AMD Radeon HD 7770 And 7750 Review: Familiar Speed, Less Power

These are the lowest-end cards built using AMD's new Graphics Core Next architecture. Is 28 nm manufacturing, a fresh design, and new functionality enough to warrant upgrading existing value-oriented champs like the Radeon HD 6850 and GeForce GTX 460?

If you’re a regular Tom’s Hardware reader, then you’re already familiar with our monthly Best Graphics Cards for the Money column, written by Don Woligroski. Basically, Don maintains a list of the most value-oriented deals at a number of price points to help game enthusiasts make purchasing decisions. Once upon a time, the list was absolutely dominated by hardware from Nvidia. Slowly, though, I’ve watched it shift the other direction. And each month, as I’m editing the column, I grill Don on his selections in order to make sure the right recommendations make it in.

Well, for February, there were 18 total cards in his list, split between full endorsements and less enthusiastic honorable mentions. Fourteen of those were AMD cards. Four came from Nvidia. Under $200, every single card was a Radeon. Every. Single. One.

Right now, AMD is simply rocking the budget gaming space with cards like the Radeon HD 6770 and 6850. But with a new generation of derivatives following behind the Radeon HD 7970 and 7950, it’s hoping to trump existing recommendations with the Graphics Core Next architecture, along with a handful of value-adds.

To be sure, its fiercest competition doesn’t come from Nvidia. Rather, the company must do battle with its own compelling portfolio of fast, affordable gaming cards.

High-End? Check. Low-End? Check

After covering enthusiasts with those aforementioned 7900-series cards based on its Tahiti GPU, AMD is addressing the entry-level space with Radeon HD 7770 and 7750. Both boards sport the same Cape Verde graphics processor, manufactured using TSMC’s 28 nm node, in slightly different configurations.

Compared to Tahiti, a 4.31 billion-transistor, 365 square millimeter die, Cape Verde sports 1.5 billion transistors in a 123 square millimeter package. Its most complete configuration consists of 10 Compute Units, each one composed of four Vector Units containing 16 Stream Processors. All told, that’s as many as 640 shaders based on the Graphics Core Next architecture.

Cape Verde is equipped with four ROP partitions—half as many as Tahiti—limiting it to 16 raster operations per clock cycle. A memory crossbar connects those partitions to a pair of 64-bit dual-channel memory controllers, yielding a 128-bit aggregate bus.

Clearly, AMD took an interesting path to get from the Radeon HD 7970’s Tahiti to the 7770’s Cape Verde. Armed with 31% of the flagship GPU’s shaders and texture units, 50% of its ROP partitions, 66% of its L2 cache, and a mere 27% of its peak memory bandwidth, company representatives say they ran simulations and these were the ratios that turned back optimal performance. The target, they claim, is playable 1920x1080 performance. So, while frame rates may fall off at higher resolutions with AA turned up, that’s perfectly acceptable for a fairly mid-range card. Just don’t expect to do much multi-monitor gaming.

The gaping hole between AMD’s highest- and lowest-end Radeon HD 7000s won’t persist for long. Right in the middle, where the Radeon HD 6870 and 6900s currently live, you’ll soon see a third distinct GPU called Pitcairn. Back on topic, though…

Radeon HD 7770 And 7750

Officially, the top-end Cape Verde part is called Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition, paying homage to its 1 GHz core clock. This is a milestone, AMD says, meaning every partner board will bear the moniker, regardless of whether it’s a stock reference board or a faster configuration with aftermarket cooling. Of course, we all know that the core’s operating frequency is only one variable in the complex equation that defines a board’s performance, so that name ends up rubbing as self-congratulatory and, ultimately, superfluous.

The Radeon HD 7770’s 1 GHz Cape Verde GPU employs all 640 available shaders, theoretically yielding 1.28 TFLOPS of compute performance. Since each Compute Unit includes four texture units, 7770 also sports 40 texture units. An unmolested back-end turns up four ROP partitions and a 128-bit memory bus populated by 1 GB of GDDR5 memory at 1125 MHz.

