AMD: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Rebranding and rebadging is a shrewd way of doing business. On the one hand, you are giving the impression that you are progressing, and on the other, you are trying to get rid of older stock. Now, what do you do instead of pour money into R&D? You invest in new packaging and naming schemes, because it’s cheaper and easier to implement. Nvidia, who until recently was the king of rebranding, took much flak for their unashamed rebranding of cards like the 8800GTX into the 9800GTX, and then later on rebranding the 9800GTX+ into the 250GTS. With those cards you bought the same slice of GPU sold in 2008, but as a rebranded and rebadged card to fit in with the then current Nvidia architecture of the GTX2XX series cards (260, 275 etc.). Uninformed people might think that they are getting a low range card of new tech. Instead it’s a technology zombie that just won’t stay dead because Nvidia’s marketing voodoo brought it back to life, to feast on lesser brains. Why this tirade about Nvidia after a clearly AMD focussed title? Well the issue of wrapping ones hand around the midriff of the rebranding and rebadging dance partner is back, this time it’s been spotted twirling with AMD’s “new” line-up of cards.
At AMD’s press conference late last month they announced some interesting things they are doing with PC gaming, like Mantle and TrueAudio. Without getting into that, they also announced their new line-up of cards: the R9 and R7 series.
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The date for reveal, except the new Hawaii based R9 290X and R9 290, was on the 8th October. From the slides AMD presented, it was apparent to those who attended and those who watched the live press conference online, that besides the R9 290x and R9 290, the rest of the other cards specifications had been seen before…two years before in fact, with the release of AMD’s 7XXX series of cards in 2011. Now people did expect some rebranding of older cards and most gave AMD the benefit of the doubt, hoping they might introduce increased clock speeds or at least a newly designed PCB and reduced power consumption levels. Before the NDA lifted on the 8th Of October, some reviewers who had been playing with review samples jokingly mentioned that the NDA for these cards had actually expired way back in 2011, alluding to the fact that these cards were the exact same cards released then. Rebranding shattering expectations once again. The 8th of October reviews came and went, with AMD not scoring many points as the new R9 280x, and other cards like the R9 270X–even with a minor tweaks here and there in clock speeds–were seen to be a slightly slower clocked 7970 GE or similarly clocked 7870 LE card released way back in 2011. They didn’t even come with TrueAudio, as those are reserved for the new Hawaii based cards, or the low end R7 260X.
In contrast Nvidia, hopefully learning from their past rebranding malarkey, re-released their GTX680 card as the GTX770 a few months ago at a cheaper price ($400) and with very tangible improvements to the card. They increased the clockspeed ever so slightly while adding in blisteringly fast Samsung memory chips rated at 7000MHz; 1000MHz faster than the stock GTX680. A re-release done right in my books, as they actually added something substantial to the card, not merely a new name. There is one saving grace for AMD with this situation however: the general pricing for most of the parts- especially a cool $300 for the R9 280X.
This article is not really meant to bash AMD; on the contrary, as I’m quite chuffed with all of this, besides, the stigma of rebranding as competition is good for us gamers in the end. In particular, the R9 280X is not a bad card by any stretch. It’s actually a bang-for-buck king as it retails for a sweet $300 price tag, which has equated to around R3800, or R4400 for the massively impressive overclocked versions. It could be markedly cheaper, but South Africa is still struggling with exchange rates and import taxes. The aggressive pricing of the AMD R9 280X cards has actually caught Nvidia off guard as they have nothing in the $300 space to challenge it, as the 250$ (~R3300) GTX 760 does not hold a candle to it, while the $400 (~R5000) GTX 770 is priced above it. This could entail some healthy price cuts across Nvidia’s higher-end and mid-range line-up, as it has with their low-mid range, to combat AMD gutting up the sweet $300 market.
Essentially this article, although starting out about rebranding and its pitfalls for us, is meant to help you understand the “state” of the silicon nation in terms of GPU positioning and new naming schemes from AMD. Hopefully this will help to clear up any conflicting information so that you don’t get confused about AMD’s new naming scheme and subsequently confuse your expectations. Importantly it also means that you shouldn’t buy older stock of 7970’s or 7870’s for their pre R9 and R7 series prices, as you can get essentially the same card for a lot cheaper, just with a different name. To assist, I’ve found a simple graph outlining the new naming scheme and its relation to the older versions.
|AMD Volcanic Islands Codename||GPU Model||Refreshed/Replaced Part|
|Hawaii||R9 290X||None -True HD 7970 Successor|
|Hawaii||R9 290||None -True HD 7950 Successor|
|Tahiti XTL||R9 280X||HD 7970|
|Tahiti XT||R9 280||HD 7950|
|Curacao XT||R9 270X||HD 7870|
|Curacao Pro||R9 270||HD 7850|
|Bonaire XTX||R7 260X||HD 7790|
|Oland XT||R7 250||HD 6670|
|Oland Pro||R7 240||HD 6570|