Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+ Vortex Review Page: 1

Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+

Introduction


As per usual, time flies. It was just under 11 months ago that the Radeon HD 5000 series was launched, with the initial release of the high end HD 5800 series. Thankfully, it was only a few weeks later that ATi set out to satisfy those with smaller wallets with the value for money 5750 and 5770 graphics cards. As we have long since established, these graphics cards offer performance that is roughly on par with the best of ATi's previous generation but with a lower power consumption and overall physical footprint. Many users have since adopted these practical gaming solutions but annoyingly, there is a new kid on the block; the new GeForce GTX 460. While nVidia's new offering sits at a higher retail price, add in board partners must continue to refresh their line-up to remain competitive. Today we would like to present to you Powercolor's latest rendition of the HD 5770; the PCS+ VORTEX.

So what exactly should we expect of the HD 5770 PCS+?

ManufacturerATI
Powercolor
ModelRadeon HD 5770                    
Radeon HD 5770 PCS+ VORTEX           
Stream Processors
800800
Memory1024MB
1024MB
Memory Interface

128bit

128bit

Core Frequency
850MHz
875MHz
Memory Frequency

4800MHz

4900MHz

RRP

£129

£139


Upon face value, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference between a reference model and the PCS+; the only real difference seems to be a factory overclock of 25MHz on core and memory (100MHz GDDR5 effective). However this table doesn't quite paint the full picture - instead we'll let the photographs do the talking.

Next page please!



Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+ Vortex Review Page: 2

Packaging & Initial Impressions

Arriving in a typically bold Powercolor theme, the Radeon HD 5770 presents itself as a mean looking muscle car. Also note that Powercolor have made it clear to differentiate this product with the previous PCS+ model by labelling it's new VORTEX cooler design.

Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+     Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+

The rear of the packaging offers a more comprehensive description of the product and its features. Of course, we're more interested in what's inside so without much thought we ripped open the outer packaging...

Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+     Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+

Behind the outer sleeve you will find a sturdy cardboard box concealing the HD 5770 and its accessories. Included you will find a driver disc, Crossfire bridge, manual and DVI to VGA adapter.

Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+     Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+

Here it is. As with the vast majority of HD 5770s, this graphics card will occupy two expansion slots worth of space. As I'm sure you've noticed, the most prominent feature on the graphics card itself is its huge 92mm fan, mounted on top of a heatsink of substantial size. As such we expect the fan to be very quiet.

Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+     Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+

Again, much like all HD 5770's the PCS+ Vortex requires suppliment power via a 6pin PCI-Express port at the rear.



Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 PCS+ Vortex Review Page: 3

Testbed

Intel Core i7 930 @ 4.00GHz (200 x 20)
Asus Rampage Extreme 2 Motherboard
Corsair Platinum 6GB 1333mhz
Powercolor Radeon HD 5770 1GB PCS+ VORTEX
OCZ 1000w Gold Series PSU
Windows 7 Home Premium x64

Overclocking

Our overclocking endeavours left us just 25MHz short of the magic 1GHz barrier on the GPU's Core Frequency. At 125MHz above reference frequencies and 100MHz above the PCS+ factory overclock, this is a very impressive achievement. Do note that this was carried out without any modification to the graphics card's voltage.
Sadly with a frequency of 4900MHz, the memory had next to no room for a further overclock. For the sake of stability, we left the RAM at it's default frequency.

Temperatures

Following an uneventful driver installation, we then proceeded to run our favourite stability test - Furmark. Following a 30 minute idle run, we proceeded to run the Stability Test with the graphics card's fans set to a fixed 50% duty speed. The results were repeated with our maximum stable overclock.

At our preset fan speed, we found the PCS+ Vortex cooler to be sufficiently quiet and considerably more capable than the reference cooler shipped on most other HD 5770's. Our 100MHz overclock on the core frequency resulted in a 4*c increase in temperatures, rising to a very comfortable 72*c. We expect most users to be satisfied with this performance.



