Last week we reported that an engineering sample card with 768 shaders accidentally found its way into our lab instead of the HD 7850 we were expecting. This GPU may be meant for engineers, but it piqued our interest, since it happens to fill a large gap.
Often, the most obvious things are the hardest to see. Although it assures us that our 768-shader engineering sample is unrepresentative of any planned product, we hope that AMD is taking note and perhaps reconsidering its approach to a GPU that'd fill the hole between existing Radeon HD 7700 and 7800 cards. After all, a board that goes head-to-head with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 560 Ti and consumes less power than a Radeon HD 7850 is certain to find a receptive audience.
Who might that be? As we see it, anyone unable (or unwilling) to spend $250 on a graphics card, but also disappointed by the much lower performance offered one step down at $150. The engineering sample today, based on a deliberately-hobbled 768-shader Pitcairn GPU is everything we could want from a $200 piece of hardware, although, again, no such component is said to even be in discussions.
Another unknown here is how quickly Nvidia plans to follow up its Fermi-based GeForce GTX 560 Ti with something newer and more efficient, and at what price.
Let's keep our little dream going. While our prototype board sports 2 GB of memory, we don’t see any reason why AMD couldn't step that down to 1 GB, cutting cost, and making an actual in-between product more affordable. You wouldn't need to worry about giving up performance. At the resolutions and detail settings such an incarnation would target, 1 GB of GDDR5 memory would be more than sufficient. Remember the Radeon HD 6950? That card’s 1 GB implementation actually turned out to be faster than the 2 GB model! At any rate, a hypothetical Pitcairn-based card with 768 SPs and 1 GB of memory (AMD doesn't even want us to speculate about what such a board would be called) would be a very worthy successor to the Radeon HD 6870 that AMD has already EoLed.
In closing, we must reiterate that the board we tested is a prototype meant for internal development and validation purposes, and does not represent the single-slot Radeon HD 7850 we were supposed to be reviewing today, nor is it indicative of anything currently in AMD's development pipeline, the company stresses. It is not meant for sale or distribution, either. That's a shame, in our opinion. We believe AMD has the opportunity to address a very real market demand. Who knows, though? Maybe the right people at AMD will read your opinions and change their mind. Here’s your chance to be heard directly by AMD, so let us and them know what you think in the comments section.
- What If A 768-Shader Pitcairn Existed?
- A Look At The Tech Specs
- Test Setup And Benchmarks
- Benchmark Results: 3DMark 11 And Unigine
- Benchmark Results: Metro 2033, AvP, And Crysis 2
- Benchmark Results: Mafia II, GTA IV, And Batman Arkham City
- Benchmark Results: DiRT3, StarCraft 2, And Battlefield 3
- Impressions: Overall Performance, Power, Thermals
- A Wistful Conclusion