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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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  • 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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