AlienBabelTech is not under NDA with AMD for the upcoming launch of their new architecture HD 7970 this coming Thursday, December 22. The HD 7950 is set to launch on January 9, the same day that stock will be hopefully available for both video cards. We are pleased to share with our readers what we have learned about these new video cards. The leaked image below is from OBR Hardware. It is the approximately the same ten inches long as the current HD 6970/6950 reference design.
AMD has had a major realignment of their company since the FX series of CPUs were met by less than satisfactory reviews. Most of their PR were fired and many now work for Edleman who is managing the HD 79×0 launch. This launch of the new HD 7900 series was originally scheduled for next month at CES but has been moved forward to December 22, 2011 as a part of AMD’s new strategy and to give their partners something to show off at CES.
The HD 7970, codenamed “Tahiti”, launches this Thursday, but without availability for purchase until January 9th when the HD 7950 launches. So it is a paper-launch until the day before CES and you will now have a preview of the reviews that you will get in a few days from the tech sites lucky enough to get one.
The HD 7970 launch is also one of the leakiest launches that AMD has had in recent memory, with most of their Press Deck freely available on the Internet. It has been leaked mostly by their partners and testers and even by some who actually have final editions of them in hand since last Friday. AMD had their Press Day in Europe on December 5 in London and Paris, and in other selected locations, and most of the information is now all over the Internet. However, we will do our best to gather it together all in one place to give you the most complete picture of the HD 7970 today.
Is Tahiti Short-lived?
The most interesting thing about this launch is that it appears that Tahiti’s HD 7970 may be short-lived. AMD’s 28nm yields are known to not be great and the specifications of the new GPU indicate that something strange is going on. The chip itself is quite complex with 4.3 billion transistors but its core only runs at a very conservative 925MHz. Most telling is that its performance is not that great except in DX11 games and especially in heavily tessellated scenarios – only about 25% faster than a GTX 580 overall.
Inside sources tell ABT that the HD 7970 is likely to be released much like GF 100 Fermi was. Originally, Nvidia released the hot-running and poor-yielding GTX 480 which was later reworked into the greatly improved GF110 GTX 580. It is pure speculation, however, that this new HD 7970 may ship with some parts disabled that may be enabled in a respin to meet the next generation of Fermi, the GTX 680 in Q1 of 2012.
At the very least, the HD 7970 is debuting very conservatively as a possibly new strategy from AMD’s new CEO. Timing is good as it shows up at the very end of the year so that AMD can now claim the fastest single-GPU crown, and it brings new life to their partners line-up in time for CES. Best of all, it gives AMD time to respin the chips into higher-performing video cards so as to meet the GTX 680.
We are also hearing that across the board, the stock HD 7970 is a bit disappointing as it only scores about 20-30% faster than the stock GTX 580 – well within reach of an overclocked GTX 580 and priced similarly at about $550. We are also hearing that in a few older DX9 games, it is not that much faster than than the previous generation’s HD 6970, and AMD’s emphasis will be on DX11 and heavily tessellated games.
It appears that the HD 7970′s extremely conservative 925MHz clockspeed comes with good overclocking headroom as a special grace. With the overclocked versions that AMD’s partners are free to produce, it may start to run away from the overclocked GTX 580.
Price for the HD 7990 is expected to be right around $550; certainly more expensive in Europe than in North America. The HD 7970 will be previewed by selected tech sites on the 22nd of December, but the card will apparently not be available for sale until the 9th of January when the HD 7950 is officially released.
Here’s an image of HD 7970 Crossfire as leaked by a member of Beyond 3D forums:
Interestingly, we see 8+6 pin PCI-E connectors with a provision also for a two 8-pin connectors. There are also 12 memory chips – 12 x 32-bit = 384-bit memory bus. Before we get into the technical details of the new HD 7970, let’s look at the architectural changes from the HD 6000 series and at more of the leaked slides from AMD’s press deck.