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AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB and HD 7850 2GB Pitcairn Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

Radeon HD 7870 2GB and HD 7850 2GB Reference Cards

The Radeon HD 7870 2GB GHz Edition

Both the Radeon HD 7870 and HD 7850 are going be sold as reference kits as well as custom designs from add-in card vendors like MSI and XFX, but for our testing we were limited to the reference cards sent in by AMD on VERY short notice.  

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The company is maintaining the slick red-on-black color scheme that we have loved for so long and pretty much looks idential to the HD 7900 cards we saw in December and January.  Yes, the  cards will have the lame "GHz Edition" sticker on them but hey, when they are spinning you'll hardly notice. 

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The back of the card is bare with just the retention bracket for the GPU heatsink.

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While we don't like the sticker, the cooler and noise that it generates continues to be a high point for the Radeon HD 7000 cards.  The 28nm GPUs are without a doubt more power efficient than previous 40nm designs and you can tell based on the power consumption numbers we are reporting in all of these reviews.  That power efficiency improvement means fans can run slower and you can enjoy your gaming with much less noise to bother.

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The HD 7870 will require a pair of 6-pin power connections and that should provide more than enough headroom for overclocking.

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Somewhat of a let down, the Radeon HD 7800 cards will only support dual-GPU CrossFire configurations so if you were planning on putting a set of three of these in your system, you just can't.  This is also a sign that AMD is NOT planning a dual-GPU version of the Pitcairn GPU as that would utilize the only CrossFire connection internally on the card and prevent quad-GPU options.  

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The display connetions are identical to the reference cards from the HD 7970, 7950 and 7770 - a single dual-link DVI port, full-size HDMI port and dual mini-DisplayPorts.

The Radeon HD 7850 2GB

While the Radeon HD 7850 we tested used the same length PCB as the HD 7870, we were told that in general the 7850 PCBs would be at 8-in or less, shorter than the Juniper graphics cards!

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Similar color design; no fancy GHz Edition sticker.

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Again, these cards are all going bareback.

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The HD 7850 2GB card will only require a single 6-pin power connection to meet its roughly 130 watt power draw.

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CrossFire is of course limited to only a single connection...

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And the display connections remain unchanged as well.

March 5, 2012 | 12:22 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I think I found my new upgrade...

March 5, 2012 | 12:47 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I think you will not be alone.

March 25, 2012 | 09:38 AM - Posted by Leandro (not verified)

Definitely, you won't be alone. I was about to build my rig with a GTX 560 Ti to ass another one later. But now, I'll wait for 7870 wich is very close to GTX 570 but whit much lower power consumption, making it possible to Crossfire on my TX750 PSU.

March 25, 2012 | 09:38 AM - Posted by Leandro (not verified)

Definitely, you won't be alone. I was about to build my rig with a GTX 560 Ti to ass another one later. But now, I'll wait for 7870 wich is very close to GTX 570 but whit much lower power consumption, making it possible to Crossfire on my TX750 PSU.

March 5, 2012 | 12:41 AM - Posted by Dreadteir

Thanks for that last page Ryan, I enjoyed seeing the spread of the 7000 series cards and it will really make me think when I do my birthday upgrade. So far it's either the 7950 or the 7870.

Tough choice.

March 5, 2012 | 12:47 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Yeah, I thought seeing the data in that way was kind of interesting, even as someone who has tested each of them.

July 14, 2013 | 07:09 PM - Posted by Indira (not verified)

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Pad 2; the reason- insufficient availability. Virus Barrier X5 is often a popular virus scanner designed for Mac
computers. Typically, the My Documents folder could be the best someone to use.

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March 5, 2012 | 01:28 AM - Posted by Buyers

I liked the last page's comparison as well. Shows the spread of the 7K family.

I was hoping for a little more out of the 7870 i think. Appears to be about on par with the gtx570 which can be had for $315 after rebate. I can wait for Kepler to drop and competition to bring the 7K series prices down before i make a decision on upgrading.

March 5, 2012 | 01:20 AM - Posted by Confused (not verified)

Confused as to why nearly everyone including pcper didn't show relative benchmarks again 7970 and 7950.

March 5, 2012 | 01:30 AM - Posted by Buyers

Did you skip the last page? Entire 7K series comparison.

March 5, 2012 | 01:53 AM - Posted by Confused (not verified)

Yeah I did actually.

Thanks for pointing that out, shame on me for thinking pcper would drop the ball like other sites have.

Cheers

March 5, 2012 | 11:54 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

What he said. Thanks for reading!

March 5, 2012 | 04:34 AM - Posted by Nilbog

I'm a little pissed now, based on the price/performance aspect. I just bought a 6970 this month!

Those benchmarks made the 560 Ti look like trash...

I like the new office, and the bins of graphics cards.

March 5, 2012 | 09:39 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

But the big question is... how much did you pay for said 6970? While the 7870 is faster overall, it still isn't available and it will be at least $359 once it hits (and depending on demand, might reach a little higher). If you got a 6970 for $330 or less, then I would say it is still a good buy.

