• What
    is this?
    You've landed on the AMD Portal on AnandTech. This section is sponsored by AMD. It features a collection of all of our independent AMD content, as well as Tweets & News from AMD directly. AMD will also be running a couple of huge giveaways here so check back for those.
    PRESENTED BY

Final Words

With 3 major launches in under 3 months it seems like I’ve written he same thing time and time again, and that wouldn’t be an incorrect observation. By being the first to deploy 28nm GPUs AMD has been enjoying a multi-month lead on NVIDIA that has allowed them to set their own pace, and there’s little NVIDIA can do but sit back and watch. Consequently we’re seeing AMD roll out a well-orchestrated launch plan unhindered, with AMD launching each new Southern Islands card at exactly the place they’ve intended to from the beginning.

At each launch AMD has undercut NVIDIA at critical points, allowing them to push NVIDIA out of the picture, and the launch of the Radeon HD 7800 series is no different. AMD’s decision to launch the 7870 and 7850 at roughly $25 to $50 over the GTX 570 and GTX 560 Ti respectively means that NVIDIA’s cards still have a niche between AMD’s price points for the time being, but this is effectively a temporary situation as NVIDIA starts drawing down inventory for the eventual Kepler launch.

Starting with the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, AMD is effectively in the clear for the time being. At roughly 9% faster than the GTX 570 there’s little reason to get the GTX 570 even with the 7870’s price premium; it’s that much faster, cooler, and quieter. With the launch of Pitcairn and the 7870 in particular, GF110 has effectively been removed from competition after a nearly year and a half run.

As for the Radeon HD 7850, things are not so clearly in AMD’s favor. From a power perspective it's by far the fastest 150W card you can buy, and that alone will earn AMD some major OEM wins along with some fans in the SFF PC space. Otherwise from a price perspective it’s certainly the best $250 card you can buy, but then that’s the catch: it’s a $250 card. With GTX 560 Ti prices starting to drop below $200 after rebate, the 7850 is nearly $50 more expensive than the GTX 560 Ti. At the same time its performance is only ahead of the GTX 560 Ti by about 9% on average, and in the process it loses to the GTX 560 Ti at a couple of games, most importantly Battlefield 3 by about 8%. AMD has a power consumption lead to go along with that performance lead, but without retail cards to test it’s not clear whether that translates into any kind of noise improvements over the GTX 560 Ti. In the long run the 7850 is going to be the better buy – in particular because of its additional RAM in the face of increasingly VRAM-hungry games – but $199 for a GTX 560 Ti is going to be hard to pass up while it lasts.

Of course by being in the driver’s seat overall when it comes to setting video card prices AMD has continued to stick to their conservative pricing, both to their benefit and detriment. The 7800 series isn’t really any cheaper than the 6900 series it replaces; in fact it’s probably a bit more expensive after you factor in the rebates that have been running on the 6900 series since last summer. But these prices stop the bleeding from what has been an aggressive price war between the two companies over the last 3 years, which is going to be of great importance to AMD in the long run.

Nevertheless we’re largely in the same situation now as where we were with the 7700 series: AMD has only moved a small distance along the price/performance curve with the 7800 series, and they’re in no particular hurry to change that. But if nothing else, on the product execution side of things AMD has done a much better job, getting their old cards out of the market well ahead of time in order to keep from having to compete with themselves. As a result your choices right now at $200+ are the 7800 and 7900 series, or last-generation Fermi cards. Otherwise we’re in a holding pattern until AMD brings prices down, which considering Pitcairn is the replacement for the Barts-based 6800, could potentially be quite a reduction in the long run.

Wrapping things up, at this point in time AMD has taken firm control of the $200+ video card market. The only real question is this: for how long? AMD enjoyed a nearly 6 month lead over NVIDIA when rolling out the first generation of 40nm DX11 cards, but will they enjoy a similarly long lead with the first generation of 28nm cards? Only time will tell.

