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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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  • Kaboose - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    7870, beats GTX 570 and is about even with the GTX 580, uses 150watts less power at load, is quieter, is cooler, and has idle power draw > 23watts less. How is this a disappointment? The only disappointment i see is the price which is the result of no competition from Nvidia. Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    A new generation of GPUs used to give us a whole hell of a lot more performance at any given price point. The current AMD stuff does not and that is a disappointment.

    Case in point: you even have to talk these things up by basically saying "oh, well, at least they draw less power".
    Reply
  • Kaboose - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    dropping power consumption by over 50% is something of a gimmick? Dropping load temps by 14c compared to the GTX 570 is not significant? 14c is a fairly large degree of deference, this gives higher room for overclocking as well as a cooler system overall. When Nvidia releases Kepler and we have both companies with 28nm then we can (hopefully) see some competition in price. In my opinion the 7870 at $325 would be a great card right now. Once Kepler is out $285-300 I think would be nice. I agree it is over priced right now however.

    If Nvidia releases Kepler and gives us a LOT more performance over last generation then I will concede that the 7xxx series is a failure. However from the way AMD is behaving it doesn't appear Kepler is going to do much in terms of raw performance either.
    Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    While reducing power consumption might not be a gimmick, it is the result of the new process node and thus in itself not particularly impressive, especially when you more or less keep the performance the same as with the previous generation.

    I'm still not impressed, sorry. Price/performance plain and simply sucks ass with these cards, barely beating the stuff that's on the market right now in that regard.

    And even with the high-end SI cards there's barely much of a performance boost compared to what's already been on the market for months.

    Sure, less power draw is nice. I won't complain about it but if a brand new generation of GPUs comes out and I am not even one little bit compelled to upgrade from my aging, heavily overclocked GTX570, then something is cleary wrong here.
    Reply
  • Exodite - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    We'll just have to wait and see what Nvidia provides when they finally decide to put competition on the market, won't we?

    I'd happily agree to finding the 7900-series not as high-performing as I'd like, and the 7700-series too expensive.

    From the reviews I've read so far the 7800-series, the 7850 especially, is pretty much the perfect card ATM.

    Low power, low noise, cool, 2GB VRAM and runs between a 560 Ti and 570 in performance.

    It's definitely the card I'd recommend to anyone at this point, especially given the fact that we'll see better coolers than AMDs atrocities once we get release versions.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    You must live in a cold climate. You're happy with a heavily overclocked 570?? I live in FL, and that card increases my power bill $30-$70 each month over my 6870 during 3 of the 4 seasons, and I'm talking from experience. Do you have any idea how hard an A/C has to work in a small 2 bedroom house to counter the blast of heat from an overclocked gaming rig??

    If you live in a hot climate, test it for yourself.

    You don't compare just the power draw of the cards themselves....
    Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    I'm not quite sure if you're actually expecting a serious answer to that kind of hyperbolic drivel. Reply
  • Jamahl - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    You really don't get it do you? These cards REALLY DO heat up rooms. Where do you think the heat goes? Ever heard of the law of conservation of energy? Reply
  • londiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    oh damn, i need to get two of those, maybe they'll reduce my heating bill at winter :) Reply
  • Kiste - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    Spelling "really do" in capital letter doesn't make it any more less ridiculous a statement.

    My whole PC (GPU, OCed CPU, 4 HDDS) draws slightly more than 300W under typical gaming loads. You can't "heat up a room" with that, much less with just the GPU.
    Reply

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