XFX & Sapphire HD 7770 1GB Review
Reviewed by: airman
Reviewed on: February 14, 2012
Price: Sapphire $159.99 XFX BEDD Sapphire $159.99
The beginning of this year marked the introduction of AMD's 28nm video cards, the HD 7970 Tahiti core. We got to explore it thoroughly along with its counterparts from other manufacturers within the next couple of weeks. A month later the initial 28nm launch, the HD 7950s, followed and fell into their expected performance ranges. With the industry's first 28nm GPUs on the market and the fastest single-core video cards now available, the performance margin for all other video cards have stepped up — even the budget cards. Although we can expect the best and meanest performance out of Tahiti-cored graphics cards, we can also expect to pay top dollar for the top-shelf cards.
For those of us who don't necessarily want or maybe can't afford such a powerful card but still want the low power consumption and good performance ratio of the 28nm core, AMD's budget 28nm cards launch today. Codenamed "Cape Verdi" as part of AMD's "Northern Islands" collection, the HD 7750 and HD 7770 have the potential to offer much more playable DX 11 games for around $149. The HD 7770's core clocks when they hit the shelves will be no less than 1000MHz as we can find in the retail base models. In this review, we will be taking a look at XFX's HD 7770 Super Overclocked Black Edition Double Dissipation video card. The name is a mouthful, but describes it perfectly. XFX also has an Overclocked Black Edition with a core clock of 1090MHz, but it's not as super as the Super Overclocked Black Edition with an out-of-the-box core clock of 1120MHz. The Double Dissipation part, as we recently saw in our review of an XFX HD 7970 means one thing — two fans. With 1GB of 128bit GDDR5, 1.5 billion transistors, 640 stream processors, 40 texture units and 16 ROPs, the new Cape Verdi HD 7770 cards from AMD are sure to please the budget-conscious gamers, the light gamers, and those who might want to run six monitors off of one card. In this review, a thorough evaluation of the XFX HD 7770 Black Edition Double Dissipation will be featured — let's get started!
As we are accustomed to with XFX's packaging, this HD 7770 is housed in an artistically-decorated box that is mostly black with some blue and red graphics and text. At the top on the front is the XFX logo with a blue graphic beneath it, followed by the text "R7770 / Black Edition S / Super Overclocked". At the bottom is some more information regarding the double dissipation technology feature. It also mentions the fact that this is the "first generation of ground-breaking GPUs with core clocks above 1GHz". On the left side of it is a very long list of "Key Features" of over 100 entries, most of which will be explained on the Specifications & Features page. The rear of the box is covered in more information regarding the cards tesselation capabilities, physics engine, and multi-monitor stereoscopic 3D abilities. The Sapphire box is decorated with a picture of a combat-ready hero-ess complete with a smoking gun, hard hat, an ammo belt, and an appropriate amount of cleavage. The text "1GB GDDR5" is justly surrounded by gold stars, and has the rest of the descriptive text over the front. As seen on the bottom (closest, skinny face), the system requirements are provided. In general, a Windows operating system from XP and up, 1GB of system memory, and a 450W or greater power supply with one 75W 6-pin PCI Express power connector. Also described here are the box's contents; I will share those with you shortly. The rear of the box, like the XFX's container, lists the video card's capabilities and associated technologies — such as its 28nm architecture, Eyefinity 2.0, AMD APP Acceleration, etc.
Inside of the outer sleeve is a black cardboard box with white graphics on it for the XFX card and a plain brown cardboard box for the Sapphire version. Opening these boxes exposes the area that contains the accessories. For the XFX card, this includes: adapters (DVI to VGA and HDMI to DVI), Crossfire bridge, door hanger, and driver CD along with the quick install guide and brochures about other XFX products including its power supplies, monitor stands, and display adapters. Sapphire includes similar paper content, two adapters (DVI to VGA and mini Displayport to Displayport), Crossfire bridge, and a 1.8m HDMI cable. Underneath the cardboard tray in the XFX packaging is the video card itself, while the Sapphire card is on the same "level" as the packaged accessories. Both are enclosed in an anti-static plastic bag. Judging by the size of the boxes, I thought the card would have been a little bigger — but being a lower-end card, it's expected. XFX and Sapphire most likely uses the same "blank" boxes for all of its cards.
