MSI HD R5770 Hawk Review

jlqrb - 2010-02-11 17:36:27 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: jlqrb   
Reviewed on: February 21, 2010
Price: $179.99


MSI has been a manufacturer in the motherboard and graphics card industry for some time now and throughout those years they have managed to produce products that are built with a high degree of quality. Keeping in line with this tradition, MSI is releasing the HD R5770 Hawk graphics card, which is based on the ATI Radeon HD 5770 GPU. This new card comes with top-of-the-line military class components, a 7+1 phase unit and a Twin Frozr II GPU cooler. If any of these features sound familiar, it's because many of these high-end components found on the Hawk series were introduced with MSI's Lightning series of graphics cards that hit store shelves last year. The Lighting series used the same military class components and cooling solution, making it highly regarded in the enthusiast market. The only problem with the Lightning series though, was that all the cards released in the series were based on high-end NVIDIA graphics cards, which left ATI out in the cold. With that no longer being the case, the migration of these features to ATI's graphics cards is very welcome.  With such high quality components on a card that has already proven itself to be a great overclocker, it really increases its chance to surpass other graphics cards built on the same core. Add to this though, the ability to adjust the GPU voltage from stock levels up to 1.35V with the use of a on-board voltage regulator and MSI's Afterburner overclocking tool could make this a HD 5770 that can go further than any other before it.

Closer Look:

The MSI HD R5770 Hawk comes packaged in a rather large box with an image of the F-117 stealth attack aircraft surrounded by lightning on the front. This image gives a sense of power, stealth, and quality which are all used to represent the HD 5770 that is housed in the packaging. Above the aircraft, there is a list some of ATI's signature technologies and below it you will find the graphics cards memory size, included ports, and DX 11 support. The back panel of the packaging has a list of features and system requirements for the graphics card as well as some other general information about the HD R5770 Hawk and MSI. The front and back panels have a good amount of information about the card, but the real bulk of information is found when you open flap on the front of the box. Under this flap, MSI provides information about the Twin Frozr II Thermal design in use on the card, as well as all of the high quality parts that are used to reduce the system temperature and add extra stability.









With the outer packaging off, you can see that the HD R5770 Hawk is very securely packaged, which should prevent any damage to the card during its time in transit. This inner packaging comes with a large Styrofoam insert that fits nicely into the box and has two cutouts in it. The first cutout is where the graphics card fits and directly below that you will find a smaller rectangular cutout that holds the included accessories that come with the card. The driver disk and installation guides for the card are found under the Styrofoam insert, which is easily removed to allow access to these items.



The graphics card comes wrapped in a anti-static bag that will prevent any electrostatic discharge damage during shipping. The included accessories that come with the MSI HD R5770 Hawk are a DVI to D-sub adapter, a 6-pin power connector, Driver CD, Quick user’s Guide, manual, and V-Check points. The V-check point cable will allow users with a Multimeter to check both the GPU and memory voltage values.



With our look at the packaging and included accessories covered, we can now move on and get a good look at the MSI HD R5770 Hawk.

Closer Look:

The first thing you will notice about the MSI HD R5770 Hawk graphics card is the Twin Frozr II dual-fan cooler. This cooler has a large copper base that is coated with Nickel, three heatpipes that efficiently transfer heat from the base of the cooler to the fins and uses dual PWM fans that blow though the fins to remove the heat. MSI claims with the use of this cooling solution the Hawk should run about 13c cooler than a card using ATI's reference design. Another benefit over the reference cards is the unique and appealing look the Twin Frozr II adds, which really helps it stand out from other cards in the series. Like other HD 5570 graphics cards the MSI HD R5770 Hawk is a dual slot design and will require two open expansion slots to proper fit into a case. The Hawk comes equipped with PCIe 2.1, but is fully compatible with older PCIe slots - this will ensure there are no compatibility issues when upgrading to this card regardless of what version of PCIe your board uses. This card also supports CrossFireX which will allow for additional graphics cards to be connected together for added gaming power. To run CrossFireX, the HD R5770 Hawk uses a single CrossFire connector instead of two. Even with the use of one connector, this setup will still work the same as other cards out that have two CrossFireX  bridge connectors.















