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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
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  • fingerbob69 - Tuesday, March 06, 2012 - link

    It ain't, the 7870 is faster by 25-33% depending on the res. Price wise it's about 30% more (UK) but that fits with the bump in performance. So, you're wrong. Reply
  • Houdani - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Hey! My mom was born on Pitcairn. It's the top of a blown off volcano, only 1x2 miles large. No correlation, I'm sure. Interesting. Reply
  • AlB80 - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    It beats 6950. 6970 and 7850. Is it correct? Reply
  • haukionkannel - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Well these are good card even at this moment! Ofcource we can hope cheaper prizes, but that need at least two competitors and at this moment there is none...
    And I would not wonder if Kepler will be prices accordingly. Those kepler chip are bigger, if leak are true, so they should be faster and they definitely will be more expensive (if not counting those renamed low end cards tha allso AMD is releasing this time)
    AMD is not getting profit (in total) and Nvidia has a lot of new staff going on that need a lot of money to develop, so there seems to be zero reason to both company to reduce the prices... pity but true.
    If you have good 5000 or 6000 series card you don't need these (same as if you have good 6600 serieas cpu you don't need ivy...) at this moment. But if you need a lot of power for little power usage these are extremely good and allso as someone said, these are very small chips! So there is a lot of room for a little bit bigger for 8000 series. Tick tock... Seems to be a lot like Intel Ivy vs Hasvell. Ivy does not offer a much compared to sandy, only smaller power usage and a little bit better speed. Like someone else said, very similar situation.
    Reply
  • Hubb1e - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    The upgrade from a 5800 to a 7800 may be only 20-40% on stock clocks, but add in the extra headroom the 7800 has when overclocking and you're looking at a decent upgrade. Once the prices come down on these I'm sure you'll see quite a few folks dropping their 5800 for a 7800. Reply
  • PurpleMoose - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    The 7850 (usually) slightly outperforms the 6950 despite having only 1024 shaders compared to 1408, with a ~7% core overclock (and a slight memory underclock). Even being conservative, that would make the GCN shaders about a third more efficient than the VLIW4 ones. But if we assume that a VLIW4 cluster performs more or less the same as a VLIW5 cluster, as does seem to be the case, then we can compare a hypothetical VLIW4-based 5770 with 640 shaders to the 7770. In this case the 7770 outperforms the 5770 basically by its clock speed difference, in other words clock for clock, shader for shader, VLIW4/5 vs GCN seems to be a wash.

    So why doesn't the 7700 series show as much (ie any) improvement?

    The most obvious deficiency is the memory bus and memory bandwidth, but if thats the case why not add more? Alternatively, if you're happy with the performance as is, why not cut away a few more shader groups as it seems the card really can't use them, and save even more space? I had a very brief look for overclocked results and couldn't really find any - what I'd find really interesting is if anyone has benched a stock 7770 against a 7750 running at 7770 frequencies. I wonder how much the loss of shaders would hurt.
    Reply
  • jesh462 - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Whenever I read an article on the new 7xxx series, I can't help but wonder if people remember what they're looking at. AMD moved to 28nm with this series. They also introduced a completely new architecture. They did so with no complications and without going overtime on the release date.
    This hasn't been done before. Even Intel doesn't attempt to do this with their CPUs. Tick, then tock, right?
    Not only did AMD manage to get their new line up out, but the new cards have performance that exceeds their Nvidia counterparts on both the gaming and compute levels, in most cases. People who buy actual retail samples of the 7xxx series are pleased with the great overclocking headroom. It's obvious that there is a lot of room, even in the 7xxx series current iteration, for growth.

    Despite all this, I still see people talk about how a 7xxx card isn't worth it, and how AMD is a sh*t company. Really? Ok.

    Disclaimer, I own an i7 laptop with a geforce 560 blah blah.. fanboy whatever. Just think about this before you post. Yeah the new cards could use a price drop. We all know they will, sooner or later. That's why it's called the waiting game.
    Reply
  • arjuna1 - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    a 7xxx card is not worth it and AMD is not a sh*t company.

    I tend to agree with you for the most part but, there are no NVIDIA's counterparts for the 7xxx series, yet, and when there is, the 7xxx will go down in prices and then their value will increase.
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, March 08, 2012 - link

    I'm sorry, we were promised southern islands for the 6000 series, and then, all that changed...
    What we really have here is a release that is like 2 years late.
    Apparently once AMD re-announces it's new release schedule after admitting it missed it's last release target... all you people suddenly get a gigantic case of perfect amnesia.
    To put it simply this is AN ENTIRE GENERATION LATE ON THE PROMISED RELEASE.
    Reply
  • mattgmann - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Where is this misconception that the pricing is anywhere near acceptable on these new parts coming from? So they fit right in with the current price/performance ration. So what? AMD has basically put out a new line of cards that match their competitors previous generation and cost SLIGHTLY less.

    Aren't technologies supposed to get better? What's the point in upgrading if you get basically the same amount of performance for your dollar today as when you bought you last part?

    Intel's new top end processors cost the same as last generation's, and the generation before that. New products replace old ones in pricing structures. AMD is raking in cash on these cards. They're less expensive to produce than last generation and retail for MORE money.

    AMD is taking full advantage of their current market position, and instead of passing on ANYTHING to the consumer, is milking every profitable drop.

    These cards' performance is impressive when compared apples to apples against last generation's equivalents. But since they basically all occupy a price slot a full tier higher than their predecessors, the comparison is moot.

    Too bad the only 2 companies in the graphics card race are so ill equipped to advance the industry. AMD, Nvidia, get a clue.
    Reply

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