AMD claims 'world's fastest GPU' title

Radeon HD 7970 sports all-new 'Graphics Core Next' chip

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AMD has unveiled its first graphics card based on its Graphics Core Next architecture, which The Reg told you about in excruciating detail this summer. According to AMD, the card – the Radeon HD 7970 – is also the only GPU to be built using a 28-nanometer process.

"This graphics card represents a revolution in the graphics industry," crowed AMD GPU honcho Matt Skynner in AMD's announcement. "To put it bluntly, at 28nm the AMD Radeon HD 7970 changes everything!"

AMD's Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture is a from-the-bottom-up rethinking of GPU design, abandoning the time-honored very long instruction word (VLIW) architecture and replacing it with "compute units" (CUs) that are essentially vector cores containing multiple single-instruction-stream, multiple-data-stream (SIMD) structures, programmed in a per-lane basis.

What that stack of acronyms adds up to – in theory, at least, since we haven't yet got our hands on a GCN-based GPU – is a chip that not only provides a hefty dose of graphics power, but also lends itself to the CPU-cum-GPU cooperative processing known as "heterogeneous computing", in which chunks of tasks are assigned to compute or graphics cores depending upon which can handle them most efficiently.

AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card

AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card (click to enlarge)

The Radeon HD 7970, which Skynner not-so-modestly dubs "the world's fastest GPU", includes support for PCIe 3.0 and AMD CrossFire multiple-GPU tech, plus AMD App Acceleration, which the company claims "enables exquisite high-definition video images and exceptional performance improvements for everyday applications."

With the introduction of the HD 7970, AMD also rolled out a new metric – at least new to you humble Reg reporter – saying that the 28nm part provides "an improvement of over 150 per cent in performance/sq mm over the prior generation."

The HD 7970 also support an assortment of AMD-branded enhancements, including:

  • AMD HD3D Technology for – you guessed it – stereo 3D display,
  • AMD Eyefinity Technology for attaching up to six displays, supporting stereo 3D and total resolutions of up to 16K-by-16K pixels,
  • AMD PowerTune Technology for dynamic boosting of clock speeds when power requirements allow, and
  • AMD ZeroCore Power Technology for low idle-power levels and quieter operation.

As you've come to expect from AMD's graphics offerings, the HD 7970 supports DirectX 11, DirectCompute, and OpenCL. Also supported are DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4a, and Discrete Digital Multi-Point (DDM) audio to run multiple independent audio streams over those connections.

On paper – and from what we learned about AMD's Graphics Core Next at this summer's Fusion Developer Summit – the Radeon HD 7970 looks like a threat to Nvidia's claim that their GeForce GTX 580 is "the world's fastest DirectX 11 GPU."

When the HD 7970 becomes available on January 9 "from retailers worldwide", it'll run you a cool $549, list price.

And, yes, it'll run Crysis. ®

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