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XFX Radeon HD 5770 1GB Single Slot Review

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SKYMTL

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Ever since it’s initial release, ATI’s HD 5770 hasn’t been getting all that much coverage on the pages of Hardware Canucks. Even though there were numerous non-reference versions introduced, virtually none of them made it to mass market release status and our usual prerequisites held firmly in place: we don’t want to review a product our readers won’t be able to go out and buy. Well, several companies are now (finally) coming out with some unique HD 5770 cards that will be widely available or can already be found at most larger retailers. So it’s time we put our noses to the grindstone and start taking a look at some of these new budget-friendly GPUs.

In the last few weeks we have seen a rash of announcements from ATI’s board partners which talk about their new single slot HD 5770 cards. Powercolor was the first out of the gates followed closely by XFX with their own unique design. Naturally, the thought of a single slot, sub-$180 card with high performance aspirations piqued our interest so here we sit with an XFX HD 5770 1GB single slot card.

Most enthusiasts will likely thumb their nose at this card since what they want is the ability to overclock to their heart’s content and not worry too much about high temperatures. Small form factor and HTPC users on the other hand have been itching to get their hands on a single slot DX11 card which offers reasonable performance for some time now. They don’t necessarily care about overclocking nor is there any concern about slightly higher temperatures which makes single slot cards absolutely perfect in this segment of the market. However, for them silence is golden while the framerate junkies out there don’t really care all that much about a bit of fan noise.

Striking a balance between performance, cooling power and noise in a single slot solution isn’t easy but XFX is looking to do just that. They also add in their Double Lifetime Warranty as icing on the cake so if anything, this new HD 5770 is one of the best covered in the industry. It is also important to note that XFX’s single slot version is a good $10 more than most other HD 5770s on the market but there will supposedly be a $15 mail in rebate offered with the first batch destined for retailers.

Like most others, we have some high expectations for this card. It may not set any speed records but we know it should have the chops to provide excellent framerates without breaking the bank.

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SKYMTL

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ATI’s Eyefinity Technology

ATI’s Eyefinity Technology


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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HD Audio and Video

HD Audio and Video


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One of the main drawing points of the lower-end cards in the HD 5000 series lineup is the fact that they are literally unmatched when it comes to HTPC use. Granted, the GT 210, 220 and 240 cards from NVIDIA are the first cards from the green side of the pond to receive native audio processing without having to resort to a clunky S/PDIF cable but their HD audio compatibility is limited to non-PAP (Protected Audio Path) implementations. Meanwhile, the HD 5000 series features not only support for native HDMI audio support with compatibility with AC3, 8-channel LPCM and DTS among others but it also introduces PAP support for bitstream output of Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, AAC and Dolby AC-3. This allows high-end audio for 7.1 sources to be passed unhindered from your computer onto your receiver and is a huge step up from what the competition offers.

As for HD video, you get everything that you would expect from and ATI card: compatibility with HDMI 1.3 formats, an option for a DisplayPort connector and full support for ATI’s UVD 2.2.


Enhanced DVD Upscaling & Dynamic Contrast

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While there are plenty of us who will use HD signals through the HD5000-series of cards, whether we like it or not we will still be outputting lower definition signals to our wonderful new HDTV every now and then. In these cases, a standard 480i picture will look absolutely horrible if it is scaled up to fit on a high definition 1080P TV so ATI provides the Avivo HD upscaling option in their drivers. What this does is take the low resolution signal and clean it up so to speak so it looks better when displayed on a high definition screen.

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Another interesting feature ATI has packed into their drivers is the Dynamic Contrast Adjustment. Personally, I more often than not adjust the contrast manually based on the application since the values from one game or movie to the next can vary a lot. ATI has taken the guesswork and thrown it out the window by providing a post-processing algorithm which will automatically (and smoothly) adjust the contrast ratio in real time.

While there are other benefits of using the 5000-series for audio and video pass-through for your home theater, we will stop here and get on with the rest of this review.
 