Now that everything is unpacked, let's take a closer look at each of the cards. Although under the hood they should be rather similar, the external features and characteristics will vary.
The first thing that I notice and what catches my eye on this card is the simpleness of its cooler shroud. Forget about all of the injection-molded, fancy plastic designs with all sorts of venting and colorful designs with embossed logos. Buy some extruded aluminum channels, cut them up, bore some holes and tap some threads - Voila - an effective and aesthetic cooling shroud. Running down the middle of this aluminum section is a black stripe that has a brushed finish and a white, silk-screened XFX logo resides between the two holes for fans. The black PCB is wide open and easy to see from all angles of the card. Turning the card over to the other side shows the extruded aluminum's profile and more of the matte-black PCB.
Along one side of the card is a red, plastic strip that has XFX R7770 written along the side. From this angle you can get a good look at the shape of the cooler inside of it, which appears to be about as long as the PCB itself. From the other side you can see more of the cooler, the shroud supports, and the copper block that interfaces directly with the GPU.
Available ports from this card is one Dual-link DVI, one HDMI, and two mini Displayport plugs. With there being only one DVI port and one HDMI port, those of you who run 3x1 Eyefinity using non-Displayport monitors, you are going to need at least one of those pricey adapters! Underneath the ports on the other area of the mounting bracket are some venting slots and XFX's efficiently clever venting modification. With the card having an open cooler, I don't necessarily understand the requirement for these venting holes. Nevertheless, they are there! The opposite side of the card gives another look at the inside of the cooler and the shape of one of the fans.
Although this card is a budget-friendly option, it still has the ability to link up to another card similar to itself and work together to produce more frame output. The Crossfire slot is located in the same spot as it always is. Crossfiring a less expensive card such as this is always a good option to consider after the original purchase of the card when an upgrade may be desired. Rather than having to purchase an entirely new card and retire this one, another ~$150 or less will come close to doubling your performance in other games as opposed to $300+. At the back of the card is the 6-pin connector for auxiliary power. The power draw from the card should be rather low, but XFX recommends a minimum of a 500W power supply in your system to power this card properly.
To get under the hood of the card, the four small screws around the perimeter of the back side of the GPU are removed and the cooler pulls away. The fans are disconnected and four more screws are removed to separate the cooler from the aluminum shroud. The fans themselves are also screwed into the aluminum heatsink and can also be removed with the "adjustment" of several more screws. The cooler itself is a very simple design — no heatpipes, no vapor chambers, etc. Simply aluminum fins on a copper block with two fans is what will be keeping this card cool!
The heart of this video card is the Cape Verdi core. As explored earlier, the 28nm Cape Verdi core in the HD 7770 has 1.5 billion transistors, 640 stream processors, and 16 ROPs. At a base clock of 1000MHz, the HD 7770s offer 1.28 TFLOPS of computing performance, and even more with the 1120MHz core speeds of the XFX HD 7770 Super Overclocked Black Edition. In addition, this specific card uses 1GB of Hynix memory which operate at a base speed of 1300MHz (5200MHz effective).
In comparison, the Sapphire HD 7770 Overclocked Edition is roughly the same length as the XFX card, but doesn't appear that way due to its mostly-enclosed plastic shroud. The black plastic casing is textured and molded to give the card an aggressive look while shaped just right for the multiple copper heatpipes to show from the side. There is only one fan as opposed to two on the XFX card, but these heatpipes should compensate for the airflow difference. The card boasts the typical Sapphire blue PCB which matches the gold pins of the PCI Express notch and the copper color of the heatpipes well. Looking at the rear of the card, we can see the Sapphire logo on the other side of the plastic shroud and "leafed" in silver color. The bright blue PCB can be seen in full from this side, along with the traces and the rest of the components as well — including the Crossfire bridge port.
