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XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5 Review

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SKYMTL

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XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5 Review





Manufacturer's Part Number: HD-575X-ZNFC
Price: Approx. $129USD
Warranty: Double Lifetime




In what has been a fast and furious quarter, AMD’s ATI division keeps on releasing card after card with DX11 compatibility. While many have questioned the point of flooding the market with DX11 cards before there are more than a handful of titles available, the march towards market dominance continues nonetheless.

Today’s release of the HD 5770 and HD 5750 marks ATI’s first foray into the sub-$200 DX11 price bracket but regardless of how much these cards will retail for, they represent a huge step forward. Never before have we seen a company release their whole high-end to mid-range lineup within such a short period of time. One way or another, these new cards are set to carve out whole new market niche for ATI.

With a price of between $109 for the 512MB version up to $129 for the 1GB card, the HD 5750 will be trying to take on the likes of NVIDIA’s GTS 250 and 9800 GT. In reality, with a price of under $140 for the 1GB version it has the GTS 250 beat clean when it comes to pricing but that may not mean anything since the G92-based products have been around for what seems like ages and still hold their own. Could this small HD 5750 finally dethrone two of the most popular cards of all time? ATI sure hopes so.

The whole reasoning behind the HD 5750 is to give budget-minded gamers access to technology which will play next generation games while offering additional features that are sure to appeal to HTPC aficionados. ATI has always been at the forefront of HTPC innovation and with the additional efficiency of the 40nm manufacturing process as well as the support for bitstreaming of Dolby TrueHD over HDMI, they could now have an insurmountable lead.

In this review, we will be looking at XFX’s own HD 5750 1GB GDDR5 card which is based on the reference design while sporting stock clocks. We have been told that there will be a number of cards sporting slightly customized heatsink designs at launch but this is not one of them. Where XFX differs from the competition is with the inclusion of their Double Lifetime Warranty which protects not only you but anyone else who happens to buy your card in the future. This allows the modder-friendly warranty to be transferred to the new owner and actually adds to the resale value of XFX cards.

The HD 5750 looks like just what the doctor ordered for troubled economic times but can it compete in a market segment that is cluttered with cards from both ATI and NVIDIA? Let’s find out.

 

SKYMTL

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A Look at the ATI 5000-series

A Look at the ATI 5000-series



As you can probably tell by the chart above, all of the HD 5000-series fit perfectly into ATI’s current lineup. In essence, The HD 5870 takes the place of the expensive-to-produce and comparably inefficient dual GPU HD 4870X2 as the top dog for the time being. Judging from paper specifications alone, the HD 5870 is a technological marvel considering it packs all of the rendering potential of ATI’s past flagship card and then some while not being saddled by an inefficient dual processor design. The fact that this new card could trump the performance of a HD 4890 just a few months after that card’s release is nothing short of stunning.


The HD 5850 on the other hand looks to be the purebred price / performance leader of the new ATI lineup. Barring slightly lower clock speeds for both the core and memory along with eight disabled texture units (totalling 160 stream processors), it is basically a clone of the HD 5870. This is the card ATI hopes will compete directly with the GTX 285 for the near future and then come into its own when DX11 games make their way into the market. We believe this card will appeal to the majority of early adopters since it allows them to buy class-leading DX9 and DX10 performance now without gambling $400 on unproven DX11 potential.

We can also see that ATI did some careful price cutting prior to launch since even though the HD 4890 looks to offer significantly less performance than a HD 5850, it is actually priced accordingly. As such, this previously high end card will stick around for the next few months in the $200 price bracket but that isn’t to say that it will stay there indefinitely...


In short order, ATI will have a full range of DX11 cards on the market; all of which have been talked about in rumours over the last quarter. To begin with we will see the two “Cypress” series cards which are the HD 5870 and HD 5850 followed before the new year by the dual GPU Hemlock card which will make use of two Cypress processors. The Hemlock sticks to ATI’s mantra of never releasing a card that retails for above $500 but it will nonetheless take over the premier position of this DX11 lineup.

Meanwhile, we now have the HD 5700-series of code-named Juniper cards as well with the HD 5770 and HD 5750. The HD 5770 1GB is one of the first sub-$200 cards which will come stock with a 1GB framebuffer and along with the GDDR5 memory, comes with some hefty clock speeds as well. However, even though upon first glance the HD 5770 looks like it can compete with the HD 4890, this isn’t the case. According to ATI, the 128-bit memory interface will limit this card’s performance so it lies right within its stated price range. We should also mention that ATI won’t be replacing the HD 4890 until at least the first quarter of 2010 even though the HD 5770 is looking to take over from the HD 4850.

