PowerColor PCS+ 5770 Review

RHKCommander959 - 2009-12-16 16:18:38 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: December 29, 2009

Introduction:

After the release of the 5800 series graphics cards from ATI for the high end market, midrange and low end solutions were needed to fill the market gap! The 5750 and 5770 were next in line and come with 720 and 800 stream processing units, respectively - similar to the 4800 series of last generation. Although the 5770 and 4870 are similar in stream processing units, they are built on different fabrication processes and have other differences, such as the memory interface. The fifth generation also supports Microsoft DirectX 11. PowerColor has given us an overclocked 5770 carrying the moniker PCS+ for its high performance cards. The stock clocks of a vanilla 5770 are 850MHz core and 1200MHz memory, while the factory-overclocked PowerColor card comes in at 875MHz and 1225MHz. Since the die has been shrunk down using 40nm technology, the energy requirements have also been shaved off - only one PCIe 6-pin power cable is required for use. The 5770 comes packed with 1GB of GDDR5 - becoming common for many video cards. Another thing to note is that 5770s and 5750s are able to be mixed together in CrossFireX even though they have different stream counts.

It will be interesting to see how well the PowerColor PCS+ 5770 performs against the higher end GPUs of the 5800 series, as well as the 4800 line and Nvidia's offerings.

 

Closer Look:

The front of the box shows a blue car/fan shroud with some tire marks. The lower right corner has a Dirt 2 sticker - indicating the game/game code is included with the video card! Boldly presented at the bottom is PCS+ Radeon HD 5770, while the video outputs supported and memory reside at the top right. Flipping the box over to the back side, you'll find the key features listed, while others are pointed out with graphics - ATI Stream Technology, CrossFireX Multi-GPU Technology, ATI Eyefinity Technology, Microsoft DirectX 11, and Built-in HDMI with 7.1 Surround Sound. The right side has seven different languages that talk about the 128-bit memory interface, Shader Model 5.0 support, and DirectX 11 support. The bottom right explains that PCS stands for Professional Cooling System. "With unique cooling technology and attractive cover design, this fantastic cooling solution can decrease operating environment temperature effectively, and enhance headroom for overclocking capabilities. All of these advantages will provide more flexibility for all gamers to take control and tune their rig for maximum performance."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sides of the box don't have too much to show except the Radeon HD 5770 name and PowerColor brand at the bottom. Opening the box reveals a brown cardboard platform box that has to be slid out before opening. Once out and opened, the card sits ready inside its protective anti-static bag.

 

 

Underneath the folding platform are the accessories - driver disk, Dirt 2 voucher, CrossFireX dongle, DVI to VGA adapter, and guides. The anti-static bag is a common, but very necessary, protection method for preserving the product, as it helps to keep out static, as well as dust and other nuisances.

 

 

With everything unpacked, it is easier to see the manual, Dirt 2 voucher, ATI driver disk, and DVI to VGA adapter. A solid accessory pack.

 

Time to get some shots of the card!

Closer Look:

The stream processor count on the new 5770s from ATI/AMD matches the RV770/790 core variants, so performance should be similar to an ATI Radeon HD 4870. The 5-series are built on a smaller fabrication technology than the 4-series - 40nm, as opposed to 55nm. The memory bus was also cut in half, down to 128-bit, making the cards less expensive to make. Overall, the 5770 should be a much cheaper and still comparable card to the 4870 thanks to the smaller die size. These cards were also aimed at midrange level, while the 4800 predecessors were high-end. PCB size has also been shrunk down due to many factors, including the smaller memory bus and decreased power requirements - further enhanced by the new power saving technologies imbued with the 5-series cards. The 5770 uses a mere 18w idle and a little over 100w loaded and thus requires only one auxiliary 6-pin PCI Express power connector to supplement power needs. Another pair of new features that the cards bring are Eyefinity and Microsoft DirectX 11 support. Eyefinity allows up to three monitors to be hooked up to each card in tandem for an increased field of view, while DirectX 11 support keeps the cards on the cutting edge of PC gaming. The PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 5770 is factory-overclocked and should perform very decently for a midrange video card. Looking at the top of the card, a red PCB is readily visible, as is the large black heat sink shroud and decently sized fan sitting on top of the heat sink, which runs most of the length of the card. Flipping the card over, there is a decent amount of circuitry crammed into the smaller card, four memory ICs on the back side, and no back plate for the GPU, which is common for lower end cards. The video outputs are all protected by black caps to keep dust out, which is a nice touch and shows the company tries to take good care of its products. As is standard for most ATI cards, there are two CrossFire connections for connecting with CrossFireX cables.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front of the graphics card has two DVI ports, a DisplayPort, and a HDMI port. Sitting around these are two grills to help ventilation, although with the heat sink design these won't provide much help to get heat out of the case - unless of course a high pressure setup is utilized. The rear of the card has the one PCI Express 6-pin connection, and gives a good glimpse at the thickness of the heat sink and fan assembly, which takes up at least two slots.