Taking a look from the sides show that the black shroud is not fully enclosed, just like that of the aluminum cover of the XFX card. From these angles, you can see some of the internal components and get a better look at the heatpipe layout along with how they interface with the copper plate on top of the GPU die. A part number sticker resides on the side where the heatpipes are exposed, which is useful for when you might need to RMA the card from trying to overclock it too far! There is also a holographic Sapphire sticker right in the center of the heatpipe's "angle" and helps prove the card's authenticity.
Turning the card to the short sides shows the available ports on the I/O bracket. Just like the XFX card, we are provided with two mini Displayport connections, an HDMI port, and one DVI port. Keep in mind to run more than 2 monitors you will need to use at least one Displayport connection. If your monitors are not Displayport equipped you will need to purchase an active DVI adapter. Most "approved" adapters run about $30, but are worth the cost savings in comparison to buying a monitor that natively supports it. Looking through to the other side, you can see a brief and slightly out of focus view at some of the aluminum fins as part of the main assembly that helps keep the card cool. A good look at a couple of solid capacitors can be seen here as well.
As stated on its box and as we could have guessed, this Sapphire HD 7770 requires one 6-pin, 75W PCI Express power plug to operate. Also, like all recent AMD video cards, this Sapphire HD 7770 is equipped with a single Crossfire bridge slot. Since there is only one, don't plan on putting these in "tri-fire" as you will find it difficult to locate another slot to put another bridge! Nevertheless, even just one of these cards in addition to another one as a later purchase is a fast and easy way to upgrade your system.
Getting under the hood of this card is as easy as any other, by removing of the four sprung screws on the back-side. Keep in mind that this will can void your warranty and I am only doing so as a display of what's underneath the cooler, it's GPU die, and heatsink construction and quality. Once removed, we can get a good glance as what's actually in there!
Just like the XFX core, the Cape Verdi core has 1.5 billion transistors, 640 stream processors, and 16 ROPs, but operates at a stock clock of 1150MHz versus the 1120MHz of the XFX. It is also labeled as manufactured in Taiwan versus the XFX's Chinese core. The memory is the same Hynix memory as found on the XFX, although it operates at a lower 1250MHz.
XFX HD 7770 Black Edition Double Dissipation
Processor & Bus
Chipset version: ATI Radeon HD 7770
GPU Clock: 1120 MHz
Memory Bus: 128-bit
Memory Clock: 4.5 GHz
Memory Size: 1 GB
Memory Type: DDR5
AMD Eyefinity Technology: Y
AMD HD3D Technology: Y
AMD - CrossFire ready: Y
Max Supported Resolution (ANALOG): 2048 x 1536
Max Supported Resolution (DIGITAL): 4096 x 2160 (UHD)
Output - DL-DVI-I: 1
Output - HDMI: 1
Output - mini DP: 2
Dual link Support: Y
Display Port ready: 1.2
Card Dimension (cm): 21.4 x 11.12 x 3.81
Card Dimension (inch): 8.4 x 4.4 x 1.5
Card Profile: Dual
Package Dimensions (cm): 16 x 32.1 x 9.8
Package Dimensions (inch): 12.6 x 6.3 x 3.9
Package Weight (Kg): 1.3 est.
Package Weight (lb): 2.86 est.
