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Final Words

Wrapping things up, I once had someone comment to me that they can gauge my opinion of a product based solely on the first paragraph of the final page. If I say “there’s no such thing as a bad card, only bad prices” then it’s likely not a favorable review. That statement is once more being validated today, if only in a meta context.

To be clear, we’ve been waiting for some time to see GCN filter down to lower priced cards, and even longer to see PowerTune in particular make it down here. The fact that we now have reliable power throttling and solid compute performance is not lost on us. It’s a welcome advancement.

However our expectation with a new manufacturing process – and perhaps we’re being greedy here – is that we’ll see cards become cheaper and we’ll see power consumption come down. AMD has achieved the second item in spades, and as a result both the Radeon HD 7750 and Radeon HD 7770 are well ahead of any competing 75W and 100W cards respectively. The 7750 in particular is a standout thanks to the fact that it generally offers 5700 series performance on a sub-75W card, and even at $109 it clearly offers a great deal of value as an HTPC video card. All of this will be an even more welcome change when Cape Verde filters down to laptops in the coming months.

The problem for AMD today isn’t the power/performance curve, it’s the price/performance curve. 16 months ago AMD launched the Radeon HD 6850 at $179 amidst fierce competition from NVIDIA. Ignoring the current price of the 6850 for the moment, on average the 7770 delivers 90% of the 6850’s gaming performance for 90% of the 6850’s launch price. In other words in 16 months AMD has moved nowhere along the price/performance curve – if you go by launch prices you’re getting the same amount of performance per dollar today as you did in October of 2010. In reality the 6850 is much cheaper than that, with a number of cards selling for $159 before a rebate, while several more 6870s sell for $159 after rebate. The 7770 is so far off the price/performance curve that you have to believe that this is either a pricing error or AMD is planning on quickly halting 6800 series production.

Now to be fair there’s more to consider than just performance in existing games. The 7770 supports DX11.1, VCE, PowerTune, Fast HDMI, and other features the 6800 series doesn’t have, and it does all of this while consuming around 25W less than the 6850. But that’s just not enough. DX11.1 is a point update that’s still the better part of a year away and will only offer a tiny number of new features, while VCE is AWOL and cannot be evaluated, and Fast HDMI will be a niche feature for use with extremely expensive TVs for some time to come. This is not like the 4000/5000 series gap – today and tomorrow the 7000 series will only offer marginal feature benefits. The best argument for the 7770 is the power difference, but considering that both the 6850 and 7770 require external power anyhow that 25W difference is unlikely to matter.

The 7700 series is a fine lineup of cards, but AMD has finally shot itself in the foot with its conservative pricing. The 7750 can ride on the sub-75W niche for now, but the only way the 7770 will make any sense is if it comes down in price. Until then AMD’s worst competition for the 7700 series is not NVIDIA, it’s their 6850.

With that said, the 7700 series clearly has potential. XFX’s R7770 Black Edition S Double Dissipation does a great job demonstrating this with its virtually silent operation, while the card’s factory overclock largely closes the performance gap with the 6850. With its combination of performance and power consumption the 7700 series will be AMD’s midrange workhorse for 2012, of that there is no question. Now it’s simply up to AMD to make it so. After all there’s no such thing as a bad card, only bad prices.

Power, Temperature, & Noise
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  • Articuno - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Kepler really, really needs to come out soon, and I'm saying this as an AMD fan. Reply
  • Malih - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Exactly, I'm a fan of AMD myself, and I can't wait for Kepler, AMD needs a kick in the (you know what) Reply
  • DimeDeviL - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    "Theoretically the 5770 has a 5% compute performance advantage over the 5770." Reply
  • eminus - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    uhhh really? same card performs better hehehehe Reply
  • tynopik - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    lobbing off -> lopping off Reply
  • mattgmann - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I feel like reviewers were blinded by performance with the 7970/7950 cards. They offer the same lack of competitive pricing as these lower end cards. The 7950 can be compared directly (in price and performance) to the Nvidia GTX 580, a card that was available a year ago.

    I'm still rocking a pair of 4870s that set me back ~$400 a few years back. To get a substantial performance upgrade, I'd have to spend $450 on a 7950 today. Where is the value in that? Yes, power consumption and features are important but are tertiary to raw performance in almost every user scenario when it comes to gaming.

    To say the least, the lack of competitive pricing between nvidia and amd currently smells a little fishy.....it wouldn't be the first time there was price fixing in the graphics card industry.
    Reply
  • maniac5999 - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I'm convinced that the pricing for 4870s in late 2008/early 2009 was the sweet point to buy. Yes, power consumption sucks, but other than that, a card that cost me $160 then, is pretty competitive with a card that costs $120 today. I think we may have just lucked out with the 4870s, and may need to wait until at least Kepler, if not 8XXX to upgrade. Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Just be careful not to set expectations on the 4870's pricing for 2 reasons:

    1) 4870 pricing was a mistake imo. AMD will say it was a calculated one in fluff pieces like the RV770 story and it was true in some degree that AMD needed to recover mindshare/marketshare and consumer confidence after the R600 debacle and a weak performing RV670. Still, when you set your single-GPU flagship at $300 and your second SKU at $200, there's not much room to go down on pricing.

    2) Late 2008 early 2009 was the height of the recession. Wall Street, Real Estate, Auto Industry, all that. Nvidia and AMD were feeling it too and got involved in a highly publicized price war. That's why you saw "new" high-end performance parts like the 4890 and GTX 275 launching for $230-$250 that occupy the $350+ market today, with cards like the 4870 and GTX 260c216 selling at tremendous value for $150 or less.

    Its obvious AMD is doing its best to correct their 4870 price mistake over the last few years, but with the overall performance of Southern Islands stack, the 7-series was the wrong time to do it. They should've just stuck to their old pricing scheme or at worst, matched Nvidia's pricing ($500, $380) with their Tahiti parts. Then you might see the rest of the stack priced reasonably.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Yeah, at this point of the business cycle, it sucks to have to buy anything. Everything is expensive due to all the capacity cuts.

    Recessions are good (for buying things, cars, houses, whatever). Btw: Housing is an anomaly due to efforts to stop/slow the process.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Recessions are good for the rich... not so good for everyone else. Reply

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