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Synthetic Benchmarks

Unigene Heaven DX11 Benchmark

Recently Unigine produced the fantastic Heaven Benchmark. Based around a ficticious floating village the benchmark makes full use of the Direct X 11 API, most notably with the implementation of Hardware Tesselation. The test was carried out with three different Anti Alising & Anisotrophic Filtering configurations. 

Given a resolution of 1920x1200, these results are respectable for a graphics card of it's calibre. It is however interesting to note that the use of Anti Aliasing results in very hefty performance penalties in this benchmark. Unsurprisingly, we expect this trend to continue in games of similar complexity.

The graphics card's GPU Core overclock also appeared to make a significant difference across the board.

Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage is Futuremarks flagship gaming oriented benchmark at present and is considered to be a demanding one at that. We ran the benchmark in all three modes : Performance (P), High (H) and eXtreme (X).

While the HD 5770 holds its own under Performance and High presets, it begins to show it's weaknesses in eXtreme mode. Roughly 5-10% gains were achieved from our GPU overclock.



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Crysis Warhead

Crysis Warhead is without a doubt one hard nut to crack, especially at higher resolutions and a dash of Anti Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering.

Under the "Gamer" preset, the quality of game play is certainly acceptable at 1920x1200. As always, lows of ~20fps will mean that movement may seem a little "choppy" however you are likely to notice if you are sufficiently immersed into the game.

DiRT2

DiRT2 is a very recent race driving game, known for it's Direct X 11 support. Let's crank up the settings and give it a whirl... 

We were very impressed with DiRT2 performance. Not only was the game play fluid, the grouping of framerates remained just 15fps apart with lows of just 40fps. Further gains were achieved with the GPU Core overclock but under these conditions they would go unnoticed.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033 is a comparatively recent Action Game release. Known for it's high performance demands, we took the HD 5770 through its paces to see how it might perform...

Quite clearly if your intention is to play this game at 1920x1200, you will almost certainly need a graphics card with more grunt than this.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R Call of Pripyat

Call of Pripyat, the sequel to the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R game is also a recent release, which takes full advantage of the DirectX 11 API. The engine itself is relatively efficient but remains to be an effective way of ascertaining the abilities of current generation hardware.

Unlike in Metro 2033, the Radeon HD 5770 can offer fluid gameplay in Call of Pripyat at 1920x1200. Unless high levels of AA/AF are applied, we do not expect this graphics card to disappoint in this game.



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Conclusion


With our tests now complete, we are now struggling to find an area where the HD 5770 PCS+ Vortex disappoints. Powercolor have effectively offered a quieter and more capable alternative to the reference design graphics cards at a price tag that is at most, £10 dearer. Not only does the slightly higher outlay in price offer you a more potent cooling solution, Powercolor are kind enough to include a small Core and Memory overclock as standard to help your graphics card stand out from the rest.

As always, one's mileage may vary but we were able to push out graphics card's core frequency to a mighty 975MHz. This offered a small but noticeable performance increase; but is this enough to fend off the all new GeForce GTX 460? For most of the part, no not really. There is very little we can say to escape the inevitable fact that the GTX 460 is somewhat faster out of the box and once overclocked can pull way ahead of the Radeon HD 5770. It is however also warmer, larger and consumes considerably more power.

So there we have it. Sadly I cannot quite offer a clear cut answer as to whether one should buy this graphics card but inevitably it comes down to your individual needs. From a budget perspective, the HD 5770 is arguably a sensible choice. For those who are constrained to a fixed spend limit, the GTX 460 may be out of reach with typical prices of around £160 - however sometimes they can be found for as little as £139. Even still, the HD 5770 still holds it's own with it's TDP of just 108W. If however performance is your sole directive then perhaps you should save a few more pennies and defect to the realms of Team Green...

All in all, Powercolor have done a fine job at refreshing the (now mid-life) 5770 graphics card. If you are in the market for budget orientated gaming graphics cards, this is most certainly one to consider.

The Good
- Overclocks well
- Effective Cooling Solution
- Priced well against other HD 5770 competition

The Mediocre
- Now sits very close to GeForce GTX 460

The Bad
- None 

 

Thanks to Power Color for the sample on test today, you can discuss our findings in the forums.