 

 

To hold the fan mount to the heat sink, two screws on the top and bottom are tapped into the heat sink. Making use of the extra space, the fins stretch over capacitors near the front and back. Looking at the card from the top, four notches are readily visible in the heat sink - likely to help the fan move air across the bare memory ICs laying underneath. Since the memory isn't actively cooled, it probably wont clock very high unless there is a bunch of headroom, but that is very unlikely.

 

 

Time to get it installed and check the drivers out!

Closer Look:

This time around we will just be focusing on the ATI Catalyst Control Center features, which has options for overclocking the video card and adjusting fan speed through the ATI Overdrive tab, as well as options for adjusting desktop and monitor controls for the perfect setup. Users can also adjust game, video, and photo qualities by either forcing certain features or by letting the application use its own settings. To install the drivers, I suggest using the express option – it installs to the default location quickly and easily. Users will be prompted to install extras at their will, such as the Folding@Home client. Overclockers Club has its own folding team where anyone is welcome to join; our team number is #12772. When overclocking with the ATI Overdrive feature, users are likely to hit a brick wall. The new drivers allow for manual fan speed control, but otherwise, the only other capabilities of the program are running a rudimentary stability test, basic monitoring, and using sliders with limited ranges to adjust speed. Once the drivers are installed, a quick system restart will get things on the right path and allow the Advanced ATI Catalyst Control Center to be used. The first page to open with ATI Catalyst Control Center is the Welcome page, which has quick hyperlinks to check for driver updates, get in contact with customer care, to give feedback, visit the AMD website, or to join the Folding@Home cause. The next page is the Information Center, which is split into two tabs, one for Graphics Software information and the other for Graphics Hardware information. These two tabs can be very handy for troubleshooting any problems a person may run into.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Graphics Hardware tab of the Information center contains information about the video card including BIOS version and date, chipset, memory, vendor code, and so on. Most people shouldn’t need the Graphics Hardware and Software information, but it is definitely handy when a problem may occur. The next page is the Desktops & Displays page. This page is for the basic settings of the monitor(s) and desktop. Users can figure out which monitor is which and rotate the outputted image. Clicking the properties or moving along brings us to the Desktop Properties page.

 

The Desktop Properties page has much more control over the desktop, with settings such as desktop area, color quality, refresh rate, and again, rotation. The next tab in the Desktop Properties page adjusts the color, contrast, brightness, and gamma output. This can be handy on monitors that need some help putting out the appropriate colors. Back when I used a CRT, a long time ago, it helped keep the colors closer to true when the monitor would get a gray or yellowish tint.

 

The Display Options page is very short and is used just for one option – Display Detection. The options are automatic or manual detection of displays. The 3D page has several tabs that allow users the ability to define a custom scheme for their games. There are previews for the effects or users can power through all the settings on the 'All' tab at the end.

 

The Avivo Video page has five tabs dedicated to performance and quality adjustments for video output. A preview is included of a woman with flowers and fruit. Again, just as with the 3D page, there is an 'All' tab that can adjust all the settings for the Avivo Video at once.

 

The last page on the graphics menu is the ATI Overdrive. To first use this feature, users must click the lock to ‘unlock’ the program, after agreeing to some terms. The software is capable of automatically overclocking the video card through Auto-Tune, but I prefer using the manual settings. Users can test their settings using the Test Custom Clocks button. Fan speed control is relatively new to ATI Overdrive and allows users to define what speed the fan or blower runs at. Underneath and to the right of this are gauges and readouts of some of the more important data for this card - temperature, usage activity, fan speed, GPU clock speed, and memory clock speed. The test feature brings up a full screen image that is pretty basic – greenish reddish with an AMD logo in the bottom left.

 

The new additional menu is the HydraVision menu. The first page is the HydraGrid page, which allows users to define a grid-like component to lock applications to a certain chunk of desktop real estate. Options such as showing the grids when moving a window and showing an icon in the tray are defined at the bottom, while adjusting the grid is near the top. The grid can be previewed, as the default layout is seen with white bars representing the grids. Users can customize the grid layout to whatever they desire. The keyboard shortcuts are listed out in the image, while the red bar means it is the selected grid component to be adjusted.

 

The next page is the Desktop Manager, which does exactly what the name implies - it manages the desktop. The desktop manager can keep track of application position and size, and allows spanning across multiple displays. The last page is the Multi Desktop. This name is also suggestive to its use, as this program allows users to have multiple desktops ranging from two to nine. Users can rotate between desktops with the scroll wheel, preserve display settings, and enable another tray icon. This can be useful for those who have a ton of desktop icons as a means to separate them out – one could, for instance, even make a desktop for each category of their own choosing, such as gaming, work, school, and whatever else.

 

Now we can go test out the new 5770 from PowerCooling!

