MSI HD R7770 Power Edition Review

RHKCommander959 - 2012-05-28 23:04:29 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: June 10, 2012
Price: $149.99

Introduction:

AMD has begun to fill in the mid-range ranks for the 7-series line up. Currently available are the 7970, 7950, 7870, 7850, 7770, and 7750. The 7770 has half of the number of Stream Processors as the 7870 with 640. AMD has stepped away from the VLIW architecture used on prior generation cards to a new design called Graphics Core Next. This architecture is specifically designed for general computing and is produced on a 28nm fabrication. DirectX 11 tessellation performance benefits greatly from the new architecture. These new graphics cards are also able to properly deal with C++ and OpenCL.

MSI has provided a factory overclocked GHz Edition graphics card model dubbed the Power Edition. The full name for this card is MSI R7770 Power Edition 1GD5 / OC. This card runs at 1.1GHz core and 1125MHz memory frequencies! Thermal design power is under 80W and the memory bus is 128-bit. For video output there is a DisplayPort, HDMI, and Dual Link DVI-I port available. This card is designed to be overclocked further with triple-voltage options enabled through MSI Afterburner. Military Class III capacitors, Hi-C capacitors, and chokes further stabilize overclocking, longevity, and efficiency. The unique heat sink design called TransThermal offers great cooling performance with the ability to add a second fan that is included for additional cooling if space allows. The fan can either be installed over the existing fan for “Double Airflow Mode” or the whole shroud slides over and the fan can be installed between the original fan and I/O panel. The fan(s) also features Dust Removal Technology – during boot up rotation is reversed for 30 seconds to pump dust out of the heat sink. All of these features should make this card very competitive while being affordable.

 

Closer Look:

The box design has a standard MSI layout. To the top-right side are logos for 3DMark 11, MSI Military Class III components, MSI Afterburner, AMD Radeon and Eyefinity, and MSI 3-year warranty support for North America. The bottom half of the front highlights some of the main features of the card: Triple-Overvoltage capability, enhanced PWM design (using Military Class III components), native PCI Express 3.0 slot, 1GB of GDDR5 memory, Microsoft DirectX 11 compatible, and the TransThermal auxiliary cooling design. An odd orange-gold image highlights the center. Opening the front flap reveals elaboration on the highlighted features. For Triple-Overvoltage a picture of the MSI Afterburner application with all three voltage options is shown. MSI Afterburner is explained to the right of this as a VGA Utility with a wealth of features including: video capturing, stability testing with MSI Kombuster, overclocking, and mobile Afterburner through an iOS and Android-compatible app. The Military Class III components are highlighted and explained. The three components are the Hi-C Capacitors, Super Ferrite Chokes, and Solid Capacitors. To the right of this is a comparison of the PWM design of the Power Edition versus that of a reference HD 7770. The MSI variant has 3+1 phases and provides 84 A versus 2+1 phases and 75 A.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the flap is a window showing off the top of the actual graphics card. This side also highlights the cooling features. The TransThermal design utilizes Propeller Blade impellers designed to increase airflow up to 20%. There are three fan modes – the card is shipped in Single Fan Mode. The TransThermal design allows users to either lengthen or thicken the graphics card by stacking a second fan atop the original fan for Double Airflow mode. The other option that increases overall length is sliding the original fan and shroud towards the rear of the card and installing the auxiliary fan next to it. This customizable design means that this card is more universally capable. For users with a long case they can run the card in Dual Fan Mode for better cooling performance. For users with small cases or that run only one video card and with room to spare beneath, they can run the card in Double Airflow mode for improved cooling without affecting length. Both fans utilize the Dust Removal Technology – the fans rotate in reverse for the initial 30 seconds of boot up to pull dust out of the heat sink. This maintains cooling performance over time when other heat sinks could suffer reduced thermal efficiency from dust clogs! The back of the box highlights a few of the specifications and features of the card as well as minimum system requirements. Some of the basic information is then translated in numerous languages.