The HD 5750 on the other hand is simply a cut down HD 5770 with lower clocks, less SPs and a cut down number of Texture Units. It is this card that ATI sees going head to head with the NVIDIA GTS 250 and 9800 GT. It uses GDDR5 memory but there will be both 512MB and 1GB versions released to cater to the $100 market along with those looking for a little jump in performance.

So there you have it. In the high stakes game of poker that is the GPU industry, ATI has shown its hand. All that is left is for the competition to respond.
 
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SKYMTL

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Focusing on DX11

Focusing on DX11


It has been a hair under three years since the release of Windows Vista and with it the DirectX 10 API. In that amount of time, a mere 33 DX10 games were released. That isn’t exactly a resounding success considering the hundreds of titles released in that same time. Let’s hope DX11 does a bit better than that.


DX11 is focused on taking the lessons learned from the somewhat inefficient DX10 and shaping them into a much more efficient API which will demand less system resources while being easier to develop for. In addition to the usual 3D acceleration, it will also be used to speed up other applications which in the past have not been associated with the DirectX runtime. This may be a tall order but with the features we will be discussing here, developers have already started using DX11 to expand the PC gaming experience. It is an integral component in Windows 7 and according to Microsoft, will also be adopted into Windows Vista through a software update.

Let’s scratch the surface of what DX11 can bring to the table.


Unlike past DirectX versions, DX11 endeavours to move past the purely graphics-based uses of the API and push it towards being the lynchpin of an entire processing ecosystem. This all begins with the power which DirectX Compute will bring into the fold. Not only can it increase the efficiency of physics processing and in-game NPC intelligence within games by transferring those operations to the GPU but it can also be used to accelerate non-3D applications.




Through the use of Compute Shader programs in Shader Model 5.0, developers are able to use additional graphical features such as order independent transparency, ray tracing, and advanced post-processing effects. This should add a new depth of realism to tomorrow’s games and as mentioned before, also allow for programs requiring parallel processing to be accelerated on the GPU.


For the majority of you reading this review, it is the advances in graphics processing and quality that will interest you the most. As games move slowly towards photo-realistic rendering quality, new technologies must be developed in order to improve efficiency while adding new effects.


Some of the technologies that ATI is championing are DX11’s new Depth of Field, OIT (or Order Independent Transparency) and Detail Tessellation. While the pictures above do a good job of showing you how each of these works, it is tessellation which ATI seems most excited about. They have been including hardware tessellation units in their GPUs for years now and finally with the dawn of DX11 will these units be finally put to their full use. OIT on the other hand allows for true transparency to be added to an object in a way that will be more efficient resource-wise than the standard alpha blending method currently used.


Let’s talk about DX11 games. As you would expect, due to the ease of programming for this new API and the advanced tools it gives developers, many studios have been quite vocal in their support. Even though some of the titles listed above may not be high on your list of must have games, A-list titles like the upcoming Aliens vs. Predator from Rebellion and DiRT 2 are sure to get people interested. What we like see is at least three DX11 games being available before the Christmas buying season even though BattleForge is already available and will have DX11 support added through a patch.

Another exciting addition to the list is EA DICE’s FrostBite 2 Engine which will power upcoming Battlefield games. Considering the popularity of this series, the inclusion of DX11 should open up this API to a huge market.

 

SKYMTL

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OpenCL: The Next Big Thing?

OpenCL: The Next Big Thing?



As consumers, we have all heard of the inroads GPUs have been making towards offering stunning performance in compute-intensive applications. There have been attempts to harness this power by engines such as NVIDIA’s Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA) and ATI’s Stream SDK (which in v2.0 supports OpenCL).


“Build it and the will come” says the old mantra but industry adoption of CUDA and Stream was anything but quick since there were two standards being pushed for the same market. CUDA in particular is having a hard time of it since it is vendor-specific without hardware support from any other vendor. The industry needed a language that was universal and available across multiple platforms. That’s were OpenCL (Open Computing Language) along with DirectX Compute come into play. It is completely open-source and managed by a non-profit organization called the Khronos Group which also has control over OpenGL and OpenAL


At its most basic level, OpenCL is able to be executed across multiple mediums such as GPUs, CPUs and other types of processors. This makes it possible to prioritize workloads to the processor that will handle them most efficiently. For example, a GPU is extremely good at crunching through data-heavy parallel workloads while an x86 CPU is much more efficient at serial and task-specific This also allows developers to write their programs for heterogeneous platforms instead of making them specific to one type of processor.


