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We haven’t talked about it beyond a passing comment, but AMD still has some Radeon 6000 series cards that are OEM-only. We are of course referring to the Radeon HD 6770 and Radeon HD 6750, AMD’s Juniper-powered 5770 & 5750 rebadges for OEMs. While we’ve only recently seen the rest of the Northern Islands lineup launch in the retail space, in the OEM space the last-generation Juniper GPU has been filling out AMD’s lineup between Turks (6500/6600) and Barts (6800) based video cards.

The rationale for OEM space is rather straightforward: OEMs want/need something new to sell. More RAM, a Sandy Bridge CPU, a SSD – their 2011 computers need to look better than their 2010 computers, as they certainly don’t want to be seen as selling last year’s model for anything less than a steep discount. It was perhaps a foolish hope that these shenanigans would remain in the OEM market, as so far AMD has continued to keep the 5770 and 5750 even after the rest of Northern Islands has launched. But here we are, out with the old and in with the old: the 5770 and 5750 are getting rebadged in retail. Say hello to the Radeon HD 6770 and Radeon HD 6750.

  AMD Radeon HD 6770 AMD Radeon HD 5770 AMD Radeon HD 6750 AMD Radeon HD 5750
Stream Processors 800 800 720 720
Texture Units 40 40 36 36
ROPs 16 16 16 16
Core Clock 850MHz 850MHz 700MHz 700MHz
Memory Clock 1.2GHz (4.8GHz data rate) GDDR5 1.2GHz (4.8GHz data rate) GDDR5 1.15GHz (4.6GHz data rate) GDDR5 1.15GHz (4.6GHz data rate) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit 128-bit
VRAM 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
FP64 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Transistor Count 1.04B 1.04B 1.04B 1.04B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Price Point ? ~$110 ? ~$110

There’s really no way to sugarcoat it, and even AMD isn’t really trying. It’s the same Juniper GPU on the same boards with the same clocks, the same power requirements, and the same performance. The only thing different between a 5700 series card and its 6700 series counterpart is the sticker on the card, the BIOS, and quite possibly the price.

Image Courtesy Best Buy

Image Courtesy Newegg

However to be fair to AMD, they have at least made some effort to improve on the 6700 series over the 5700 series through the BIOS. As you may recall, one of the big differences for the 6000 series over the 5000 series is that the 6000 series got HDMI 1.4a support, along with a UVD3 video decoder that was capable of decoding the additional resolutions and bitrates Blu-Ray 3D’s MVC(H.264) profiles require. These changes have been backported to Juniper to some extent.

UVD2.2 is fast enough to process MVC, so now the 6700 series can decode Blu-Ray 3D. Without any hardware on hand we can’t specifically test this, but we suspect AMD may have introduced a new PowerPlay state (or edited an existing one) to further ramp up Juniper’s core clocks when playing MVC content, as this would be the most practical way to increase the max bitrate UVD2.2 can handle, if indeed it couldn’t handle MVC bitrates at the usual core clocks. Update: AMD has confirmed our theory. In fact the UVD3 also have a Blu-Ray 3D PowerPlay state, which means UVD2 and UVD3 may be more similiar than we once thought.

Meanwhile HDMI 1.3 and HDMI 1.4a both have the same bandwidth requirements, so now the 6700 series is HDMI 1.4a capable through some BIOS magic – although we haven’t been able to get confirmation that this support extends beyond support for the frame-packed formats required for HDMI 3D, or in other words it may not support 2K x 4K resolutions and other features normally associated with HDMI 1.4a. Update: AMD confirmed that the 6700 series only supports the HDMI 3D portions of the HDMI 1.4a spec. Apparently this is consistent with Northern Islands, whcih doesn't support 2K x 4K resolutions over HDMI either.

The good news here is that we’re not immediately aware of any reason why these features can’t be fully backported to existing 5700 series cards. Although AMD technically refers to UVD2.2 having “firmware”, as far as we know everything is contained in the video card’s BIOS. If this is the case, then for any 5700 series designs being recycled for the 6700 series, it should be easy to use the 6700 series BIOS. Of course this wouldn’t be something AMD supports.

Ultimately AMD considers this rebadging a necessity to some degree. While everyone is free to speculate on whether there are ulterior motives, what is clear is that the 5700 series created a branding problem for AMD: the 5000 series was launched before ATI was rebranded AMD. So the 5770 and 5750 are still technically “ATI” cards, this being nearly 8 months after ATI was fully rebranded to be part of AMD. At the same time this makes AMD’s product stack consistent from top to bottom for both retail and OEMs: every current card from the 6450 to the 6990 is now a 6000 series cards. It’s not a particularly good reason, but it is what it is.

Ultimately our biggest concern at this point is pricing. AMD tells us that 6700 series pricing will be consistent with 5700 series pricing, but we have our doubts. 5770 has actually been really good – it regularly goes on sale for as low as $95, so if you don’t mind a MIR and the choice of only a couple of vendors, you’ve been able to grab a 5770 for under $100. This is cheaper than the 5750 most of the time, never mind what it does to the 6670 and NVIDIA’s lineup. What is NVIDIA’s lineup? The slightly faster GTX 550 Ti at $125+, and the 5750-like GTS 450 at $90+. Compared to everything AMD and NVIDIA, the 5770 is a very good deal; and this is why we’re concerned about the pricing.