Thermal Solution: HD7770 MBA Ghost Dual fan fansink
Thermal Type: Dual slot
Promotional Bundles: PSU Cross Marketing Insert
Quick Installation Guide: 1
XFX Serial Number Door Hanger: 1
XFX BE badge: 1
Installation CD with Multi-Language User Guide: 1
Cross Fire Bridge: 1
Driver CD Installation Guide: 1
External Power - 6-Pins: 1
Minimum Power Supply Requirement: 500 watt
XFX Recommended Power Supply: XFX 650W PSU
- GPU Edging: Black Edition Selection Process
- Double Dissipation
- Ghost Thermal Technology
- HydroCell Thermal Solution
- Duratec: Solid Capacitors
- Duratec: Ferrite Core
- Duratec: 2oz Copper PCB
- Duratec: IP-5X Dust Free Fan
- Duratec: XFX Bracket
- PCI Express 3.0 x16 bus interface
- DirectX® 11-capable graphics
- 9th generation programmable hardware tessellation units
- Shader Model 5.0
- DirectCompute 11
- Accelerated multi-threading
- HDR texture compression
- Order-independent transparency
- OpenGL 4.2 support
- Image quality enhancement technology
- Up to 24x multi-sample and super-sample anti-aliasing modes
- Adaptive anti-aliasing
- Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MLAA)
- DirectX® 10/11 Super-Sample Anti-Aliasing (SSAA)
- 16x angle independent anisotropic texture filtering
- 128-bit floating point HDR rendering
- AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology
- Up to 6 displays supported with DisplayPort 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport
- Independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls, and video overlays
- Display grouping
- Combine multiple displays to behave like a single large display
- AMD App Acceleration
- OpenCL 1.2 Support
- Microsoft C++ AMP
- DirectCompute 11
- Double Precision Floating Point
- AMD HD Media Accelerator
- Universal Video Decoder (UVD)
- MPEG-2 (SD & HD)
- MVC (Blu-ray 3D)
- MPEG-4 Part 2 (DivX/Xvid)
- Adobe Flash
- DXVA 1.0 & 2.0 support
- Enhanced Video Quality features
- Advanced post-processing and scaling
- Automatic deinterlacing
- Mosquito noise reduction
- Edge enhancement
- 3:2 pulldown detection
- Advanced video color correction
- Brighter whites processing (Blue Stretch)
- Independent video gamma control
- Flesh tone correction
- Color vibrance control
- Dynamic contrast
- Dynamic video range control
- AMD HD3D technology
- Stereoscopic 3D display/glasses support
- Blu-ray 3D support
- Stereoscopic 3D gaming
- 3rd party Stereoscopic 3D middleware software support
- AMD CrossFire™ multi-GPU technology
- Dual, triple or quad-GPU scaling
- Cutting-edge integrated display support
- DisplayPort 1.2
- Max resolution: 4096x2160 per display
- Multi-Stream Transport
- 21.6 Gbps bandwidth
- High bit-rate audio
- Quad HD/4k video support
- 3GHz HDMI 1.4a with Stereoscopic 3D Frame Packing Format,
- Deep Color, xvYCC wide gamut support, and high bit-rate audio
- Max resolution: 4096x3112
- 1080p60 Stereoscopic 3D
- Quad HD/4k video support
- Dual-link DVI with HDCP Max resolution: 2560x1600
- VGA Max resolution: 2048x1536
- Integrated HD audio controller
- Output protected high bit rate 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI with no additional cables required
- Supports AC-3, AAC, Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio formats
- AMD PowerPlay™ power management technology
- Automatic power management with low power idle states
- AMD PowerTune technology
- Intelligent TDP management technology
- Dynamic clock speed/performance enhancement for games
All information courtesy of XFX @ http://xfxforce.com/en-us/Products/Graphics-Cards/ATI/AMD-Radeon-HD-7000-Series/AMD-Radeon-HD-7770.aspx
1 x Dual-Link DVI
1 x HDMI 1.4a
2 x Mini-DisplayPort
1150 MHz Core Clock
28 nm Chip
640 x Stream Processors
1024 MB Size
215(L)x115(W)x36(H) mm Size.
SAPPHIRE TriXX Utility
CrossFire™ Bridge Interconnect Cable
6-pin to 4-pin Power Cable
Mini Displayport to Displayport Dongle
HDMI to SL-DVI Adapter
HDMI 1.4a high speed 1.8 meter cable (Full Retail SKU only)
- Dual-Link DVI: Equipped with the most popular Dual Link DVI (Digital Visual Interface), this card is able to display ultra high resolutions of up to 2560 x 1600 at 60Hz.
