AMD Releases New-Generation Performance-Mainstream Graphics Cards

AMD Launches Radeon HD 6800-Series Graphics Cards

by Anton Shilov
10/22/2010 | 01:12 PM

Advanced Micro Devices on Friday launched its new series of graphics cards aimed at performance-mainstream customers. The Radeon HD 6870 provides similar level of performance as the popular ATI Radeon HD 5850 and has a number of improvements amid recommended price of just $239.


The Radeon HD 6800 family of graphics cards consists of two boards: Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850. The graphics boards are based on the code-named Barts graphics processor that features significantly improved tessellation module, improved texture filtering units, more advanced universal video decoder (UVD 3.0) as well as some other tweaks. There are also trade-offs: AMD's graphics chip engineers had to remove support for double-precision compute and increase maximum voltage so to enable higher clock-speed on chips that feature lower amount of execution units than its predecessor, the code-named Cypress chip, which powered the Radeon HD 5800. Just like Cypress, Barts is made using 40nm process technology.

Thanks to generally refined DirectX 11 architecture, 256-bit GDDR5 memory controller, increased clock-speed (despite of decreased amount of stream processors and texture units) as well as improvements like better tessellation module amid smaller die size hence lower price, the new Radeon HD 6870 seems to be generally more competitive than the previous-generation Radeon HD 5850. It is especially notable that now both models 6850 and 6870 support up to six monitors, not a mainstream feature that will be sported by $179 and $239 graphics cards.

“AMD is the market share leader by a landslide in DirectX 11 graphics*. Through our sweet spot strategy and our open, industry standards approach, we have worked to deliver the best possible experience for gamers. Today, our laser focus on gamers continues with the introduction of what we think is far and away the best graphics card series today, the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series," said Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager of GPU division at AMD.

One of the things that clearly was a drawback of the ATI Radeon HD 5000 "Evergreen" was performance of tessellation functions. Even though real games hardly demonstrated problems because of tessellation unit's performance, it was a problem. In the new generation Northern Islands processor - when it comes to the Radeon HD 6800 - several improvements to the tessellation unit was made.  In particular, the company improved thread management for domain shaders and re-sized some queues and buffers to achieve significantly higher peak throughput, particularly at lower tessellation levels. Even though the changes had negligible impact on transistor count or power consumption, two times higher the tessellation rate in synthetic tests is declared by AMD.

The AMD Radeon HD 6800 series graphics cards are the first in the industry to offer support for both DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4a, providing PC users with expanded options for multi-monitor configurations, display selection, and new DisplayPort audio features. Thanks to new drivers, the new graphics boards also feature better support for third-party stereo-3D (S3D) middleware.

The new Radeon HD 6800-series graphics cards is supported by a dozen add-in-board companies, including Asustek Computer, Club 3D, Diamond Multimedia, Force3D, Gigabyte, HIS (Hightech Information Systems), MSI, PowerColor, Sapphire Technology, VisionTek and XFX.

With the launch of the new generation of graphics cards, AMD drops the ATI brand and starts calling its graphics processor as AMD Radeon. The decision is more than questionable to say at least, but it has been made in an attempt to strengthen the brand of AMD. As a result, the new graphics boards due in Q4 2010 will be called AMD Radeon HD 6990, AMD Radeon HD 6970, AMD Radeon HD 6950, AMD Radeon HD 6870, AMD Radeon HD 6850 and so on.

*According to Mercury Research data for Q2 2010.