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

  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    So, how many people do you know who would spend a few hundred bucks for a performance "sidegrade" that saves them a few bucks per year on their energy bill?

    Price/performance is still the relevant metric for most people, with everything else being secondary. Not unimportant, but secondary. Noise can also be addressed on cards with high power draw by buying a card with a custom cooler or using a 3rd party cooler.
    Reply
  • Kaboose - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Some people are just entering the market, some people are coming from 3+ generations ago, some people are looking for HTPC's that can game and need low power and low temp cards that provide solid performance. It isn't a sidegrade for someone who is coming from integrated graphics or maybe a 7800GT etc. It is easy to think that everyone who buys these types of GPU's are knowledgeable and already have high performing GPU's. But that just isn't the case a lot of the time. If you have a high end 5xxx or a mid-high range 6xxx GPU already then there is no reason to upgrade, frankly with the 68xx series AMD isn't looking to grab that market. Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    If you're looking for great price/performance, there are plenty of cards that offer more bang for your bucks.

    If you're looking for raw performance, you look elsewhere, too.

    Though I'll happily concede that the 7850/7870 are great absolutely fabulous for everyone who is building a "HTPC that can game".
    Reply
  • medi01 - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    And exactly where do you look for raw performance, pretty please? Maybe at nVidia 570, that costs 80$, consumes more energy yet is outperformed in most tests by 7850? Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Where would you look for raw performance? How about the 79xx line?

    And what the hell are you talking about anyway? The 7850 does not "outperform" the 570 in most tests, unless you're again back at comparing an overclocked card to a non-overclocked card. Most 570 cards can do a 15-20% OC easily, btw.

    Hell, I bought my GTX570 about 12 months ago for €289. And I'm supposed to be blown away by something like the 7870 in 2012?

    The GTX570 became available about 14 months ago. It took AMD 14 frigging month to come up with a card like the 7870 that is 9% faster on average at the same price point?

    Gee, what a marvel of technology.
    Reply
  • krumme - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    570 is 250% larger and 9% slower
    Its a giant leap
    talk about marvel of technology
    Your card is tech from stone age compared to a 7870.
    Old tech is old
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    I'm running a 5870 which is basically 75% the performance of a 7970, and I paid 379 for the 5870. Which is also 75% of the cost of a 7970. The price of a 7970 is basically the exact same price structure as the 2 1/2 year old 5870, So we are stuck where we were in 2009, yay.

    Yea we are sure moving forward...
    Reply
  • morfinx - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    75% performance of 7970 would mean that it's 33% faster than a 5870. And that's just not accurate. I have a 5870 as well, so I was paying a lot of attention on how much faster the 7970 is in various reviews. Everything I've read indicates that it's anywhere from 70-110% faster at 2560x1600 resolution (I run 3600x1920, so likely even even more of a difference). That's not even even considering the massive overclocking headroom of the 7970 vs barely any OC headroom of the 5870. Overclocked, a 7970 is easily twice as fast as a 5870. Reply
  • RaistlinZ - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    This is true. I came from a 5870 to a 7970 and at 2560x1600 the 7970 is easily twice as fast.

    And that's even before overclocking. My 5870 could barely overclock for crap, whereas my 7970 overclocks 27% on core and 18% on memory.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Thursday, March 08, 2012 - link

    Not according to Anandtechs benchmarks. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now