So what does this mean for gamers? First of all, AMD has teamed up with Bullet and PixeLux in order to achieve more realistic environments for players. The Bullet Physics is an open-source physics engine which has an ever-expanding library for soft body, 3D collision detection and other calculations. Meanwhile, PixeLux uses their DMM (Digital Molecular Matter) engine which uses the Finite Element Analysis Method of calculating physics within a game. In past applications, it has been used to calculate actions which have an impact on the game’s environment such as tumbling rubble or debris movement.


With Stream moving to OpenCL, ATI is truly moving towards an open platform for developers which they are hoping will lead to broader developer and market adoption than the competition’s solutions. At this point it looks like we will soon see ATI’s GPUs accelerating engines from Havok, PixeLux and Bullet through the use of OpenCL. Considering these are three of the most popular physics engines on the market, ATI is well placed to make PhysX a thing of the past.
 

SKYMTL

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ATI’s Eyefinity Technology

ATI’s Eyefinity Technology



The term Surround Gaming may not mean much to many of you who are reading this article but with the advent of ATI’s new Eyefinity technology, now is a good time to educate yourself. Basically, Eyefinity will give users the ability to use multiple monitors all running from the same graphics card. In the past, simple dual monitor setups have been used by many graphics, CAD or other industry professionals in order to increase their productivity but gaming on more than one monitor was always a bit of a clunky affair. Granted, some products like Matrox’s TripleHead2Go were able to move multi monitor setups into the public’s perception but there were always limitations (resolution and otherwise) associated with them. ATI is aiming to make the implementation of two or even more monitors as seamless as possible within games and productivity environments while offering the ability to use extreme resolutions.


While the price of two or even three new monitors may be a bit daunting at first for many of you, but good 20” and even 22” LCDs have come down in price to the point where some are retailing below the $200 mark. ATI figures that less than $600 for three monitors will allow plenty of people to make the jump into a true surround gaming setup. Indeed, with three or even six monitors, the level of immersion could be out of this world.


The reason that main in the professional field are familiar with multi monitor setups is for one simple matter: they increase productivity exponentially. Imagine watching a dozen stocks without having to minimize windows all the time or using Photoshop on one screen while watching a sports broadcast on another and using the third screen for Photoshop’s tooltips. The possibilities are virtually limitless if it is implemented properly.


When it comes to a purely gaming perspective, the thought of a massive view of the battlefield or the ability to see additional enemies in your peripheral vision is enough to make most gamers go weak in the knees. Unfortunately, the additional monitors will naturally mean decreased performance considering the massive amount of real-estate that would need rendering. This will mean tradeoffs may have to be made in terms of image quality if you want to use Eyefinity.


According to ATI, all of the new HD 5800-series graphics cards will have the ability to run up to three monitors simultaneously. This is done by having a pair of DVI connectors as well as a DisplayPort and HDMI connector located on the back of the card. It should be noted that ATI will be releasing a special Eyefinity version of the HD 5870 in the coming months which features six DisplayPort connectors for those of you who want to drive six monitors from a single card.


This technology is all made possible through the use of DisplayPort connectors but this also provides a bit of a limitation as well. Above we can see that a number of 3-screen output combinations which the current HD5800-series support and one thing is constant: you will need at least one monitor which supports DisplayPort. Unfortunately, at this time DP-supporting monitors tend to carry a price premium over standard screens which will increase the overall cost of an Eyefinity setup. Luckily the other two monitors can either use DVI or a combination of DVI and HDMI for connectivity.
 

SKYMTL

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories



The XFX box remains unchanged from the rest of their HD 5000-series cards with the usual industrial look of the front in addition to the long list of features written on the back. Where this box differs somewhat from the others we have seen is the lack of an Eyefinity logo and a sticker showing which game is included. We’ll have more about the game –or lack thereof- a bit later.


The HD 5750 gets a bit lost in this large box but it is still well protected on all sides with thick cardboard as well as an anti-static bag. It should also be mentioned that even though the card doesn’t look like it is held in place, it is actually stopped from moving around the box by a small tab that holds onto its backplate bracket.


