AMD Radeon HD 7970 Reviewed

Radeon HD 7970

We don’t usually pay much attention to high-end GPU releases here at Missing Remote. High-end GPUs are typically overkill for an HTPC unless your specific goal is to build a gaming-grade HTPC. However, the release of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 bears a little extra attention for a couple of reasons. The 7970 not only marks the introduction of a new line of GPUs from AMD, but also the first brand new GPU architecture, dubbed Graphics Core Next, from Nvidia or AMD in years. Even if they’re just based on a silicon rev, new lines are interesting to take note of because it is only a matter of time before the line extends down into more HTPC-friendly cards, but as a new architecture, the 7970 is bringing along a host of new technologies that might end up being of value in HTPCs.

Assuming that AMD can refine their cooling system to reduce noise, the power optimizations in the GCN-based chips will be a welcome feature for HTPC enthusiasts. Also, AMD is focused on improving their parallel computer performance with GCN to better compete with Nvidia, a move that might pay dividends in transcoding and video-editing applications. Personally, I find the idea of separate audio streams for each video output fascinating. I could see building a multi-screen HTPC system where a secondary screen provides music control independent of the main screen. It’s just unfortunate that we will likely end up waiting a while for GCN-based HTPC-centric GPUs as lower end Radeon HD 7xxx cards are expected to be rebranded 6xxx cards. 

While AMD and NVIDIA are consistently revising their GPU architectures, for the most part the changes they make are just that: revisions. It’s only once in a great while that a GPU architecture is thrown out entirely, which makes the arrival of a new architecture