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With the launch of Tahiti behind them, AMD is now firing on all cylinders to get the rest of their Southern Islands lineup out the door. Typically we’d see AMD launch their GPUs in descending order of performance, but this time AMD is taking a slight detour. Rather than following up the Tahiti based 7900 series with the Pitcairn based 7800 series, AMD is instead going straight to the bottom and launching the Cape Verde based 7700 series first.

Today AMD will be launching two cards based on the Cape Verde GPU: the Radeon HD 7750, and the Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition. As the Juniper based 5700 series never got a proper Northern Islands successor, this is the first real update for the x700 series since the launch of the 5700 series in October of 2009. Given the success of the 5700 expectations are going to be high, and to fulfill those expectations AMD will be bringing to bear their new GCN architecture along with a full node jump with TSMC’s 28nm process. But will this be enough to enable the 7700 series to replicate the success of the 5700 series? Let’s find out.

AMD GPU Specification Comparison
  AMD Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition AMD Radeon HD 7750 AMD Radeon HD 6850 AMD Radeon HD 5770 AMD Radeon HD 5750
Stream Processors 640 512 960 800 720
Texture Units 40 32 48 40 36
ROPs 16 16 32 16 16
Core Clock 1000MHz 800MHz 850MHz 850MHz 700MHz
Memory Clock 4.5GHz GDDR5 4.5GHz GDDR5 4.8GHz GDDR5 4.8GHz GDDR5 4.6GHz GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 128-bit 128-bit 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB 2GB
FP64 1/16 1/16 N/A N/A N/A
Transistor Count 1.5B 1.5B 1.7B 1.04B 1.04B
PowerTune Limit 100W 75W N/A N/A N/A
Manufacturing Process TSMC 28nm TSMC 28nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Architecture GCN GCN VLIW5 VLIW5 VLIW5
Price Point $159 $109 ~$149 ~$99 ~$89

With the 6000 series AMD effectively had a 5 chip stack: Caicos (6400), Turks (6600), the rebadged Juniper (6700), Barts (6800), and Cayman (6900). Since then integrated GPUs have effectively wiped out the low end of the market, and by the time Trinity launches later this year any product short of 6600 performance should be made redundant. As a result AMD has reigned in on their spread out stacks, leading to their 28nm Southern Islands product stack being just 3 products: Cape Verde (7700), Pitcairn (7800), and Tahiti (7900). Anything below the 7700 series will be rebadged Northern Islands parts, primarily Turks and Caicos.

But AMD’s product stack doesn’t tell the whole story. AMD will need to cover a wide range of products and price levels with only 3 GPUs, ranging from $109 to $550. As a result the performance levels of AMD’s various product series are being redefined somewhat, and nowhere is this more apparent right now than with the 7700 series. Why do we say that? Well let’s take a look at the specs and pricing.

Cape Verde, the GPU at the heart of the 7700 series, is AMD’s smallest 28nm GPU. With a die size of 123mm2 it’s only a hair bigger than the 118mm2 Turks GPU that powers the 6600 series. In terms of functional units we’re looking at 10 Compute Units, giving Cape Verde 640 SPs and 40 texture units. Elsewhere Cape Verde packs 16 ROPs, 1 geometry engine/rasterizer pair, and 512KB of L2 cache, with the chip coupled to a 128bit GDDR5 memory bus. Altogether compared to Tahiti this is around 31% of the CUs, 33% of the memory bus width, and half as many ROPs.

Interestingly, unlike Tahiti, Cape Verde’s CUs are organized slightly differently. GCN is designed around 4 CUs in each CU Array, with the 4 CUs sharing a read-only L1 instruction cache and a read-only L1 data cache. This is how both the 7970 and 7950 are organized, with the 7950 simply lopping off a whole CU array. However with Cape Verde 10 CUs doesn’t cleanly divide into groups of 4, so for the first time AMD has built something a bit different. In Cape Verde there are 3 CU arrays, populated in a 4/3/3 manner. With regards to performance there shouldn’t be a huge difference, but this does mean that there’s a bit less cache pressure on the CUs occupying the smaller CU arrays.

On the functionality side of things, backing up Cape Verde will be the rest of the Southern Islands family features we’ve already seen on Tahiti, such as DX10+ SSAA, PowerTune, Fast HDMI support, partially resident textures, D3D 11.1 support, and the still-AWOL Video Codec Engine (VCE). Even FP64 support is accounted for, however similar to how NVIDIA handles it on lower-end parts it’s a performance-limited implementation for compatibility and software development purposes, with FP64 performance limited to 1/16th FP32 performance.

As for the cards themselves, AMD will be releasing two Cape Verde cards: the Radeon HD 7750, and the Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition. The 7770 will be a fully enabled Cape Verde with all 10 CUs (640 SPs) enabled, running at 1GHz for the core clock and 4.5GHz for the memory clock, with a PowerTune limit of 100W and an AMD defined typical board power of 80W. The 7750 meanwhile has 2 disabled CUs, giving it 512 SPs and 32 texture units, while the ROP count is unchanged at 16. The core clock will be 800MHz while the memory clock is the same as the 7770 at 4.5GHz, with a PowerTune limit of 75W and a typical board power of 55W. Both cards have a sub-10W idle TDP, while long-idle is sub-3W.