Measuring 8.5” long, this dual-slot card’s dimensions are almost identical to the Radeon HD 5770 we test it against. Whereas that older Juniper-based board uses a centrifugal fan to exhaust heat, the 7770 employs an axial fan mounted on an aluminum extruded heat sink. We’re normally not advocates of designs that recirculate hot air. However, an 80 W typical board power rating is conservative enough that other subsystems in a closed chassis shouldn’t be affected.

That 80 W rating exceeds the PCI Express bus’ 75 W limit, so the Radeon HD 7770 does require one six-pin auxiliary power connector. Even still, the 5770 was rated at 108 W—almost 30 W higher. Even more impressive, AMD’s Radeon HD 7770 benefits from the company’s suite of ZeroCore technologies, which purportedly take power use under 3 W during long idle periods.

Although one full slot on the 7770’s I/O panel is devoted to ventilation, you’ll still find one dual-link DVI port, one full-sized HDMI connector, and two mini-DisplayPort outputs back there, cumulatively supporting up to six screens (though practically, the limit is still four, since we still haven’t seen any DisplayPort 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport hubs).

Radeon HD 7770
Radeon HD 7750
Radeon HD 6850
Radeon HD 5770
Stream processors
Texture Units
Graphics Clock
1000 MHz
800 MHz775 MHz850 MHz
Texture Fillrate
40 Gtex/s
25.6 Gtex/s
37.2 Gtex/s49.4 Gtex/s
Memory Clock
1125 MHz
1125 MHz1000 MHz1200 MHz
Memory Bus
Memory Bandwidth72 GB/s
72 GB/s
128 GB/s76.8 GB/s
Graphics RAM
Die Size
123 mm2
123 mm2
255 mm2166 mm2
Transistors (Billion)
Process Technology
28 nm
28 nm40 nm
40 nm
Power Connectors
1 x 6-pin
None1 x 6-pin
1 x 6-pin
Maximum Power
80 W
55 W
127 W
108 W
PCI Express
~$150 (Street)
~$105 (Street)

The Radeon HD 7750 is a drastically different graphics card, even though the same piece of silicon serves as its foundation. A 55 W power rating means that it doesn’t need an auxiliary connector at all—just a 16-lane PCI Express slot. And a 6.5” PCB is short enough to fit in space-constrained environments like diminutive desktops and HTPCs. We haven’t seen a serious graphics card with single-slot cooling for a while, but this board manages challenging feat, too.

Of course, there are necessary compromises. Two of Cape Verde’s CUs are disabled, leaving 512 functional shaders and 32 texture units. Also, core clock rate drops to 800 MHz, reducing peak compute performance to 819 GFLOPS.  AMD does leave the back-end alone. One gigabyte of GDDR5 running at 1125 MHz on a 128-bit bus feeds four ROP partitions.

AMD says the 7750 also supports six screens, though with one dual-link DVI port, one full-sized HDMI connector, and one full-sized DisplayPort connector, your options for getting there are more limited.

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  • Derbixrace
    the 7750 will be a GREAT card compared to the 6670 for those who have a shitty 300w PSU and wants a nice GPU.
  • hardcore_gamer
    I hope the price of 7770 comes down to $130. That is where this card belongs.
  • phamhlam
    If the 7770 is the same price as the 6850. I think we have the best value card right here. The 6850 was a great budget card but this card will change that.
  • dragonsqrrl
    "Although other cards beat it in encryption and decryption performance, the Radeon HD 7750 easily secures a second-place finish in the SHA256 hashing test."

    I think you mean AES256.
  • jprahman
    The fight shaping up between all these new AMD cards and Kepler is looking to be a good one. Time to just sit back with some popcorn and enjoy the show... while planning a new build for when the price war breaks out.
  • esrever
    Seems ok, New stuff ussually cost more. The 6770 being more expensive than the 5770, the 6870 being more expensive than the 5850 ect.

    I'd expect prices to go down once supply goes up and demand goes down.
  • confish21
    What a sad release. I'm not even excited for Pitcairn now! I foresee the $170 6870 to hold its own.
  • This is ridiculous. Man this sucks, i've been waiting for the 7770 since early last year, and this crap is what they release?

