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What’s In a Name?

GPU naming is rarely consistent. While NVIDIA is usually the biggest perpetrator of naming confusion or suddenly switched names AMD does not have a clear record either (the Mobility 5100 series comes to mind). However we’re not sure there’s precedent for AMD’s latest naming decision, and there’s really no stepping around it. So we have a few thoughts we’d like to share.

Since the introduction of the Radeon 3870 in 2007, 800 has been the series designation for AMD’s high-end products. The only time they’ve broken this is last year, when AMD ditched the X2 moniker for their dual-GPU card for the 5900 designation, a move that ruffled a few feathers but at least made some sense since the 5970 wasn’t a true 5870 X2. Regardless, the 800 series has since 2007 been AMD’s designation for their top single-chip product.

With that naming scheme come expectations of performance. Each 800 series card has been successively faster, and while pricing has been inconsistent as AMD’s die size and costs have shifted, ultimately each 800 series card was a notable step up in performance from the previous card. With the 6800 this is not the case. In fact it’s absolutely a step down, the 6800 series is on average 7% slower than the 5800 series. This doesn’t mean that AMD hasn’t made enhancements to the card –we’ve already covered the enhanced tessellation unit, AA/AF, UVD3, and other features – but these are for the most part features and not performance enhancements.


Click to enlarge

Today AMD is turning their naming scheme on its head by launching these Barts cards with the 6800 name, but without better-than-5800 performance. AMD’s rationale for doing this is that they’re going to be continuing to sell the 5700 series, and that as a result they didn’t want to call these cards the 6700 series and introduce confusion. Furthermore AMD is trying to recapture the glory days of the 4800 series, where those parts sold for under $300 and then quickly under $200. It wasn’t until the 5800 series that an 800 series card became outright expensive. So for these reasons, AMD wanted to call these Barts cards the 6800 series.

We find ourselves in disagreement with AMD here.

We don’t have a problem with AMD introducing the 6 series here – the changes they’ve made, even if not extreme, at least justify that. But there’s a very real issue of creating confusion for buyers of the 5800 series now by introducing the 6800 series. The performance may be close and the power consumption lower, but make no mistake, the 5800 series was faster.

Ultimately this is not our problem; this is AMD’s problem. So we can’t claim harm per-say, but we can reflect on matters. The Barts cards being introduced today should have been called the 6700 series. It would have made the latest rendition of the 700 series more expensive than last time, but at the same time Barts is a very worthy upgrade to the 5700 series. But then that’s the problem for AMD; they don’t want to hurt sales of the 5700 series while it’s still on the market.

High IQ: AMD Fixes Texture Filtering and Adds Morphological AA NVIDIA’s 6870 Competitor & The Test
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  • Targon - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Since the 6870 can not beat the 5870, shouldn't AMD leave the 5870 on the market until they have a true replacement ready? Price vs. Performance is one thing, but dropping their high end parts and replacing them with mid-range cards($200ish) just doesn't have the "Wow!" factor that helps drive sales across the price ranges. Reply
  • Jansen - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    That would be the 6900 series next month:
    http://www.dailytech.com/Radeon+6800+Series+Launch...
    Reply
  • Kyanzes - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Just to be on the safe side I'd like to see minimum FPS results. Although there's very little doubt in my mind that it underperforms. Reply
  • animekenji - Saturday, December 25, 2010 - link

    It doesn't underperform. HD6970 replaces HD5870. HD6870 will be replacing HD5770, which it vastly outperforms. What about the new numbering scheme don't you get? Reply
  • Onyx2291 - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    If I had a job and the money, one of these would be on it's way to my house right now. Reply
  • Doctor_Possum - Thursday, November 11, 2010 - link

    One of these is on it's way to my house right now. Can't wait. Reply
  • Onyx2291 - Thursday, December 22, 2011 - link

    Over a year later, and one is now on it's way to my house right now :D Reply
  • Rasterman - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Ok nVidia, ATI, Intel, enough with the shitty naming of your devices, a 5870 beats a 6870? Really? I mean come on! Really? Create a committee to agree on a group of benchmarks the result of which is what you get to name your card. Score 100, you now have the Radeon 100, score 340, you now have a GeForce 340. Reply
  • Fleeb - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Though I must agree with you, AMD gave a reason why they did that (marketing perspective) - they are not going to drop 5770 and 5750 yet but replace 5870 and 5850 with 6970 and 6950. Perhaps everything will go back to normal again in the 7xxx series. Reply
  • bennyg - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    Maybe if it were something like 6810 and 6830 there wouldn't be so many complaints.

    But the wider issue is the quasi-quantitative naming schemes in general, they'll never be a perfectly accurate representation of "performance" (or "value for money" or whatever other metric that every individual buyer interprets it to be)

    There'll never be any standard like that, marketing needs wiggle-room that independently-derived pure numbers do not provide. So they'll never agree to it.
    Reply

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