If you're a big fan of getting a lot of performance for a reasonable outlay, then the numbers 770 will get you all excited. After all the 4770 and 5770s were both cards with great levels of performance and yet came in at a very reasonable price-point.
Given that the top end cards in the 7 series are both more expensive than we're used to from AMD, and the rejig of their naming conventions with the 6 series, will the HD7770 live up to the lofty expectations of its predecessor?
One of the main points of the HD7770 is that it has all the AMD technologies built in to it. Rather than cutting down the featureset as well as the amount of Stream Processors and clockspeed, AMD have solely reduced the performance of the card, but left all the Eyefinity and rendering elements alone.
The target for the HD7770 is, as always, the sub $200 (about £150 usually) market. This is one of the tightest contested sectors in the whole graphics card world, with a tenner here and there moving you a few models up or down, gaining lots of extra performance if you can step up to the next one. As we're still waiting for the HD78x0 cards there will be quite a gap between the performance of the HD7770 when compared to the next model up in the Radeon range.
One of the many benefits that Steam brings is the ability to see what is genuinely the most popular card around, and unsurprisingly the HD5770 is still up there. Although this does beg the question "What happened with the 6 series", as none of the cards AMD have chosen to highlight are from their much-maligned previous iteration.
The clockspeeds that we can attain from the ever-shrinking dies are becoming mind-blowing, and nowhere is this truer than with the HD7770 which comes out of the box at a whopping 1GHz core. Even more surprising is how low the power consumption is. A mere 3W when your monitor has gone into power-saving mode, and only 80W when rocking hard.
The card we have for review today is a reference model, so we'll borrow the images from the AMD website. As you can see it's identical to the other reference 7 series cards. One thing that highlights how little power the HD7770 draws is the use of a single 6pin power socket.
At the business end we have the standard Radeon outputs, a DVI, HDMI and a couple of mini-DisplayPort. We still don't know too many people who have DisplayPort compatible monitors and it seems that despite the desire for GPU manufacturers to include them, the monitor manufacturers aren't following suit.
As is always the case now, but worth noting nonetheless, our GPU test rig is based upon our X79 setup with the beefy i7-3960X underpinning it.
Catalyst HD7970 Drivers 12.1
Intel Core i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz
ASUS Rampage IV Extreme
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Similarly to the HD7970 and HD7950 the HD7770 is capable of running at a pretty big 1150MHz on the core. Certainly any performance deficit wont be clockspeed related.
As we'd expect with a smaller card the heatsink doesn't quite manage to keep things as cool as we saw with the bigger cards in the range. However the thing we have to point out is how quiet this is. It's unbelievably quiet even when running under hefty loading. This would make a perfect HTPC card if silence is as important to you as it is to us.
Now for the sake of direct comparisons our testing is the same as it always is. However we're aware that this card isn't designed to go up against a lot of the cards in our graphs, so we wondered if the latest HD7770 had enough new features to make it a worthwhile purchase. To this end we dug out our long-past reviews of the low-end Radeon cards, and saw how they stacked up in 3D Mark.
It's worth noting that the other four cards were tested on a 4GHz i7-950, rather than the 4.6GHz HexCore all-singing X79 rig we're using today. Finally, the other four cards are all available for around £100 rather than the £130 that the HD7770 is rumoured to retail at.
3D Mark 11
Even with the underlying benefits of a better test system and more modern drivers, the HD7770 barely keeps up with a HD6790 and is decimated by the HD6850 and plain GTX560.
3D Mark Vantage
In Vantage it makes a better fist of things, but once again it's worth noting that the other cards were tested on the PhysX heavy version of Vantage, rather than the patched version which moves PhysX to the CPU. So given the extra CPU power available from the i7-3960X it's not a great surprise that the HD7770 just edges ahead of its Radeon rivals. All in all if you're going for pure gaming performance, you can do better at a cheaper price with the older cards.
3D Mark 11
AMD are aiming the HD7770 in their literature at the GTX550Ti, but pricing it against the GTX560Ti. Either way the results in 3D Mark have the HD7770 as the lowest performing card in our standard graphs.
