We've always been a fan of the lower-end graphics cards available. There is something enjoyable about finding a gem of a card at a really affordable price that gives us a grin.
One company that have always done their best to push these value cards hard is HIS Digital. They've never been shy about ripping the reference cooler off and using their own, and more often than not giving the GPU a mild overclock.
These low-end cards have usually been great when paired up in Crossfire, and so that's what we're going to do today.
Despite being labelled as a HD6770 card, this is really a rebadged HD5770. We've got the Juniper GPU tied in to 128bit Memory. 800 shaders are married to 16 ROPs and 40 texture units. So it's a 5770.
Thankfully HIS have done their very best to breathe new life into it with the IceQ cooler and a speed tweak to the GPU. A free copy of Dirt 3 will help the reality of buying a graphics card from the last generation go down a little smoother.
|Model Name||HIS 6770 IceQ X Turbo 1GB GDDR5 PCI-E DP/2xDVI/HDMI|
|Chipset||Radeon HD 6770 PCIe Series|
|ASIC||RadeonTM Juniper GPU|
|Manu. Process (Micron)||40nm|
|Memory Size (MB)||1024|
|Engine CLK (MHz)||880Mhz|
|Memory CLK (Gbps)||5Gbps|
|Memory Interface (bit)||128|
|Power Supply Requirement||450 Watt minimum|
|Bus Interface||PCI Express x16|
|DVI||2x Dual-link DVI-I|
As is always the case with HIS the packaging is only as big as it needs to be. The IceQ cooling provides the inspiration for the colour scheme with a very aesthetically pleasing blue and white.
Inside we have the usual array of adaptors and power converters, as well as the driver CD and code for a copy of Dirt 3.
The card itself looks very nice with the ice blue colouring, although the fan surround errs on the tacky side for us.
The 30MHz overclock when compared to a stock HD6770 is what gives the HIS the 'Turbo' moniker. As you can also see from the fan tips this isn't just an ordinary 80mm fan, but rather one designed with both airflow and quietness in mind.
Up Close - Crossfire
Outputs are handled by a DisplayPort if you fancy Eyefinity, an HDMI and two DVIs. Because this is a lower-end card the power is taken from a single PCIe 6pin power connector.
Of course this wouldn't be a Crossfire review if we didn't have two on hand. Those big heatpipes look really tasty alongside the blue shroud.
It makes a nice change to see a card that is light rather than all black and menacing. The perfect accompaniment to a white build or similar. There is something about a pair of cards together that, regardless of their abilities, gets us excited.
We're testing the HIS as both a single card and in Crossfire today. As well as our standard battery of tests we've got a few just to see how well the cards scale as well. Hopefully the multiple Catalyst updates since the original launch of the HD5770 will enable our HD6770 IceQ's to surprise us.
2x HIS HD6770 IceQ X Turbo
Catalyst 11.7 Drivers
Intel Core-i7 950 @ 4GHz
ASUS Rampage III Extreme
Muskin Joule 1200w
6GB Mushkin Redline
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Alien vs Predator
With the IceQ coming in at around £100 we're obviously not expecting our single card to give blistering performance, but still 30 FPS at these high settings isn't bad. The real surprise is the Crossfire setup being faster than a GTX580. Half the price, equal performance. Exactly what we like to see.
3D Mark Vantage
Considering that a single HD6770 is £100, so two are £200, and the HD6870X2 is £300, the performance seems very linear relative to the price. However if you look down to the bottom of the graph you can see that two HD6870s, current about £120 each, are quite a bit ahead.
3D Mark 11
The Crossfire scaling really shines in 3D Mark 11. Performance isn't fantastic but for such ageing architecture the IceQ does all right.
Unigine used to be a playground for the Radeon cards to strut their stuff. Recent driver updates seem to have greatly neutered their abilities in this particular benchmark. Sadly it's such a tough benchmark that the HD6770 needs all the help it can get, so the combination of reduced driver ability and a low-end card doesn't make for good reading. Even with the Anti-Aliasing off there really isn't much performance to be had.
We have two very different comparisons with Crysis Warhead. With the settings at Gamer and the anti-aliasing off we're looking at the single-card performance and the HIS is around the same as the two cards slightly above it in the Radeon range, the HD6790 and HD6850. Obviously the Crossfire settings dominate the graph as they would when compared to single-cards.
Cranking the image quality up to Enthusiast and liberally applying some anti-aliasing is aimed at testing the Crossfire performance, and the HD6770 doesn't do badly at all. Up there with plain GTX560s in SLI and the HD6870CF setup.
The latest in the Crysis line-up is a new test in the OC3D pantheon and as such we've only previously tested it on the range-topping HD6990 and GTX590 cards. Obviously it would be hugely unfair to place those against the little HD6770 and so we're mainly looking at scaling here.