When it comes to expansion, the MSI HD R5770 has more than enough ports to satisfy most users. There is a DisplayPort and DL-DVI-I port that are both capable of running at 2560 x 1600, and there is also an on-board HDMI port that has a max display of 1920 x 1200 and comes with Dolby® TrueHD and DTSHD Master Audio Support. With the use of these ports, the HD R5770 Hawk can run up to three monitors utilizing ATI's Eyefinity technology, with a max resolution of 5670 x 1200 spanning the three screens. Missing, however, is the dual DVI-I configuration found on other HD 5770 graphics cards. This could make setting up Eyefinity a bit more complicated than other cards on the market that use dual ports. Turning to the back you can see the HD R5770 Hawk requires the use of an additional power source beyond that of the PCIe slot, this additional power is supplied by a single 6-pin power adapter that is situated under the rear portion of the heatsink. Even with the extra needed power connection, the HD R5770 Hawk is not a excessively power hungry and MSI has the card running at around 120 watts while at full load.



The HD R5770 Hawk uses the Juniper (RV840) core, which comes with rather impressive specifications considering it is a mid-range product. The Juniper core is built on 40nm technology, has 800 packed-in Stream Processors, 1.4 billion transistors, 16 ROP units and 40 texture units. The core comes clocked at 875MHz, which is 25MHz faster than the reference models, and there is 1GB GDDR5 memory rated at 1200MHz. The memory uses a 128-bit memory bus, which is half the bandwidth of the more expensive ATI cards, but the effects of this reduction should be minimal with the use of fast GDDR5 memory. The HD R5770 Hawk has eight total memory chips that are manufactured by Samsung, with the model number K4G10325FE-HC04, which seems to be the standard for ATI's 5-series cards. To get a better look at the GPU core and memory, I removed the heatsink and once off you can really see the quality of this card. It has all solid military class components as well as the use of the 7+1 phase design to supply better current throughout the card. The use of these high quality parts should greatly increase the stability, durability, and overclocking potential of HD R5770 Hawk graphics card.



For the hardcore overclockers out there MSI has gone a step beyond other graphics card manufactures and added a few extra goodies to help you reach the highest frequencies possible. The first is an inconspicuous chip that is situated near the CrossFireX bridge connector on the back of the card. This chip with the model number UP6204CJ is a voltage control regulator that will allow for software voltage adjustment to the GPU and will let you over or under volt the GPU from 1.0v to 1.35v, which can be done using MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility. Just like when overclocking your system's memory and processor, extra voltage to that area can mean a higher and more stable overclock. Another feature geared toward overclockers is the V-Check points. These are two headers that will allow you to use the jumpers that are included with the accessories to connect a multimeter, to get real-time voltage readings of both the GPU and memory. Even though the majority of users will not need this function, it is nice to see MSI has included an easy to use tool for those extreme enthusiasts looking to push their hardware to the limits.



Now that we have had a good look at the hardware, we move on to the software, getting us one step close to the performance testing that I know you are waiting for.

Closer Look:

Once the installation disk is inserted into the DVD drive, it will auto-run and the MSI setup appear on the screen. At the top of the installation window there are six tabs that will aid in the installation process. The listed tabs are Driver, Afterburner, Utility, Website, Manual, and Internet Security. The first tab is used to automatically install the VGA drivers for Windows Vista and 7, or you can browse the CD for the drivers manually. The Afterburner tab installs MSI's Afterburner VGA overclocking utility, which allows for tweaking the GPU''s frequencies, voltage, and fan speed. The Utility tab let you install MSI Live Update 4. The Website tab has a list of three links that when selected will open a web-page that corresponds to the selection made. The choices here will like you to MSI's website, ATI's download page or MSI's live update page. The manual page opens a PDF version of the manual for easy viewing and the last tab, which is Internet Security let you install a 60-day trial version of Norton Internet Security 2010.















When you have made your selection to start the installation process, you will be greeted by the ATI Catalyst Install Manager's welcome screen. From here, you will simply need to make a few choices on how to install the necessary drivers and, once your selections have been made, the installation process takes over and automatically installs the drivers that are needed. Once the installation is finished, you will just need to do a quick restart and once you are back into Windows you're new GPU is installed and ready to go.





Now that we have the card installed, we can take a look at ATI's GPU software utility Catalyst Control Center.