SKYMTL

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XFX HD 5770 Single Slot Specs / Packaging & Accessories

XFX HD 5770 Single Slot Specifications


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Since XFX’s single slot version of the HD 5770 isn’t meant to cater to enthusiasts, what we have here is the usual stock speeds and nothing else.


Packaging & Accessories


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In our opinion, XFX did their customers a favor by packaging their single slot HD 5770 in a suitably height-challenged box. This should save you a bit on shipping. Other than that small tidbit what we have here is a standard XFX box with all the industrial graphic designs that we are used to.

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The amount of protection afforded the card itself is a bit minimal for our liking since a thin piece of plastic will never stand up to more serious shipping abuse. That being said, the plastic clamshell does have its uses since it holds this HD 5770 firmly in place so it doesn’t shift around.

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The accessories bundled with this card aren’t anything to write home about and this is actually a huge disappointment. Since HTPC users are likely to gobble up single slot HD 5770 cards as soon as they are released, we would have at least liked to have seen a DVI to HDMI adaptor included since this card doesn’t include a native HDMI output. Otherwise, the only connector that is included is a Molex to 6-pin adaptor.

PLEASE NOTE: XFX has told us that you can speak to their customer service and they will send you any adaptors you may need FREE OF CHARGE. Shipping charges may apply though.
 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the XFX HD 5770 Single Slot

A Closer Look at the XFX HD 5770 Single Slot


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While the XFX HD 5770 single slot edition may look just like any other reference card on the market –albeit with a slimmer heatsink-, there is more to it than what first meets the eye. XFX has gone with a completely custom PCB design whilst keeping the same predominantly black coloration seen on most other HD 5770s. Custom or not, the length stays the same at around 8 ¾”.

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The cooling assembly XFX used is somewhat unique since we are used to seeing single slot heatsinks use a relatively small fan that has to work extra hard to keep up with rising temperatures. Instead, we see an 80mm fan that simply dominates the landscape and which should provide and excessively quiet solution….we hope.

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The design of this heatsink reminds us a lot of the one used on the legendary 8800 GT with side exhaust vents and compressed copper heatpipes running the length of the assembly. Unlike the 8800 GT though, XFX decided to point the exhaust towards the rear of the card which does tend to work against the natural airflow patterns in most enclosures.

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Unfortunately, the outputs available on this HD 5770’s backplate are a bit of a let-down. Since there isn’t a DVI to HDMI adaptor included with the accessories, we were hoping for the elimination of a DVI port in favor of an HDMI output. Instead, we get a pair of DVI connectors and a mini DisplayPort. Talk about a head scratcher.

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Since the XFX version of this card doesn’t have a heatsink shroud overhang, it actually comes in about 1/4” shorter than the reference design. Flipping it over we can see just how different it compared to a stock card: not only is the PCB highly simplified but the GPU itself is moved about two inches further away from the backplate. This positioning means the cooling assembly needed to be flipped around so the majority of its heatsink fins were directly over the core. Thus increasing thermal efficiency.
 

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 (Off for Power Consuption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:
XFX HD 5770 1GB Single Slot
NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (Reference)
GIGABYTE GTX 460 768MB (Stock)
ASUS GTX 465 1GB (Reference)
XFX HD 5830 1GB
XFX HD 5750 1GB


Drivers:

NVIDIA 258.96
ATI 10.6 WHQL


Applications Used:

Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
Far Cry 2
Just Cause 2
Metro 2033
Unigine: Heaven


*Notes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BENCHMARKING PROCESS PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE

- 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 3 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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Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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SKYMTL

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BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)


To benchmark BF: BC2 we used a five minute stretch of gameplay starting from the second checkpoint (after the helicopter takes off) of the second single player mission up until your battle with the tank commences. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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SKYMTL

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Far Cry 2 (DX10)

Far Cry 2 (DX10)


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Even though Far Cry 2 has its own built-in benchmarking tool with some flythroughs and “action scenes”, we decided to record our own timedemo consisting of about 5 minutes of game time. It involves everything from run-and-gun fights to fire effects. The built-in benchmarking too was then set up to replay the timedemo and record framerates


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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