 

 

The package is well protected inside. Black foam is cut to shape for the graphics card, separately boxed auxiliary fan, and dual Molex to 6-pin PCIe power connector. A clear plastic cover helps to keep things clean and contained. Underneath all of this are the remaining accessories: a DVI to VGA adapter, Quick User's Guide, TransThermal Guide, another guide with MSI Afterburner instructions, and a CD containing drivers, MSI Afterburner, and MSI Live Update 5. The card is protected by the standard antistatic bag. The card is also protected by having all slots and ports except for the 6-pin connection plugged or capped off by blue plastic bits. This attention to detail is a nice! The box is loaded with everything needed to get this card installed and running quickly.

 

 

 

Continue on for an examination of the MSI R7770 Power Edition!

Closer Look:

Now that the graphics card is out of the antistatic bag and the protective covers are removed it is time for a proper examination. The top view of the card shows the prominent Propeller Blade fan impeller with two blue stripes running lengthwise over the spreader. Between the stripes is the MSI logo. To the left of the fan impeller is a crescent opening showing the heat sink fins. This region is cut out to make room for the second fan when the shroud is slid back. Almost all of the heat produced by the card is reintroduced into the case in this mode. Having good case airflow will help keep temperatures wrangled. Flipping the card over shows a black PCB with a typical design. There are no memory ICs here because they are underneath of the heat sink surrounding the core. There are six spring loaded screws holding the heat sink to the PCB – four for the GPU core and two for the power circuits. There is one CrossFire slot at the top. A single screw near the CrossFire slot supports the I/O plate near the DisplayPort and HDMI port since there is no other way to attach these together sturdily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The side views show the tool-free latches sitting across the fan motor. Pushing both latches allow the fan shroud to slide beyond the rear of the card until snapping into place. Moving the shroud makes room for the second fan in Dual Fan Mode. This setup provides the best cooling solution for consumers as long as the card can fit into their cases. Four screws hold the shroud onto the heat sink, two on each side. There are vents on both sides between where both fans would meet; the design is very open allowing air to flow in any direction. This design does not display heat pipes but there is one hiding under the heat sink. Cooling this card is simple since the thermal design power is less than 80W. The second fan has a connection near the rear of the card. Installation is simple and requires no tools. The only undesirable element is that there is no wire management for the second fan. For output the R7770 Power Edition has one DisplayPort, one HDMI port, and one Dual Link DVI-I port. The I/O plate has the MSI logo stamped into it. The 6-pin power connection is at the rear of the card. Some cards have it exit from the rear and others out the side, both have pros and cons. Generally shorter cards have the connection exit out the rear while longer cards utilize side exits. Part of the shroud is notched so that it can slide back without hitting the power connection.

 

 

 

MSI includes the auxiliary fan in a nice cardboard box. The front has a black picture of the Propeller Blade impeller design and the MSI logo. The back of the small box has features listed for those curious to know. The primary information is Dimension 98mm x 98mm x 25.5mm, Rotational Speed 2500 RPM, Air Volume 32.88 CFM, and Max. Noise Level 25.9 dBA. The bottom left of the box lists the address, phone, fax, and website for MSI. There is also a QR code. The housing matches the blue stripes while the impeller appears to be identical to the one on the main fan.

 

 

 

There are three fan modes possible for the cooling system. The card is shipped in Single Fan Mode by default. Pinching the clips on each side of the shroud allows it to be slid back. After that the auxiliary fan can be installed. There is nothing to manage the wire with, but anyone with a modding spirit could use zip ties on some of the vents. For systems where card length is important there is Double Fan Mode. For this the shroud is in the forward position, but the fan clips on top of the other fan! This will improve cooling for systems where length matters but height doesn't. Both fans use Dust Free Technology to keep the heat sink clean. The fans spin in reverse for the first 30 seconds of boot-up to pump dust out of the heat sink. After that they switch to normal rotation. The Propeller Blade design is great for this purpose as it can work efficiently in both directions, normal impellers work best in one direction.