With those specs in mind, it’s interesting to note that the difference between the 7750 and 7770 is much wider than we’ve seen in past products. Compared to the 7750, the 7770 has 25% more CUs and a 25% core clock advantage, giving it a massive 56% shader and texture performance advantage over the 7750. With the 5700 series this gap was only 35%, and most of that was a result of core clock differences. The fact that the memory bandwidth is the same between the 7770 and 7750 equalizes things somewhat, but it’s still a huge difference for two cards that are in the same family.

This brings us back to where we started: how AMD is covering the entire $109+ market with only 3 GPUs. Between the massive performance gap between the 7700 series cards and the fact that the 7750 is a sub-75W part, it becomes increasingly obvious that the 7700 series is the de-facto replacement for both the 6600 series and the 5700 series. The 7750 will fill the 6670’s old role as AMD’s top sub-75W card, but as we’ll see its performance means it won’t be a complete replacement for the 5700 series. Instead the role of replacing the 5700 series falls to the much more powerful 7770.

As for today’s launch, AMD will be launching the 7750 at $109 and the 7770 at $159, which happens to be the same prices the 5770 and 5750 512MB launched at respectively. With midrange cards there usually aren’t any supply issues and we aren’t expecting the 7700 series launch to be any different, however as is customary AMD’s partners will be launching semi-custom cards from day one, so pricing will probably be inconsistent.

At these prices the 7700 series will be competing with a number of last-generation cards. The 7750 will be up against AMD’s 5770/6770 and the absolute cheapest of NVIDIA’s GTX 550 Ti cards. Meanwhile the 7770 will be competing with AMD’s 6850 and 6870, along with NVIDIA’s GTX 460 and their cheapest GTX 560s. And as we’ll see in our benchmarks, this is ultimately going to be more than the 7700 series can handle.

Winter 2011/2012 GPU Pricing Comparison
AMD Price NVIDIA
  $209 GeForce GTX 560 Ti
  $179 GeForce GTX 560
Radeon HD 6870 $169  
Radeon HD 7770 $159  
Radeon HD 6850 $139  
  $119 GeForce GTX 550 Ti
Radeon HD 7750 $109  
Radeon HD 6770 $99  

 

Meet the Radeon HD 7750
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  • mattgmann - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Don't forget, when the 4870 pricing was low, at the end of 2008, BOTH AMD and Nvidia were settling price fixing lawsuits. These companies have cheated before; they'll do it again. Reply
  • Hubb1e - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    "Recessions are good for the rich... not so good for everyone else. "

    Really? So when the stock market lost 40% of its value and the rich lost 40% of their net worth, that was good for them?

    The rich can ride out a recession better than the poor because they don't live paycheck to paycheck, but it sure as hell wasn't good for them.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Maybe we can see 4870's with maximum performance/die size in mind pricing failure because it was performing close to the big die from Nvidia gtx2xx. Or maybe we can see the ''double performance from last gen'' tactic from Nvidia a fail when it means building a super big die with low performance/size ratio just to get that double performance motto... It was all a question of ''goal to attain'' from each company. One goal paid off more than the other that time.

    From an Nvidia's fanboy perception, the first will be true and the second unthinkable. From an ATI fanboy, the first will make no sense and the second will suit them well. From someone with no choosen side, both can be true.

    But these 7770 and 7750 here, makes no sense, such small die with such performance for that price.....
    Reply
  • Malih - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I agree, smells fishy, usually at this point nVidia would lower their card price.

    The latest price competitive part from AMD is the 6800 series. Probably have to wait for the 8800 series?
    Reply
  • Kjella - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I know, I bought a 5850 before the MSRP hike for around $279 + VAT in 2009 and I just checked, it clearly beats a 7770 so a >$159 value today, maybe close to the $200 card being launched in March. The 6xxxx series I thought was just because they had to scrap the 34nm process and deliver essentially a refined 5xxx series, but now they're on 28nm and there's not much bang for the buck for those of us that already have a gaming card from the 4/5xxxx series. I hope this is just a temporary situation until nVidia gets their Kepler out, or I might just sit out another generation... Reply
  • eminus - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    AMD has AMD (Accute Money Deficiency) right now so they need every penny they can gain. Reply
  • Cygni - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    It seriously seems that the 4850/4870 was an incredible purchase. In 2009, you could get a 4850 for $99 dollars. And it STILL holds up to the top range cards.

    I mean we all know that Nvidia and AMD are playing the profit game 10 times harder than the performance game in this sector, simply because games can't press the limits of the hardware, but it's still impressive.
    Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I bought 4 cards in the 4x lineup..

    First a 4850 for $170, Second a 4870 for $199 Third a 4870 1G for $229 and lastly a 4830 for 140.. While I live in Canada I don't think prices ever came that low unless you got one helluva good deal.. $99 pricing for the 4850 wasn't the norm even late in its production run.
    Reply
  • BPB - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I got mine real chaep at launch! BestBuy mispriced them. Still, not too much later there were good deals again and I got one for my daughter's desktop. These cards in CF still hold up well for 1920x1200 gaming. I would like to upgrade to better performance and lower power, but AMD is making that hard dollar-wise. Reply
  • Jorgisven - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Indeed. Best Buy had a 25% off all Visiontek cards the week of the 4850 launch, so I got mine at launch for $150. I then caught an amazing deal on a 4870 a few months later ($129 shipped), sold my 4850 for $140. I basically bought both for a net $140.

    I've been waiting for a good AMD card, but just haven't seen one. I've been tempted by the 560 Ti or 570, but they're still too expensive for my taste, and don't offer enough of an advantage to spend the cost of a PS3 on upgrading from an already decent GPU.

    I'm rather disappointed with Red as of late.
    Reply

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