AMD Radeon HD 6870 and 6850 Review - Barts Architecture Refresh
New AA, Display Technology, Video, 3D
The architectural changes on the new Radeon HD 6800 series of cards (and the Barts GPU) are fairly minimal but that doesn't mean that AMD wasn't trying to come up with new and interesting feature additions as well. There have been some improvements in these areas well, starting with the updated UVD3 engine.
UVD (universal video decoder) is AMD's name for their video processing engine that is responsible for accelerating Blu-ray/HD video decoding and as well improving the visual quality of any and all videos you view on your PC.
The UVD3 engine adds hardware acceleration support for features like entropy, transforms and motion compensation across MPEG-4, Blu-ray and MPEG-2 video. Newer post processing effects have been added into the Catalyst Control panel as well; we'll be looking at more of these later.
A new AA method is being released with the new driver associated with the HD 6800 series of cards, but Radeon HD 5800 card users will be able to take advantage of it as well. Dubbed Morphological AA, this is a post-processing technique that takes advantage of DirectCompute to filter the image after it has been completely rendered by the GPU. It delivers full-scene AA and is not limited to polygon edges, alpha surfaces, etc.
AMD claims that this is faster than SSAA (super sampling) and offers advantages over the CFAA (edge detection) as well. This new AA method is also compatible with ALL games built on DX9, 10 or 11. The only catch - taking screenshots of this is difficult as typical programs like FRAPs actually catch the frame before it is filtered.
The display configuration on the HD 6800 series cards is changing (at least from the reference point of view) and the cards gain support for DisplayPort 1.2 that offers new features as well. You can see above that reference cards have a pair of DVI connections (one dual link, one single link), an HDMI 1.4a ready connection and a pair of mini-DisplayPort outputs. This allows you to run four displays out of the box (two DP, two DVI) though I am still aggravated that AMD decided to not include TWO dual-link DVI connections on the design.
Don't expect any Eyefinity 6 editions of these graphics card though - with DisplayPort 1.2 support comes a new device - the MST Hub - that will allow several DP displays to be shared off of a single DP connection from the card. DP 1.2 also allows monitors that support daisy chaining so that you can even remove the hub device entirely.
Another new feature of DP 1.2 is the ability to support monitors running at different resolutions - something you couldn't do before.
Now we have to talk a bit about 3D - I don't want to either but that's why it goes guys. AMD is still standing behind their "open" initiative for 3D gaming and video viewing and thanks to the adoption of 3D TVs and the HDMI 1.4a interface, that might turn out to be just fine. HDMI 1.4a allows a graphics card to pass L/R images properly to a compatible 3D TV and it is the same standard that current 3D Blu-ray players use to communicate with the wash of 3D TVs on the market.
AMD is still working with hardware and software partners on getting 3D gaming to Radeon users. On hand at the tech day was DDD and Oakley showing off 3D gaming software support and high quality passive 3D glasses.
DDD makes a software package called TriDef Ignition that converts games that exist today into 3D-ready titles, much in the same way NVIDIA does with 3D Vision. We are in the middle of planning a much more comprehensive comparison of the 3D gaming options on the market today so we won't go into it too much here. Suffice it to say that AMD claims that 3D gaming with Radeon hardware is finally a reality.