 

 

 

 

The fan shroud can be easily removed by taking out four screws from both sides. This makes cleaning the fins out easy and also allows simpler aftermarket fan installation too. The thermal paste installed was quite messy and smeared over several of the surface mounted circuits on the core. The GPU core is a new design by AMD that departs from the VLIW4 architecture of the 6000 series. AMD has developed a new architecture fabricated at 28nm called Graphics Core Next. This design increases efficiency and computing power. Tessellation performance has been increased too. A few chunks of thermal paste were embedded in one of the memory thermal pads. The center Hi-C Caps don't make much contact with the thermal tape, as can be seen in the photo . Using a back plate would easily have alleviated this problem. Four memory ICs provide 1GB of GDDR5 memory capacity. All active components are cooled by the heat sink. It is nice to see that there is a heat pipe hiding underneath the heat sink and that there is a copper base plate for make contact with the core.

 

 

Next up is Specifications and Features.

Specifications:

 

Output
1 x Dual-Link DVI-I
1 x HDMI 1.4a
1 x DisplayPort
GPU
1100 MHz Core Clock
28 nm Chip
640 x Stream Processors
Memory
1125 MHz Memory Clock
1024 MB Size
128-bit GDDR5
Software
Driver CD
MSI Afterburner
Accessory
6-pin to Molex Power Cable
DVI to VGA Adapter
Quick User's Guide
Installation Guide
Transthermal Guide

 

 

Features:

 

 

All information can be found at: http://www.msi.com/product/vga/R7770-Power-Edition-1GD5-OC.html

 

 

 

Testing:

Testing of the MSI R7770 Power Editon will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark 11 testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA Control Panel, if applicable. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. The latest press release driver will be used in testing of the GTX 690 and GTX 680. Other NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 296.10 drivers; AMD will be using Catalyst 12.4 drivers.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocking was a very simple process. AMD Overdrive was too limited on speed options so I quickly switched over to MSI Afterburner. Unfortunately the Triple-Overvoltage features would not enable for me. With default voltages the card was fully stable at 1183MHz core and 1450MHz memory with 20% increased Power Limit. Any more than that on the core would be unstable in different benchmarks while memory could go further. These speeds are amazing considering the full potential of the card hasn't been utilized yet. Temperatures were great too and the core could possibly run a little cooler by replacing the thermal paste.

 

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 3.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fail when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds are adjusted and the test is rerun until each card passes the testing.

 

 

  1. Metro 2033
  2. Batman: Arkham City
  3. Battlefield 3
  4. Sid Meier's Civilization V
  5. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0
  6. DiRT 3
  7. Mafia II
  8. 3DMark 11
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption

Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro 2033 is based on the novel of the same name, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. You play as Artyom in a post-apocalyptic Moscow, where you'll spend most of your time traversing the metro system, with occasional trips to the surface. Despite the dark atmosphere and bleak future for mankind, the visuals are anything but bleak. Powered by the 4A Engine, with support for DirectX 11, NVIDIA PhysX, and NVIDIA 3D Vision, the tunnels are extremely varied – in your travels, you'll come across human outposts, bandit settlements, and even half-eaten corpses. Ensuring you feel all the tension, there is no map and no health meter. Get lost without enough gas mask filters and adrenaline shots and you may soon wind up as one of those half-eaten corpses, chewed up by some horrifying manner of irradiated beast that hides in the shadows just waiting for some hapless soul to wander by.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The MSI R7770 put up decent numbers for the resolution and high settings on Metro 2033. The rest of the cards being compared are high end cards while this is a mid-range offering. The nearest competition was the GTX 570, which costs roughly twice as much. Overclocking gains a few more frames.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batman: Arkham City is plenty playable with the R7770. These settings are pretty high and it is impressive that this card could handle it so well.

Testing:

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The R7770 provided roughly half of the performance of the 7970 while having around a third as many Stream Processors. Battlefield 3 looked fantastic and would only need small adjustments to make it perfectly smooth.

Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 3.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unigine Heaven Benchmark is pretty hard on all of the cards. The R7770 gets about two-thirds of the frames that the GTX 570 gets.

Testing:

Civilization V is a turn-based strategy game. The premise is to play as one of 18 civilizations and lead the civilization from the "dawn of man" up to the space age. This latest iteration of the Civilization series uses a new game engine and massive changes to the way the AI is used throughout the game. Civilization V is developed by Firaxis Games and is published by 2K games and was released for Windows in September of 2010. Testing will be done using actual game play with FPS measured by Fraps through a series of five turns, 150 turns into the game.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civilization V is fully capable of being ran with this graphics card. Overclocking helped tremendously.