3D Mark Vantage
In Vantage the tale is even worse.
It's going to be a running theme we're afraid. The graphs don't tell the full story because we're running with all the in-game settings as high as possible for comparison purposes, but even allowing for that the HD7770 isn't exactly spectacular.
Batman Arkham City
The adventures of the caped crusader are stern on any setup, as noted by the HD7770 managing to match a stock HD6970.
Yet another title in which, if we're looking at 'best value for money' the GTX560 is streets ahead of the AMD offering.
We've often commented upon how Dirt 3 is so well optimised it would be playable on a toaster. The HD7770 is not a toaster. 115FPS on a GTX560 vs 39FPS on the HD7770.
Far Cry 2
The game may change but the story remains the same. Poor performance from the HD7770. A single HD6770 managed 30FPS and that was on a less powerful CPU and you could get a Crossfire HD6770 setup for the same price as the HD7770.
We finally find a game in which the HD7770 can perform quite well. So if you like 2K Czech's game, you'll be okay here.
We know that Metro 2033 is too demanding for a single card, especially one as gutless as this. So the sub 20FPS result is no surprise.
Resident Evil V DX9
In case anyone doubted how great the Capcom PC Port of Res5 is, 100FPS on the HD7770. This is with maximum settings too. Impressive.
Resident Evil 5 DX10
Even with the DirectX 10 rendering path selected the little Radeon is capable of a very smooth experience.
It would be easy to think that the heavy anti-aliasing we use in our gaming tests is the cause of the HD7770s woes, and that with more realistic settings it is a high-performing card. Nope, the GTX560 spanks it pretty heavily.
The Witcher 2
Such is the slideshow offered up with The Witcher 2 that reading the Andrzej Sapkowski novels would be a smoother experience, and they're in Polish.
Cards positioned at the £100-150 price-bracket have a very tough time indeed, such is the wealth of options available and the compromises that have to be made to get your GPU down to that price-point. This is especially true as time marches on because the previous generation of cards get ever cheaper, whilst the performance that they offer doesn't change. So, for example, the HD6790 which was a reasonable performing card at the time is still that now, but a bunch-load cheaper than it was at launch. The GTX560 (in both stock and Ti variants) are exceptional performers and now available right in the middle of that price-bracket.
According to the AMD literature the HD7770 is marketed at the GTX550Ti. According to the pricing it's actually up against the GTX560Ti and therein lies the big problem. Its performance is akin to the GTX550, or the HD6790, so why would you spend the extra money to get something that performs in a manner similar to the cards in the price-bracket below, and is stomped by cards available for similar money with nearly identical features such as the GTX560Ti or HD6870? The HD6870 is a particularly thorny issue for AMD, as it's about the same money, is still a DirectX11 card with all the Eyefinity support and the like, but with better performance and is from the same company. It is one thing to be beaten by a rival, but beaten by something you've already produced?
It's not all doom and gloom though. The HD7770 just has a very niche audience.
If you want a card that would be perfect in an HTPC setting, this is definitely a great choice. It's really low-power and as near to silent as makes no difference. Plus you have all the outputs necessary to plug it in to whatever display you desire. If you don't care two hoots about gaming and just want a card that can pump a display out to six screens for your design work or whatever, then once again it's a great choice. If you don't mind casual gaming and will play on a 19" screen at medium settings, it will suit you perfectly well. Although of course so will many other cards that cost much less.
So if you're a hardcore gamer, it's probably best to look at the GTX560 or HD6870 for a start, depending upon your loyalties. If you just want something that is quiet and fits in your HTPC setup with no gaming required, there are plenty of cards that will do that, at less money (the HD7950 for one).
But if you want to game a bit, and yet still have many screens running, and want silence, and want something new that is low-power, then it's worth taking a look at the HD7770, and for that it just about scrapes our Bronze award.
Thanks to AMD for supplying the HD7770 for review. Discuss in our forums.