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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  • Exodite - Tuesday, March 06, 2012 - link

    I have absolutely no problem with that.

    The apt comparison would be the 7900 series though, and those only really fail on price.

    Which will likely change if Nvidia brings something competitive to the high end with Kepler.

    Lets face it, until the current consoles die in a fire and/or display makers see fit to bring sensibly priced >1080p panels to the desktop there's really no need for more performance in the desktop space.
  • SlyNine - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    The fact the things are sitting still.

    I'm running a 5870 which is basically 75% the performance of a 7970, and I paid 379 for the 5870. Which is also 75% of the cost of a 7970. The price of a 7970 is basically the exact same price structure as the 2 1/2 year old 5870, So we are stuck where we were in 2009, yay.

    This is NOT how the computer world is supposed to work, and as big geek, I don't like it.
  • morfinx - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    75% performance of 7970 would mean that it's 33% faster than a 5870. And that's just not accurate. I have a 5870 as well, so I was paying a lot of attention on how much faster the 7970 is in various reviews. Everything I've read indicates that it's anywhere from 70-110% faster at 2560x1600 resolution (I run 3600x1920, so likely even even more of a difference). That's not even even considering the massive overclocking headroom of the 7970 vs barely any OC headroom of the 5870. Overclocked, a 7970 is easily twice as fast as a 5870. Reply
  • Alpert - Tuesday, March 06, 2012 - link

    The 6950 retailed for $299 and the 6970 retailed for $369 when they were released. 10-25% performance increase for every new series of cards is what to expect. Now we can clearly see these card perform better then the 6950/6970, hell a 7850 overclocks to what a GTX580 is capable of.

    The value of what was a $600 GTX580 card more then a year ago, The value of a $499 GTX580 today, you get a $300 7850.

    The price you pay for performance is always going down just not in big steps.
  • Logsdonb - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    These should be excellent cards for crossfire solutions, especially when combined with the new PCI 3.0 bus system. They represent significant improvements in heat, power, and noise at their performance levels. I think these would work well in small form factor gaming PCs, especially when combined with the upcoming Ivy Bridge CPUs, which max out at 77 watts. I don't want a loud, space heater that sucks down massive power for a computer. I have also noticed that cooler systems tend to last longer and have few problems. I feel confident that the prices will come down once the competition from Nvidia comes out next month.

    I am thinking that we are approaching a really nice time to upgrade if you like balanced systems that deliver excellent gaming performance in reasonable portable packages that wont disturb your personal environment with excess heat and noise. I intend on waiting for Ivy bridge and Kepler before pulling the trigger, but I am eagerly awaiting upgrading evertyhing.
  • claysm - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    The price point on the 7xxx series cards seems to be a little too high at the moment, the only advantage they have is that that do outperform the GTX 5xx series cards in a number of ways (power consumption, performance, temps). The biggest problem with the 7xxx series is that they just don't perform that much higher at each price point than AMD's current 6xxx series cards. Why get a 7770 when you can, for the same money and MUCH more performance, get a 6870? The prices will drop when Kepler rolls around I'm sure, but for now, a little too high, given that most of the increases at each price point don't come in the realm of performance. Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Thursday, March 08, 2012 - link

    AMD has been listening to their little screaming fans who wailed that electric usage and core temps are all the rage....
    So now the amd fans need to PAY UP SOME $$$ for the nice electric consumption and core temp reduction... let's face it - they have told us all for years now those two things alone are well worth a purchase decision, PERIOD.
    I guess it's time for them to dig down deep since their Master has responded with everything they declared of utmost importance.
    What's wrong AMD fans ?
  • BrightCandle - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    I would love to see Anandtech start to look into the stutter/inconsistent frame problems with these modern graphics card reviews. The techreport has been doing a good job in blowing the lid on the problem, but you guys should be able to start to apply pressure to AMD/NVidia to improve the situation. The minimum average is not the worst it can be, the worst frame time is what you need to worry about. Averages over a second just aren't accurate enough. Reply
  • loeakaodas - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    These look like great performing cards that need a $50~$100 price drop & hopefully nVidia's new offering will force AMD to compete like they did with the legendary 4800 & 5800 series. I was hoping for a sensible upgrade path from my 2x5850's but it doesn't look like that exists yet, at least not at these price points. I'm better off of putting that money towards a large SSD upgrade, otherwise this midrange 2.5 year old system doesn't really beg for an upgrade. Reply
  • ET - Monday, March 05, 2012 - link

    The OC 7850 beats everything hands down at the 2560x1600 resolution, which doesn't look right considering the rest of the benchmarks.

    Also, on the Skyrim benchmark page the writeup has "GPUs GPUs" on it.

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