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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  • Galidou - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Yep, this must be the best price/performance ratio the 7xxx series has to offer yet but still nothing worth of buying unless you got a 3 years old plus video card...

    7870 priced at 300$ I wouldn't mind changing my 6850 crossfire for one of those considering the wattage and temperature of my actual setup. I was considering a gtx580 as they can be found on ebay for around 400$ used but this 7870 is around the same in every game I play at the resolution I play them. Plus the 2gb memory and cheaper price tag for a new one...

    But I'll still wait for the price to drop or switch to kepler if price/performance is amazing... Heard it should be but it's all speculation on something that's not out yet...
    Reply
  • chizow - Tuesday, March 06, 2012 - link

    Only took 4th product launch from AMD for you to see what I was saying was true, but better late than never. ;)

    But yeah the real value right now is the last-gen parts going EOL and selling for extremely low prices. The 6950/6970s are mostly dried up in the channel, but there were GTX 480s for $219 last week, up next on the chopping block should be the 560Ti448/570/580 for great prices ahead of Kepler's launch.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Tuesday, March 06, 2012 - link

    I never said that you were totally wrong, I was only saying that it's not the worst thing that's ever happened in computer's history, while you were making a freaking case of it because I spoke against Nvidia...

    And you still can't name even an older radeon card in your short list of cheap video cards to get... At 130$ and 160$ for a radeon 6850 and 6870 respectively you still get ALOT for what you pay for. Radeon 6870 isn't far from gtx 560ti. Why mentioning it when you're being paid by the green goblin, they would stop sending your fanboy checks I guess, just teasing :P

    There's one thing extraordinary about this gen, the size plus wattage used for THAT kind of performance... is quite amazing, it should just be priced accordingly to it's die size and it would be dirt cheap LOL... but no bang for your bucks here...while in this segment of the market where you usually ''get it all'' about price/performance ratio. Lower the price of 50$ for every 7xxx video card and it will be ALOT better.
    Reply
  • BPB - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    If nothing else I gotta believe that the new nVidia cards will force a quick price adjustment from AMD. I think we'll see the AMD cards drop $25 to $50 when the nvidia cards come out. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Friday, March 09, 2012 - link

    After running blackbox 2.3 and wenning to the Turkish site I find something very interesting on Kepler:
    " Nvidia 's next-generation family of Kepler frequencies, dynamic graphics cards needed to improve their own work. Rumor has officially been confirmed as yet have the ability to dynamically overclock Kepler cards will leave a strong impact in the markets."
    --
    LOL - Dynamic Overclocking of Kepler similar to Intel turbo... very nice Nvidia...
    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl...
    Reply
  • mak360 - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    "but $199 for a GTX 560 Ti is going to be hard to pass up while it lasts" I see you have to get a boot in there to AMD when possible. lol

    Most of the games are nvidia optimized where the 7850 loses one or two to the 560ti old tech.

    AMD`s been quite merciful to nvidia in regards to price points, when nvidia brings it on and the same happens (cards slot in without a challenge to AMD) I call shady business between the two or they don`t want to compete with each other, which is understandable i guess..

    Or maybe people need to forget the past and move on with "oh how nice and cheap prices were"
    Reply
  • sofreshsoclean2 - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    smoking card, faster than the 6970, fast as a gtx580 in a lot of those test but 150 smackeroos cheaper It is very close 7950 as well, finally a super fast card that is not 500 bucks. amazing card!! and nice review.

    thanks
    Reply
  • Devoteicon - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Upgrade my overclocked 5850 for one of these? Thanks but no thanks. Reply
  • geniusloci - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    I'm going to be getting one or the other. I'll have to decide if the 7870 is worth the additional cash or not. They will most assuredly drop in price once Nvidia launches its product. Having come from a 560Ti this will feel something like a side grade in performance, but having found out how much better ATIs cards do 2D and video I simply can't return to the blurry mess which is Nvidia right now. Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    So it's 2012 and AMD gives us two cards that do little more than match the GTX 570 and 580 in price/performance.

    Southern Island has been a huge disappointment so far.
    Reply

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