AMD Radeon HD 7750 & HD 7770 Launch Review

Product: AMD Radeon HD 7700 Series
Company: AMD
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: February 14th, 2012

Summary & Conclusions

The AMD Radeon HD 7700 series is both amazing and disappointing at the same time. For those gamers hoping for a nice performance upgrade from their aging first generation DX11 cards, well they’re going to be a little disappointed. AMD's superb performance/watt and excellent reference design specifications means there are now new compelling reasons to want this card but, as with all mid-range card launches, the biggest issue the HD 7700s face are the previous generation enthusiast models selling in the performance price segment. HD 5700 series owners looking for a performance upgrade are better served waiting for the enthusiast sweet spot cards to launch, and considering at that time if that new product, or existing products on sale, provide better options.

AMD is continuing the Radeon HD 6400 (Caicos) and Radeon HD 6500/6600 (Turks) based product lines, and discontinuing the Radeon HD 5700/6700 (Juniper) and 6790 (Barts LE) lines. Juniper is the obvious casualty of Cape Verde's introduction, due to Juniper's similar performance profile but with a significantly higher power envelope; especially the Pro variant, which in HD 7750 form doesn't require an external power input. This puts it in the same power budget as Turks XT, which begs the thought 'why isn't Cape Verde the HD 7600 series?'

Most likely this is due to broader product line-up considerations - which discrete graphics parts work with existing and future APUs, and which don't. AMD disclosed at their financial analyst day that this year will bring the new APU series codenamed Trinity, and it will continue the Llano line. As the Llano APUs leverage Caicos and Turks for Dual Graphics, then perhaps Trinity will use Cape Verde.

AIB Partner 7770 products

Current desktop A-series APU owners have the option to leverage Caicos-based cards to upgrade their graphics performance to near Juniper levels. Selecting an AMD Radeon HD 7700 series is now a better option, thanks to lower idle power consumption (especially with the APU GPU core disabled), enhanced compute capabilities, better image quality, better media consumption options, and potentially better performance. If you’re building a HTPC, Cape Verde is the card for you, offering minimal power consumption while the display is blanked so your media acquisition/cloud sync can continue at as low power as possible, and offers fantastic media capabilities for enhancing that content during playback. AMD AIB partners are offering variations of the HD 7750 with silent passive cooling, which will make buying a Radeon 7700 series for HTPC even more attractive.

For those of you thinking that instead of buying a Radeon HD 7700 to replace your 2-3 years old card and going multi-GPU instead (always a popular option as it can offer an additional 50-80% or better performance), consider how the new lower power and thermal limits of Cape Verde in CrossFireX will give you that performance for quieter and cheaper in the long run. Additionally, zero core power eliminates idle GPU power consumption too.

AIB Partner 7750 products

AMD has left a lot of room for the enthusiast Pitcairn series to fill in under Tahiti; it almost seems that Cape Verde is too small, and that matching Juniper's die size and aiming for three variants to hit the 110W, 80W and 55W TDP points would have been a better idea. It seems quite plausible that eventually we will see three derivations of each ASIC, and a sub $90 Cape Verde at around 45W could be the perfect business workstation/general purpose media consumption card, getting the masses ready for DX11.1 and Windows 8.

Fundamentally the AMD Radeon HD 7700 series offers fantastic performance/watt but doesn't move performance/$$ forward in any way, instead adding value with standards support, media, compute and power saving technologies. It's enough GPU horsepower for 720p & 1680x1050 gaming with high settings, but feels the pinch at 1080p - where you have to start aiming for medium settings to get smooth enjoyable gameplay. The AMD Radeon HD 7700 series should be the default choice for the majority of upgraders, system builders and value-added resellers who are looking for the best balance of power and performance today's most common resolutions, supporting the latest features and standards.