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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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  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    What happened there at 1920x1200 for the 6870? 23.2 fps seems a bit off to me. I get a solid 60 just about everywhere (occasional dips to ~50) at 1080.

    I am so glad I bought a 6870 ICEQ a month ago. Got the email today that I will be getting my rebate so your point about getting a 6870 for 159 AR is absolutely true. And the ICEQ edition I have is rocking a 1000/1150 oc all day long 32c idle 69c load via furmark 15 min run. Best part is it's much quieter than a reference card.

    All of the 7xxx releases seem a bit lackluster to me.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    I go over this a bit in the commentary for that benchmark, but basically the 1GB cards are running out of memory in that benchmark. For reasons I've yet to determine, even though the 7700 series cards still only have 1GB they are handling the situation better than the 6800 and 5700. Reply
  • bazinga77 - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    first thing that should be pointed out is that i believe that the 7700 series cards that launched today only have a 128 bit memory interface so no one should expect miracles especially at higher resolutions. the memory bandwidth on x700 cards and lower has always held them back a little, where as nvidia for instance on their 550ti uses a 192 bit memory interface. if this card used a higher bandwidth memory it would do better. also the 79xx series from amd upped the bandwidth from the 69xx series from 256 bit to 384 bit which is probably one of the reasons it was so impressive.

    well the gtx 460 is starting to disappear and amd discontinued the 6850 and 6870 two months ago so once they are gone they are gone. this is directly from amd. so i think this card fits in nicely and i expect once the 7850 launches that the price of this card will drop. i think that the 7770 almost being as fast as the 6850 isn't all that bad, especially because of how cool it runs and it seems like the factory oc cards close that gap even closer. considering how much power some of these cards took a couple of generations ago it seems like we are making progress. once the 7850 launches, which i believe happens next month, i think it will be the card to get, just as the 6850 was.

    so all in all it seems like the 7770 will fit in nicely with a small price drop and and the discontinuation of some of the older amd and nvidia cards that has been happening, let alone taking into account the promotions we might see with rebates on these cards or bundled games etc.

    lastly the 7750 seems like it will now be the best card on the market that doesn't require an external power connector and it will come in at only about $10 more than the current champ in that arena. so it looks like a nice card for the casual gamer or someone looking for an htpc card and it looks like the encoding features of the 77xx cards are pretty great.
    Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Like I said in the 7970 and 7950 review comments, the reality of the situation is only going to get worst as AMD reveals the rest of their 7-series product stack.

    Ryan I can tell you're doing your best not to be too hard on AMD but there comes a time we need to call a spade a spade. What AMD is doing here in terms of price and performance with the 7-series is easily the worst we've ever seen in the last decade from a new GPU architecture, especially considering they're also on a new process node.

    If/when Nvidia pulls an RV770 on AMD, I really hope you and the rest of the media is up to the task the same way they were with the GTX 280. I don't think you were head GPU editor at that time but I'm sure you remember the backlash.
    Reply
  • jjj - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    So AMD either went stupid all of the sudden or they just can't produce enough cards yet and priced them to not sell.Either way,this is a mistake and they are only hurting their image (something they can't afford since Nvidia is still the stronger brand).
    Lets hope Nvidia wants market share and gives us something exciting soon.
    Reply
  • stolid - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    Arg. Might as well hang on to my 5770's. :/ Reply
  • adonn78 - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    And these cards are supossed to be an upgrade over the 6000 series how? Reply
  • Targon - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    There is still a 7800 series set of cards that we have not seen yet. We saw the 7900 cards, and now the 7700 series. The comparisons here are 7700 vs. 6800 series, and that is ONE issue.

    Price vs. performance is the primary issue that I can see, and TIME will hopefully bring down the prices to a reasonable level. I also hope/expect that there are reasons for the prices that will be fixed quickly, so will reduce the prices. We shall see, but if NVIDIA is having problems, it may be that AMD is giving NVIDIA a chance to come back, and is saving their next big performance jump for that release.
    Reply
  • chizow - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    "Price vs. performance is the primary issue that I can see, and TIME will hopefully bring down the prices to a reasonable level."

    But that's exactly the problem, time hasn't brought price down to a reasonable level because we've already had 14+ months of this performance level at the same or better prices. AMD's pricing does nothing to shift the price performance metric and if anything, they are actually falling behind the curve a bit as you can get "old" parts that perform the same or better than these "new" ones at much lower prices.

    The 7800 series will only emphasize this point further with similar performance relative to the 6900 series, but at much worst prices. But that's the trickle down effect of pricing a new "high-end" flagship part that's only 15-25% faster than the last-gen at a 10% price hike. There just isn't much value derived as you go further down the ladder.
    Reply
  • ET - Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - link

    This is disappointing, although I agree that the 7750 does have a place due to its low power. Let's see what NVIDIA will offer.

    The only ray of sunshine is that as always with a new architecture it takes a while for the drivers to take full advantage of the hardware, so it's possible to see performance improvements of tens of percents over time. Let's hope that's the case here.
    Reply

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