Let me start by providing you some hard facts on the performance we observed from the new Radeon HD 7800 GPUs. Gaming on the Radeon HD 7870 at 2560x1600, it was on average just 12% slower than the HD 7950 and 7% slower than the GeForce GTX 580. Meanwhile it was 14% faster than the GeForce GTX 570 and 7% quicker than the Radeon HD 6970.
These figures improve when gaming at 1920x1200. Here it was 8% slower than the HD 7950 and 5% slower than the GeForce GTX 580. Then when compared to the GeForce GTX 570 it was now 18% faster and 11% faster than the Radeon HD 6970.
Moving on to the Radeon HD 7850, at 2560x1600 it was just 2% slower than the GeForce GTX 570 and 9% slower than the Radeon HD 6970. It was 3% faster than the Radeon HD 6950 and 17% faster than the GeForce GTX 560 Ti.
At 1920x1200 we saw mixed results. Here the Radeon HD 7850 was now 3% slower than the GeForce GTX 570, but just 7% behind the Radeon HD 6970 and capable of matching the HD 6950. The speed advantage it held against the GeForce GTX 560 Ti however was reduced from 17% to 9%.
The big question that remains then is pricing. AMD held in the details until the very last minute, but we are glad to share pricing has been set aggressively towards the competition and not users.
The Radeon HD 7870 will cost $349 and the HD 7850 will be available at a much more friendly $249. This means the Radeon HD 7870 is 22% cheaper than the HD 7950, yet just 8% slower on average. Moreover, the Radeon HD 7850 is almost 30% cheaper than the HD 7870 when it was on average just 14% slower.
To put things in further perspective, the Radeon HD 7850 was 9% faster than the GeForce GTX 560 Ti, but it also costs 9% more. Compared to the previous-gen HD 6970, the HD 7850 is 7% slower, yet 29% cheaper.
The Radeon HD 7870 isnt a bad value either as it matches the GeForce GTX 570 for price while delivering on average 18% more performance at 1920x1200 and consuming less power. Still the Radeon HD 7850 looks to be the best value choice here and perhaps the best value we've seen so far in a Radeon HD 7000 series graphics card. AMD expects cards to become available in volume after March 19th.
Pros: Excellent performance and overclocking. Almost reaching the level of the more expensive HD 7900 boards. Good value, low power consumption, and the card to get at $350.
Cons: For $100 less, the HD 7850 may be AMD's own worst enemy.
Pros: Great value and the best mainstream card to buy at $250, if retailers don't overcharge once it becomes available. Good performance and power consumption.
Cons: The reference board we tested is a mere copy of the more expensive HD 7870. Let's hope manufacturers don't try to cut back and ship with up to par cooling solutions.