  • wicketr's hoping for a good 7850/7870 release on March 6th. Not much here worth spending money on IMO.
  • buzznut
    This is unfortunate, considering the naming scheme. The 4770, 5770, and 6770 were/are all good budget cards that performed above where they were priced. Bang for buck has always been the draw here, but that 7770 is overpriced. Hopefully AMD will see this fumble; I agree at $120-130 this card makes a lot more sense.

    I'd actually like to see the HD 7750 at a lower price too, as we know these prices will drop over time but I still think this is slightly high for launch.
  • fistoffoo
    I am literally having a Nerdgasim LOL.
  • mattmock
    In the monthly best Graphics cards you mention that AMD is dominating. I wonder why though. Are Nvidia's cards capable of maintaining a price premium because consumers are willing to pay a little more to use Nvidia drivers and extras like PhysX and 3d vision? Or possibly are their cards more expensive to manufacture and so Nvidia must raise prices to maintain margins and simply suffer reduced sales at those prices. Anyone know?
  • gti88
    With price tags lake these, 7770 and 7750 could have big radiators for passive cooling.
  • These prices are terrible, even compared to the current competition and not the inevitable huge price drop to compete with Nvidia's next gen. 7770 giving less then GTX460 performance at $160, when in what 2-3 months Nvidia will probably be giving that performance level for under $99.

    7770 is crap.
  • mattmock
    stm1185These prices are terrible, even compared to the current competition and not the inevitable huge price drop to compete with Nvidia's next gen. 7770 giving less then GTX460 performance at $160, when in what 2-3 months Nvidia will probably be giving that performance level for under $99. 7770 is crap.

    Amd may be taking advantage of their unopposed release of the 7000 series to sell their cards at high margins. They may just be waiting for the new Nvidia cards to come out before they drop prices.
  • ztr
    Damn it! >_<

    Couldnt the 7750 release before I bought my 5670? >_>
  • scallywanker
    I was hoping the 7770 would provide a little more umph. I'm running a 460GTX-SLI setup, and hoped that ATI... er AMD's mid-range bracket in Crossfire would provide a significant boost, worthy of an upgrade. With the 460 more than hanging in there at stock speeds, I can't see a dual-card upgrade in the future, unless Kepler just absolutely blows this up at these price points. Even the 7950 and 7970 are a hard sell with limited availability and price-gouging.

    AMD is like the Chicago Cubs. Even non-fans want them to succeed, but they can never seem to get their act together.
  • a4mula
    MattMockAmd may be taking advantage of their unopposed release of the 7000 series to sell their cards at high margins. They may just be waiting for the new Nvidia cards to come out before they drop prices.

    I agree somewhat, but I don't think it's the enthusiast crowd they're targeting here. It's the OEM crapfest that pushes the latest trash onto unknowing consumers while slapping a gaming pc title on their box.

    AMD had an edge with the Cayman because its performance was unopposed in the single gpu realm. With these cards that's nowhere close to the truth. In the past you could at least expect to get new DX support newer shading support or anything that would give the current model a unique edge over it's predecessor. I'm just not seeing that with this release. Then to top it off AMD is continuing the trend they started with the 7970 of an over-inflated launch price. While that might have flown with the cards that were untouchable, it's not going to fly here when you can spend the same money for more peformance, period.

    I feel bad for pre-built pc buyers that are unaware of things like this, such a ripoff.
  • scallywanker
    scallywankerAMD's mid-range bracket

    Confused by the launch order and prices, I mistook this for their mid-range, and not their budget range. It's better, but not by much.
  • AMD GCN HD7700 Performance good,quite energy saving
  • jdwii
    -1 To amd this is Not even worth it, Way over priced the 7770 should cost 149.99$ at most! The 7750 is not to bad for the money its better then the 6750 but still about 5-10% slower then a 6770 that costs the same. But like toms said this will be a great card in the Media center PC's. Only 55 watts Nice!
  • mikeztm
    Are those World Of Warcraft tests under DX9 or DX11?
  • tomfreak
    wait they leave the memory part of 7750 intact? wow! Could this mean if I manage to OC the already low clock 7750, I will bes a significant boost in performance? Enough to make up some ground on the disabled units?