- HDMI 1.4a: HDMI 1.4a builds on previous generations of HDMI connectivity with support for Deep Color, 7.1 High Bitrate Audio, and 3D Stereoscopic support, ensuring the highest quality Blu-ray and video experience possible from your PC.
- Mini-DisplayPort: Enjoy the benefits of the latest generation display interface, DisplayPort. With the ultra high HD resolution of 2560 x 1600 the graphics card ensures that you are able to support the latest generation of LCD monitors.
- DisplayPort 1.2: Doubling the effective bandwidth of previous DisplayPort implementations, DisplayPort 1.2 now includes support for Multi-Stream, allowing you to drive up to four separate monitors from a single DisplayPort 1.2 connector (requires DP1.2 monitors or Multi-Stream compatible hub), Stereoscopic 3D monitor support and adds support for high quality, lossless, 7.1 channel audio formats.
- Advanced GDDR5 Memory Technology: GDDR5 memory provides twice the bandwidth per pin of GDDR3 memory, delivering more speed and higher bandwidth.
- AMD HD3D Technology: Enjoy the most immersive experience possible with full support for High Definition Stereoscopic 3D, a technique that presents 2D images (movies, games, photos) in a format that creates the illusion of three-dimensional depth when using compatible 3D displays / glasses / software.
- 28 nm GCN (Graphic Core Next) Architecture: The new and 28nm GCN Architecture with more efficient process technology puts more transistors in less space, enabling a dramatic increase in Processing Power. Crank the settings, devastate your enemies and bear witness to absurdly high frame rates with AMD Radeon HD7000 series graphics card-DirectX 11 has never looked this good. Maximum setting and crazy performance shouldn’t be a compromise. The AMD Radeon HD7900 Series with the new 28 nm GCN Architecture assures that it’s not.
- PCI Express 3.0: PCI-Express 3.0 delivers double the bandwidth per lane of PCIe Gen 2 for faster GPU (GPU communication-up to 16GB/sec in each direction), maximizing the performance from your GPU when paired with the latest platforms.
- AMD Eyefinity 2.0: The next generation of AMD Eyefinity technology is here, featuring all-new support for stereo 3D, universal bezel compensation and brand new display configurations. Face it: the best just got better: The enhancements for AMD Radeon HD7000 series include: Stereo 3D-multi-display stereoscopic 3D support via DisplayPort 16K X 16K maximum display group resolution-output up to 268 megapixels per GPU. *To support 3 displays, one of the monitors has to support DisplayPort **When running Microsoft Windows XP, Eyefinity technlogy supports a maximum of 2 displays.
- Efficient AMD CrossFire Technology: Triple or quadruple gaming power with AMD CrossFireX Multi-GPU technology. Increase your gaming performance up to 2x with AMD CrossFire technology, 2.75x for TriFire configurations, or with QuadFire configurations. With AMD ZeroCore Power Technology, the graphics card in slave modes will be switched off in idle to maximize the power saving.
- Discrete Digital Multi-Point Audio: The AMD Redeon HD 7900 Series is the first GPU that can simultaneously output multiple and discrete audio streams via HDMI and DisplayPort Output.
- Microsoft DirectX® 11: Get intense gaming performance and unrivalled image quality with stunning 3D visual effects, realistic lighting and lifelike imagery with SAPPHIRE graphics cards supporting DirectX®11. New features in DirectX®11 such as Hardware Tesselation, HDR Texture Compression, Multi-threading support and DirectCompute bring lifelike gaming and an experience never possible on a PC before.
- Shader Model 5.0: Supports the latest Shader Model 5.0 feature set including VTF (Vertex Texture Fetch) which is a key feature used extensively in many of the games that ship today. Without support for this feature the game will fall back to a lesser shader path resulting in the loss of cool, lifelike effects made possible by Shader Model 5.0
- OpenGL 4.2: OpenGL 4.2 improves the GPU efficiency by improving the shader process operation and capturing GPU tessellated geometry. The process of modifying an arbitrary subset of compress texture is also simplified. The memory management in handling shaders is more efficient as well.
