Company: AMD
Authour: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: January 21st, 2011
Editorial - AMD Renames Juniper to HD 6700 Series

AMD Radeon Graphics
AMD Radeon Graphics
The OEM and System Builder market is very "current hardware" sensitive. If your pre-built computer doesn't have the latest and greatest technology inside, you're relegated to the also-rans; not considered worthy of the top billing or best reputation. Unless you're Apple, of course.


AMD Radeon HD 6700
AMD Radeon HD 6700

Apparently, this is what OEM and IHV marketing departments seem to believe. Seemingly bolstered by NVIDIA's Geforce 100, 200 and 300 series OEM line up based on G80, G92, GT100 and GF200 chips a generation behind the currently shipping consumer products, The AMD ATI Radeon HD 5770, introduced 15 months ago, is not so silently being rebranded as the AMD Radeon HD 6770, with the HD 5750 becoming the 6750. The only saving grace appears to be that it's OEM only - you're not going to see these in retail or e-tail stores. The rebranded 5700 series rumor we saw last year is apparently true, just not quite in the same form as predicted.

So, why do it at all? Why not make a new GPU, a new card, and release it? Firstly, the performance of the Juniper remains strong for the price point. It offers a lot features that OEMs find very attractive, bar one - Blu-ray 3D.

AMD Blu-ray 3D Support
AMD Blu-ray 3D Support

If you look at the HD3D hardware support page, you'll notice that only the HD 6000 series cards are listed as having Blu-ray 3D capabilities. Now, as the only released cards so far are enthusiast and high performance cards, this leaves AMD with a hole in their OEM lineup. Their cash crop, cheap to make and sell power-miserly product is missing a check box feature that the competition has: the HD 5000 can do 3D gaming, photos, conversion - but not hardware Blu-ray 3D decoding.

UVD Block Diagram
UVD Block Diagram

The Blu-ray 3D decoding hardware is inside the Universal Video Decoder (UVD), a fixed function piece of hardware. Looking again at the HD 6770 feature summary, we see it is indeed listed as having UVD2, and Blu-ray 3D support. How is this possible?

Radeon HD 6770 UVD 2 with Blu-ray 3D
Radeon HD 6770 UVD 2 with Blu-ray 3D

Programmable shaders. Rumors are, these HD 5700 series rebrands get a nice new firmware which allows for multi-stream transform (MST) capabilities - the underlying technology which allows the Blu-ray multi-view codec (MVC) to be decoded in the GPU hardware. This makes the Mobility HD 6000 series make more sense - half of the GPUs used in those products were HD 5000 products as well, rebranded to HD 6000 but still featuring UVD 2. If they're getting a firmware update to allow MVC decoding on the shaders for Blu-ray 3D support, that gives AMD an unrivaled top-to-bottom media feature set. The new cards also get HDMI 1.4a, which isn't officially supported on the HD 5000. Packed frame support is included in recent drivers, giving the HD 5000 some of it's 3D skill set despite launching with HDMI 1.3 support.

Radeon HD 5770 'Juniper' Core
Radeon HD 5770 'Juniper' Core

The final question is: why not do this for the entire HD 5000 series? Spread the love, reward the faithful, love the one you're with? The answer is the obvious one - money. AMD's 4th Quarter and Yearly results were published recently, and don't paint the rosiest of pictures with flat revenues. OEM attach rates will hopefully jump up with proven technology, stable drivers, highly power efficient products ready to go into all those new 2011 model year 'puters. AMD CEO Dirk Meyer resigned as the AMD board focuses on 'significant growth, establish market leadership and generate superior financial returns' moving forward. Decoded that means doing what it takes to put money in the bank. The AMD Radeon HD 6770 OEM is born.

AMD
AMD
This latest move looks to increase the adoption of AMD graphics products in prebuilt computers, but overlooks an opportunity to increase consumer mindshare by offering an update to existing HD 5000 series card owners. Blu-ray 3D is in it's infancy, meaning very little of their own market would be cannibalized (especially as NVIDIA's discrete offers are predominant for HTPC Blu-ray 3D use) for a large reward of reputation. Hopefully the enthusiast community will save AMD and find a way to bypass whatever driver lockout AMD uses to tie the shader-based MST algorithm to AMD Radeon HD 6700 Juniper cards.

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