March 5, 2012 | 05:28 PM - Posted by Nilbog

I just got this 6970 Lightning, for around 359$. Its is now "Deactivated" on Newegg...
No second card for me it seems....

I'm not too upset since my card came overclocked, and i can clock it higher. It is still a great card.
Though I kinda wish AMD stopped selling these cards so close to release, or dropped the price more.
I got it less than 3 weeks ago, i kinda feel like a jackass now...

March 5, 2012 | 09:53 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Well... that's still an awesome card. Not a terrible price either for what you end up getting. That thing is a beast...

March 6, 2012 | 02:20 PM - Posted by Nilbog

I'm not disappointed with the card, the custom cooler keeps it cool a 60C on full load @ 940MHz. So some more OCing headroom exists. It is a beast.

I still wish AMD stopped selling cards that are under-powered compared to the new versions at stock clocks. (6970 vs 7970 vs 7870) Or at least some hint that these cards are going to be replaced in a big way, not just a incremental update like i7 1st gen vs i7 2nd gen. Where the advantages come from the process change not an entire new architecture. I'm just being bitter, don't mind me.

March 9, 2012 | 03:05 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

Or if you got a 6950 2gb for $250 and unlocked it to 6970 even better deal :)

May 27, 2012 | 05:29 PM - Posted by Don (not verified)

How about a 6950 for $200 and unlock it to a 6970? New Egg has one for only 2 bills this weekend.

March 5, 2012 | 04:46 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This generation AMD are first to release the cards but will suffer in the end coz the prices are inflated. Especially, the release of kepler will highlight the point. this gen goes to nvidia and there are no 2 ways abt it. consider the fact that the 7850 is abt 10% faster than gtx 560 ti, a card launched over 14 months b4. Thats not impressive. The price perfrmance thing will be the biggest downer for AMD when kepler comes out. AMD really needs to reduce the prices. and they will wen kepler is released, but those who buy the cards now will be weeping. SO i say better wait for kepler. I am also holding off my nxt rig for kepler and ivy bridge. But those upgrading should wait till april or whenever kepler is released.

March 5, 2012 | 04:09 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

I disagree with pretty much everything you just wrote.
1. Why would AMD suffer in the end because of their current prices? They can adjust the prices down when needed...
2. In regards to comparing cards that just launched etc - Nvidias recent card the GTX 560ti 448core is slower than the 6970 that came out over a year ago also.
3.Price/performance will be a big downer when keplar is released? How do you know? Keplar release date is not even announced and no real reviews are available. How do you know all this?

I'm sorry, but you are speculating way too much.

March 5, 2012 | 05:41 AM - Posted by Irishgamer01

I'm not sure 7000 series are giving enough bang for the buck...or Euro to upgrade. AS it stands people are not doing a lot of upgrading.

I am a big ebay fan and no used cards have poped up lately, in any great number. (Still looking for that third 580, at the right price.)

7970/50 Likely to be toppled by Kepler. We just have to hope nvidia don't put a premium on AMD's premium price.

7870/50 are being compared to existing nvidia cards so we know this will change, so that's why I feel they don't give that performance jump that buyers now will needed.

March 5, 2012 | 06:30 AM - Posted by rrr (not verified)

Prices of 7xxx are high, because 6xxx cards are still in stock, and AMD does not want to cannibalize their sales - ie. clear stock. It's common strategy.

March 5, 2012 | 04:12 PM - Posted by AParsh335i (not verified)

Also remember what Ryan said in the review. AMD is matching Nvidias performance and pricing all while consuming SIGNIFICANTLY LESS power (IE money in your bank) and putting out less heat. Also remember, you are getting more than 2 monitors with only 1 card if you want.
I like NVidia and i am not an AMD fan boy by any means, but my loyalty lies with the almighty dollar and right now AMD is winning.

March 5, 2012 | 08:39 AM - Posted by elel (not verified)

Be careful when copying marketing graphics. The marketshare slide on the first page doesn't say "of DirectX 11 graphics cards", it says "of Enthusiast* DirectX 11 graphics cards". Where does the asterisk lead?

March 5, 2012 | 10:07 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Interesting thought, I'll look.

March 5, 2012 | 10:08 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

By "enthusiast class" they are referring to GPUs with a launch price of $199 or greater.

March 5, 2012 | 11:19 AM - Posted by elel (not verified)

thanks

March 5, 2012 | 11:23 AM - Posted by jedibeeftrix (not verified)

"Eyefinity is still the only single-GPU option for running multiple display gaming configurations and in fact these new GPUs may actually offer enough performance to push a 5760x1080 configuration on a single card."

Been running 5760x1200 from a single 2GB 5870 for the last two years.

March 5, 2012 | 11:55 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Right, but that is Eyefinity technology that is NOT found on NVIDIA GPUs yet.

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