AMD beat NVIDIA to the punch with its 7000-series “Southern Islands” graphics cards, and if the rumors hold true the company may well accomplish the same feat with its next generation architecture. Codenamed Sea Islands, the architecture of AMD’s 8800-series is set to (allegedly) debut around January 2013 time frame. Featuring DirectX 11, GPGPU and power efficiency improvements, 3.4 billion transistors on a 28nm process, and a rumored sub-$300 price, will the 8850 and 8870 win over enthusiasts?
AMD launched its Southern Island graphics cards with the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture and Pitcairn GPU in March of this year. Since then NVIDIA has moved into the market with the 660 and 660Ti, and budget gamers have lots of options. However, yet another budget gaming GPU from AMD will be coming in just a few months if certain sources' leaks prove correct. The 8850 and 8870 graphics cards are rumored to launch in January 2013 for under $300 and offer up some significant performance and efficiency improvements. Both the 8850 and 8870 GPUs are based on the Oland variant of AMD’s Sea Islands architecture. As a point of reference, AMD’s 7850 and 7870 are using the Pitcairn version of AMD’s Southern Islands architecture – thus Sea Islands is the overarching architecture and Oland is an actual chip based on it.
Sea Islands is essentially an improved and tweaked Graphics Core Next design. It will continue to utilize TSMC's 28 nm process, but will require less power than the 7000-series while being much faster. While the specifications for the top-end 8900-series is still up in the air, Videocardz is claiming sources in the know have supplied the following numbers for the mid-range 8850 and 8870 Oland cards.
Videocardz put together a table comparing AMD's current and future GPU series.
The GPU die size has reportedly increased to 270mm^2 (squared) versus the 7850/7870’s 212mm^2 die. This increase is the result of AMD packing an additional 600 million transistors for a total of 3.4 billion. 3D Center further breaks the GPU down in stating that the 8870 will feature 1792 shader units, 112 texture manipulation units (TMU), 32 ROPs, and support a 256-bit memory interface. The 8850 graphics card will scale the Oland GPU down a bit further by featuring only 1536 shader units and 96 TMUs, but keeping the 32 ROPs and 256-bit interface.
For comparison, here’s a handy table comparing the 8850/8870 to the current-generation 7850/7870 (which we recently reviewed).
|Radeon HD 7850||Radeon HD 8850||Radeon HD 7870||Radeon HD 8870|
|Bandwidth||153.6 GB/s||192 GB/s||153.6 GB/s||192 GB/s|
So while the memory bus and number of ROP units is staying the same, you are getting more shaders and texture units along with a boost to the overall memory bandwidth with the larger die size – sounds like an okay compromise to me!
AMD has managed to increase the clock speeds and GPGPU performance with Oland/Sea Islands as well. On the clockspeed front, the 8850 has a base boost GPU clockspeed of 925 MHz and 975 MHz respectively. Further, the 8870 has base/boost clocks of 1050 MHz/1100 MHz. That is a nice improvement over the 7850’s 860 MHz clockspeed, and 7870’s 1000 MHz clockspeed. AMD is also adding its PowerTune with Boost functionality to the Oland-based graphics cards which is a welcome addition. The theoretical computational power of the graphics chips has been increased as well, by as much as 75% for single precision and 60% for double precision (7870 to 8870). The single precision performance has been increased to 2.99 TFLOPS on the 8850 (1.76 TFLOPS on the 7850), and 3.94 TFLOPS on the 8870 (7870 has 2.25 TFLOPS). The single precision numbers are relevant to gaming and general applications that consumers would run that are GPU accelerated. The figures are not really suited/representative of high performance computing (HPC) workloads where precision is important (think simulations and high-end mathematics), and that is where the double precision numbers come in. The 8800 series gets a nice boost in potential performance as well, topping out at 187.2 GFLOPS for the 8850 and 246 GFLOPS for the 8870. That is in comparison the 7850’s 110 GFLOPS and 7870’s 160 GFLOPS.
The sources also disclosed that while the 8850 would have the same TDP (thermal design power) rating as the 7850, the higher-end 8870 would actually see a decreased 160W TDP versus the previous generation’s 175W. Unfortunately, there were not any specific power draw numbers talked about, just that the cards were more power efficient, so it remains to be seen just how much (if at all) less power the GPUs will need. The sources put the 8870 at the same performance level as the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680, which would mean that this will be an amazing mid-range card if true. Especially considering that the cards have a rumored price of $279 for the 8870 and $199 for the 8850. Granted, those prices are likely much lower than what we will actually see if AMD does indeed launch the cards in January as the company will not have competition from NVIDIA’s 700 series right away.
In some respects, the rumored specifications seem almost too good to be true, but I’m going to remain hopeful and am looking forward to not only seeing the mid-range Oland GPU coming out, but the unveiling of AMD’s top-end 8900 series (which should be amazing, based on the 8800-series rumors).
What do you think of the rumored 8850 and 8870 graphics cards from AMD? Will they be enough to temp even NVIDIA fans?