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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  • Dianoda - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I jumped on that BB/Visiontek HD4850 512MB deal as well. Bought the card about a week before the official launch and at a $50 discount on top of that. Timing was perfect, too, as I had just finished my build, short one video card (borrowed a 3850 from a friend for a few weeks).

    I finally upgraded from that card to a 6950 2GB (BIOS modded to 6970) about a month ago - Skyrim was just too much for the 4850 to handle @ 2560x1440. The 6950 2GB is a great card for the price if you're willing to perform the BIOS mod (and don't mind rebate forms).
    Reply
  • nerrawg - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    Exactly! I bought 2 4850's in the UK in 2009 for £65 ($95) each - best GPU purchase I have made in 12 years! I now have a single 6870 that I bought in 2011 for £120- but its not really an upgrade at all. Thought I would wait and get a second one cheaper but now I don't think that will happen

    2008-2009 was the sweet spot of a decade for Desktop GPUs. The way things are going with the Desktop (AMD bullsnoozer etc. etc.) I fear that it might have even been the sweet spot of GPU performance for the decade to come as well. I would love to see some massive progress in graphics, but it seems that the all the "suites" care about now days is "smart" this and "smart" that. I can't really blame them either, because until pc programmers get their act together and actually start making apps and games that push what is possible on current hardware I don't see any reason why I need 2X the GPU and CPU compute power every 1-2 years.

    Come on guys - we are all waiting for the next "Crysis" - if it doesn't come then it might spell the end of the enthusiast desktop
    Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    AMD having a fail product at $160 that couldn't even beat an almost 1.5 year old $150 6870 isn't surprising considering they are also the ones with the cheek to price their FX-8150 at near 2600K prices. Reply
  • thunderising - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    The only problem I have with AMD on this card is WHY THE LOW BANDWIDTH.

    The card performs nearly 10% faster when the memory is clocked at 6GHz QDR (TPU reviews) and 15% with Core Clock matching XFX's OCed Speed.

    I think that 6GHz memory modules would have taken the HD7770 a long way ahead. The performance boost would have been enough to hit HD6850 performance, or beat it in all cases, and at that point, this card at 159$ would make sense.

    Right now, until the price hits about 129$, this doesn't make sense.
    Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    But you get GCN, 28nm and a bottle of verdetard? Reply
  • Zoomer - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    GCN is worse than useless for gamers and non compute users. Reply
  • jokeyrhyme - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I think I've built my last system with an AMD CPU. Intel completely abused their monopoly and decimated AMD's success in the CPU department, and I don't think AMD will have an enthusiast-quality CPU ever again. :(

    That said, I think I will still use AMD GPUs for a while yet.

    nVidia's Kepler may beat AMD later this year, but AMD actually has an open-source driver developer on staff and routinely publishes hardware documentation. AMD GPUs will probably have better support for Wayland than their nVidia counterparts due to these factors. If you use Linux and want to stay on the cutting edge, then I don't think picking nVidia is particularly wise.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    At least in the HTPC area, NVIDIA is miles ahead of AMD in the open source support department.

    Almost all Linux HTPCs capable of HD playback have NVIDIA GPUs under the hood, thanks to their well supported VDPAU feature.

    AMD started getting serious with xvBA only towards the end of last year, and they still have a lot of catching up to do [ http://phoronix.com/forums/showthread.php?65688-XB... ]
    Reply
  • Ananke - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    AMD is several years behind NVidia on the compute side...actually they are nowhere as of today. The AMD 7xxx series is so ridiculously priced, it will not get an user base to be attractive for developers. Actually, I am at the point of considering NVidia cards for computing, despite that I hate their heat and power consumption.

    AMD had their chance and they blew it.

    Besides, we shall see where the AMD ex-VP will go - that company most likely will be the next big player in graphics and high performance computing. Probably Apple.
    Reply
  • PeskyLittleDoggy - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    In my country, company policy dictates you cannot leave your company and work for a competing company if you have valuable R&D knowledge. Thats part of the restraint of trade clause in your contract.

    Basically what I'm saying is, AMD's ex-VP will not be able to work in any company with a graphics department for 2 years if the contract is similar to mine. I can't remember now but some CEO was sued for that recently.
    Reply

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