- Best Microsoft DirectX11 Support: The tessellation performance on AMD Radeon HD7000 is up to 2X faster than the previous generation, and DirectCompute performance is also faster to accelerate advanced post-processing, filtering, and anti-aliasing techniques. Direct X11 games has never looked this good.
- AMD Catalyst Control Center™: The AMD Catalyst Control Center™ software application gives you complete control over the performance and visual quality of your SAPPHIRE AMD Radeon™ based graphics card allowing for the best experience on your PC.
- Dolby® TrueHD and DTSHD Master Audio™ Support: Support for copy protected, high bandwidth, 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI. Get a fully immersive, high definition audio experience with the latest Blu-ray movies. (Requires a DVI to HDMI dongle on some models, an HD capable monitor and a Blu-ray drive)
- AMD PowerTune™ Technology: AMD PowerTune is a breakthrough technology that sets an entirely new direction for maximum performance at TDP. It allows the GPU to be designed with higher engine clock speeds which can be applied on the broad set of applications that have thermal headroom.
- TriXX Utility: TriXX helps users to get the optimum performance from compatible SAPPHIRE graphics cards in any application by allowing them to monitor, tune and save different settings of key parameters for the card.
- Windows® 7 support: WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs) Certified drivers and logos are available for all SAPPHIRE HD2000, HD3000, HD4000 and HD5000 series cards ensuring compatibility and reliability with Microsoft Windows 7.
- AMD App Acceleration: AMD App Acceleration is a set of technologies designed to improve video quality and enhance application performance. Full enablement of some features requires support for OpenCL, DirectCompute or DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA).
- AMD PowerPlay with ZeroCore Power Technology: AMD PowerPlay is a power management technology in response to the GPU loading, AMD PowerPlay automatically manages the power consumption. AMD RADEON HD7000 Series with AMD ZeroCore Power Technology, the power consumption can be as low as less than 3 Watt when idle, making the best use of power.
- Accelerated Internet Applications Rendering: The new AMD Radeon HD 7000 Series accelerates the rendering performance with the latest web browsers (IE10, Firefox 6) and programming interfaces (Direct2D, HTML5, WebGL, Flash 11 / Molehill).
- AMD HD Media Accelerator: AMD HD Media Accelerator has been designed to help optimize and dramatically improve video playback on your computer by taking advantage of hardware video acceleration from your AMD Radeon GPU. With full 3D stereoscopic decode you can enjoy it all in 3D. AMD HD Media Accelerator speeds up the decode of one 1080p and one 1080i HD video streams simultaneously by hardware, and the new hardware encodes/transcoder processes your media content faster than ever!
- Cutting-edge Quad HD display support (4K Support): The display resolution on AMD Radeon HD7000 series is quadrupled to the resolution of 4KX2K from the outputs of DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4a. The display resolution support of HDMI 1.4a reaches the incredible 4096X3112 while the DisplayPort 1.2 is able to transmit the resolution of 4096X2160 per display.
Testing of both the XFX Black Edition Radeon HD 7770 and Sapphire HD 7770 will consist of running it and the comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance of the video card against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where they each fall on the performance ladder, using games that are some of today's newest and most popular titles which will provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.
The system specifications 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 Vantage testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel, if applicable. The card will first be tested at stock speeds and then overclocked to see the following effects. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performing in the graphs to show where they fall by comparison. The drivers used are the 11.12 Catalyst drivers for AMD-based cards, with the exception being the new HD 7700 series that have been tested with the latest AMD press release performance driver driver. The 290.53 drivers for NVIDIA-based cards are used for the testing.