The vanilla Crysis 2 with standard textures and DX9 does well on both setups as befits its console roots. The single HD6770 manages to nearly hit 60FPS and in Crossfire there is a buttery-smooth playing experience.
With the latest DX11 patch and the Hi-Res texture pack the limitations of the cards are brought into stark relief. Limited texture units and the bandwidth limitations of 128-bit memory render the single card utterly unplayable and even in Crossfire it's not a pleasant experience.
Call Of Duty Black Ops
If you prefer your FPS games to be PC versions of console titles, then the HIS HD6770 definitely gets it done. Black Ops works perfectly fine even on a single-card and the Crossfire mainly serves to keep the minimum frame-rate at the 60 FPS mark, vital in online shooters.
Medal of Honor
Such is the woeful coding behind MoH that the extra stress the second card places on the system actually makes the minimum frame-rate performance worse than with a single card whilst not really giving us any extra headroom.
Far Cry 2
We would assume the old Far Cry 2 would follow the example set by COD and MoH, but actually the HIS HD6770 is decimated. A single-card just cannot provide a playable experience and the Crossfire setup just keeps things hovering around the 60 FPS mark on average, although it quickly gets chuggy when a lot is going on.
The major improvements in driver performance allow Metro2033 to end our review on a bit of an eyebrow-raising surprise. We've written long and often about how a single card has a ceiling in this game but a two-card setup flies. Such it is here with the HIS HD6770 IceQ X Turbo in Crossfire proving a match for a GTX590 or HD6990.
Low-end cards that have had a variety of tricks and tweaks applied to them are always fighting a bit of a battle. Such is the fiercely competitive pricing in the £100 to £150 bracket that any changes from the reference design cause a price-increase which can quickly take a lowly card and suddenly have it competing with much more capable models.
The HIS HD6770 IceQ X Turbo suffers a fair bit from this. Looking at the card alone, wholly separated from any competitors, there is much to like.
It looks great. The non-reference cooler allows HIS to give us a design that's much more pleasing to the eye than the standard AMD look, whilst also being very good at keeping the card under control. Throughout our testing the card never went above 60°C and was pleasantly quiet at all times.
Performance is okay. Sure this isn't a card designed to munch through the very latest DirectX 11 titles, and we wouldn't expect it to. However, it really only shone in games such as Medal of Honor or COD Black Ops. The Crossfire performance was pretty good in Crysis Warhead at Gamer settings, and shockingly good in Metro 2033. A single card, despite its apparently good value, just doesn't provide the performance necessary for even the most understanding of gamers. In Crossfire you generally get the performance, but you aren't guaranteed it in all scenarios.
The biggest problem for the HIS HD6770 IceQ X Turbo isn't, as one would imagine, it's rebadged-HD5770-ness, but rather its position in the AMD range. Graphics are the single biggest area in PC Hardware where you don't want to save the odd tenner. Even a tiny increase in spending can reap big performance rewards. In fact being on a shoestring budget means you want hardware that will last as long as possible and give you the biggest bang for your buck. Because this is a little pricier than a stock HD6770 if you pay a tiny bit more you can move up to a HD6850, and another £20 or so would put you in the realms of the HD6870. Yes you have to draw the expenditure line somewhere, but the performance gains from moving into HD68x0 territory are absolutely worth it. If you have no interest in gaming and just want something to provide a desktop then all the bells and whistles of the HIS HD6770 IceQ X Turbo aren't much use to you.
Its worth mentioning that we test all of our graphics cards at a resolution of 1920x1080, smaller cards like the 6770 can struggle at these resolutions to play the most demanding games especially when you try and crank all the settings up. The thing is not everyone plays on a 24" screen, especially when you are talking card at the lower end of the market like this. If you are playing on a 22" or even a 19" screen then obviously results will be significantly better and start to favor the baby 6770 a little more, sadly we can't test every game on every resolution but we thought it would be a point worth bringing up for those of you out there that see this as a possible upgrade option.
Its our gut instinct to say that adding the extra cost of the posh cooler on a cheap card is slightly wasted, the possibility of saving £5 of the price and sticking with the OEM cooler will appeal to some. But those with limited funds may also see that UV reactive cooler as a rather cool addition into their system and find it worth the slightly higher price. Just keep in mind that this slightly higher price puts this card within a weeks paper round money from the 6850.
So to recap the 6770 IceQX Turbo is a very capable card in its price bracket and may well be the perfect option for those of you not wanting "everything at max settings" or running one of the smaller sized screens. Just keep in mind that a 6850 and even the 6870 really don't cost 'that' much more when you consider the performance benefits.
Thanks to HIS Digital for providing the HD6770 IceQ X Turbo for review. Discuss in our forums.