Sure, we all get excited by the prospect of the latest lightning fast graphics cards, with their rather ridiculous power requirements and sexeh numbers in the GPU specs sheet.
How many of us, though, are willing to drop half a month's salary on a card that will be obsolete by the time the transaction hits our bank statements?
So what we want is a card that offers the latest tech, and decent performance on realistic settings and all for a justifiable price. AMD's HD 5770 then is one of your best bets, representing the Texan company's best mid-range card to date. The 5770 is, however, an odd prospect right now.
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On the one hand, you will get functionality that supports DX11 and its suite of goodies, such as hardware tessellation and improved multi-threading support. However, as the first mid-ranger with true DX11 capability, we have to remind ourselves that it's just that: a mid-range card.
The extra features offered by DX11 require a resource overhead, and when you add in anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering, that's an awful lot for a sub-£150 card to do.
We've got a mixture here of standard, stock-clocked cards, funky single-slot versions and a few overclocked beasties too to whet your appetite.
Pre-overclocked cards though are always a bit of a gamble, and the penny turns on a number of factors. How overclockable is the GPU in the first instance? Does it offer much headroom to the manufacturer?
The same goes for the memory. And the price of overclocking at a hardware level, as we all know, is heat generation, which often means an extra premium for a special non-standard cooler that's needed.
Eyefinity too is an interesting prospect, with all but the single-slot XFX offering it. The Sapphire cards offer the latest in fourway Eyefinity and if you're after a massive piece of four-monitor real-estate to run your apps, or to spread video output around multiple screens throughout the house, then it's worth a look.
But that versatility doesn't stretch to multiple-screen gaming, as the benchmarks highlight. Still, this is all about mid-range gaming, so how do they stack up?
XFX HD 5770 - £116
In most tests, the XFX offers equivalent performance to the bulk of the 5770s we tested. Worth noting is that it scored the lowest in our Heaven 2.1 tessellation benchmark, but only by 0.1fps.
We'd likely attribute this to the smaller, slightly less-powerful cooler allowing the heat – and resistance – to rise. But in real-world gaming terms, its marginally lower scores in some tests are unnoticeable; the competition really is that close.
MSI HD 5770 - £133
Out of the box, and like most 5770s, the HAWK offers decent midrange performance.
It's swings and roundabouts if we're honest, the card performed slightly better in Just Cause 2 and middle and high resolutions, slightly worse in Far Cry 2, and DiRT 2, but not by any humanly perceivable margin.
Gigabyte HD 5770 Super Overclock - £140
It's perfectly reasonable to say that, out of the five 5770's we pitted against each other using the same benchmarks, the Gigabyte Super Overclock is the winner in performance terms.
But to call it a clear winner is something of a stretch. The mid-range Juniper GPU is only really capable of so much throughput, and there's the HD 5770's middling memory bandwidth to take into account as well.
HIS HD 5770 - £122
The HIS HD 5770 offers gaming performance that is largely equivalent to the other 5770s we've tested.
It performed about as well as any other in our Heaven 2.1 high-end tessellation tests, slightly better than most in Just Cause 2 at 1,680 x 1,050, although it was the worst performer in Far Cry 2 at the same resolution, which seems odd.
However, that performance differential is so marginal – less than a frame per second – as to be negligible. In real-world terms you won't notice the difference.
Sapphire HD 5770 Flex Edition - £153
Sapphire's HD 5770 is a decent mid-ranger that offers all the benefits the 5000-series family has to offer. As well as exploiting the DX11 effects-suite, it also makes AMD's EyeFinity multi-screen technology a possibility, with the option to attach more screens than the average card.
And that's fine if you're after some kind Adrian Zeidt multi-screen desktop, running apps and movies. But does it have the grunt to play games smoothly at the potentially massive resolutions offered by two, three or even four screens? Not really.
We've tested five HD 5770s from the leading manufacturers against each other to see which hits the price/performance sweetspot when it comes to mid-range and high-end gaming.
We also cranked the settings up (HDR, anti-aliasing, reflections etc) even at middling resolutions, to see just how capable these cards really are. All of the benchmark results here are at the full HD resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
If you're looking to grab a 5770, then the combination of the highest settings with so many pixels is going to stretch the capabilities of this GPU, so you should see these figures as something of a worst case scenario. Ease back on the anti-aliasing for one, and you'll get a noticable boost to your framerates. It's not a bad core by any means though...
First published in PC Format Issue 245
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