- Processors: Core i7 2600K @ 4.4 GHz 100 x 44
- CPU Cooling: Corsair Hydro Series H100
- Motherboard: Gigabyte Z68AP-D3
- Memory: Mushkin 991996 Redline PC3-17000 9-11-10-28 8 GB
- Video Card: XFX Black Edition HD 7770 Double Dissipation, Sapphire HD 7770
- Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 1TB SATA
- Optical Drive: Lite-On DVD-RW
- Case: Corsair Graphite Series 600T
- OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Comparison Video Cards:
- XFX HD 7770 Black Edition 1 GB Core 1213MHz Memory 1411MHz
- Sapphire HD 7770 1 GB Core 1244MHz Memory 1395MHz
Overclocking these cards found to be a little more difficult than I am used to, simply because fresh hardware doesn't always have the right software prior to its release. I was able to find that MSI Afterburner 2.2 Beta 10 or higher allowed me to overclock both of these cards with Unofficial Overclocking enabled through Afterburner's configuration, but I was not fortunate enough to unlock voltage adjustments. I tried with betas 10, 11, and 12, but was unable to unlock the voltage adjustment. Without it, I was still able to manage over 1.2GHz on each's core and almost 1.4 GHz on both for the memory. The temperatures stayed well within my comfort zone during stability testing, and I wish I could have unlocked an extra tenth of a volt (or maybe more) to get ahold of a better overclock. I think with the right cooling and enough voltage, the right cards could be suitable for a 1.3GHz core which would be very impressive!
Maximum Clock Speeds:
Testing for the maximum clock speed consists of looping Unigine 2.5 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds fails when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment fails, then the clock speeds and tests are rerun until they pass a full hour of testing.
- Gaming Tests:
- Metro 2033
- Batman: Arkham City
- Battlefield 3
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5
- Dirt 3
- Mafia II
- 3DMark 11
- Power Consumption
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.
- DirectX 11
- 16x AF
- Global settings = High
- PhysX = Off
Off the bat, we see rather identical performance between the two HD 7770s. I can't say that I'm blown away by these results, but alas, this was just the first round of 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.
- DirectX 11
- 4x MSAA
- 16x AF
- Global settings = Very High
- PhysX = off
These results here are pretty impressive for the card's price versus some of the other cards' and their performance. Both HD 7770s came close to smelling the HD 6950's exhaust, which price-to-price is nothing to be ashamed of!
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.
- 4x AA in CP
- 16x AF in CP
- Game settings = High
While certainly still playable, these results are only a slight margin above where I would expect the HD 7770 to be.
Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.5 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.
- 4x AA
- 16x AF
- Shaders = High
- Tesselation = Normal
- Measurement = FPS
In Unigine Heaven 2.5, we see some pretty close performance to the ASUS GTX 560 Ti which can be had for around $200 now for the 384-core version. With these numbers, the HD 7770s only fall about 15% behind. If you've kept track with the two HD 7770s' performance against each other, you have noticed that the numbers are a mixed bag and they perform quite closely.
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.
- 4x AA
- 16x AF in CP
- Ultra Settings
At an easy 40 or more frames per second, DiRT 3 is certainly playable even at 1920x1080 with high-quality textures and eye candy turned on. Overclocking the cards gave them about a 10% performance increase in both resolutions.
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.
- 4x AA
- 16x AF
- In-game settings = High
- Ambient Occlusion = On
Cutting it close to being under 40 frames per second in the stock 1920x1080 test, both cards make it through the Mafia II testing. In both overclocked tests, the Sapphire card pulls an extra frame over the XFX — possibly due to the higher core speed. However, we still see the large presence of the GTX 560 Ti.
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.
- Default test settings
- Entry test: 1024 x 600
- Performance test: 1280 x 720
- Extreme test: 1920 x 1080
In 3DMark 11 these two cards continue to be neck and neck. This time we see the stock XFX out-performing the Sapphire, but the Sapphire clipping ahead by just a bit on the Overclocked testing with a near-tie in the Extreme benchmark.
Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 2.5, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1200 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.
