Update: AMD Quietly Releases The OEM-Only Radeon HD 7000 Series: VLIW5 Rides Againby Ryan Smith on January 5, 2012 11:04 PM EST
Earlier today one of our news editors, Andrew Cunningham, came to me with an interesting problem. HP was launching their gaming-oriented Phoenix desktop, and the spec sheet listed a video card he had never seen before: the Radeon HD 7670. Initially thinking it was a typo on HP’s part we did some digging, and after finding a well-hidden product page we had our answer. It’s Turks.
|AMD Radeon HD 7670||AMD Radeon HD 6670|
|Memory Clock||1GHz (4GHz data rate) GDDR5||1GHz (4GHz data rate) GDDR5|
|Memory Bus Width||128-bit||128-bit|
|Manufacturing Process||N/A||TSMC 40nm|
There are days I’d like to think that it’s the OEM market that’s the oddball, but the truth of the matter is that it’s the retail discrete market that’s the oddball. The OEM market – mobile and discrete – is in fact the norm, as OEM video card sales absolutely dwarf retail discrete video card sales. So much of what we take for granted with retail cards – well defined specifications and formal product announcements through press releases – simply don’t happen in the OEM market. Instead the OEM market is ambiguous on its best days and secretive at its worst, and as a result OEM-only products rarely get a formal announcement, and you would never know about some products if not for the fact that OEMs list them in their system specifications like HP did in this case. Ultimately because of the ambiguity in the OEM market and the need to push specifications, some of the most ridiculous video cards are launched here.
Technically speaking AMD already diluted the 7000 series last month with the launch of the 7000M series, which saw Turks’ and Caicos’ mobile counterparts reborn as various 7000M products. However as the OEM desktop is usually at least slightly saner than the mobile market we had some hope that the 7000M rebrand wouldn’t catch up to the desktop market, but this was not to be. It typically takes AMD around 6 months to launch a complete product stack so a Turks-like GCN product would be a spring/summer affair, but OEMs don’t want to wait that long, especially with CES right around the corner.
The problem of course with a Turks-based 7000 series product is that there just aren’t a lot of similarities to the other 7000 series products to speak of. Turks and Tahiti (and Cape Verde and Pitcairn) are distinctly different products from a feature set perspective. Southern Islands was the biggest GPU architectural overhaul for AMD in the last 5 years, creating a massive divide between Turks and Southern Islands.
The following is a list of some the important attributes and major features being introduced with Southern Islands. None of which will be available with the Turks based 7670.
- TSMC’s 28nm HKMG process
- Graphics Core Next architecture
- PCI-Express 3.0
- Direct3D 11.1
- Partially Resident Texturing
- Fast HDMI
- Video Codec Engine (fixed function H.264 encoder)
- DDM Audio
- ZeroCore Power
- Anisotropic Filtering Quality Improvements
As it stands Turks is still a fine GPU, but when badged as the 7670 this insane namespace collision makes it very hard to meaningfully differentiate between products. Do you want fast H.264 encoding and Direct3D 11.1 support? Then you want a Radeon HD 7000 series card, but now you have to make sure it’s not a 7670. Turks simply doesn't have enough in common with Southern Islands to justify this kind of a model number. Ultimately the launch of the 7670 brings with it the same problem that most other rebrands do, albeit on a larger scale: it's being sold on the well-earned strength of the 7000 series name but lacks the 7000 series' features.
Long term there will also be the question of whether we'll see the 7670 Turks in the retail market. OEM products sometimes cross over - the 6770 being the most recent example - so the 7670 may not stay OEM-only forever.
The Turks based 6570 is back as the 7570. The Caicos based 6450 is back as the 7470 and the 7450 (depending on the type of RAM used). And absurdly enough, the 2 year old Cedar based 5450 is back as the 7350. The last one is particularly notable as Cedar is from the Evergreen family, not Northern Islands. So it lacks all the features Northern Islands brought, including DisplayPort 1.2 support, improved anisotropic filtering, UVD3, MLAA, and the improved tessellation unit; all of this being on top of all of the differences between Northern Islands and Southern Islands.
|AMD Radeon HD 7570||AMD Radeon HD 7470||AMD Radeon HD 7450||AMD Radeon HD 7350|
|Memory Clock||1GHz (4GHz data rate) GDDR5||900MHz (3.6GHz data rate) GDDR5||800MHz (1.6GHz data rate) DDR3||800MHz DDR3/ 400MHz DDR2|
|Memory Bus Width||128-bit||64-bit||64-bit||64-bit|
|Manufacturing Process||TSMC 40nm||TSMC 40nm||TSMC 40nm||TSMC 40nm|
|Architecture||VLIW5 (Turks)||VLIW5 (Caicos)||VLIW5 (Caicos)||VLIW5 (Cedar)|
Meanwhile AMD’s web team appears to have made some mistakes listing specifications, which makes the 7000 series ambiguity even worse. The 7470 and 7570 are listed as having “Video Compression Engine (VCE)” support as a feature. As you may recall, SI introduced the Video Codec Engine (VCE), which is AMD’s fixed function encoder. Turks and Caicos of course have the same shader-based video encoding functionality as the rest of the 6000 and 5000 series, but they do not have a fixed function encoder, so we’re not sure how that ended up there. It’s worth noting that AMD had a similar problem with the 7970, which when initially published touted support for DX10 Super Sample Anti-Aliasing.