Summary: Looking for a new Radeon 5770 card for your Christmas upgrade? With its ability to adjust GPU voltage, we managed to break 1GHz with ASUS' 5770 Voltage Tweak. On the other hand, if you want to save some money PowerColor's 5770 offering is one of the least expensive cards out there at the moment. See how both boards perform in this article!
It’s the Radeon 5770 that we’re most interested in today.
The Radeon 5770 is ATI’s performance option for the mainstream segment of the graphics market. In terms of specs, it’s configured most similarly to ATI’s Radeon 4870, which it essentially replaces in ATI’s lineup. It has the same 800-shader architecture as the 4870, and the same number of texture units and ROPs as its predecessor as well. The Radeon 5770 is actually clocked a little faster than the 4870, with the graphics core running at 850MHz (versus 750MHz for the 4870), which helps give it a slight advantage in terms of texture and pixel fill-rate.
ATI also happily boasts its superior compute ability – 1.36 TeraFLOPS – although in all honesty this figure means very little for gamers.
What is important -- particularly if you game with anti-aliasing -- is the board’s 128-bit memory interface. That’s half as wide as the 256-bit memory interface found on the 4870. ATI tries to compensate for the narrower memory interface by cranking up the memory speeds to 1200MHz (300MHz higher than the 4870), but the cumulative effect is that the 5770 is still giving up nearly 40GB/sec of memory bandwidth to the 4870.
As you can imagine, that’s an awful lot of memory bandwidth to be giving up to a card the 5770 is supposed to be replacing. And as a result, the 5770 isn’t able to keep up with the 4870 in most of today’s games. It generally trails by anywhere from 7-14% depending on the game being tested as well as the screen resolution.
This has pushed a lot of gamers in the mood to upgrade to pick up Radeon 4870 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 cards. These cards may not support DX11 like the 5770, but they cost about the same or less than the 5770, and perform better with today’s games, which are largely based on DX9 or DX10 game engines.
If you’re upgrading for the long haul though, and need a card that will last you for a year or more, DirectX 11 support becomes more important. As we showed you in our Radeon 5770 Performance Preview article, benchmarks with a DX11 title like BattleForge illustrate how the 5770 can leverage DX11 to gain a performance advantage over the Radeon 4870.
With this in mind, we’ve gathered a pair of Radeon 5770 cards that should appeal to different demographics.
For the performance-oriented enthusiast, ASUS’ Radeon 5770 Voltage Tweak offers the ability to adjust the GPU’s voltage, potentially allowing you to OC the card further than your average Radeon 5770. Meanwhile PowerColor’s Radeon 5770 board should appeal to the value-conscious user who wants to save some money.
Before we get into the cards themselves, a couple of quick items we should point out.
First, the cards represented here are based on ATI’s first-generation Radeon 5770 reference design and cooling. This includes ATI’s “Phoenix” shroud.
The Phoenix shroud, as ATI calls it, is designed to exhaust hot air outside your system case. It’s a dual-slot cooler that consists of a dual-slot aluminum heatsink with a copper baseplate used to draw heat directly off the GPU. The key ingredient found on Phoenix is its black plastic duct. This is used to channel hot air from the graphics card out the back of the case, as well as other portions of the card.
ATI has since replaced Phoenix with an egg-shaped cooler that looks similar to the one used on the less powerful Radeon 5750. The egg-cooler used on newer second-gen Radeon 5770 cards employs an Orb-shaped dual-slot heatsink with the addition of a heatpipe. The heatpipe is made entirely from copper, which helps to increase its effectiveness. The heatsink itself is made from aluminum and helps keep the heatpipe cool.
The overall size and shape of this newer cooler reminds us a lot of Zalman’s VF900 VGA cooler.
Because it isn’t enclosed inside a duct, the second-generation cooler doesn’t exhaust hot air outside your case. As a result, your case temps will be hotter.
Fortunately it appears the newer cooler does a better job of cooling the GPU itself than the first-gen card. Expreview ran some head-to-head benchmarks, and found the 2nd-gen cooler offered GPU temps that were around 9 degrees Celsius cooler at load. PCB temps were cooler as well. Case temps were up slightly, but this is honestly going to vary from case-to-case. Systems with better ventilation will obviously show more subtle differences between the two coolers than smaller, cramped cases.
First-generation Radeon 5770 CrossFire configs with the Phoenix shroud would likely run cooler as well.
Both the first and second generation Radeon 5770 boards run at the stock Radeon 5770 reference speeds. Right now ATI is limiting all their board partners to the same (stock) clock speeds and cooling. As a result, there’s very little differentiation amongst the various 5770 boards currently on the market: they’re all 100% identical from a pure hardware perspective.
In the coming month or so, we should see the first custom 5770 boards begin to trickle on to shelves, but from what we understand even these upcoming boards won’t be OC’ed very far from the speeds of today’s boards.
With that out of the way let’s look at the cards we’ve gathered for today’s article.
ASUS Radeon 5770 Voltage Tweak
From ASUS we have their Radeon 5770 Voltage Tweak board. The Voltage Tweak card has a number of software-related enhancements that put it ahead of the other 5770 boards on the market in our opinion.
