Meet The Radeon HD 7870 & Radeon HD 7850

For today’s review AMD sent over a 7870 and a 7850. Both are built on the 7870 reference design, so the cards are functionally identical except for the configuration of their respective GPU and the number of PCIe power sockets present.

For retail cards this will be very similar to the 7700 series launch, with partners doing semi-custom cards right away. In fact among the list of cards AMD sent us only Club3D will be using the complete 7870 reference design, while everyone else will be using the reference PCB along with their customary open air coolers. The 7850 will be even more divergent since AMD actually has a different, shorter reference PCB for these cards. Consequently our 7850 has very little in common with retail 7850s when it comes to their construction.


The Radeon HD 7850 Reference Design - Only Sampled To Partners

Starting as always with the cooler, the 7870 reference design is effectively a smaller version of the 7970 reference design. Here AMD is once again using a blower design with a slightly smaller blower, shrouded in the same hard red & black plastic as with the 7900. Underneath the shroud we find AMD’s heatsink, which utilizes a copper baseplate attached to 3 copper heatpipes, which in turn run into an aluminum heatsink that runs roughly half the length of the card. This is fairly typical for a blower design for a sub-200W card, but again almost all of the retail cards will be using a completely different open air design.

The 7870 PCB itself runs 9.5” long, with an additional .25” of shroud overhang bringing the total to 9.75”. Our card is equipped with 8 5GHz 256MB Hynix GDDR5 memory chips, the same 5GHz chips that we saw on the 7700 series. For the 7870 power is provided by a pair of 6pin PCIe power socket, while the sub-150W 7850 uses a single socket. Both cards feature a single CrossFire connector, allowing them to be paired up in a 2-way CrossFire configuration.

Meanwhile for display connectivity AMD is using the same configuration as we’ve seen on the 7900 series: 1 DL-DVI port, 1 HDMI port, and 2 miniDP ports. Interestingly, unlike the 7900 series and 7700 series there is a set of pads for a second DVI port on the card, and while AMD doesn’t make use of them at least one XFX card will. The 7800 series as the same display configuration options as the 7900 series though, so while it can drive up to 6 monitors it can only drive 2 TMDS type displays at once, and if you want to drive a full 6 monitors you’ll need a MST hub.

Finally, I wanted to touch on marketing for a bit. We typically don’t go into any detail on marketing, but with the 7800 something AMD did caught my eye. One of AMD’s marketing angles will be to pitch the 7800 series as an upgrade for the 5800 series; AMD doesn’t typically pitch cards as upgrades in this manner, and the 5800 comparison is especially odd.

At 2.5 years old the 5800 series is no longer the video card king but it’s also not particularly outdated; other than tessellation performance it has held up well relative to newer cards. More specifically, the 7800 series performance is roughly equal to the 6900 series, and while the 6900 series as a step up from the 5800 series it was not a massive leap. With its $350/$250 MSRP the 7800 series has common pricing with the 5800 series, but at only 20-40% faster than the 5800 it’s not the kind of step up in performance that typically justifies such a large purchase. Of course AMD’s conservative pricing has a lot to do with this, but at the end of the day it’s odd to call the 7800 series the upgrade for the 5800 series when the 7950 is the more natural upgrade from a performance perspective.

AMD Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition & Radeon HD 7850 Review Further Image Quality Improvements: SSAA LOD Bias and MLAA 2.0
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  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, March 08, 2012 - link

    Yet if one is not running gigantic resolutions, they look at the usual, 1920 and 1650 p resolutions, and likely want to crank all the eye candy to the limit, which is still IMPOSSIBLE at those common resolutions with 60+ frames in so many of the popular games.
    So the real problem is you go from "can't do it all" to "still can't do it all" but at least you've got 40 frames going to 55 on your one screen... with maybe one more setting of 7 at ultra...
    ---
    For others with 3x 2560 most of us really don't give a crap if they claim they get 2x frames - because if they don't have 2 or 3 or 4 of them running, they are stuck in turn down the eye candy crapsville TOO.
    --
    We almost always hear that we are stuck with console ports, the exact opposite of the real truth in the real problem.
    A 570 is NOT ENOUGH, a 7870 is not either, nor is a 7970 for 1900x1200.
    IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
    Reply
  • SlyNine - Thursday, March 08, 2012 - link

    75% was wrong, but so is 70-110% faster.

    Crysis 2560x1600 at the MAX settings its 20 vx 33, which is just over 60%

    Drop down to 1920x1200 at the advantage drops to 50%.

    Metro its 60% at max res/settings (36vs22.5)

    Drop that down to 1920X1200 and its just over 50%

    Dirt 3 its just over 50% at max res/settings Drop that down to 1920x1200 and its remains just above 50% ( 104 vs 68.4)

    Battlefield 3 its 50% (49.7 vs 32.6) at max settings/res.

    So where the heck are you getting 70% to 110% ??

    2 1/2 years ago I payed around 66% of your price, and I'm getting 66% of your performence, ALMOST 3 YEARS. THIS IS NOT MOVING THINGS FORWARD
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, March 08, 2012 - link

    Get back to us krummer when the 7870 is "released" and has "stable drivers" that "work most of the time" in "most of the games" and the IQ cheats of 10% driver default plus ever more now with this new blur job called MLAA and the lack of LOD bias up high enough that "in the case of SSAA" it's another low detail IQ cut down, not to mention other things like PhysX and tessellation above 10 all the way to 32...the other "unneeded" "eye candy" that "sucks" because amd sucks at doing it.
    *
    9% , minus 10% standardized cheat, minus SSAA LOD bias cheat, minus MLAA blur cheat, minus PhysX, minus 8 other things I won't take time to mention doesn't sound like "faster" to me.
    I mean come on, if the arch is so superior, why all the hack and cheats and crappy blurring and lack of features ?
    Are the drivers going to be another ongoing nightmare for 47% of all ibm pc implementations ?
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    @ Kiste: Agreed.

    The "competition is necessary" meme needs to die in the tech sector because it isn't necessary.

    Most of this stuff doesn't expire or die on its own, not before it becomes obsolete anyways and in order for it to become obsolete there needs to be innovation and performance increases.

    That's what drives innovation with technology and it certainly exists without competition.
    Reply
  • medi01 - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    What are you talking about, considering AMD 7850 is faster in most tests than nVidia's 80$ more expensive 570, at the same time consuming 25% less energy. Reply
  • Malih - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    I think this is the decision of the new management, they decide to price something that performs better to price higher.

    Probably will drop the price in the future, but it would require a new release from nVidia with agressive pricing. It is rumored nVidia will release new cards near the end of March.
    Reply
  • biassj - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Shitty pricing again, if the pricing was 50 bucks cheaper I would probably consider buying 7870 or 7950 at this moment. These high prices will just have me wait to see what Nvidia has to offer. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Huh, I thought it was GTX 570 class for less.

    Seems solid enough.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    For the 7850, I mean. Reply
  • chizow - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    This pricing isn't nearly as bad as the 7770 or 7950/7970, but its still pretty poor overall given it once again, slides right in to existing price structures offering very little incentive to upgrade and very little price performance value compared to what has been available for 14+ months. Reply

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