With the GCN architecture AMD has proven itself to deliver a mature and great performing series of GPUs. The 7900 was received positive, we think the 7700 series is okay (albeit too expensive), the 7800 series however surprises me the best in every forseeable way.
The entire 28nm chip stack has now been filled and both the Radeon HD 7850 and 7870 are graphics cards that pack a serious amount of performance. The reality is that the Radeon HD 7850 is actually positioned against the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, but it is battling with the GeForce GTX 570 easily just as well. The Radeon HD 7870 on it's end riding the GTX 580's "toosh" all the time and for mid-range targeted cards, that shows a lot of performance. That said you should also realize that the cards tested today are reference sample. AMD's partners will start selling factory faster clocked models as well, so the performance bracket for these cards to operate in can still rise another 10% easily.
We have to discuss power consumption, as I'm riddled how AMD pulls that off. If we stay focused on the R7870 for a minute you'll agree with me that it's in the same performance level as a GTX 580 right?
Well, the R7870 used roughly a 100 Watts LESS then that GTX 580. When we reverse calculate and measure the power consumption the R7870 uses roughly 130 Watt where the GTX 580 hovers at a 235~240W, and that's measured in game while it's peaking and stressed. So for the R7850... well we measure roughly 106 Watt. Amazing stuff really.
The MSRP (in USD) prices will be 349$ for HD 7870 GHz Edition and 249$ for HD 7850, and that is just a really fair price level.
The 7800 series will be sweet products for the people gaming at 1920x1080/1200, it's is precisely there where the cards will show muscle and they won't be shy about the beefy and demanding modern game titles. Just set your image quality preference and the cards will push very nice framerates. If we look at the RTS genre with Anno 2070 then at 1920x1200 we get a good 53 FPS on average from the 7850 and a great 67 FPS on average with the 7870. That game is locked in at the very best image quality settings with 4xAA enabled.
Battlefield 3 then, here's where we enabled that near silly Ultra quality settings mode and 4xAA. Now granted the R7850 is on the edge here with 32 FPS on average, but the R7870 is kicking it loud with 39 FPS. With our IQ settings and opted level these are downright respectful numbers compared to other products in the same price range.
When you look at the overall package, performance, the new Eyefinity updates, PCIe gen 3 compatibility and all other stuff then we can only conclude that we happily embrace the Radeon HD 7800 series in the mainstream to enthusiast graphics card arena. For those that embrace multi-monitor gaming, it's for you guys that AMD decided to go for the 2GB framebuffer / graphics memory. For the 7850 we expect you may opt a 1 GB model as well, but with modern games we recommend 2 GB these days anyways (if you like better image quality that is).
Overclocking then, as you have notice the cards both are tweaking marvels. We do have to state that the R7850 is more limited with the one 6-pin PCIe power header and Overdrive clock limitations. But if you put the card instantly on the maximum AMD overclock settings, then 1050 MHz on the core does just not seem to be an issue, and that's nearly 200 MHz over the stock clock. Combined with memory tweaking you'll bring the performance level towards an R7870, instantly within 5 seconds work.
The R7870 definitely is built for even more, voltage tweaking will become an option, but even without it we got pretty close to 1200 MHz on the GPU core. 1100 MHz should be a fairly safe setting to use though. Also on both cards there was no issue putting the memory at 1450->5800 MHz. The overall result can boost your graphics performance another 10 to even 20% depending on your tweaking success.
The circle that is the Radeon HD 7000 series is now almost complete with the exception of some dual-GPU madness -- yes the R7990 is still pending a launch. But before we get to that one, I just want to say that I'm very pleased with both the Radeon HD 7850 and 7870.
The performance is good, the features very nice, the power consumption is fantastic and the heat and noise levels are a non-issue (though we do not have numbers on the smaller PCB and cooler version of the 7850 ). Now if the end-user prices will be fair (drop a little further) and at the level as earlier reported then the R7800 series is going to be a success. We'd recommend the R7850 to the casual and enthusiast gamers with a monitor resolution of 1920x1080/1200. The R7870 is obviously for the ones that demand a little more performance and have a need for tweaking and overclocking.
The complete package is done right. Overall we can only say this, well-done AMD. The Radeon HD 7800 series could be a homerun in the graphics card arena.
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