On Monday we took a look at the HD5770 in Crossfire and found it to be about the best "bang for buck" solution available. Given such immense performance from standard cooling cards we were delighted to see MSI break the ice by releasing their HAWK model, which comes complete with the excellent Twin Frozr cooling.
Does the increased headroom a third-party cooling solution provides allow for even greater gains to be had or is the chip already at it's maximum? We're here to find out.
Having recently covered pretty much all of the ATI 5000 Series through various reviews I'm sure you're all familiar with what it brings to the table, so let's crack right on with seeing how the Hawk differs.
As always our specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers website.
MSI R5770 Hawk
Radeon HD5770 (Juniper XT)
1 GB DDR5
Military Class Components
DisplayPort / HDMI / DVI-I
Afterburner + Kombustor
|SRP||Approx £153inc vat|
The other major features are, of course, the Twin Frozr cooler and, unlike the standard HD5770, the MSI HD5770 Hawk comes with 7+1 phase power rather than the more modest 4+1 phase of the reference design. This should allow us to get more power to the board but retain stability throughout thanks to a butter-smooth power delivery.
The recommended selling price is close to its actual street price with the cheapest being Scan who have it on pre-order for £155. It's nice to see a manufacturer not make wildly inaccurate claims about the price-point of their product.
Let's get a good look at the cooler.
The MSI Hawk
There is no doubting the inspiration on the box, with a frontal view of the F117-A Nighthawk, more commonly called the Stealth Fighter, clearly visible. As a plane nerd I'll ignore the name change and the fact that the card bears absolutely no resemblance at all in either design or colour to anything with stealth technology.
Here we get out look at the Twin Frozr itself. A serious piece of cooling kit with big heatpipes and two large fans.
Here is a much closer look at this Jessica Simpson of the heatpipe world, being both really thick and really easy on the eye. The only issue we have from the looks is the old problem of the heat in non-reference designs not being exhausted out the rear as we'd prefer.
There is no denying it's a big chunk of heatsink and the large twin fan design should keep things cool as well as quiet. Although the ATI designs have moved on from the noise of old, the quieter the better as far as we're concerned.
Next, details of our rig and we'll see if this MSI Hawk does give us the extra oomph.
Test Setup and Overclocking
To make sure that all our results are roughly comparable we try and keep to the same test setup wherever possible. As the MSI Hawk landed around the same time we were going to do our Crossfire testing we have used an identical rig.
Naturally we started afresh with our Windows 7 Installation and drivers to make sure our results weren't polluted by previous settings.
Motherboard : ASUS Rampage II Extreme
CPU : Intel i7 920 @ 3.6GHz
RAM : 6GB Corsair Platinum @1333mhz
PSU : OCZ 1000w Gold PSU
HDD : 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F1
Monitor : Samsung 2433 24" @ 1920x1200
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate 64
GPU : MSI HD5770 Hawk on Catalyst 10.2 drivers
Oh my. Hold onto your hats boys and girls. You'll recall that on Monday we managed to reach a clock speed of 960 before we got too many artifacts and too much heat. The Twin Frozr absolutely did it's job providing incredible clock speeds. We never became thermally limited, rather we hit the tipping point of the gains to be obtained with a small voltage increase before we ended up in ever decreasing circles.
Rather than continue to push for a big number just to sound good, we wound back down to a stable overclock that would be obtainable by anyone using the MSI Afterburner software.
As you can see this is a serious card capable of some hard-hitting clock speeds. Mighty impressive stuff from the MSI Hawk.
Normally clocks like that will, as always, give immense heat but the Twin Frozr is easily capable of dispersing it all without a problem. The small increase in temperatures between the stock and overclocked speeds shows quite how good the heat removal abilities of the cooler are.
So how does the old girl perform when on stage?
Our benchmark tests follow the standard OC3D procedure of running each test five times, discarding the highest and lowest results then taking an average of the rest.
Beginning with 3D Mark Vantage we actually have a plethora of a results for this from our overclocking excursions. Normally we just provide our best overclock and the stock result. However we thought today we'd give you some of the other results we obtained during out overclock testing so you can see how much difference there is between a GPU Core overclock, a RAM overclock, and a combination of the two.
Regardless of the method used, one thing is very clear. The MSI Hawk is a beast of a card for the money.
Depite having a lot of grunt available to it, as is the case with nearly every card on the planet it hasn't got enough grunt for Crysis Warhead. In overclocked trim it just about can provide a good average framerate and if you run at a resolution lower than our test one of 1920x1200 you might eek a few more frames out.
To be honest though not many people wont have completed it by now and so it's definitely a benchmark is the pure sense of the word.
Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 provides playable framerates on even medium-powered cards and here, with maximum settings and 8xAA we can see that the stock Hawk gives us nearly 50 FPS average. Definitely playable. Once we overclock it though it eats Modern Warfare 2 for breakfast and gives us more than the magic 60FPS we desire.
Now to burn some rubber.
From the dusty jungles and urban streets, to race tracks and mud.
Need for Speed Shift is a graphically sumptuous game that, like all racing games, really needs a rock solid frame-rate to make it playable.
With our settings maximised there is no doubt that it looks stunning, but there is equally no doubt that we can't quite hit the steady frame-rate we need. Thankfully we only have to be slightly more realistic with our AA settings to get the overclocked Hawk past 60FPS, but this isn't a test of playable settings, rather pure performance.
Codemasters Dirt 2 is always a bit of a frustrating game to benchmark. It gives good performance on lower cards and remains playable even at seemingly low framerates. But it also doesn't respond well to clock speed changes as well as many games, and instead rewards architectural adjustments. Therefore despite the healthy overclock the Hawk is capable of, it's not really a help.
Let's wrap this up.
Manufacturer overclocked cards are always a difficult beast. On the one hand they provide better performance for the average user at a inflated price, but on the other they rarely give those of us who are confident about moving a slider justification for the premium they require.
The MSI HD5770 Hawk is absolutely not your ordinary pre-overclocked card. Not here do we find a few extra MHz for another £30. Our extra cash buys us so much more.
Primarily of course it buys us a HD5770. As a affordable gaming card it's without peer. Yes the odd game (ahemCrysis) doesn't really enjoy it much, but the key thing to remember is that our tests are always run at the maximum settings, with a high resolution and nearly always loads of anti-aliasing. So whilst an initial glance at the benchmarks might lead you to conclude that this isn't quite the card for you, actually if you adapt your settings to take into consideration the hardware you have, you'll be pleasantly surprised at what the Hawk can do.
Secondly, and the main point, is that you're buying something far more than just a slightly overclocked reference card. You're buying high-end caps, 7 phase power and a cooler than is worth the price difference alone. And what a difference it makes. The many extra high-end parts on the Hawk easily enabled us to push past the 1GHz mark, decimating the overclock we obtained on the reference model.
So on Monday we saw that overclocked 5770s in Crossfire gave performance that bettered a 5870. If the overclock we can get from the Hawk betters the one we got from the Sapphire, it stands to reason that two of these beauties in Crossfire will be stunning, and still for less than the price of a 5870. After all, they're damn impressive on their own.
If you want a special version of a card, this ticks all the boxes. That cooler is fantastic being both quiet and efficient. Even the £30 premium over a stock 5770 is worth it.
Thanks to MSI for providing the Hawk for review. Discuss in our forums.