Just as the HD 7870 2GB performed similarly or slightly faster than the HD 6970 2GB, the HD 7850 2GB matches or slightly improves upon the performance of the HD 6950 2GB. In ARMA 2
at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4xAA a healthy minimum frame rate of 44fps sees the 7850 2GB surpass the GTX 570 1.3GB and thoroughly batter its price competitor, the GTX 560 Ti 1GB which only manages a minimum frame rate of 36fps in the same test. At 2,560 x 1,600 though the HD 7850 2GB proved slightly slower than the outgoing HD 6950 2GB, albeit by a single fps.
In Battlefield 3
the HD 7850 2GB again surpassed the out-going HD 6950 2GB with a minimum frame rate of 34fps at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4x AA, although this was just behind Nvidia’s GTX 560 Ti 1GB which managed a minimum frame rate of 35fps in the same test. At the higher resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x AA though, the GTX 560 Ti 1GB runs out of VRAM, an issue the HD 7850 2GB doesn’t suffer from with a minimum frame rate of 20fps.
In Dirt 3
we again see the HD 7850 2GB just pip the HD 6950 2GB thanks to a minimum frame rate of 68fps at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4xAA, with the GTX 560 Ti 1GB languishing behind with a minimum frame rate of 63fps in the same test.
Finally in Skyrim
, AMD really seems to have delivered a coup, with outstanding performance in the latest patch. The HD 7850 2GB’s minimum frame rate of 64fps at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4x AA is around seven per cent quicker than the HD 6950 2GB, but bests both the GTX 570 1.3GB and GTX 560 Ti 1GB by larger margins. This was repeated at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x AA, where the HD 7850 2GB’s minimum frame rate of 46fps was over 30 per cent higher than the GTX 560 Ti 1GB.
As we’ve only had the opportunity to test the HD 7850 2GB’s GPU and not a retail card, we’ve forgone the inclusion of power or thermal figures. What we did find was that, at least in a HD 7870 2GB PCB, the HD 7850 2GB is a monster of an overclocker. Using AMD’s driver overclocking software Overdrive, we were able to push the core frequency to an outrageous 1,050MHz, a 22 per cent increase over stock. We also increased the memory frequency to 1,350MHz (5.4GHz effective), and all with only a 12 per cent increase in core voltage. While the result wasn’t enough to surpass a stock HD 7870 2GB in BF3, we still saw a healthy 18 per cent increase in minimum frame rate.
AMD Radeon HD 7950 3GB
AMD Radeon HD 7870 2GB
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB (Overclocked)
AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB (stock)
Frames Per Second
The HD 7850 2GB completes AMD’s masterplan of systematically making as many current Nvidia graphics cards as possible redundant. With the GTX 580 1.5GB bettered by the HD 7950 3GB and the GTX 570 1.3GB bested by the HD 7870 2GB, the HD 7850 2GB thrashes the GTX 560 Ti 1GB in all but BF3, where the two cards perform very similarly. What’s more, if the HD 7870 2GB is anything to go by, the HD 7850 2GB will deliver this performance with excellent thermals and low power consumption too, although we’ll have to wait to confirm this.
Click to enlarge - partner cards from Asus (left) and HIS (right) will be very different, with no stock due into retailers for at least two weeks
Pre-order pricing of around £200 for a stock model also seems reasonable considering the HD 6950 2GB can still be found for around £210 and the GTX 560 Ti 1GB for around £180. The result is that, for the first time since the release of the GTX 460 1GB back in summer 2010 , there really isn’t an Nvidia card on the market right now we can recommend; AMD’s salvo of 28nm parts has made Nvidia’s line-up look decidedly dated.
As with the HD 7870 2GB, we’ll hold fire on delivering a definitive review score until we get our hands on retail samples, but needless to say we’re very impressed so far with both the HD 7800 series cards. Nvidia will need to deliver its own 28nm Kepler GPUs soon to avoid being left behind.