AMD held a press briefing today on their upcoming 8000M graphics chips, which they are calling the "second generation GCN architecture" parts. We’ll have more on that in a moment, but while we were expecting (dreading) a rebranding prior to the call, it appears we are at least partially mistaken; there will be at least one completely new GPU with 8000M. (If you want additional background material, you can see the previous generation high-end 7000M announcement from April 2012 for reference.)

I’m not going to get too far into the marketing aspects, as we’ve heard all of this information before: AMD has improved Enduro Technology, they’re continuing to improve their drivers, and APP Acceleration has a few more applications. There have been a few major titles released in the past couple of months with AMD Gaming Evolved branding (Far Cry 3 is arguably the most notable of the offerings, with Hitman: Absolution and Sleeping Dogs also scoring well amongst critics and users), and Bioshock Infinite is at least one future release that I'm looking forward to playing.

Cutting straight to the chase, at this point AMD has released limited information on the core specifications for some of their 8000M GPUs, but they coyly note that at least one more GPU announcement will be forthcoming in Q2 2013 (8900M by all appearances). Today is a soft launch of high level details, with more architectural information and product details scheduled for January 7, 2013 at CES. AMD did not share any codenames for the newly announced mobile GPUs, if you’re wondering, other than the overall family name of “Solar” for the mobile chips (replacing the outgoing “London” series), but we do know from other sources that the 384 core part is codenamed "Mars" while the larger 640 core part is codenamed "Neptune". Here are the details we have right now:

AMD Radeon HD 8500M, 8600M, 8700M, and 8800M
HD 8500M
HD 8600M
HD 8700M
HD 8800M
Stream Processors 384 384 384 640
Engine Clock 650MHz 775MHz 650-850MHz 650-700MHz
Memory Clock 2.0GHz/4.5GHz 2.0GHz/4.5GHz 2.0GHz/4.5GHz 4.5GHz
FP32 GFLOPS 537 633 537-691 992
FP64 GFLOPS 33 39 33-42 62

Obviously there are a lot of missing pieces right now, but what we immediately notice is that the core count on the 8500M/8600M/8700M means that we’re definitely looking at a new GPU. The only other time we’ve seen AMD do 384 cores is with Trinity, but that’s a VLIW4 architecture so we’re not seeing that again. Given the currently shipping Southern Islands chips (“London” on the mobile side) have 640 cores max for Cape Verde, 1280 max for Pitcairn, and up to 2048 for Tahiti, AMD has likely created a fourth SI derivative that drops down to two CU arrays, each with three CUs. (You can read more about the GCN/SI architecture in our earlier GPU coverage.) Performance is something of a wildcard with the new 384 core parts, and the choice of DDR3/GDDR5 memory will also influence the final result. We'll find out in the coming months how the 8500/8600/8700M stack up to NVIDIA's midrange "GT" offerings, which interestingly are also using 384 cores.

Also worth a quick note is that AMD is not discussing TDPs at this point in time—which is common practice for both AMD and NVIDIA. We expect the new "Mars" parts to be more power efficient than the outgoing Thames/Turks cores, thanks to the shrink to a 28nm process. However, AMD and NVIDIA typically stick to common power targets for laptops that are dictated by their OEM partners, which often means they'll play with clock speeds in order to hit a specific TDP. That's why all of the clock speeds listed in the above table have a qualifying "up to" prefix (which I omitted).

The final announced card is the one where we appear to have more of a rebrand/optimization of a previous generation chip. 8800M has the same 640 core count as Cape Verde/7800M, only with modified clocks this time. The earlier 7800M chips could clock up as high as 800MHz, so maximum core clock is actually down a bit, but they only ran the memory at up to 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5. If AMD determined memory bandwidth was more important for that particular GPU than shader performance, the new 8800M would make sense. Also note that AMD isn’t including the boost clock speeds into the above chart; under the right circumstances, all of the new chips can run at higher clocks than the reference clock.

