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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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  • mattgmann - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Don't forget, when the 4870 pricing was low, at the end of 2008, BOTH AMD and Nvidia were settling price fixing lawsuits. These companies have cheated before; they'll do it again. Reply
  • Hubb1e - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

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

    Really? So when the stock market lost 40% of its value and the rich lost 40% of their net worth, that was good for them?

    The rich can ride out a recession better than the poor because they don't live paycheck to paycheck, but it sure as hell wasn't good for them.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Sunday, February 19, 2012 - link

    Maybe we can see 4870's with maximum performance/die size in mind pricing failure because it was performing close to the big die from Nvidia gtx2xx. Or maybe we can see the ''double performance from last gen'' tactic from Nvidia a fail when it means building a super big die with low performance/size ratio just to get that double performance motto... It was all a question of ''goal to attain'' from each company. One goal paid off more than the other that time.

    From an Nvidia's fanboy perception, the first will be true and the second unthinkable. From an ATI fanboy, the first will make no sense and the second will suit them well. From someone with no choosen side, both can be true.

    But these 7770 and 7750 here, makes no sense, such small die with such performance for that price.....
    Reply
  • Malih - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I agree, smells fishy, usually at this point nVidia would lower their card price.

    The latest price competitive part from AMD is the 6800 series. Probably have to wait for the 8800 series?
    Reply
  • Kjella - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I know, I bought a 5850 before the MSRP hike for around $279 + VAT in 2009 and I just checked, it clearly beats a 7770 so a >$159 value today, maybe close to the $200 card being launched in March. The 6xxxx series I thought was just because they had to scrap the 34nm process and deliver essentially a refined 5xxx series, but now they're on 28nm and there's not much bang for the buck for those of us that already have a gaming card from the 4/5xxxx series. I hope this is just a temporary situation until nVidia gets their Kepler out, or I might just sit out another generation... Reply
  • eminus - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    AMD has AMD (Accute Money Deficiency) right now so they need every penny they can gain. Reply
  • Cygni - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    It seriously seems that the 4850/4870 was an incredible purchase. In 2009, you could get a 4850 for $99 dollars. And it STILL holds up to the top range cards.

    I mean we all know that Nvidia and AMD are playing the profit game 10 times harder than the performance game in this sector, simply because games can't press the limits of the hardware, but it's still impressive.
    Reply
  • just4U - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I bought 4 cards in the 4x lineup..

    First a 4850 for $170, Second a 4870 for $199 Third a 4870 1G for $229 and lastly a 4830 for 140.. While I live in Canada I don't think prices ever came that low unless you got one helluva good deal.. $99 pricing for the 4850 wasn't the norm even late in its production run.
    Reply
  • BPB - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I got mine real chaep at launch! BestBuy mispriced them. Still, not too much later there were good deals again and I got one for my daughter's desktop. These cards in CF still hold up well for 1920x1200 gaming. I would like to upgrade to better performance and lower power, but AMD is making that hard dollar-wise. Reply
  • Jorgisven - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Indeed. Best Buy had a 25% off all Visiontek cards the week of the 4850 launch, so I got mine at launch for $150. I then caught an amazing deal on a 4870 a few months later ($129 shipped), sold my 4850 for $140. I basically bought both for a net $140.

    I've been waiting for a good AMD card, but just haven't seen one. I've been tempted by the 560 Ti or 570, but they're still too expensive for my taste, and don't offer enough of an advantage to spend the cost of a PS3 on upgrading from an already decent GPU.

    I'm rather disappointed with Red as of late.
    Reply

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