AMD’s new Radeon HD 6800 series occupies a brand new position in the product hierarchy. The HD 5830 GPU only made economic sense if you had awful yields at the wafer fab, and the Cypress chip, with 334 square millimeters of silicon, is way too big for just 1120 shaders and 16 ROPS. The new Barts GPU uses just 255 mm2 to do the same job only better, with twice the number of ROPs as the 5830. The first HD 6870 cards on the market were all based on the AMD reference design, which used the tried-and-true blower in a box design for cooling. Some of us prefer axial cooling fans, and have been anxiously awaiting some original designs to hit the marketplace. PowerColor saw the need for a different interpretation on the Barts theme and have launched their PCS+ version that has potentially better cooling, and certainly quieter cooling if nothing else. They’ve also applied the traditional overclock, which is a standard feature for this series.
Although AMD was denied the opportunity to roll out 32nm-based chips for this product cycle, they were able to go back to the drawing board with relaxed design rules for the 40nm process at TSMC. With one full year of volume production under their belts, they optimized this latest generation of GPUs for the current manufacturing constraints. In the HD 5000 series, they had to use estimates for defect density, maximum L/D ratios, and a whole host of other design guidelines that are supposed to ensure you get usable chips at the end of the production line. AMD did a better job of interpreting the rule book last product cycle, and as a result their full line of 40nm chips was first out of the gate, and stayed out in front for a full 6 months.
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