Radeon 7800M Left, Radeon 8800M Right

AMD isn’t calling the 8800M a rebrand, but we’re looking at the same core counts as Cape Verde and the same 28nm process technology, so we wouldn’t expect a substantial change in performance. There’s also the above chip shot as a point of reference. If the 8800M is substantially different from Cape Verde then the above images provided in AMD’s slides must be incorrect, as the new and old chips look the same. Minor tweaks to power use, caching, or other elements notwithstanding, we’re probably dealing with a die respin at most. But, there’s nothing inherently wrong with rebranding—AMD and NVIDIA have both been doing it for some time now. Don’t expect every “upgraded” GPU to be better; a 7400M isn’t faster than a 6700M, and likewise we expect 7700M and 7800M to be faster options than the 384 core 8500M/8600M/8700M and competitive with 8800M. Here’s a quick recap of the same core specs as above for the current 7700M/7800M parts:

AMD Radeon HD 7700M/7800M Specifications
HD 7730M
HD 7750M
HD 7770M
HD 7850M
HD 7870M
Stream Processors 512 512 512 640 640
Engine Clock 575-675MHz 575MHz 675MHz 675MHz 800MHz
Memory Clock 1.8GHz 4.0GHz 4.0GHz 4.0GHz 4.0GHz
FP32 GFLOPS 589-691 589 691 864 1024
FP64 GFLOPS 36.8-43.2 36.8 43.2 54 64

I’ll refrain from commenting too much more about performance of an unreleased part, but AMD indicated their 8870M should be substantially faster than NVIDIA’s current GT 650M GDDR5 (which isn’t too surprising considering clocks and core counts), and the 8770M should likewise be a healthy 20%+ bump in performance relative to the 7670M. I’d rather see comparisons with GTX 670MX and HD 7770M, respectively, but I suspect those wouldn’t be quite as impressive. Anyway, you can see AMD’s comparison charts in the complete slide deck gallery below. Availability of the new GPUs is slated for Q1 2013.



View All Comments

  • transphasic - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - link

    Since most of us here on the site/forum are gamers to any level or degree, all I/we care about with this new announcement, is just HOW on Earth AMD is going to compete with Nvidia on the high-end gaming GPU's, if they at all can at this point on, due to the latest Enduro fiasco that we all as unfortunate AMD customers can attest to. From what I am seeing within this announcement, is that there is no substantial improvements coming from AMD in terms of improved gaming (hint: Enduro side-stepping), and that Nvidia is still the way to go for 2013 and beyond.
    As one who is well-acquainted personally with the Enduro fiasco, I am now more than ever looking at swapping out my 7970m and going back to Nvidia in 2013.
    As the old saying goes- "Once burned twice shy..."
  • CeriseCogburn - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - link

    The real question is how you were stupid enough to get burned in the 1st place.
    Are you proud of the amd PR brain changed fanboys who lied you into it ?
  • bennyg - Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - link

    This looks like the I-cant-believe-it's-not-a-rebrand-rebrand. Shift the specs slightly, tweak the die/process to reduce cost/increase yield, fix a couple of bugs, maybe add a couple of nothing 'features', maybe add enough clockspeed to actually differentiate the old from the new on a bar graph; enough to let Marketing Divison get away with calling it "New"... actually, kind of exactly like the car industry does.

    Nvidia did it with their 8xxx series, all the way through 9xxx desktop and mobile, then as no GT200 part trickled down to mobile, that continued with the odd GT1xxM, the whole 2xxM series, then a few repeated and tweaked parts in the 3xxM. The GTX260M I had in my last laptop was basically a 55nm version of a desktop 9800 GTX.

    TL;DR It's all just the same old game just the players shift their tactics slightly re media dealings
  • Jedi2155 - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - link

    Looks like the title of the 2nd Table for the 7700M/7800M parts still has the 8800 series names. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - link

    Fixed, thanks! Reply
  • aguilpa1 - Friday, December 21, 2012 - link

    Yes I yawned and I meant it. Reply
  • ForeverAlone - Sunday, December 23, 2012 - link

    The moment I saw "8500" I had traumatic flashbacks to my shitty 8500GT. Reply
  • tuxRoller - Saturday, December 29, 2012 - link

    Battery life varies tremendously based on distro, hardware support, and customization.

    For the most part you should expect excellent battery life from think pads as those are heavily used by developers.

    As for game performance, Gabe posted fairly recently about how surprised they were about Ubuntu posting higher fps than Windows (even after using the ogl drivers on windows). I wouldnt generalize from that but I wouldn't generalize in the other direction either.

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