Overclocking: Gaming & Compute Performance
POST A COMMENT

173 Comments

View All Comments

  • rburnham - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    I tend to skip one or two generations of video cards before upgrading, but the 7850 looks like a fairly respectable upgrade over my current 6850. I love that low power draw, although I might wait until someone like MSI comes out with a quieter version. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, March 08, 2012 - link

    Your 6850 is 2 watts higher power draw at idle. But you're a gamer, so load draw is important. The 7850 is 14 watts higher power draw on normal load, and 26 watts more on high load. Powertune slider only increases that. Reply
  • smoka - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    A lot of people are saying power draw is not important, but it is for some of us upgrading. I have been running a GTX460 for about a year now and I'm finally thinking about jumping on the Eyefinity bandwagon. I was eying the 6950 a few weeks ago, but I decided to wait for the 78xx to come out. My plan is to move to a single card and run at a lower resolution (3072x768 or 3840x1024) until I can upgrade to a CF setup and run at 5760x1080.

    Also keep in mind that I have a 600W PSU, which would need an upgrade a 69xx CF or GTX570/580 SLI setup. Many people who are in the mid-high end gaming market (which the 78xx is aimed at) don't have a 1000W PSU. Upgrading to these top-tier PSUs is also another expense to add to an already expensive graphics card overhaul.

    The 7870 series fits the bill exactly for me, except for the $350 price-point. I really wanted the it to be priced at $300 or less. I am hoping it will hit this price either due to brand competition, store promotion, or after kepler release.
    Reply
  • kallogan - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Actually i care about power consumption more than stupid power hungry raw performance.

    You are not responsible citizens when buying nvidia stuff. Buy amd and save the planet.

    HAHA
    Reply
  • compvter - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Sure performance/price matters most, but what i find interesting in current amd generation cards is zerocore that allows me to keep my computer running with low power draw when i don't use it. I don't really care about power draw when i am using computer, but i do care about noise, and those are kind of related. Still most of the cards are silent enough for me, but most of the time my coputer is on idle (or long idle) with software running that i can't turn off (irc client), so zerocore would save me a lot of money compared to Nv offerings. Still i am interested to see what nv offers, but at the moment im considering 7870 to replace my 3870x2. Would go 79xx, but don't want to buy new case =/ Reply
  • mattgmann - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    save the planet...lol. Though saving on the electricity bill would be nice. The power hungry 4890 tandem in my rig surely adds a few tens of dollars a month to my bill. Reply
  • pieguy - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    In the paragraph about 7800 series voltage, you mention 7950 voltages but I think you mean 7850 voltage, else I am not understanding...

    Also, a question about these voltages of 1.213 - 1.219. I don't know much on the subject. If these are the voltages under load, what are they actually set to (before vdroop)? If this voltage is standard for these cards, does it mean that we shouldn't be concerned about using this voltage on other 28nm 7XXX series cards for extra OC headroom and 24/7 usage? I'm just trying to figure out a max "safe" 24/7 voltage for my 7950 since the overclocking scales really well with voltage increases.

    Thanks for the great review!
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Hi Pie, thanks for the correction. As for the voltages, those are the VIDs, so it's without vdroop. As for what a safe voltage is, there's no easy answer to that. Though 1.21v is likely safe for 7900 cards that are already in the 1.17v range. Reply
  • ObeseMaurice - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    I bought a 2GB 6950 2 weeks ago for $240 and $20 mail in rebate. The 7870 is worse on all resolutions of Battlefield 3 and priced significantly higher. Very unimpressive product launch from AMD. Reply
  • silverblue - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Has anybody stopped to think how much extra performance you might get from these cards when AMD has proper drivers for them, or is this considered a moot point? Needless to say, nowhere on the BF3 benchmarks in this review is the 7870 slower than the 6950, rather it's a consistent 20% faster. Throughout the review the 7870 ranges from about 15% (Batman 1920x1200) - 70% (Civ5 1920x1200) faster depending on the title. Granted, the gap isn't always this large at 2560x1600 but it's still sizeable in a good number of cases. Are you in fact referring to the 7850?

    AMD are pricing these cards at that level because they can. It's certainly not going to last forever.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now