The second distinguishing feature that the ASUS Voltage Tweak board offers is ASUS’ Smart Doctor software. With Smart Doctor you can adjust the GPU voltage. Smart Doctor can also be used to OC the graphics core and memory, as well as monitor temps.
ASUS provides sliders for GPU/memory clock speed adjustment, as well as GPU core voltage adjustment. The GPU/memory clock speed sliders top out at the same max settings as ATI’s Overdrive, so nothing new here, but the GPU voltage adjustment is unique and pretty powerful. You can crank the core voltage all the way up to 1.4V (default voltage is 1.125V) in increments as fine as 0.002V.
Adjusting clock speeds and voltages is ridiculously simple. Just dial in the settings you want, and click the “set clock” button in the bottom of Smart Doctor and voila you’re done.
You can also use Smart Doctor to adjust fan speed settings, although for some weird reason ASUS hides the slider for fan speed adjustment within a separate submenu. In our opinion this slider should be provided right alongside the others. Here you’ll also find options for other Smart Doctor features such as Overheat protection, Smart Cooling, hardware monitoring, and ASUS HyperDrive, although the implementation is toned down in comparison to previous ASUS Smart Doctor offerings we’ve reviewed in older GeForce and Radeon cards. Quite simply many of these features aren’t needed anymore because they are now supported natively by the GPU.
While we’ve always been big fans of ASUS’ Smart Doctor software, it would’ve been nice if it offered custom profiles and the ability to save your OC’ed settings; each time you reboot you have to start over. Presumably you can use ASUS’ GamerOSD software to perform these functions, but we aren’t big fans of the interface ASUS has implemented for this utility and would rather get it all from within Smart Doctor.
PowerColor Radeon 5770
While the ASUS 5770 Voltage Tweak board will appeal to the enthusiast crowd who wants to OC, value-conscious consumers may not want to pay the premium ASUS charges for their 5770 board, especially since all of the Radeon 5770 cards on the market are identical to each other anyway.
Therefore if you consider yourself one of those users, and would like to save a little money, you may want to opt for PowerColor’s 5770 offering, which is one of the least expensive cards on the market at the moment.
PowerColor’s 5770 currently sells for $164.99 on Newegg right now, just $2 more than the cheapest 5770 card, which comes from HIS.
Again, it’s the exact same hardware as the ASUS board, and every other Radeon 5770 card on the market, just cheaper.
So if saving money is important to you, PowerColor’s Radeon 5770 board is one of the more compelling choices on the market right now.
Neither card ships with a game bundle, so no voucher for DiRT 2 here. You will get the usual assortment of hardware accessories however, with both cards shipping with the DVI-to-VGA adapter, CrossFire cable, and other assorted goodies you expect nowadays.
AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition
6GB (2x3GB) OCZ Reaper HPC 1600 @ DDR-1066 Speeds
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260-216
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 275
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
ATI Radeon 4870 1GB
ATI Radeon 4890 1GB
2TB Seagate Barracuda XT
Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
STALKER Call of Pripyat DirectX 10/10.1
CoD: MW2 – DirectX 9
Crysis – DirectX 10
Far Cry 2 – DirectX 10
Left 4 Dead 2 – DirectX9
Resident Evil – DirectX 10
Batman:AA – DirectX 9
HAWX – DirectX 10
Wolfenstein – OpenGL
With the Smart Doctor utility you can not only OC the ASUS board, but also adjust its GPU voltage as well. We took our board up to 1.275V, 12% over the stock voltage. With the added voltage, we were able to overclock our board from 935MHz at stock voltage, to 1013MHz at 1.275V. That’s an improvement of 78MHz! As a result, we were able to push our board even closer to matching the Radeon 4870 in performance.
If you’re an enthusiast looking to push your card as far as possible, this makes the ASUS Radeon 5770 Voltage Tweak very attractive. In our opinion, this is the Radeon 5770 card to get if you fall in this category.
PowerColor’s Radeon 5770 will appeal to the gamer looking to save money. It’s based on the exact same hardware and cooling as the ASUS 5770 board, only it sells for about $10 less. You could then dabble with BIOS tweaking to get the voltage tweaking you need.
We’re not going to elaborate any further, as this will definitely void your card’s warranty and isn’t a move we’d recommend for the inexperienced user, as it could potentially render your card inoperable.
While today’s Radeon 5770 boards are all essentially identical to each other, fortunately the first boards with custom board designs and cooling are coming soon. In fact, they should begin hitting shelves within the next 30 days, if not sooner. Sapphire’s latest 5770 Vapor-X just hit Newegg, and more Radeon 5770 cards with custom cooling should begin hitting retailers in the next month.
These cards will hopefully offer even better cooling than today’s reference-based cards, although you will likely have to pay a price premium until they’re more common. If you need something now, and want a 5770 card with the Phoenix cooler, we recommend you act fast: both the ASUS and PowerColor 5770 cards switched to the egg-shaped cooler this month. You can probably still find boards with the old cooler lurking out there, but once the existing supply dries up, that’s it. Fortunately it appears like the new cooler isn’t terrible, but some gamers aren’t going to be happy with the new design and its lack of a dedicated exhaust.
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