The HD 7770 has a lot going for it. The 28nm GCN architecture has allowed for high clock speeds, plenty of overclock headroom, a good jump in core per core performance over VLIW designs and excellent all-round efficiency. At first glance, it looks like there is a fair amount of forward progress being made with this spiritual successor to the HD 5770 but on some levels that just isnít the case. Our hopes a great performing, affordable mid range part came crashing back to earth with the realization that AMDís $159 SRP is simply out of touch with current market realities.
In its current price bracket the HD 7770 is going up against the $155 HD 6850s of this world rather than lower end NVIDIA offerings and its overall performance just can't measure up to the Barts Pro, particularly in bandwidth heavy situations. In many ways AMD has been a victim of their own success since the HD 6850ís lowered price was a recipe for sales success but it makes the Radeon familyís newest member look positively overpriced by comparison. To make matters worse, for the cost of a few cafeteria lunches you can step up to a $180 GTX 560, a card that simply walks all over Cape Verde.
Comparing the HD 7770 to GPUs that were initially released at a much higher price is hardly ďfairĒ. Rather, to objectively judge forward progress from one architectural generation to the next, letís take a step back in time and look at the HD 6790. Initially released at $149 nearly a year ago (and now retailing for about $119) this Barts LE-based card manages to play on a nearly level footing with the HD 7770 most games. If you canít see the ramifications of this, letís make it clear: $159 doesnít buy you an ounce more performance now than it did 10 months and a generation of GPUs ago. We can talk all day about how the Cape Verde cores are able to offer similar performance with less power, less heat and less noise but budget conscious gamers donít usually give a damn about any of that. They care about a great bang for buck ratio and thatís precisely where the HD 7770 falls on its face.
There are however some rays of hope courtesy of AMD's board partners but even these are tempered by the HD 7770ís high starting cost. The XFX Black Edition DD is a great little card that can keep pace with and usually beat an HD 6850. Unfortunately a $180 price tag means it competes against NVIDIAís vastly more powerful GTX 560 and thatís an unfair fight if there ever was one. MSIís own HD 7770 OC doesnít fare all that much better even though its custom heatsink allows for lower than reference temperatures and a diminutive acoustical footprint.
We havenít talked much about the HD 7750 and it actually deserves a section all on its own since it does tend to stand out for all the right reasons. Aimed directly at the GTX 550 Tiís market niche, it fails to actually surpass the NVIDIA card on a regular basis but from a price / performance standpoint, there are some flashes of excellence here. A compact $109 card equipped with top notch decoding capabilities is certainly appealing but unlike the HD 7770, which is quiet as a mouse, the HD 7750ís reference design makes an absolute racket. HISí iCooler version quiets things down a bit and coupled with its full sized output connectors, we can see this being the go-to card for entry level gamers and HTPC users alike. Sure, we were hoping to see the low end marketís goal posts moved a bit more but the HD 7750 doesnít hide what it is: a low priced card thatís geared towards large system builders rather than enthusiasts.
While this conclusion may not sound all that positive, thereís actually a whole lot to like about AMDís newest entries into the sub-$200 market. They perform well, should be widely available at launch and will put some pressure on NVIDIA once pricing (hopefully) levels out. In addition, low power consumption and minimal heat production are great indicators of a card that will live happily in just about anyoneís system, be it a regular ATX setup or a small form factor HTPC.
Unfortunately for AMD, money talks these days and gamers who care about framerates will understandably overlook the HD 7770 since there are comparably priced cards which outperform it by significant margins. Price cuts could turn our opinion on its head but for the time being it looks like AMD is staying the course with a firm $159 introductory cost. The HD 7750 on the other hand may not impress critics with jaw dropping performance but as an inexpensive graphics card, it actually succeeds quite well.
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