Specifications:

Graphics Engine
Radeon 5770
GPU Clock MHz
875 MHz
Memory Clock MHz
1225 MHz (4.9Gbps)
Memory Interface Bus
128bit
Memory Type
GDDR5 
Memory Size (MB)
1024 MB
Bus Standard
PCIE 2.1
Microsoft® DirectX®
11

 

Features:

 

 

 

 

All Information courtesy of PowerColor@ http://www.powercolor.com/global/products_features.asp?ProductID=6781

Testing:

To test the PowerColor PCS+ 5770, the card will be used in a range of games and benchmarks to see how well it performs against other competitive products. The games consist of Far Cry 2, Crysis Warhead, Darkest of Days, Call of Duty: World at War, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Resident Evil 5, and Left 4 Dead, while the benchmarks are 3DMark 06 and 3DMark Vantage. After running the card normally through the testing phase, the video card will then be overclocked and then re-tested. The results of the overclocked and stock speed performance can then be compared to see how large of a gain (if any) is made. All the system settings remain the same from card to card and test to test, with the exception of disabling PhysX where applicable.

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

For overclocking the PowerColor PCS+ HD 5770, I stuck with ATI Catalyst Control since it had fan control and the overclock limit was set higher than the card's overclocking capabilities. For stability testing, I pushed until I reached artifacts, then backed down until it was gaming stable. The graphics card was already factory-overclocked, but I was able to take it from 875MHz core and 1225MHz memory to 940MHz core and 1340MHz memory - approximately 7.4% and 9.4% overclocks, respectively. Not humongous gains, but gains nonetheless.

 

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

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially 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 storyline 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 Far Cry 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The PowerColor PCS+ HD 5770 performed far greater in Far Cry 2 than the XFX HD 5750 and was about on par with the Asus GTX260, while falling under the Sapphire 4890 Vapor-X.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crysis Warhead pushed the PCS+ 5770 heavily, but it managed to stick around the GTX260 level. Performance was under the 4890 in all the resolutions and only the high-end cards provided somewhat playable frame rates for these settings.

Testing:

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

 

In Darkest of Days, the PCS+ 5770 matched or beat the 4870x2 from Sapphire, and caught up nearly to the GTX275. The 4890 still leads the 5770 though.

Testing:

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 large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30-inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call of Duty: World at War finally has the PowerColor 5770 beating out the 4890! It also still beats the GTX260, while matching or beating the GTX275 across the board. The high-end cards win like usual, and this game makes good use of CrossFire, as is evident with the 4870x2.

Testing:

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 single player in campaign mode, or in a multiplayer game where Microsoft's Live ranking system can be used.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance when overclocked matched or exceeded the 4890, while at stock was slightly under in Dawn of War II. Performance is far greater than the 5750, and had the PCS+ 5770 competing decently with the GTX275 again.

Testing:

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

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batman: Arkham Asylum loved the Nvidia cards - the worst performance came from the 5770, 5750, and 4890. The PCS+ 5770 beat out or matched the 4890 at stock and exceeded when overclocked.

Testing:

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 co-op multiplayer.

Game Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Resident Evil 5, the overclocked PowerColor 5770 chased closely behind the GTX260 and 4890. The game ran very well with the settings up until the largest resolution, where things slowed down some.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all 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 zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Results for Left 4 Dead were similar to the results of the last zombie game - the PCS+ 5770 fell just short of the GTX260 and 4870. Overclocking lessened the distance, but still wasn't enough.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 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.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark06 brings the PCS+ 5770 back into the fray by beating out the GTX260 at stock and getting close to the 4890 in most resolutions when overclocked.

Testing:

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 the four presets at all default settings.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3DMark Vantage has the 5770 squeezing between the GTX260 and 4890 at stock, while smashing them both when overclocked. Performance was much higher than the 5750 reviewed a few weeks ago.

Conclusion:

Overall, the PowerColor PCS+ Radeon HD 5770 with 1GB of memory performed very strong - not quite always at the level of a Radeon HD 4890, but on occasion matching or even beating the Vapor-X from Sapphire. Performing around the level of a GTX260, but at a much lower price point, is also very good for the price vs. performance argument. Microsoft DirectX 11 supported games are finally coming out, and the graphics card included a free Dirt 2 voucher. The Eyefinity is another bonus for users looking at running multiple monitors as well, since each card can support up to three monitors. Thanks to the ATI PowerPlay power saving feature, the 5-series cards idle very cool (low 30s Celsius, idle) and are good for office work, while being readily capable of gaming at a moment's notice. Without extra memory cooling and voltage control, the overclocking headroom isn't great, but is reasonable enough. 100% fan speed is audible, but with music or decent gaming noise it gets drowned out very easily. Also, the accessory pack was solid enough - capped video outputs, the free Dirt 2 game, manual, driver disk, CrossFire dongle, and DVI to VGA adapter.

The only real con that immediately comes to mind is the limited overclockability of the card - although a volt mod should easily remedy that. The overclocks that I attained weren't bad, just not stellar either. Other than that, there isn't really anything to complain about that is immediately pertinent.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: