The AMD HD 5800 series was one of those rare times in the industry where a relatively mid-ranged card goes above and beyond the call of duty to give high-end results. The 5800s instantly became the darling card of choice for PC enthusiasts everywhere, and indeed are one of the most popular and widely used graphics cards to date. A look at the Steam Hardware Survey shows that the HD 5800s are indeed much more popular than the HD 6800 series released in 2010. It stands to reason then, that AMD would want to capitalize the success of those cards by providing a spiritual successor in the form of the HD 7800 series.
The ‘Pitcairn’ HD 7800 series sits nicely between the ‘Tahiti’ HD 7900 and ‘Cape Verde’ HD 7700 series, targeted at the $199 to $399 market segment. This is where mainstream gamers go for a good deal.
The HD 7800 series continue using the same Graphics Core Next architecture found in HD 7900 & HD 7700 cards, running on a 28nm process with PCIe 3.0 interface. The Pitcairn will also have dual tessellation engines, something AMD is touting a lot, which should give it the upper hand compared to previous gen AMD and Nvidia DX 11 cards.
That’s a lot of impressive specs, especially for the price. Unfortunately today we only have the chance to look at AMD’s HD 7870; the HD 7850 will have to wait for another day.
So with the suggested retail price of $349, AMD are pitting the HD 7870 straight up against the Nvidia GTX 570 in terms of pure raw performance. However, as we’ll find out from the benchmarks later on, the GTX 580 also has reason to fear the Pitcairn chip.
Layout, Design & Cooling
The first thing you’ll notice is that the reference design of the HD 7870 is identical to the HD 7970 released last year. Coming in at 9.5-inches, the HD 7870 is a medium sized card which benefits greatly from the new Vapor Chamber. As we’ll find out in a bit, the new heatsink along with the new GCN helps yield impressive overclocking results. Of course, AMD partners will be using custom cooling solutions for even better results which we should be looking into in the future.
The HD 7870 has a DVI, HDMI and two mini-DP ports on the back; ready for an Eyefinity setup out of the box. The grill just above these ports provides the majority of the hot air exhaust.
A bit on the top and we can see the CrossFire plug that’s good for up to 2-way CFX setup only. Moving down we see the two 6-pin power connectors which draws up around 175W under full load.