Closer Look:

ATI Catalyst Control Center is an advanced software application that allows you to manipulate many of the graphics cards hardware functions, such as display and 3D settings. This program is usually bundled with the ATI graphics drivers, but does not need to be installed for the graphics card to function properly. If installed though, Catalyst Control Center is a very useful tool that allows for basic changes, such as adjusting the image quality of your display to more advanced options such as overclocking the GPU core and memory frequencies. Below we will be taking a more in depth look at this ATI software and some of its functions.


welcome screen:

The Welcome screen allows you can check for updates, Contact Customer care, link to or join ATI's [email protected] team. These links are all found at the middle of the page, with the option to switch to the basic Control Center below and two menus that give access to more options at the top. The two top options each have a drop down menu that appears when you select them. The first menu is Graphics and this is where the options to adjust the image quality and other video settings is done. The second option is Hydravision, which is a Multi-monitor Management system that lets you alter your desktop for improved productivity. Below we will be taking a more in-depth look at Catalyst Control Centers functions and features.










Information Center & Desktop Displays:

The information center allows you to view both hardware and software details for installed ATI Radeon graphics card.  Some information that can be found here is the core and memory speeds of your graphics card as well as what driver version is being used. The desktop Displays screen shows all displays connected to your system and allows you to make changes to one or multiple monitors. Here you can rotate the display image, set a primary display or use the force button, which comes with a host of features that can force you monitor to support resolutions and image qualities that may not be supported.



Desktop Properties:

Desktop Properties gives you a host of options to choose from that make changes to the desktop image. Here, you can adjust your display resolution, color quality, refresh rate, and choose the rotation of the image being displayed. There are also options here to adjust the colors of the monitor by either changing the Gamma, Brightness, or Contrast.



Display Options & 3D: 

Display Option simply selects how Catalyst Control Center detects your display devices, whether that be manually or done automatically when the Control center is opened. The 3D menu has several tabs at the top that allow to adjust the 3D features such as Anti-Aliasing or Anisotropic Filtering - these options can be set to either Performance, Balanced or Quality depending on your 3D needs and hardware used. The changes made here will affect games as well as 3D applications. Once nice feature here is that you can view your changes in real-time with the use of the 3D preview image.



Avivo Video:

Here you have five tabs to choose from, with all letting you adjust the quality for your video. There is a preview is with an image of a woman next to flowers and fruit, that when changes are made to the video color will be seen by this image changing to reflect the choice you made. If you find that you don't like your choice, there is a handy default tab at the bottom right that will reset all of the setting here back to stock. From here, you can also change the display quality of the video that plays though your PC.



ATI Overdrive:

ATI Overdrive panel gives the ability to overclock the GPU core and memory as well as adjust the fan speed. Before any of this is done though, you will need to click on the key icon which will unlock the overclocking options. Once unlocked you can manually set the frequencies for the graphics card to a value between stock and a predetermined number by ATI. The preset value that ATI sets are usually low, but with the version included with the MSI HD 5770 Hawk the preset limits are quite high and your card should max out before you hit one of the limits. ATI has also included a Auto-Tune option for those that are new to GPU overclocking, this tool auto clocks the graphics card by adjust the core and memory in small increments and doing a self check each time it raises the frequencies. The overdrive menu also lets adjust your fan speed, check your graphics card's stability and get temperature information.





Graphics Engine
ATI Radeon HD 5770
Bus Standard
PCI Express x16 2.1
Memory Type
Memory Size (MB)
Memory Interface
Core Clock Speed (MHz)
Memory Clock Speed(MHz)
Memory Bandwidth (GB/sec)
Texture Fill Rate (Billion/sec)
DVI Output
D-SUB Output
1(via DVI to D-Sub adaptor)
VIVO (Video-in/out)
HDTV Support
HDCP Support
HDMI Support
Dual-Link DVI
Display Ouput(Max Resolution)
DirectX Version Support
OpenGL Version Support
CrossFire Support
SLI Support
3-way SLI
HyperMemory Tech.
TurboCache tech.
Card Dimension(mm)
208 x 111 x 35

GPU Features

Microsoft DirectX 11 Support
ATI Eyefinity Technology
ATI Stream Technology
40 nm Process Technology
Advanced GDDR5 Memory Technology
2nd Generation TeraScale Engine
Microsoft Windows 7 support
ATI CrossFireX™ Technology
Enhanced Anisotropic Filtering
Accelerated Video Transcoding
HDMI 1.3 Support
Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio Support
ATI PowerPlay™ Technology Enhanced Support for GDDR5 memory
ATI Avivo™ Technology Enhanced Unified Video Decoder 2 (UVD 2)

• All brand name & products are registered trademarks of their respective companies.
• All Chipset specs are derived from ATI data sheet. For your reference only.