Radeon HD 5700 Series Price History
  Launch Today Difference
Radeon HD 5770 $160 Approx $110 -$50
Radeon HD 5750 $130 Approx $110 -$20

We hope to be proven wrong here, but at this point in time there’s little reason for AMD and their partners to sell $100 5770s when there’s no competitive pressure to do so. A good bargain is another name for a product bringing in less profit than it should, and in the cut-throat semiconductor industry you usually need to grab what you can when you can. The concern we have is that it’s as good a time as any to realign 5770 prices with the competitive market and AMD’s product stack – it’s time for a price hike. There is no doubt in my mind that the first 6700 cards will cost more than the cheapest 5700 cards. The only question is whether prices will come back down once stores are fully stocked with 6700 cards as they are today with 5700 cards.

At the end of the day this rebadging seems to only benefit AMD and their partners, to the detriment of buyers. In a weird twist it’s a bit better than how they handled the 6800 series – at least the 6700 series isn’t slower than the 5700 series – but that’s not saying much. Besides the backported MVC/HDMI 1.4a features, the 6700 series lacks everything else that made the rest of the 6000 series an improvement over the 5000 series. There’s no DisplayPort 1.2, no MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 ASP decoding, no color correction, no improved tessellator, and no linear space color correction. With the exception of perhaps DP1.2 they’re not headlining features, but they’re glaring inconsistencies.

When NVIDIA played the rebadge game with G92 it didn’t help consumers then, and with AMD doing it today, it doesn’t help consumers now. Actually, G92 ultimately got a die shrink from 65nm to 55nm and various clockspeed bumps, so unless AMD makes a 28nm Juniper core this may end up being a worse deal.

It’s perhaps with a twinge of sadness to see this happening to Juniper. Juniper above all other AMD GPUs has been AMD’s workhorse. It was the GPUs game developers first saw in the summer of 2009 when AMD sampled their first DX11 parts, and we’re now coming up on 2 years later where it’s still selling strong. We’re glad to see it live on – it’s a great card and continues to be so at $99, but the rebadging adds a permanent tarnish to the reputation; an air of taking advantage of uninformed buyers that it will never escape. This would seem to be the fate of any GPU fortunate to live long enough to cross multiple generations: if you aren’t replaced, you’re renamed.

April 2011 Video Card MSRPs
NVIDIA Price AMD
$700 Radeon HD 6990
$480  
$320 Radeon HD 6970
  $260 Radeon HD 6950 2GB
$240 Radeon HD 6950 1GB
  $200 Radeon HD 6870
$160 Radeon HD 6850
$150 Radeon HD 6790
$130  
  ? Radeon HD 6770
  $99 Radeon HD 6670
$95-$110  
  $79 Radeon HD 6570
$50-$70 Radeon HD 5570
$55 Radeon HD 6450
$30-$50 Radeon HD 5450

 

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  • marc1000 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    You mean, do a CF with one 5770 and one 6770???

    wouldn't we have BIOS/Driver problems?
    Reply
  • T0morrow - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    What about flashing 5770 to 6770 with the nessesary bios? Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    It's entirely possible. However the cards would need to be nearly identical to work (otherwise hardware such as VRMs may not match what the BIOS is programmed for), which may be a problem for older cards. Reply
  • silverblue - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    "What is NIVIDA’s lineup?" :P Reply
  • lifeblood - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    The engineer and tech enthusiast in me says this is deceptive and very low of AMD. The business and sales man in me says they kinda needed to do it. Well, now the nVidia fanboys get to flame the AMD fanboys in the forums for AMD doing what they accused nVidia of doing. Should be fun reading the next day or two. Reply
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    It is a bummer that they are the same cards. But its not like AMD is the first to do this. Just about the whole nVidia 300 series lineup was rebadged 200 series chips.

    I actually have a 5750 now and I am looking to upgrade for when BF3 hits the stores. Going to have to do that extra step of verifying benchmarks and such before choosing a card.
    Reply
  • marc1000 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I own a 5770 and will OC the hell out of it and wait until some 28nm mainstream gpus launch... I really want to upgrade, but these boards are "good enough" to run one monitor at 1680x1050 or 1920x1080 resolutions. So I believe I can wait until next-gen gpus... Reply
  • Arbie - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I don't really have an opinion on the issue itself, at least none that you haven't very well examined from both sides already. This needed to be brought out and given just the right amount of perspective and column space, and I think you did that.

    Thanks for the good journalism.
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    It is a good card. I just bought one recently. A billion transistors, for under $100. I hope they put this design in the new nintendo console. I hope they put it in Trinity. Everyone should have one. lol Reply
  • marc1000 - Thursday, April 28, 2011 - link

    I believe this is the exact GPU that will be in the new Nintendo console. The rumor says "a R700-like gpu with DX11". this GPU already exists and it is Juniper. I guess it has a little over triple the performance from Xenos, and if they manage to put some embedded RAM on it like the xbox did... then it would have really high performance! Reply

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