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Cape Verde: All About Performance/Watt

AMD Radeon HD 7770 And 7750 Review: Familiar Speed, Less Power
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Most gamers shopping for a new graphics card want to know how everything in their budget performs, first and foremost. Within that frame of reference, and depending on how sophisticated they want to get, power consumption, connectivity, and value-added extras like stereoscopic support and video functionality play a secondary role in the decision. Derivative metrics like performance per watt and performance per dollar help narrow the focus, creating more specific comparisons.

In absolute terms, AMD’s new Radeon HD 7770 matches or is just a little bit slower than the 256-bit GeForce GTX 460 1 GB. AMD should probably just be happy that card is quickly disappearing. A 19 month-old product that gives a brand new value-oriented board a run for its money is a little awkward, after all.

The more painful comparison is to AMD’s own Radeon HD 6850. Generally faster, much less expensive, and still very prolific in the channel, there’s just no contest between the 16 month-old Barts-based board and Radeon HD 7770.  

Now, you can factor in low power use and make an argument that the 7770’s efficiency makes it a more attractive buy. But I don’t agree that efficiency trumps absolute performance in the minds of most. Instead, we get a new card with performance comparable to what’s already available at a price point already being hit. Almost makes you wonder why they didn't just shrink Barts to 28 nm?

I’m not just picking on AMD here. The GeForce GTS 450, launched between AMD’s Radeon HD 5770 and 5750 (but a year later) was similarly disappointing. The Radeon HD 7770 does a fair job of setting AMD up to phase out its Juniper-based cards manufactured at 40 nm with something comparably-quick. But it doesn’t push the performance it’d need to be a winner at $160.

How about the Radeon HD 7750? It’s about as fast as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 550 Ti—a card that costs more. From the same absolute performance angle, this card fits in a little more neatly. But its position strengthens when you move past average frame rates. The Radeon HD 7750 is a single-slot card. It doesn’t require auxiliary power. And although its fan is diminutive, it keeps the cut-back Cape Verde die cool without generating obnoxious noise levels under load. In a budget-oriented, lightweight gaming machine or HTPC, this is a card we’re more likely to appreciate at $110.

Although we’d really like to be able to test what VCE can do for the encode performance of the Radeon HD 7750, using it on a Z68- or H67-based platform gives you Quick Sync support, and that’s good enough for now.

In light of the performance, functionality, and efficiency that AMD crams into a single-slot, ~55 W board, the Radeon HD 7750 deserves a Tom’s Hardware Recommended Buy award. Our nod of approval is specific to the HTPC space, where those attributes are particularly valuable.

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