All information courtesy of MSI @


To gauge the performance of the MSI HD R5770 Hawk, I will be putting it though our testbed of both games and benchmarking programs. To test the gaming graphics performance, we use Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead, Darkest of Days, Call of Duty World at War, Warhammer 40,000, Batman Arkham Asylum, Resident Evil 5, and Left 4 Dead. Since gaming doesn't tell the whole story, we also use FutureMark's 3DMark06 and 3Dmark Vantage programs, which test both the DX9 and DX10 capabilities of the graphics card and give it an overall score depending on how well it holds up during the testing process. Since the HD 5770 graphics cards fit more into the mid-range market than the enthusiast, I will be running the tests at a level that is more in line with this audience's type of use. I will also be comparing the HD R5770 Hawk to other mid-range graphics cards to determine the overall value of the card. One note, though all of the comparison cards were originally tested on an Intel platform, they have been retested on the AMD test platform, so the numbers will vary from the comparison reviews. These cards were tested with the latest drivers from both NVIDIA and ATI.



Comparison Video Cards:



For overclocking, I used MSI's Afterburner program and tested the stability using ATI Overdrive. I started by moving the core frequency by 50MHz and checking the overclock for stability each time I made a change. Once I maxed the core I reduced it back to stock and started to raise the memory frequencies. When I found the max of 1075 on the core and 1500 for the memory, I did another stability test and was happy to see that it passed the Catalyst Control Centers test with ease. I was extremely pleased with this overclock and was waiting for the Far Cry 2 benchmark to load with a smile on my face, but as soon as the loading was finished, the screen turned solid black and never recovered. Wanting to make sure that it wasn't a drivers issue, I was going to run a different game and check the results, but before I could even do that, the Windows desktop started to get pixel errors across the screen. When you are getting pixel errors, before a game even starts you know you have overclocked too far, so I scaled it back and started to use Far Cry 2 as my stability test. Unfortunately before I could run though the Far Cry benchmarks successfully, I had to reduce the core to 1025MHz and the memory to 1410MHz. As far as overclocking goes though, this is extremely respectable and it should yield us some nice results in the testing part of the review. While overclocking, I left the fan speed setting at auto and even though the fans rotation stayed around 35% the core ran extremely cool and there was not a time when the temperature exceeded 70C. When spinning at 35%, the Twin Frozr II was almost completely silent. Once thing to note is the fan can get quite loud when at a spin above 82%, but there was not a time with the fan set to auto that the rotation got that high.







  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. Darkest of Days
  4. Call of Duty World at War
  5. Warhammer 40,000 DOW II
  6. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  7. Resident Evil 5
  8. Left 4 Dead
  9. 3DMark 06 Professional
  10. 3DMark Vantage


Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main story line of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km2 of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.










Right off the bat, the MSI HD R5770 Hawk comes out swinging and manages to beat all other comparison graphics cards across all resolutions. The closest comparison during this benchmark was the BFG GTS 250 and, even though it has a higher memory interface than the HD R5770, it just couldn't match the Hawk's gaming power.


Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.














The HD R5770 Hawk was again the top performer here, but not by as wide a margin. In the lower resolutions, it easily outpaced the other cards easily, but as the resolution went up the FPS difference between it and the GTS 250 shrank.


What would testing be if you did not show both sides of the fence? In this test, PhysX was set to low, while leaving the remaining settings intact. You have seen time and again where the ATI cards suffer when PhysX is enabled. Mirror's Edge and Cryostasis are two prime examples. Darkest of Days is no different. What happens in this test shows that, although the game can be played by cards from the red team, the video effects and quality are diminished.

Game Settings:










Higher is Better


With the settings at high, the MSI HD R5770 Hawk performed very well and, once again, beat all other comparison cards. When overclocked, the Hawk nearly reached 60 FPS at the highest resolution.


Activision's Call of Duty: World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought CoD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a high resolution. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare the performance of these video cards.












The Hawk was able to reach 72 FPS at 1920 x 1200, making Call of Duty enjoyable at any resolution.


Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II is a Real Time Strategy game that is significantly different than its predecessor, with improved AI and an improved physics engine. You can play either as a single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.














Again, we see that the HD R5770 Hawk is the top performer and was able to stay above 60 FPS even at the highest resolution.


Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to reign the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to ply your trade.

Game Settings:











You can't argue with these results. Even though the settings were at medium, 157 FPS at 1920 x 1200 is very impressive.


