? Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Also didn't see any mention of the improved crossfire performance either... Reply

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