- Monitoring with MSI Afterburner
- Unigine Heaven 2.5 1920x1200 8x AA
- 5-run sequence
- 20 minute idle duration
- Temperature measured in degrees Celsius
Being a lower power card, not much work is required to keep them cool. Both cards stay at an acceptable temperature in both stock and overclocked situations, but it is apparent that that heatpipe-equipped cooler of the Sapphire card makes a different in the top end.
Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 2.5 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to heat up the GPU, with the highest measured temperature recorded as the result. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system. With dual-GPU setups, the two core temperatures will be averaged.
- Unigine 2.5 Heaven Benchmark
- 1920x1200 Resolution
- 8x AA
- 15-minute load test
- 15-minute idle test
- Measurement is in watts
Having looked at the big performance leap between these two HD 7770s and the rest of the performance cards, a direct correlation is shown here in regards to power consumption. The load consumption, even when overclocked, stayed under 200W. You can't say that for the rest of the cards! The more FPS you want will be compensated for by more nickles and dimes on your power bill.
So, what all have we found through the progression of this review? Two new cards from two vendors who we all know and trust are available at a significantly low introductory price-point to directly follow the launch of the HD 7970s and HD 7950s. With the launch of these cards, 28nm technology is now available to everyone (who's willing to spend about $150 or more). It's clear that the 28nm process helps greatly with temperatures and power consumption, and even has a little bit to offer in the names of overclocking and the ability to run DX11 games at full resolution with high-detail graphics at 40 FPS and even more. Though some of the performance numbers don't quite match up to the numbers that we saw in the previous generation of the HD 6770s, we can only hope that more performance will jump out of these cards as the 12.x Catalysts evolve. Honestly, I was hoping for more of a scaling along the lines of HD 7770 = HD 6870, but that doesn't seem to be how it fell into place. With more time, maybe these cards will jump out a little bit. The reason I feel not so impressed is by looking at the HD 7970 versus HD 6970 performance — it's quite a significant margin. Of course, it's got a good bit larger price tag, but when I compare dollar for dollar, $110 for an HD 6770 to $170 or more for a high-end HD 7770, it leaves a little piece missing in my heart.
To speak about the cards without any comparison to others' performances, I like them. I had no problem running through the BF3 benchmark and I enjoyed doing the Batman and DiRT3 benchmarks. By comparison, those three games are by far the best-looking out of the entire OCC benchmarking suite and I was not disappointed in how they looked on the screen — especially with the eye-candy turned on. Batman certainly had the best performance out of the cards relative to the comparison cards, though I would have liked to see more from the other tests! On top of providing 40+ FPS in pretty much every test, the entire system idles at less than 100W and loads up at less than 200W, both stock and overclocked. Speaking of overclocking, I feel like there is a lot more room on the top of these cards if I could add in some voltage. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the voltage unlocked with the software tools that I had, but hopefully it will soon become standard.
To summarize, both the XFX and Sapphire HD 7770 perform well under stock and overclocked conditions. I was hoping for a little more performance to be shown off under the HD 7000 series lineup, but we can't have everything. It is a jump up from the HD 6770 cards in performance, but they also cost a little bit more too. Hopefully as the 12.x Catalyst drivers progress, we will see a little more performance from the 28nm cards. Soon, we should be seeing the HD 7800 cards which should be an interesting balance between the big dog HD 7900s and these more budget-oriented HD 7000 cards. As far as Eyefinity testing goes, expect to see those in the next couple of days. All in all, for about $160 this card is suitable for just about anyone who needs a card to play some of the latest games at suitable frame rates and not hurt too much from the purchase. Not only are these affordable, but they are quiet even at full speed and have low power draws at full load. Additionally, they look great with the combination of cooler and PCB schemes and with a short "wheel-base", fitting them into any case short of small form factors should not be a problem.
- 28nm core runs cool and overclocks well
- Latest games including BF3, DiRT3, and Batman: AC are all playable at full resolution
- Low power draw even at full load (<200W)
- Even at full fan speed, noise levels are far below that of higher-end cards
- Price-to-performance didn't scale as expected