We were all a little surprised when AMD's Radeon HD 7000M-series mobile GPUs came out last December. Despite their branding, those weren't 28-nm parts based on the latest Graphics Core Next architecture. Instead, they featured previous-gen, 40-nm chips powered by the TeraScale architecture—just like the 6000M series. AMD eventually introduced GCN-based parts at the high end of the 7000M lineup, but the rest of the series is starting to grow long in the tooth.
Luckily, it's about to be retired. AMD has just announced the Radeon HD 8000M family, which finally brings Graphics Core Next and 28-nm goodness at lower price points and thermal envelopes. AMD is unveiling four models today: the 8500M, 8600M, 8700M, and 8800M, which supplant everything from the Radeon HD 7700M on down. (Reminder: The 7700M is GCN-based, but everything below that is powered by the old TeraScale architecture.) These new GPUs should all be available in the first quarter of next year.
Here's a little roadmap that shows the positioning of the new parts:
As you can probably tell, AMD has adjusted its model numbering scheme somewhat. For example, you'd expect the 8700M to succed the 7770M series, but that's not going to be the case. Instead, the 8700M series will be priced on par with the 7600M series. Also, these new introductions don't span the full breadth of AMD's mobile GPU lineup—the top-of-the-line 8000M-series offerings aren't due out until the second quarter of next year.
AMD has shared some specifications for the first round of offerings. (More specifics on unit counts and the like will be made public early next month.)
|Radeon HD 8500M||384||up to 650 MHz||1000 MHz||1125 MHz||537||33|
|Radeon HD 8600M||384||up to 775 MHz||1000 MHz||1125 MHz||633||39|
|Radeon HD 8700M||384||620-850 MHz||1000 MHz||1125 MHz||537-691||33-43|
|Radeon HD 8800M||640||650-700 MHz||N/A||1125 MHz||992||62|
Performance-wise, AMD expects the new GPUs to be substantially quicker than their predecessors. The company's internal benchmarks show gains of around 20-50% from the Radeon HD 7590M to the Radeon HD 8690M, and about as much from the 7670M to the 8770M. In other words, folks should be getting a lot more performance—and likely increased power efficiency—at the same price points.
The 8000M series doesn't appear to boast any unique architectural refinements, though. AMD told us that, while these parts do feature new silicon, they're still based on the original iteration of the GCN architecture, just like the desktop Radeon HD 7000 series. Functionality like DirectX 11.1 support, PCI Express 3.0 connectivity, and AMD's Enduro technology are all included, but that's also true of the GCN-based 7000M-series parts. (Enduro works with the TeraScale-based GPUs, too.)
In short, the 8000M series seems like what the 7000M series should have been a year ago. I won't blame you for feeling underwhelmed, but at least AMD is bringing forth some substantial improvements for the middle of its mobile GPU lineup.