AMD’s HD7000 family of graphics cards based off their new architecture, GCN, has been snatching up market share from Nvidia for the better part of six months now, winning over gamers with a low power draw, efficient design and improved specs over the outgoing HD5000 and HD6000 series.
The icing on top is the HD7850 – a gamer’s friend at R2600 which clubs the GTX560Ti effectively at its price point and may force Nvidia into a major price war. As manufacturers design and price their GTX560Ti units closer to R2000, I began to wonder how AMD was going to cope with that. Behold, Tom’s Hardware may have stumbled on the answer.
What you see above is a single-slot edition of the Radeon HD7850 which was mistakenly sent to Tom’s Hardware in Europe for testing purposes. After all, the site has a number of technical writers who could provide valuable input to AMD in the process of designing and testing out new hardware. They were told they would be receiving a test unit for a single-slot HD7850, a card that would fit even better in many gaming computers and would be perfect in that high-powered HTPC you’re planning to build.
But it was not the card that they were expecting. The test unit has a large number of shaders disabled for a total of 768 shaders, which puts it in the half-way mark between the HD7850 and the HD7770. If there ever was a planned HD7830, I’d bet this would be the way to go. On closer inspection and with some exchange with AMD’s offices in Shanghai, Tom’s learned that the board was intended for testing purposes, to demonstrate to board partners how chip yields could affect how they’ll supply graphics cards to customers. That’s actually a normal thing, and plenty of manufacturers disable circuits of their cards to test out designs while the final product is being tapered out. But this one is special.
With only 768 shaders enabled, the card falls in line with the GTX560Ti and GTX560Ti 448-core in many benchmarks, drawing alongside and almost beating it in Crysis 2 and Battlefield 3 respectively. In the past, HD-x830 cards were praised for their value for money, straddling the bargain bin line but offering up extremely good value for money.
If AMD is making an HD7830, it would be priced closer to R2200 to make it more competitive and to secure market share for buyers who don’t want the HD7770, but can’t stump up the extra grand for the HD7850. Tom’s sadly wouldn’t go into benchmarks for power consumption or thermal performance, but revealed that on average the card consumed 10w less than the reference HD7850 – not surprising considering the PCB does belong to the reference HD7850 design, but interesting because with a few more tweaks it could easily fall to as much as 20w more under its bigger brother. Being a single-slot cooler, though, there is more heat to deal with, but that shouldn’t be much of an issue for enthusiasts with the proper chassis.
In the conclusion, Tom’s summed up that the card, if it indeed was a plan for a HD7830, would do well in its place next to the GTX560Ti and if equipped with 1GB of DDR5 RAM, would be cheaper and the better value choice. Nvidia hasn’t said or revealed how they’re planning on improving the GTX560Ti – they thankfully can’t do a rebrand this time because Fermi is old hat now. Going even further, by making this version of the HD7850 more efficient, it may actually be able to run without a PCI-Express 6-pin connector, powerful enough to combat the “Green” editions of the GTX560 that are still around.
All in all, I really hope AMD sees the potential in a card like this and releases it to the public as a cut-down HD7850. It would give gamers a choice at the lower price points the GTX560Ti is being driven to and, if nothing else, will keep the company in mindshare as well. I wouldn’t upgrade to it just yet as my HD6870 is still ticking along nicely, but for those of you still on the HD4770, HD4850 and HD4870 this would be a good deal.