AMD is launching its Radeon HD 7000M range of mobile GPUs today, and with them the promise of increased performance along with improved power management. The HD 7900M, 7800M, and 7700M series will be appearing in laptops soon, starting with the 7970M as a GPU option for the Alienware M17x today. Based on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture, the new generation will be AMD's first mobile GPUs manufactured at 28nm, which increases the performance-per-watt ratio significantly over previous efforts.
Support for up to six displays for truly non-mobile computing
The flagship HD 7900M chips will have 1,280 stream processors, an 850MHz engine clock, and 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and will output to six displays simultaneously. You can think of the HD 7800M series as a HD 7900M cut in half — it features a reduced 800MHz clock, 640 stream processors, and 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The final piece of the puzzle is the HD 7700M series, which drops the clock again, this time to 675MHz, reduces the number of stream processors to 512, and will contain 1GB or either GDDR5 or GDDR3 memory. The documentation for the HD 7700M also caveats the maximum number of displays supported as "up to six," presumably dependent on the manufacturer's implementation of the GPU.
AMD has provided a battery of benchmark tests comparing its flagship HD 7970M with the previous generation Radeon HD 6990M and the Nvidia GTX 675M. The new flagship outperforms the 675M in every test, attaining 70fps in Skyrim on High settings at 1920 x 1200, compared with 49.3fps from the Nvidia card, and the performance gulf was similar throughout the tests. One word of warning: don't let the "6" in 675M fool you, the Nvidia card is a previous generation non-Kepler GPU, albeit with an increased clock speed. The benchmarks were all done on Intel, rather than AMD, systems — it's not certain whether that's in the interest of neutrality or if the company just recognizes Sandy Bridge's superiority over its own efforts.
Discrete graphics will fit in thinner laptops than ever before
The less extreme cards in the new lineup, the HD 7800M and HD 7700M series, perform admirably as well, with the HD 7870M and HD 7770M giving playable rates of 41.4fps and 36.9fps on Skyrim, with the same settings as before. On top of the improvements gained through the 28nm manufacturing process, the GPUs are able to automatically shut down a number of cores to cut power use, and can also switch to integrated graphics intelligently. When the integrated GPU is in use, the AMD HD 7000M series will shut down completely, drawing no power at all. AMD says the power improvements will allow for the HD 7700M series in particular to fit into thinner and lighter laptops than ever before. The company expects its new lineup to appear in over 200 laptops, so we should be hearing a lot more about them in the coming weeks.