I agreed with your thoughts DPete. So I bought this 7850 at Microcenter on Saturday. Since they price match Newegg, it comes out almost as cheap (just have to pay taxes, which turns out not that much more than shipping).
I love this thing. After listening to the fan on my 4870 sound like a dustbuster when it was chugging through games, this thing is a blessing. Super quiet, never hear it at all. In fact, when I first turned it on, I couldn't hear anything. I thought it wasn't working, until I realized that my keyboard was on and the other fans were spinning.
I've played BF3 and WoW so far with it; WoW is kind of a wash really. It definitely runs better, but the game itself seems to bog down a lot in 25 player raids no matter what. BF3 now runs between 30 and 70 FPS at my current native resolution (1680x1050) with the settings flipped to the automatic 'Ultra' setting. It looks quite a bit better than Medium settings, I think. Definitely a noticeable improvement. Maybe I'll actually record the frame times and stuff and post some data sets/graphs for reference.