AMD just launched its Radeon HD 7970 graphics card for desktop PCs. That gives AMD bragging rights with the only GPU based on 28nm production technology.

The 7970 is built on AMD's new Graphics Core Next Architecture, which is focused on the gaming market. The company reports a 150 percent-plus improvement in performance over its last generation.

Matt Skynner, head of AMD's graphics processor Relevant Products/Services division, probably got Nvidia's attention with his braggadocios words that AMD is "aggressively advancing the state of the graphics industry" and creating "a revolution in the graphics industry," and "HD 7970 changes everything." But how much of an advance is the new graphics card?

Less Heat

There is no disputing that AMD has a large footprint in the graphics card market. In fact, AMD has been swapping the lead with Nvidia as far as overall performance goes for years.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, points to reviews that show the Radeon HD 7970 is a significant step up in performance, with 30 percent or better performance than previous generation systems.

"The new card is also comparatively modest in its power requirements, bringing a long-time AMD strategy for low power consumption to the gaming side. Of course, I'm not sure that gamers are really watching their electric bills all that closely," King said. "But one of the side lines of lower energy consumption is that the new card is supposed to run considerably cooler than older cards, and definitely cooler than that Nvidia dual-processor card. Overall it looks like AMD has a real winner here."

True High Definition

The Radeon HD 7970 does have some impressive gear under the hood, so to speak. It relies on AMD App Acceleration to drive high-definition video images and performance improvements for everyday applications.

AMD also reports advancements with its AMD Eyefinity technology that pave the way for gamers and desktop users to connect as many as six displays to one graphics card. When gamers take advantage of this feature, it offers an immersive stereoscopic 3D experience with 16k x 16k display resolutions.

"The AMD Radeon HD 7970 is an awesome tool in any gamer's arsenal," said Johan Andersson, rendering architect at DICE. "We have worked closely with AMD during the development of the Frostbite 2 game engine to take full advantage of AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology and DirectX 11 for a more realistic, entertaining and visceral gaming experience in Battlefield 3."

The Radeon HD 7970 also comes with the latest PCI Express 3.0 standard, which means better image quality. The card is also equipped with GDDR5 memory Relevant Products/Services to accelerate GPU performance. Then there's the AMD PowerTune and AMD ZeroCore Power technologies, which allow the card to offer higher performance levels while maximizing power efficiencies.

Finally, Discrete Digital Multi-Point, or DDM, Audio offers multiple independent audio streams for audio-capable displays via DisplayPort or HDMI signals. DDM Audio is geared toward multi-display video conferencing, directional audio or multi-room entertainment hubs.