Since the HD 5750 is what many would consider a budget-friendly card, the accessory package is understandably lacking any frills. All that’s included is a Molex to PCI-E adaptor, a quick install guide, a driver CD and an XFX door sign that includes warranty information. Our package didn’t even include a DVI to VGA dongle or Crossfire connector though these may have been a packaging issue rather than a purposeful omission. A game voucher is also conspicuous by its absence but considering the bare bones accessory package a $129 card necessitates, we can understand why one isn’t included.
 

SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB

A Closer Look at the XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB



The HD 5750 is actually the first of the HD 5000-series to not carry a version of the same tried and true full-length reference heatsink. The cooling design here is more of a fansink with a large 80mm fan in its center that reminds us a lot of the one used on the HD 4770. On a side note, we were really hoping for a single-slot design for optimal use in an HTPC but that wasn’t meant to be.


The sticker which XFX used looks extremely good next to the bright red fan and black PCB. Below the main shroud we can see that the heatsink is made of powder-coated aluminum fins that- with the help of the fan- are supposed to disperse the heat produced by the core. This design means that all of the heat generated by the core will stay within your case but considering how efficient this card is, there won’t be much excess heat to deal with. In addition, we can see that the memory stays naked and open to the elements without having the need for additional heatsinks.


While the HD 5750 is considered an efficient card, it still requires more power than the PCI-E slot can provide so it needs a single PCI-E 6-pin power connector.

The backplate is tailor-made for Eyefinity compatibility but let’s be honest here: this card just can’t provide the graphics horsepower necessary to drive a game across a trio of LCDs. This setup really has the look of ATI trying to cram Eyefinity down our throats whether the card can support it or not. The HD 5750 could be a perfect HTPC card but the dual slot backplate and accompanying heatsink make compatibility for smaller HTPCs a near impossibility. Give us a DisplayPort Connector and a pair of DVI ports (along with a DVI to HDMI adaptor) on a single slot backplate and we'll be in heaven.


The back of the card doesn’t really hold much of interest other than a quartet of memory chips. The memory modules used are H5GQ1H24AFR units from Hynix which are also found on the HD 5770. These ICs are rated for 1.25Ghz (5Ghz QDR) speed at 1.5V and are set up in a 128MB x 8 pattern on the HD 5770.


Not one of the ATI’s HD 5000-series cards is the same size and so far, the HD 5750 is the shortest of the lot at only 7 ¼” long which is perfect for most mATX HTPC cases.
 

SKYMTL

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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

XFX HD 5770
XFX HD 5750
XFX HD 5850 (Reference)
ATI HD 4890 (Reference)
Sapphire HD 4850 (Reference)
Diamond HD 4770 (Reference)
EVGA GTX 260 216 (Reference)
GTS 250 1GB (Reference)
EVGA GTS 250 512MB (Reference)
9800 GT 512MB (Reference)


Drivers:

ATI 8.66 RC7 Beta (HD 5000-series)
ATI 9.9 WHQL
NVIDIA 191.07 WHQL


Applications Used:

Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
Crysis: Warhead
Dawn of War II
Fallout 3
Far Cry 2
Left 4 Dead
Tom Clancy’s HawX


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 4 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 

SKYMTL

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Call of Duty: World at War

Call of Duty: World at War



To benchmark this game, we played through 10 minutes of the third mission (Hard Landing) starting from when the player first enters the swamp, through the first bunker until the final push onto the airfield. This was benchmarked using FRAPS.


1680 x 1050





1920 x 1200





2560 x 1600





Straight out of the gate, the HD 5750 suffers at the hands of nearly every other card we tested. Granted, CoD: WaW isn’t game that performs particularly well on ATI hardware, but in most cases this 1GB card can’t even make it past the GTS 250 512MB and is only slightly ahead of the 9800 GT is some tests.
 

SKYMTL

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Call of Juarez II: Bound in Blood

Call of Juarez II: Bound in Blood



CoJ is a bit of an oddity without any in-game AA options but nonetheless, it looks incredible. For this benchmark we used a 10 minute gameplay sequence which included panoramic views of a town and gun battles. FRAPS was used to record the framerates.

1680 x 1050



1920 x 1200



2560 x 1600



After the train wreck that was the CoD results, the HD 5750 goes a long way on the path to redemption with this kind of performance in Call of Juarez. It beats the pants off of the GTS 250 cards and even comes close to GTX 260 216 performance. Interestingly, its closest competitors seem to be ATI 4000-series cards. Unfortunately though, the gap between this $130 card and the $160 HD 5770 is massive.
 
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