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Review: AMD Radeon HD 7850 & 7870
by Damien Triolet
Published on March 13, 2012

AMD took advantage of the opening of CeBIT to unveil the third and final member of the Southern Islands GPU family: Pitcairn. Powering the Radeon HD 7870 and 7850, this GPU has been designed for gamers looking for a decent compromise between price and performance. We’re going to see if this is what they'll get with a full test of these two new graphics cards.

GPU 28nm = expensive?
With Pitcairn, the Southern Islands GPU family, based on Graphics Core Next, is finally complete. Pitcairn joins Tahiti (Radeon HD 7900s) and Cape Verde (Radeon HD 7700s) and occupies the 'performance' segment, a positioning that interests a large number of gamers.

Gamers in this segment are looking for better deals than at the very top end and what they can get for their money is the crucial selling point. And yet, it has to be said, AMD is currently far from being aggressive when it comes to pricing of the Radeon HD 7000s already available. Maybe things will be different with the Radeon HD 7800s.

NVIDIA boss Jen Hsun Huang recently confided to analysts and investors that the TSMC 28 nanometre production lines have a relatively low yield as things stand and this is making for higher costs and reducing NVIDIA’s margins. This is apparently going to be the case for a few months more, before the situation improves at the end of the year.

There's no doubt, this also means AMD have less room for manoeuvre when it comes to pricing but it doesn’t mean that the relatively high price tags of the Radeon HD 7900s and 7700s are entirely linked to GPU manufacturing costs. Numerous factors come into play, including the novelty effect and the lack of competition which is encouraging AMD and its partners to maximise margins.

The good news is that on one hand the competition isn't likely to be long in coming and on the other the Radeon HD 7800s give an improved price / performance ratio as you'll see further on in the article.

Before going any deeper into our subject, note that AMD is highlighting the fact that Cape Verde and Pitcairn are the first standard card series GPUs to register clocks of 1 GHz. This is why the GHz Edition branding has been introduced and could well feature in the marketing communication on the graphics cards clocked at at least this frequency.

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The Pitcairn GPU: 2x Cape Verde, 28nm and GCN  

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