Testing:

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance was borderline but pretty smooth still. Lowering settings a little would definitely make this game run glassy smooth.

Testing:

Mafia II is a third-person shooter that puts you into the shoes of a poor, Sicilian immigrant, Vito Scarletta. Vito has just returned home from serving overseas in the liberation of fascist Italy, to avoiding his jail sentence, to finding his family in debt. The debt must be repaid by the end of the week, and his childhood friend, Joe Barbaro, conveniently happens to have questionable connections that he assures will help Vito clear the debt by that time. As such, Vito is sucked into a world of quick cash. Released in North America for PC in August of 2010, the game was developed by 2K Czech, published by 2K, and uses the Illusion 1.3 game engine.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mafia II ran decently with very high settings. There was some choppiness that could be avoided with slightly lower settings.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment in Futuremark’s 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. The name implies that this benchmark is for Microsoft DirectX 11 and with an unintended coincidence, the name matches the year proceeding its release (which was the naming scheme to some prior versions of 3DMark nonetheless). 3DMark 11 is designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required along with a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition has unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage is only allowed for a single test run. The advanced edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all of the features of the benchmark, while the professional edition runs $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing; one to test for physics handling and one to combine graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics library is used for physics simulation and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still seems to be a popular choice.

With the new benchmark, comes two new demos that can be watched, both based on the tests. Unlike the tests, however, these contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a few vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and presents a location similar to South American tribal ruins with statues and the occasional vehicle around. The demos are simple in that they have no story – they are really just a demonstration of what the testing will be like. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors MSI and Antec on their sides – the sponsorships helping to make the basic edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to test the performance of each card. The presets are used as they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so that results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark 11 results are typical looking back at the other benchmarks. The HD R7770 scores about half as high as the HD 7950, and comes in at about two-thirds of the GTX 570 scores. Not bad at all for a sub-$150 price-tag!

Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 3.0, with EVGA's Precision overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1080 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cool-down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the fan settings left on auto the card operated quietly and the heat sink provided some of the best temperatures! At full load overclocked it barely crested over 50°C with Dual Fan Mode. In Single fan mode temperatures were slightly higher – generally 3-6°C. This proves that the second fan helps decently.

Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak wattage of the entire system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 3.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to simulate maximum load with the highest measured wattage value recorded as the result. The idle results will measured as the lowest wattage value recorded with no activity on the system.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Power consumption is amazingly low! With sub-200W system loads this graphics card provided good performance at high detailed 1920x1080 gaming.

Conclusion:

For a mid-range graphics card the MSI R7770 Power Edition packed a lot of performance in a small, energy efficient package. Being factory overclocked to 1.1GHz is an amazing feat for any card! There was still headroom beyond the factory overclock of 1100/1125MHz core and memory to 1183/1450MHz fully stable. Power consumption was minimal – the whole system drew up to180W at load. Temperatures with both fans installed rivaled the best competition while operating quietly when they were left on automatic control. One of these can provide a decent gaming experience while costing less than $150. Two of these in CrossFireX would still cost substantially less than a 7950 with the possibility of similar performance in games that respond to CrossFireX. The chart results look one sided because current offerings are mostly high-end components while this is obviously a mid-range graphics card.

The only fallback that I encountered with this product is that the thermal paste wasn't applied very well and the thermal tape didn't reach all components. This is not too uncommon for graphics cards and temperatures were still great anyway. Also the MSI Afterburner application currently was unable to unlock the Triple-Overvoltage capabilities that MSI claims the card is capable of. Had this been possible higher overclocking could of occurred!

This card is an inexpensive solution for gamers on a budget that want good video settings, not maxed settings mind you. The adjustable cooling solution means that almost anyone could custom tailor this card to fit their system. With the new architectural design, power consumption is considerably low without sacrificing computing power and gaming capabilities. The price is low enough that people have the flexibility to start with one card and then add another later on for even more performance depending on the game. This is a very impressive offering that should be considered by any budget gamer.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: