AMD and Nvidia have been competing for the graphics card market for many years, an occasional lull only meaning that the fighters are preparing for the next round. We can still recall how AMD was absolutely superior in the sector of DirectX 11 compatibles but then Nvidia finally transitioned nearly all of its product series to the modern Fermi architecture as well. And now we’re up to a new fight between the GPU developers as AMD rolls out its Radeon HD 6800 series.
AMD’s Graphics Products Group, formerly the independent company ATI Technologies, have amazing achievements under their belt. In less than a half-year since the announcement of the world’s first DirectX 11 compatible GPU, they released as many as 11 graphics card models from the entry-level Radeon HD 5450 to the top-performance Radeon HD 5970 which, by the way, still remains the fastest graphics card in the world. As a matter of fact, AMD didn’t particularly need to update this Radeon HD product line-up, yet resting on one’s laurels is never a good strategy. Besides, Nvidia had dealt quite a heavy blow with its GeForce GTX 460, so some kind of a response was called for. Another factor that might have worried AMD was that Nvidia’s solutions were better when doing tessellation.
As we wrote in an earlier review, the GeForce GTX 460 series is a serious threat to AMD in the sector of performance-mainstream graphics cards which combine two appealing qualities. They are affordable for the majority of users and they are fast enough to run modern games at a comfortable frame rate. This market sector used to be dominated by the Radeon HD 5830 and 5850 but the former has a cut-down configuration and uses an expensive PCB (and even the Cypress core itself had been designed for more expensive products). As for the Radeon HD 5850, it is good all around save for its price. Thus, AMD found itself lacking a good opponent to Nvidia’s GF104. This must be the reason why they are introducing their new Radeon HD generation, also known as Northern Islands, by announcing performance-mainstream solutions rather than top-end ones as is the customary practice.
Right now, AMD has the following strategy of changing its Radeon HD generations:
Clearly, the number 8 in the names of the new series products won’t mean top-end single-GPU solutions anymore. The number 9 is used for that purpose instead. The graphics core of these cards is codenamed Barts:
While developing the new GPU, AMD focused on striking an optimal balance of price, speed and functionality in the defined price range rather than on delivering sheer speed as Nvidia has been prone to do in its recent engineering efforts. Even though using the old 40nm tech process, the Barts features higher component density. Coupled with the reduced number of transistors, the new GPU turns to be compact and profitable to make, yet it also features impressive specs and a number of exciting innovations.