Resident Evil 5 is the sequel to one of the best selling video games of all time. You play the game as Chris Redfield, a survivor of the events at Raccoon City, who now works for the BSAA. Sent to Africa to find the genesis of the latest Bio Organic agents, you meet up with another BSAA operative and work together to solve the problem. The game offers incredible 3D effects and a co-op gaming style.

Game Settings:











The HD R5770 Hawk was the top performer, once again, and managed a very respectable 90 FPS at 1920 x 1200.


Left 4 Dead from Valve, leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival!













The Left 4 Dead benchmark was the only one where the HD R5770 Hawk came in behind a few other the comparison cards, but this is most likely that the drivers aren't optimized for the game, more than anything to do with the hardware.


3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest has begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.














The 3DMark scores between the GTS 250 and HD R5770 Hawk were very similar, but even with the numbers being close, the Hawk did come out on top.


Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use three presets at all default settings.













The MSI HD R5770 Hawk did well across all benchmarks in 3DMark Vantage, but it was in the highest resolution run that the Hawk really started to surpass the rest of the cards in DX 10 performance.


The results of the MSI HD R5770 Hawk are outstanding and, even though this card is considered a mid-range product, it offers performance and quality that are well beyond its price range. Let's face it, the HD 57XX series performance is about as good as it gets when it comes to a sub $200 dollar graphics card at the moment. Being that ATI is the only graphics card company with DX 11 support, it makes sense that this series has become an extremely popular choice for many PC gamers. So, with performance and technology support not being the question here, let's have a look at what makes the MSI HD R5770 Hawk a real stand-out from the other cards based on the ATI Radeon HD 5770 GPU. The first feature that really makes it surpass the other models is the use of military class components. These parts are found throughout the card and are used in the highly-conductive capacitors that have a rare metal (tantalum) core that is extremely conductive, to the solid caps that are very durable and have a 10 year life span. These high class components also consist of Solid State Chokes that create no buzz noise and a 7+1 phase PWM design that will supply better current throughout the GPU. The use of all these high quality parts will not only add extra stability and value to the card, but will greatly raise the overclocking potential as well. Also, fitting in with the use of quality components is MSI's multiple heatpipe Twin Frozr II GPU cooler. This heatsink uses a Nickel-plated copper base with three heatpipes to transfer heat and has a large cooling area with dual 80mm PWM fans. The Twin Frozr II worked exceptionally well and was able to keep the core under 70c, even with the GPU voltage adjusted up to 1.3V. The best part of this cooler though, is how silent it operates. In both normal and demanding situations, the fan was hardly audible and it wasn't until the fan rotation was around 82% that the noise started to get loud. With all of these high quality parts, one thing about the HD R5770 Hawk didn't make sense to me and that was the use of only one DVI-I port. Most HD 5570 graphics cards utilize a dual port configuration that makes setting up ATI's Eyefinity a breeze, but with only one DVI-I port it could make set up more complicated.

Now, after talking up the overclocking potential of the military class components and great cooling capabilities of the MSI HD R5770 Hawk, did it live up to it's overclocking hype? The answer to that question is a resounding, yes! During overclocking the Hawk's GPU core maxed out at 1025Mhz, which is roughly a 17% overclock and the memory was extremely overclockable as well, reaching a final frequency of 1410MHz before running into any stability issues. These clocks will make this card an absolute value to the overclocking community, but the MSI Hawk isn't done yet. For the extreme enthusiasts of the world, MSI has also added a software based voltage regulator that allows the voltage to be manually adjusted from a overclocking program such as MSI Afterburner and V-Check points that, when connected to a Multimeter, can get on-the-fly voltage readings for both the GPU and memory. Even though the memory clocked extremely well, it would have been a nice touch to see some sort of cooling solution for the GDDR5 chips on the HD R5770 Hawk, which could have raised the overclocking potential to an even higher level.

What you have with the MSI HD R5770 Hawk is a extremely powerful, high quality product that comes at a great price and adds all the little extras that make it stand out from the crowd. Even though the card has its eyes on the overclockers in the room, there is no need to worry if adjusting clock speeds is not your thing, as the Hawk comes clocked 25MHz faster than other HD 5770 graphics cards giving you a little extra boost of performance right out of the box. So, if you find yourself in the market for an HD 5770 graphics card, the HD R5770 Hawk  is definitely a few steps up from the reference design and one that I highly recommend.