After many rumours and much waiting, AMD finally released their first HD 6xxx series to the public. HD 6870 and HD 6850, codenamed Barts, are the first pair to break the 6000 line. Two more GPU architectures are also coming: Cayman and Antilles. In this article we’ll have a quick look at the Barts series, and analyse their value based on different factors.
I must say, AMD was very careful about this release. I can already buy the HD 6870 in Australia. Back when the HD 5970 came out, it took at least another month before it was available in Australia. Same thing happened to the NVIDIA GTX 480. The fact that this card is immediately available internationally shows AMD’s attention to details for retailers.
Whenever I consider to buy a new graphics card, I always look at what they actually carry inside the shiny plastic cooling fan. Here they are, fresh from the press.
In terms of raw power, 2 TFLOPs put the Radeon HD 6870 roughly the same as the Radeon HD 5850. In fact, the HD 6870 is slower than the HD 5870. You read that correctly. At first, this may not seem exciting to many users who are looking for an upgrading option. For a good look at what AMD is up to, here is a progress chart they have proposed:
As you can see, AMD is going through a product name shift. If you already own a HD 5870 or a HD 5970, it’s not time to upgrade yet. But if you have a HD 5770 or a HD 5830, read on!
What the “Barts” Aims to Achieve
Priced at USD $240 and $180 for HD 6870 and HD 6850 respectively, AMD is trying to find the “sweet spot” for the current market. In brief, the HD 68xx series is an optimisation of the HD 58xx series: It costs less, uses less power, provides roughly the same graphics processing power, comes with the latest DirectX 11 support and Shader Model 5.0, and supports up to 4 monitors natively! All in all a sweet upgrade.
New Morphological Anti-Aliasing
Morphological anti-aliasing (AA) is an all-new option for the Radeon HD 6000-series cards. It presents a different approach to the aliasing problem in that it needs no insight into the makeup of the scene’s geometry. … After a frame is rendered, it is passed through the morphological AA shader that looks for high-contrast edges and patterns consistent with aliasing. It then blends the colors of adjacent pixels to approximate a smooth transition along a line instead of aliased steps.
Conceptually, this method promises results similar to super-sampling, but with performance comparable to edge-detect AA. AMD suggests that some applications will look better than others, and that the technique is not ideal for all scenes and games.
Source: Tom’s Hardware
In plain English, the new Morphological Anti-Aliasing algorithm is very, very fast. Much faster than 4x Multi-Sampling AA (4x MSAA), which more than 90% of the current-gen games support. This is because AMD’s Morphological AA (Let’s call it MAA, shall we?) performs on an edge-detection basis. It works on a per-frame basis, as opposed to MSAA which requires 4 frames. Or even worse, SSAA (Super Sampling AA), which renders the frame 4 times! Using simple filters, AMD is able to find where sharp edges are, and blend them together.
Anti-aliasing without performance sacrifice like 4xMSAA? We approve.
Better Anisotropic Filtering
It’s really interesting what AMD is doing here. They are not trying to beat NVIDIA’s flagship, GTX 480. Nor are they trying to beat their own, the HD 5970. But here’s the fact, on the table. Actual improvements on the graphics processing quality. This picture shows it all. (Click on it to enlarge; the small thumbnail is too small to give it justice.)
In games, this will have a impact on the mipmapping’s quality. Less artifact means more awesome graphics.
Less is More
What AMD might be really proud is perhaps this: the new HD 6870 sports only 1.7 billion transistors, but performs at the level of HD 5850, which sports 2.15 billion transistors. Lower cost, same performance. At the same time, it uses less power consumption naturally. This is looking good for AMD.
Where the HD 6870 is on the market
Out of all of these improvements, where does it stand? First, remember the HD 6870 is only the first one to line-up: there is also “Cayman” HD 6970, and the dual-GPU solution “Antilles”, or HD 6990. The HD 6870 is perhaps their first experiment into the market – testing the water. It is no doubt NVIDIA will have to come up with better solutions to face the HD 6990, when it comes out next year in January. What did NVIDIA do? Well, they’ve lowered the price on the GTX 460. In the end, more accessible for the consumers.
If you own a HD 5770 or a HD 5830, and are looking for an upgrade, the HD 6850 or HD 6870 may be one of your best options at the price range. You will see a major graphics boost, and at the same time supporting the latest DirectX 11 games.
If you already have a HD 5870 or the HD 5970, just wait! In a month, the Cayman will hopefully be announced. In January 2011, the HD 6990 will hopefully come out, too. It’s not time to upgrade yet, because the HD 6870 is not an upgrade for you.
AMD (NYSE: AMD) today introduced the next generation of PC gaming, the AMD Radeon™ HD 6800 series, designed to be “perfect graphics cards” for gamers by delivering unprecedented game performance starting at $179 SEP.2 The new AMD Radeon™ HD 6800 series graphics cards provide more than 30 percent greater game performance than competing products, harnessing AMD’s second-generation Microsoft DirectX® 11-capable architecture, best-in-class energy efficiency, and an unmatched feature set, including AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology. The AMD Radeon™ HD 6800 series is available immediately from etailers worldwide.
Source: AMD Press Release