AMD shipped its first DirectX 11 GPU, the Radeon HD 5870, in late 2009. Despite supporting Microsoft’s latest 3D API, the new GPU was built on an architectural foundation based on the earlier Radeon HD 4000 series. AMD is now launching its second-generation DX11 product, code-named Northern Islands, but these new processors are based on an architecture that’s a from-the-ground-up new design.
The company also approaching this launch a little differently: Instead of pushing out a new, high-end product, AMD is launching two GPUs—collectively code-named Barts—that will be aimed squarely at the midrange market, where cards sell for less than $250. AMD will ship a new high-end product later this year, but the bread-and-butter of the gaming market is in cheaper cards.